Friday, June 17, 2005

LSE V Clarke

William Heath labels the spat between the LSE and Charles Clarke as an official ding dong.

"However much Home Secretaries care to insult the dozens of distinguished academics behind the LSE work and the thousands of opponents of this unfortunate scheme who have tried in every manner from email to online music hall to engage with their errant paid servants on this matter, no-one in their right mind calls Howard Davies (formerly head of the FSA, Audit Commission etc) mad or an intellectual pygmy.

The Home Office needs to come clean about its costings and open up to debate with its critical friends about the aims and the correct architecture for this. We're all in this together, as we keep saying. The big momma identity backplane is going to happen, and we're going to get it right."

Copyright term extension UK

David Rowan at the Times is not keen on Culture Minister, James Purnell's plans to extend the term of copyright in the UK.

"Following a music industry campaign to extend the copyright term for sound recordings from 50 to 95 years, he has been rapping in rhythm with the EMI and BMG massive: in a risky, talent-driven business like pop, the suits, apparently, need guarantees of long-term financial returns. As he told the Institute for Public Policy Research yesterday, the record labels need copyright reforms “that will allow them to make returns on their creativity and to invest in innovation”. What he failed to explain was the damage that such a short-term corporate grab would do to the public good...

A 20-year patent limit forces other industries to innovate, so why should the innately risk-averse record labels need any more than a 50-year monopoly? If Mr Purnell truly wants to foster creativity, he ought to broaden his musical tastes."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

LSE respond to Clarke's abuse

The LSE have responded to the Home Secretary's criticism of their report on ID cards, a report which he has admitted he has not read. I hope they don't mind if I reprint it here in full:

Response to the Home Secretary's comments on the LSE's identity cards study

Today (Thursday 16 June) on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, the Home Secretary Charles Clarke responded to recent media coverage of the LSE's assessment that the proposed Identity Card scheme will cost in the order of £300 per card. The Home Secretary said that this 'is a complete nonsense figure' and promised that the cost of the card would be much less.

The cost estimates in question were drawn from a leaked section of the LSE's Identity Project, a six-month project into national identity systems, with a specific focus on the UK Identity Card Bill. This project involves a steering group of 14 professors, and a research group of nearly 100 academics, experts, and industry representatives from around the world. The project is hosted by the Department of Information Systems at LSE. An interim report was released for review in March 2005, and is available here

The final report is due to be published next week - more details will be confirmed soon.

The draft section on costs from the LSE report did not suggest a unit cost for the ID card. Rather it predicted that the proposed identity and passport system would cost £12 - £18 billion over ten years. Some commentators have deduced a figure of £300 per card by taking the highest point of the estimate and dividing it by the UK population.

At no point has the LSE's report suggested such a figure. The project's team does, however, stand by its estimate that the scheme will cost between £12 and £18 billion. This figure takes into account public sector integration - a factor which had not been assessed by the government.

LSE staff involved in the project have attempted repeatedly throughout the six-month duration of this project to engage the Home Office, with no success until yesterday (15 June) when a Home Office official contacted the LSE research team to express an interest in principle to explore co-operation.

The project team is fully prepared to work with the Home Office on any subsequent research work on identity cards and offers up the interim report and some suggestions for an alternative model to be considered as this debate continues. These are available on the web at

We believe the process adopted by the project has been fully transparent at all stages. Director Howard Davies said: "The researchers involved have offered to discuss this work with the Home Office several times. Charles Clarke may not like the conclusions, but he has no basis to question the integrity of the LSE or those conducting the research."

16 June 2005

Met Commissioner questions ID cards

The Telegraph reports comment from the Metropolitan Police commissioner, Ian Blair, that ID card biometric technology must be "near perfect" if it is to be of any use to his officers. He doesn't want police officers randomly demanding to see people's papers on the street but supports the cards in principle. An unreliable ID card system will certainly cause an already over-strectched police force significant difficulties in wasted resources, chasing shadows and errors, so he's right to be concerned about the technology.

The police are amongst the key public services at the sharp end of this system and the amount of effort they will waste in processing false positives (eg innocent people with faulty or missing cards) and the grief they'll get for letting the false negatives (guilty parties with kosher cards) through their fingers is going to make their already tough jobs that much more so.

