recentpopularlog in

charlesarthur : uk   62

The world's largest offshore wind farm is nearly complete • CNN
Hanna Ziady:
<p>The world's largest offshore wind farm is taking shape off the east coast of Britain, a landmark project that demonstrates one way to combat climate change at scale.

Located 120 kilometers (75 miles) off England's Yorkshire coast, Hornsea One will produce enough energy [1.2 gigawatts, twice as large as the next-biggest which is in the Irish Sea] to supply 1 million UK homes with clean electricity when it is completed in 2020.

The project spans an area that's bigger than the Maldives or Malta, and is located farther out to sea than any other wind farm. It consists of 174 seven-megawatt wind turbines that are each 100 metres tall. The blades have a circumference of 75 meters, and cover an area bigger than the London Eye observation wheel as they turn.

Just a single rotation of one of the turbines can power the average home for an entire day, according to Stefan Hoonings, senior project manager at Orsted (DOGEF), the Danish energy company that built the farm.

The project will take the United Kingdom closer to hitting its target of deriving a third of the country's electricity from offshore wind by 2030.</p>

Meanwhile the new 3.2GW nuclear plant at Hinkley Point C looks likely to cost an extra £2.9bn (to £22bn) and be late: had been promised online in 2017, now looks like 2025. Hornsea One, cost about £4.2bn, and which has delivered on time, is part of four such which could generate a total of 6GW.
uk  energy  environment  windpower 
18 days ago by charlesarthur
What really happened in the UK blackouts? • Mitch O'Neill
Mitch O'Neill:
<p>I’ll be focusing on the 76 seconds between 4:52:33PM when the intial event occured, through to 4:53:49 PM when the load shedding occured.

4:52:33 PM

The grid begins in a stable operating state. These next four events all happen within 1 second:

1) Lightning hits the Eaton Socon - Wymondley transmission circuit. A normal and unremarkable occurrence. The circuit disconnects and opens after 70ms [milliseconds!] to clear the fault. This circuit will re-energise and come back online in 20 seconds. This is good and normal!

2) The lightning strike created a transient voltage disturbance which caused the loss of 500MW of small embedded distributed generation (solar, small gas and diesel) on the transmission circuit. This is good and normal and meant to happen when lightning strikes a line!

3) “Hornsea started deloading”. <em>Not good!</em> Hornsea, a large offshore wind farm changes output from 799MW to 62MW, a 737MW reduction in output.

4) “Little Barford Steam Turbine trips 244MW instantaneously”. <em>Doubly not good!</em>

What begins as a lightning strike cascades to a 1481MW loss in generation.

Frequency begins to fall.</p>

This is fascinating, based on the interim report from the UK National Grid. A glimpse of the incredible complexity that lies behind the socket on the wall.
uk  electricity  failure 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Kim Darroch was a victim of the UK government's huge email problem • WIRED UK
Chris Stokel-Walker:
<p>Intelligent Protection International Limited, a private security firm, was asked to conduct an investigation to pinpoint the source of a leak of commercial information – allegedly perpetrated by a staff member– to a company working with the [unnamed UK government] department. “We were gobsmacked when we did our investigation,” says Alex Bomberg, chief executive officer of Intelligent Protection International.

Bomberg’s company produced a 300-page report – a redacted version of the recommendations of which we have seen – laying bare the issues with how the civil service handles sensitive data such as diplomatic briefings and cables. All routine public service information is classed as “Official” – one of three security classifications set out by the government. Official documents can include “routine international relations and diplomatic activities.

However, particularly delicate information can be labelled “Official – Sensitive”, which is meant to involve additional measures to limit the “need to know”. That additional marking is deployed to head off the risk of such information being stolen, lost or published by journalists because it “could have more damaging consequences,” official advice on classification explains.

According to The Mail on Sunday, which first reported the contents of Darroch’s diplomatic cables, the documents leaked last week were labelled “Official – Sensitive”.

