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Turn off the networks – says who? October 21, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Hardware, IT Services.
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A recent poll by the BBC found that most British citizens would like to the see the police respond to riots with water cannon, tear gas, curfews and even a third suggesting the police should be firing rubber bullets.

With the British riots still quite fresh in the mind of most respondents and the police being criticised for a soft approach, it’s no surprise that the average man on the street wants a tough approach – regardless of how all these measure might appear to be the beginning of a police state.

But it was interesting to see that 55% of the people polled by the BBC also believe that the police should have the power to close down social networks such as Twitter, Blackberry BBM, and Facebook.

It seems like one thing for the public to be asking the police to take tougher action on rioters, but if the public are now asking for the police to have control of the Internet then will the politicians respond? It would clearly be popular with the public, but is it right?

Those in favour of this measure are clearly arguing that many of the riots were arranged or exacerbated by communication on social networks. The one to many broadcast ability of these networks and the ability for messages to be passed on and re-broadcast makes them far more powerful than the telephone or basic text messaging.

But did the police ever turn off the telephone network in the past when there was a riot, and where would this power stop? Who would give the command to suggest that a minor civil disturbance has gone past the line and now all social networks need to be closed?

In my own experience, the messages I was seeing on the Monday night of the London riots were mainly councillors and local businesses, all out there on the street and sending messages to help people stay safe. All of this would have been impossible if the networks were down.

This is one of those moral questions that make people realise the power of blogs and microblogs – instant, available to all, and easy for others to pass on. The world has yet to really absorb the power of one to many communications, but I hope the positive outweighs the negative in public perception soon as the measures being proposed are dangerous for democracy itself.
London Flames

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Better to be safe than Sony October 17, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Hardware, Internet.
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The last few weeks have featured one technology disaster story after another and two of the big ones involved Sony – no stranger to controversy after their Playstation network was hacked earlier this year and the personal payment details of about 77m users were compromised.

Even worse, none of the data was encrypted – a basic error for a company with so much personal data.

Their latest woes surround the recall of around 1.6m televisions because of a fire risk, more of a smoking set than smoking gun. The incidents are clearly not connected, but it is causing immense damage to the brand itself, once the very measure of global quality and expertise in electronic products.

And if Sony are feeling the heat then think of how the executive team of Research in Motion are feeling. The makers of the Blackberry smartphones are recoiling from the pain of tens of millions of their users losing all Internet access (including email) for several days last week.

Blackberry has been suffering for the past few years anyway. The traditional corporate users have been switching to iPhone and Android handsets and the brand has failed to resonate as ‘cool’ with the young. Couple this gentle descent with the recent outage and they might be facing a tailspin – certainly in confidence if not in actual user numbers yet.

Most users – personal or corporate – are locked into contracts, but at the contract expiry they are free to explore other options and this could be extremely damaging for the company in a year or so.

The old expression about capitalism coined by Marx was that ‘creative destruction’ ensures that older ways of doing things get destroyed by the new. We always expect new innovative companies to come along and shake up the world of technology, but when the giants of technology start shaking the ground through their own mistakes and errors many would suggest that they deserve to suffer.
Broken TV