Eternal vigilance

I have been pointed at China’s Social Credit Scoring plans via two routes. The first is this extract published at Wired from Rachel Botsman’s book, “Who can we trust”. This details the Chinese Governments plan to build a social credit scoring scheme, but the sources and incentives are horrendously comprehensive, including their leading match making agency. (It’s taken me some time to read this article, an I have bookmarked and annotated it in my diigo feed.) Worrying things about the Chinese scheme is that voluntary participation becomes mandatory; while rewards and incentives are at the forefront of everyone’s mind today, control and punishment is planned, in the Chinese case in the short term they are talking about foreign and domestic travel restrictions but as I note, the countries leading dating agency is one of the surveillance agencies. There is also talk of social investment loans (helicopter money) which become available on the basis of social scores.

The second route was an article on Medium by someone who got banned from AirBnB. He pointed at an article on Buzzfeed, “A Chinese-Style Digital Dystopia Isn’t As Far Away As We Think” where a series of regulatory decisions in the USA seem to be paving the way to something similar, a powerful illustration that the argument that surveillance is OK if it’s private sector is horrendously false.

One worrying aspect of the proposed Chinese system is that your reputation is as good as that of your friends and we have idiots trying to replicate it with peeple, and reading up on that has started me worrying about Linkedin and its competitors and we all know we should get off facebook.

The wired article came before machine learning and massive scale AI became a hot topic, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens to social credit scores when they let rip with the application of machine learning. The automated derivation of reputation scores also raises issues of safeguarding, libel and context. Safeguarding and libel laws require the machines to tell the truth, in fact safeguarding may require machines to hide the truth. Context requires a level of nuance that we are unsure if machines will ever have, but even if they get there, justice and judges must remain human and the code must be open; China’s & Facebook’s is not!. The GDPR gives data subjects rights, perhaps its time to revisit the seven principles.

Of course in the UK, we have our very own examples of machines and data sharing getting it wrong. Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary has suspended the intra-government and some of the other immigration data sharing as a result of the backlash on the Windrush scandal. (I wonder if this I an excuse to look again at the DPA Immigration Exemption clauses.) Much of what is happening in China and the USA is also happening in the UK, it’s just that the surveillance agents are the US owned datenkraken and the British State have legalised the hacking of their data streams.

What’s happening in China is terrible, but our governments are following suit! The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. …

Digital inclusions & democracy

Digital inclusions & democracy

25% of the UK population don’t have broadband, this is higher amongst the poor and the old; it generally costs more than the BBC Licence. Also not all internet users are Facebook users. Facebook (& other social media providers) cannot act as a guarantor of identity in government and political business, partly because they’re proprietary, closed source systems and thus users, citizens and judges do not know what the code does. Digital inclusion is still one of the key political issues to be addressed in the internet age, governments and political parties need to step very carefully when they use social media platforms as a means of understanding people’s views; this is before we consider the anti-democratic nature of survey’s and referenda, you can only answer the questions asked, usually in a binary or scalar fashion. It’s not good enough …..oh yeah & open source. …

Commoditisation killed Sun Microsystems

Commoditisation killed Sun Microsystems

Eric Raymond,  wrote a short article on his blog, “Commoditization, not open source, killed Sun Microsystems”, which I commented on. This blog article says a little bit more than I felt I had room for on someone else’s blog, and I probably abused his hospitality there. I have thought long and hard about this, because I worked there and thought it i.e. the company was worth saving. Here’s what I said on Eric’s blog, and a bit more.  I start by saying that the first thing about Sun’s failure is that it all depends on where you want to start; Sun’s failure was baked in long before the 2000 fall from profit.  …

Not so open, a Bioware take on open source

This article represents some thoughts on how copy-left and permissive licences create value. It uses the story of Bioware and it’s use of the D&D™ and Forgotten Realms™ games & mythos as an example. There are two recent news items that make this current: that the community repository for Neverwinter Nights has just shut, and that Wizards of the Coast have just released Dungeons & Dragons V5 rules as a free to use .pdf, a small but significant step to a freemium business model. The story shows how an initially traditional author-publisher business model, leveraged a pre-made community, grew it and latterly enabled it. The point of this story is the way in which community and value grew, becoming significant author contributors and the way in which Bioware responded and learnt although some might say not as quickly or as generously as they might.  …

Voting by Mobile Phone

Voting by Mobile Phone

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian today bemoans the low turn out and the perceived ‘rotten borough’ nature of Britain’s parliamentary democracy. Among her arguments she suggests voting should be made easier by allowing people to use their mobile phones.

I have commented; because identifying oneself to government, counting elections and guaranteeing the secrecy of the ballot are the last things we should hand over to proprietary, closed software. Digital activists have come to the conclusion that even counting election results by scanned paper ballots is undesirable and where it is done in this country, a sample based manual verification is undertaken. I presented the argument that the regulator’s code must be open to the @labourdigital Top of the Manifestos event. …

Policy for Labour on the Digital Economy

Policy for Labour on the Digital Economy

The Labour Party’s proposed policy programme only mentions the digital economy once, and this is to promise more speed, everywhere it can go. There are two internal pressure group style swarms/groups/initiatives looking to do better.  The first is launched by the front bench incubated if not commissioned by the impressive Chi Onawaruh MP, currently shadow spokesperson for the Cabinet Office. This has it’s home at this site, Chi publicised the initiative at in an article at Labour List called How can we make Digital Government work better for everyone?. A great deal of thought has been undertaken in launching this initiative. The second initiative is @LabourDigital,  …

Can Free Software save the public money?

Bern City Council have adopted an Open Source software procurement policy.

This reported by long time Open Source campaigner, Simon Phipps in his Computer World blog. It seems, as in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, that this decision had a champion, in this case, a Councillor called Matthias Stürmer. Phipps story details the bureaucratic politics around the trigger decision which was the Microsoft licence renewal agreements. The size of the agreement required Council approval and the Council had been moving towards preferring Open Source IT. The Council review requirement led Microsoft to reduce the cost to a value below the review threshold and the renewal was approved without the Council approval. The Council was, it seems, unamused and took action to ensure that the policy preferences of the elected council were to be obeyed in future. Phipps reports, …

Are liberal licenses a better future proofing

A couple of days after the Kable Open Source conference, I looked up Gianugo Rabellino’s blog and read his then most recent blog article, “Of Oracle, Sun and Open Development” about the impact of M&A on open source investment protection.

The conclusion I draw from his article is that open source adopters need to make investment protection a selection criteria. Its well understood that the vibrancy of the product community is crucial, so its just obvious that taking a view on the future is as important. Gianugo also argues that liberal licenses enhance the ability of a community to survive M&A activity. I think he’s probably right, and this means that license terms might become important even to end user sites who have no intention of distributing software. It may also be worth measuring how diverse an open source development community is before adopting the software. …