It turns out that these labels are expected to do a lot of work. One of the main concerns Intelligent Protection International raised in its report was the principle of “delegated access” to email accounts of the highest-ranking officials in the civil service.

In short, that means that staff would be allowed to access an official’s inbox in order to triage emails and deal with problems.</p>

I thought that diplomatic cables were classified as "<a href="">Eyes Only</a>" rather than "<a href="">Official - Sensitive</a>". But email, and the need to triage it, makes a mockery of that.
uk  government  email  darroch 
july 2019 by charlesarthur
Mozilla: No plans to enable DNS-over-HTTPS by default in the UK • ZDNet
Catalin Cimpanu:
<p>After the UK's leading industry group of internet service providers named Mozilla an "Internet Villain" because of its intentions to support a new DNS security protocol named DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) inside Firefox, the browser maker told ZDNet that such plans don't currently exist.

"We have no current plans to enable DoH by default in the UK," a spokesperson ZDNet last night.

The browser maker's decision comes after both ISPs and the UK government, through MPs and GCHQ have criticized Mozilla and fellow browser maker Google during the last two months for their plans to support DNS-over-HTTPS.

The technology, if enabled, would thwart the ability of some internet service providers to sniff customer traffic in order to block users from accessing bad sites, such as those hosting copyright-infringing materials, child abuse images, and extremist material.

UK ISPs block websites at the government requests; they also block other sites voluntarily at the request of various child protection groups, and they block adult sites as part of parental controls options they provide to their customers.

Not all UK ISPs will be impacted by Mozilla and Google supporting DNS-over-HTTPS, as some use different technologies to filter customers' traffic…</p>

This is the story which <a href="">came out horrendously confused in the Sunday Times</a> about three months ago, talking about "plans to encrypt Chrome", which left everyone who understands what the words actually mean puzzled.
privacy  isp  uk  dns  https 
july 2019 by charlesarthur
81% of 'suspects' flagged by Met's police facial recognition technology innocent, independent report says • Sky News
Rowland Manthorpe and Alexander J Martin:
<p>Four out of five people identified by the Metropolitan Police's facial recognition technology as possible suspects are innocent, according to an independent report.

Researchers found that the controversial system is 81% inaccurate - meaning that, in the vast majority of cases, it flagged up faces to police when they were not on a wanted list.

The force maintains its technology only makes a mistake in one in 1,000 cases - but it uses a different measurement to arrive at this conclusion.

The report, exclusively revealed by Sky News and The Guardian, raises "significant concerns" about Scotland Yard's use of the technology, and calls for the facial recognition programme to be halted.

Citing a range of technical, operational and legal issues, the report concludes that it is "highly possible" the Met's usage of the system would be found unlawful if challenged in court.</p>

If you feel like doing some reading, <a href="">here's the full report</a>. From the descriptions in it, the police are clearly fudging their figures.
facialrecognition  police  uk 
july 2019 by charlesarthur
No 10 denies claim by chancellor that emissions target will cost UK £1tn • The Guardian
Seth Jacobson:
<p>Downing Street has shot down claims made by the chancellor, Philip Hammond, that tackling the climate crisis would cost £1tn and require spending cuts for schools, hospitals and the police force.

No 10 said plans to create a net zero carbon economy would cost no more than the UK’s existing plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The firm response will be seen as a rare rebuke for Hammond, who warned Theresa May that reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero could cost the country £1tn and lead to industries becoming “economically uncompetitive” without government subsidies.

In a letter to the prime minister, Hammond said the proposed 2050 net zero target – one of the most far-reaching proposed in the world – would mean less money for schools, the NHS and police forces, the <a href="">Financial Times reported</a>.

Downing Street said analysis from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) showed that the cost of a net zero carbon economy would “fall within our existing spending plans”.

A spokeswoman for No 10 would not comment directly on the letter, but warned against any cost estimates which conflated economic costs with public spending.

“There are a lot of figures out there on this issue that don’t factor in the benefits or consider the costs of not doing this,” she said.

