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Is technology moving too fast for the law? April 30, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet, Software.
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Three people have been arrested by police recently as part of the investigation into the alleged naming of Sheffield United footballer Ched Evans’ rape victim on Twitter.

The right to victims of rape and sexual assault to remain anonymous is an area of the law that faces an enormous challenge in this era of information freedom. Many victims would not go to the police if they knew that their name would be splashed across the newspapers – whether a celebrity is involved or not – and traditional newspapers and broadcasters have always respected the law in this respect.

But now there is Twitter. It takes just one tweet from somebody with inside knowledge of a case and the victim details are published and cannot be erased. Those wanting to avoid detection can easily create a new Twitter account in a different name within minutes.

The implication is clear. Technology can be used by people with inside knowledge of a subject to broadcast it to the media and general public, with very little fear of recrimination.

This affects many areas of life where sensitive information is managed. Jurors tweeting their opinion as a trial proceeds are already disrupting court proceedings. Medical professionals are tweeting about celebrities receiving treatment – and assuming that they can go to a hospital without news of their condition being broadcast to the world.

In technological terms, the genie has already escaped. We cannot turn back the clock to an age before Twitter so it appears that the approach to this problem can only be the improved education of professionals who deal with sensitive information and greater measures – such as immediate dismissal – for medical or legal professionals who misuse social networks. It is not ideal, but then the world has changed forever.

Scales of Justice, Old Bailey, London

Photo by Andrew Middleton licensed under Creative Commons

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In uncertain times, what companies want is certainty April 26, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Outsourcing.
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According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK is now officially in recession as the economy has contracted for the past two quarters. It is interesting to observe that many leading economists don’t believe the ONS data is correct, but these are the official numbers so we have to deal with what they present to the country.

Back when the present economic slowdown really began in 2007/08, many technology analysts predicted that a slowdown – or full recession – would be a good thing for the industry. If companies wanted to reduce outgoings they would look increasingly to offshore outsourcing as a way to achieve this.

But it never happened, and looking back it was quite obvious really. Any IT outsourcing programme has a lot of expense up front. Transition cost, training cost, consulting cost, auditing cost… there is a lot to budget for meaning that you have to commission a large piece of work, make sure it runs to plan and only once you get to the future business state can you hope to start making savings.

This meant that offshore outsourcing declined during the initial slowdown. It recovered and the market is growing again, but take a look around Europe right now. The UK is now in recession, Spain is about to go back into recession, the Euro currency lurches from one crisis to the next with the continuing reality that not all countries using the Euro now will be doing so at the end of this year.

The Dutch Prime Minister just resigned because his people refuse to adopt an austerity plan and the French are veering towards a new socialist president for similar reasons.

The level of political and economic uncertainty is so great that it would be foolish for any service supplier to still be selling the ‘reduce cost’ model of business. Now if they can start selling outsourcing based on a ‘we can tell you your costs for the next 5 years’ type model then in this present climate I expect there will be a lot more takers.

The last economic slowdown showed how unattractive the simplistic model of slash and burn offshoring really is. If we are heading into deeper economic uncertainty, that approach should not make a comeback.

Recession

Photo by Anders Vindegg licensed under Creative Commons