£300 ID cards

The Times are emphasising the potential cost of an ID card noted in the LSE report on ID cards and nearly 3000 have signed NO2ID Phil Booth's pledge.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Ofcom baby troubles

According to OfcomWatch, the regulator is facing a "potential legal action from a niche TV channel for allegedly failing to protect its brand-name or intellectual property rights."

The CEO of the company bringing the case said "I want Ofcom to have a policy that it will not license confusingly similar channel names and an undertaking that it will consider the intellectual property rights of similar names"


Microsoft censor sensitive words

Rebecca MacKinnon has a passionate response to Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble's defence of Microsoft's filtering of politically sensitive words on MSN China.

"I lived in China for nine years straight as a journalist, and if you add up other times I've lived there it comes to nearly 12. I don't know what students and professors Scoble met with, and what context he met them in. But to state that Chinese students and professors have an "anti-free-speech stance" is the biggest pile of horseshit about China I've come across in quite some time. And believe me, there are a great many such piles out there these days."

US companies have been helping to build the great firewall of China for some years. It's good business for them. Pious public relations about defending American free speech values is just that - pious empty PR.

THE ID card song

Gilbert and Sullivan would have liked this, the ID card song or "The very model of a modern Labour minister".

Sample lyrics:

"The world today is filled with villains stealing one's identity
And terrorists intent on acts of violent extremity
Our citizens are prisoners, our criminals at liberty
Our nation at the mercy of felonious proclivity
Our very own Home Secretary will rebuild our society
A model of sagaciousness and picture of propriety
It's patent that protection of the future of humanity
Relies on Mr Clarke to put an end to this insanity!"

Thanks to Ian Brown for the link.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Over 2000 sign anti ID card pledge

Over 2000 people have signed NO2ID campaigner Phil Booth's Pedgebank pledge "I will refuse to register for an ID card and will donate £10 to a legal defence fund but only if 10,000 other people will also make this same pledge." Impressive in such a short space of time.

Getting smart about disasters

Here is a brilliant idea. Public Health Practitioner, Dr Lucas Gonzalez, in the Canary Islands has decided to use Wikipedia as a clearinghouse for pandemic flu preparedness. Thanks to Jamais Cascio for the link.

Doc on unmediated speech

Doc Searls on unmediated speech and the power of the Net.

Google and Elsevier

Peter Suber is happy that Elsevier and Google are competing to offer superior indexing of open access repository content.

Tories attack on ID cards

The conservatives have decided to beat the government with the IT stick, claiming that their record on implementing IT projects is abysmal, running to an overspend of £2 billion in the last tow years alone.

"The Tories published the figures to support its latest attack on the Government's plans for a national identity card scheme, pointing to the project's recently upwardly-revised costs.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis declared, in the Conservative's own words, "war" on the Home Office's controversial IT project, confirming that the Party will oppose the Identity Cards Bill at its Second Reading in Parliament later this month...

Another case featured by the Conservatives is the 'Libra' IT modernisation of the magistrates courts - seen by many as the archetypal government IT disaster - which was initiated back in 1996 but by 2002 had more than doubled in costs."

Becta school challenge

Becta are inviting ICT vendors to propose projects for using technologies in innovative ways in schools. I'm not a big fan of Becta but it might be interesting to monitor this.

Monday, June 13, 2005

German lorry charging

William Heath thinks "Alistair Darling should take a long drive down the autobahn, preferably in a lorry" if he would like a demononstration on how not to do road charging.

OECD reject P2P and sales causal link

The OECD Working Party on the Information Economy have recently de-classified a report, presented in December last year, suggesting it would be very difficult to prove the music industry's claims that music sharing (or "unauthorised downloading of copyrighted content") on the Internet has caused a drop in music sales.

The full 132 pages are not for the faint-hearted but the summary between pages 8 and 14 makes interesting reading. This paints a relatively rosy picture for the future of digital music services, though points out there are significant challenges ahead for governments and industry in instigating balanced and appropriate changes in legal frameworks and in adapting and developing new business models.

The report's authors are Dr Sacha Wunsch-Vincent and Dr Graham Vickery of the OECD’s “Expert Panel on Digital Broadband Content.”

NO2ID pledge

The NO2ID campaign national coordinator, Phil Booth, has made a pledge to "refuse to register for an ID card and donate £10 to a legal defence fund but only if 10,000 other people will also make this same pledge."

Sounds reasonable.