“The costs related to meeting this target are whole-of-the-economy costs, not a fiscal cost, and so it’s not really right to frame it as a trade-off for public spending,” she said.</p>

Seems a bit weird for Hammon to make such an elementary error in calculation, unless he's just trying to kill the whole thing - which would be disastrous.
uk  climatechange  emissions  trillion 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
The Met Police’s sinister facial recognition trial should worry us all • The Spectator
Jamie Bartlett:
<p>In <a href="">a recent episode of BBC Click</a>, journalist Geoff White followed the police’s pilot of live facial recognition technology. (The Metropolitan Police are running a number of pilots). In one chilling moment, a man walked past the facial recognition cameras and covered his face. The police stopped him, forced him to uncover and then took a photograph of him anyway. ‘This gives us grounds to stop and verify him,’ one officer said. The man got angry – understandably, I’d have done the same – which landed him a £90 fine for disorderly behaviour.

I’ve no idea what the legal basis is for any of this – but if covering your face is deemed suspicious, we’re heading somewhere where, for once, the word ‘Orwellian’ isn’t an exaggeration. Silkie Carlo from Big Brother Watch (who are running a campaign to stop this) reckons it’s a ‘free for all’ taking place in a legal vacuum. ‘The police are making up the rules as they go along,’ she says.

I won’t bother running through the possible misuses, bias data models (see here if you don’t believe that technology can’t contain biases), or the cost. Instead, just imagine real-time facial recognition technology running on the country’s six million CCTV cameras and ask yourself if you’re happy with that. And if it does roll out, I suspect thousands will do what this man did, principled or otherwise, which will surely make an ass of the law.

But what worries me most is not that facial recognition technologies won’t work – but the opposite. Despite the problems, I expect it will be very effective at tackling crime and keeping us safe. At what cost?</p>

I suppose the police might have been using stop and search, but it seems pretty thin.
facialrecognition  police  uk 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Who has gone where • Centre For Towns
Concom Website Design:
<p>Moving out of London

This map shows the number of people who have moved from London to each local authority over the last four years.

House prices where you live: This map has four options: 1. Average house price in 1997; 2. Average house price in 2017; 3. Change in house price (£), 1997-2017; 4. House price:Income ratio. The last option uses average houshold income.</p>

And plenty more: mental health contacts in the last 12 months, post office closures in the past three years, train station usage, access to broadband, and much more.
uk  maps 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Online pornography age checks to be mandatory in UK from 15 July • The Guardian
Alex Hern:
<p>From that date, commercial providers of online pornography will be required to carry out “robust” age verification checks on users, in order to keep children from accessing adult content.

Websites that refuse to implement the checks face being blocked by UK internet service providers or having their access to payment services withdrawn.

The digital minister, Margot James, welcomed the introduction of the rules, saying: “Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online. The introduction of mandatory age verification is a world first, and we’ve taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content. We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online, and these new laws will help us achieve this.”

Will Gardner, the chief executive of Childnet, said: “We hope that the introduction of this age verification will help in protecting children, making it harder for young people to accidentally come across online pornography, as well as bringing in the same protections that we use offline to protect children from age-restricted goods or services.”

Some campaigners have criticised the laws’ potential effectiveness. The government was forced to exempt large social media sites from the ban owing to fears that a strict implementation would result in sites including Twitter, Reddit, Imgur and Tumblr being blocked for adult content.

Additionally, concerns have been raised that the laws could result in the creation of a database of the UK’s porn viewers, which would pose a privacy problem if it were to ever leak.</p>

Well this is going to cause a LOT of fun when, for all sorts of reasons, it goes wrong. Though you won't hear from adults complaining they were blocked wrongly; only about kids wrongly allowed to access. (You can figure out why.)
Porn  age  filter  uk 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Britain’s porn watchers likely to be caught with their pants down by porn block • YouGov
Matthew Smith:
<p>In April new government policy aimed at preventing children from accessing pornography will come into force and require adult websites to verify that visitors are at least 18 – and simply asking them won’t suffice.

