DCSF systems under attack

June 18, 2008

Not exactly reassuring news about Contactpoint et al:

Government efforts to improve interactions with the public through the use of Web 2.0 technologies are being stymied by security fears…

A high-level source working with the Swiss government IT department confirmed that attacks against government web sites were reaching epidemic proportions. Speaking on the condition on anonymity, he told IT Week that his department was frequently under attack from groups looking to steal personal information.

He added that he had spoken to counterparts at the DCSF, who had confirmed they were experiencing “similar” levels of attacks.


I’m baaack…

June 16, 2008


It’s the law’n’order show.

Let’s hear it for the Swiss Army

June 5, 2008

For my 30th birthday, my older brother gave me a penknife. An all-singing, all-dancing Swiss Army knife with bottle opener, corkscrew, scissors, nail file and even a little screwdriver. It’s proved very useful over the years, and I still get a frisson of pleasure from the compact neatness of this ‘ready for anything’ little gadget. But that wasn’t the only reason my brother gave it to me: it was also a joke present.

When we were children, my brother carried a penknife. It was a boy-thing, though. Boys all seemed to have penknives. Girls didn’t. Penknives didn’t come in pink, and they were definitely not sufficiently lady-like for those of us growing up in the 50s and 60s. My parents snorted in disbelief at my longing to have one all of my own. Hence my brother’s special present for a special birthday.

Ken Jones, president of ACPO, doesn’t look that much younger than me. Maybe he’s not aged too well, who knows? Perhaps he was penknife-deprived as a child? There has to be some reason for his adding to the latest look-tough pronouncements by saying:

“We are not out to criminalise people who have a good reason for being in possession of a knife, but frankly what good reasons would a youngster have for even carrying a penknife?”

When he suddenly finds one day that his horse has got a stone in its hoof and he’s miles from anywhere, I bet he’ll regret saying that.

Avoidable tragedy

June 5, 2008

A miserable news item from the BBC:

A teenage boy hanged himself after his 15-year-old girlfriend became pregnant, an inquest has heard.

Paul Briggs, 17, of Ferndale, Rhondda, feared he would be reported to police for under-age sex with Kyra Applin, the hearing in Miskin was told. The couple told their families they wanted the pregnancy to go ahead but he hid his fears about being prosecuted, the inquest heard. He died three months before the birth.

This time five years ago, when the Sexual Offences Act was going through parliament, a very small group of orgs fought to have a defence of consent included for mutually-agreed sexual relationships between teenagers. We lost. The argument against us was on child protection grounds: it might create a loophole that might lead to the exploitation of children.

And so, in the name of child protection, this young man has died and two families have been shattered. Does that make sense to you? Nor me.

Losing the will to live

June 2, 2008

Today I have been mainly tracking down local council email addresses to which I need to send Freedom of Information requests. An easy job, you might think. Ten hours ago I thought so too.

Some councils have really got the hang of this FOI malarkey. Nice clear links on the front page, helpful information and easy-to-find addresses. Have a bouquet, Staffordshire, Westminster, Wolverhampton and Stoke. A rubber chicken to Hounslow, Reading, Sefton and Somerset which offer only online forms that make full postal address a required field.

A few councils make it pretty clear that they don’t welcome FOI requests by writing a grudging spiel along the lines of ‘the law requires us to provide you with information if you absolutely insist’, and then burying contact details in pdf downloads, or insisting requests must be by letter. (C’mon guys, this is 2008). Others omit FOI from their A-Z lists so that it can only be found via a search engine, and in one case I couldn’t actually find any information at all (you know who you are, Herefordshire).

A special prize, though, to Sheffield for introducing hilarity into an otherwise depressing day. When you eventually track down (via search engine) their FOI blurb, it says:

If our staff think that you would benefit from using your access to information rights they’ll tell you about them.