Visitors will have to confirm their age using a driving licence, credit card, passport or mobile SMS. Britons will also be able to buy an age verification card in high street shops to do the same job. Only then will they be able to access the content within the website.

It’s a monumental change, and the first of its kind anywhere in the world. And despite being mere weeks from implementation, most Britons are unaware of it.

New YouGov research finds that three quarters of Britons (76%) don’t know that the so-called “porn block” is being introduced – only 24% said they knew it was on the way.

<img src="" width="100%" />

This unaware group includes half (53%) of Britain’s most frequent porn users – those who watch pornography online every day, or most days.

While Britons may have been unaware of the policy, there’s widespread backing for it once they know the details. Fully two thirds (67%) say they approve of the changes, although support declines with frequency of porn use.</p>

"Frequency of porn use." O tempora, o mores.
Porn  block  uk  verification 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Porn block: how will the new UK laws work? • HuffPost UK
Sophie Gallagher:
<p>As stipulated in the 2017 Digital Economy Act, from the beginning of April all porn websites are required to have verification of a user’s age before they can permit them to view the website.

Websites such as PornHub and RedTube will only be unlocked after individual users have been through a process of verification to prove they are over 18… 

…The NSPCC [National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children] claims two thirds of 15 to 16-year-olds have seen pornography, while Childline claims to have delivered more than 2,000 counselling sessions in the past three years about online porn.

The government has left it in the hands of the porn companies to ensure they comply with the compulsory checks, so the type of age-verification software will depend on which sites you visit.

One example of software being developed is by MindGeek – which owns Pornhub, YouPorn, RedTube and Brazzers – has been called AgeID. This will work by redirecting you to a non-pornographic page when you attempt to visit a porn site. On that separate page, you will have to put in your phone number, email address and credit card details. MindGeek say this will be a one-time verification, and they expect 20 to 25 million UK users will sign up to AgeID.</p>

No way at all that this could possibly go wrong. No way at all. Not as if it's going with three things that are quite widely available to hackers, an which will have risen in value overnight.
porn  law  uk  blocking 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
UK smartphone shipments fell 14% in Q4 2018 • Strategy Analytics
<p>Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “Apple shipped 3.0 million smartphones and captured a dominant 41% marketshare in the UK during Q4 2018. Apple has a prestigious brand and extensive retail presence across the UK market. Despite a slight decline from a year ago, Apple’s grip on the UK smartphone market remains fairly tight and the iPhone has two times more marketshare than closest rival Samsung.”

Woody Oh, Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “Samsung clung on to second place with 19% smartphone marketshare in the UK during Q4 2018, down from 21% a year ago. Samsung’s UK smartphone marketshare has more than halved during the past six years. Samsung is facing intense competitive pressure from Huawei, who is targeting Samsung’s core segments in the midrange and premium-tier with popular models such as the P20. Huawei’s UK smartphone marketshare has leapt from 8% in Q4 2017 to 12% in Q4 2018. Huawei is growing fast in the UK, due to heavy co-marketing of its models with major carriers like EE.”</p>

One other thing: Q4 is the biggest sales quarter of the year. Huawei is clearly eating Samsung's breakfast, lunch and tea.
Smartphone  uk  apple  samsung  huawei 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
Analysis: why the UK’s CO2 emissions have fallen 38% since 1990 • Carbon Brief
Zeke Hausfather:
<p>UK emissions have declined from around 600m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2) in 1990 to 367MtCO2 in 2017. If underlying factors driving emissions had not changed, Carbon Brief’s analysis shows that a growing population and a constant electricity generation mix would have led to emissions increasing by around 25% compared to 1990 levels.

Instead, emissions actually fell by 38% to 367MtCO2, as shown in the black area in the figure below. Each coloured wedge in the figure shows one factor contributing to this decline.

As the chart shows, no single factor was responsible for more than around a third of the total reduction in the UK’s CO2. Overall, emissions in 2017 were 51% lower than they would have been without these changes.</p>

The surprising data point: UK CO2 emissions peaked in 1973, because we were burning so much coal.
carbon  uk 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
How Britain grapples with nationalist dark web • POLITICO
Tom McTague:
<p>For May’s government, populist news sites are an increasing threat. Under previous prime ministers, like Tony Blair, Gordon Brown — or even the early years of David Cameron — a handful of newspapers and television stations served as news gatekeepers, picking out what they considered important and beaming it to a mass audience.

Some publications were hostile, of course, but they were known quantities, their editors contactable, their reporters easy to berate. Today’s news media has broken completely free of these bounds.

News, fake news, information and disinformation now reaches voters through a collection of social media pages, messaging apps, video platforms and anonymous websites spreading content beyond the control of anyone in Whitehall — or the Élysée in France, as Emmanuel Macron is discovering.

“Who do you ring?” asked one exasperated No. 10 official when asked about these sites. “You don’t know who these people are.”

At 12:50 p.m. on April 25, 2018, a new British political news website was registered in Scottsdale, Arizona. Within weeks, was producing some of the most viral news stories in the U.K. and had been included on briefing notes circulated in No. 10.

The website — specializing in hyper-partisan coverage of Brexit, Islam and Tommy Robinson — has no named editor and one reporter using a pen name. Its owner is anonymous, having registered the site with the U.S. firm “Domains By Proxy” whose catch line, beaming out from its homepage, reads: “Your privacy is nobody’s business but ours.”

The website itself does not provide any contact details. It has no mission statement. It has a small but growing following on Twitter but no branded Facebook page or YouTube channel.

And yet, since started publishing stories at the end of April, the site has amassed more than 3 million interactions on social media, with an average of 5,000 “engagements” for every story it has published — far more than most national newspapers.</p>
uk  news  fakenews  media 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Two million children now using smart speakers in the UK • Strategy Analytics
<p>at least two million children are now using smart speakers in the UK, particularly for listening to music, searching for information and hearing jokes and funny stories. The analysis is based on an online survey of 1002 smart speaker users carried out in July/August 2018.

Listening to music is by far the most popular activity for children who use a smart speaker. 78% are using it to listen to music at least weekly and more than half at least once a day. Children’s usage of smart speakers is quite different from that of adults: children are more likely to use them to listen to jokes and play games, while adults are more likely to listen to the news and get weather information.

The research also found that more than half of children who use a smart speaker use it to help with homework, learn vocabulary or practice spelling. But in a third of homes where smart speakers are used and children are living, the children are not using a smart speaker at all.

David Watkins, Director, Smart Speakers at Strategy Analytics commented: “Some parents are clearly quite happy that their children are making use of smart speakers. They are mostly for entertainment, but they also have uses which are more serious, and, some would say, valuable.”</p>

There are roughly 14 million children (under 16) in the UK. This is incredibly rapid adoption, if the survey is robust.
smartspeaker  children  uk 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Geospatial Commission earmarks first investments • UK Authority
<p>The Geospatial Commission has announced its first investments with plans to pump £5m into unlocking data held by the British Geological Survey, Coal Authority, HM Land Registry, Ordnance Survey, UK Hydrographic Office and the Valuation Office Agency.

The recently created organisation indicated it will provide £80m over the next two years to support the development of new products that can propel “British companies onto a global market”. 

The six to receive the first round of investments are the partner bodies of the commission, set up by the chancellor a year ago to exploit location information, or geospatial data.

Using this publicly held data more productively could be worth up to £11bn to the economy every year, the Government believes.

The data has been produced from delivering public services and enforcing laws – such as navigating public transport or tracking supply chains – but will now be analysed by private firms for new services.

David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, said: “This Government is committed to providing more opportunities for tech businesses - including small firms - to thrive, as well as access public procurement opportunities."</p>

That's good - considering it took four years of lobbying, starting back in 2006, to get the government even to countenance making OS and UKHO data open, this is a continuation down a long road.
Freeourdata  data  freedata  uk 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
The real Goldfinger: the London banker who broke the world • The Guardian
Oliver Bullough:
<p>when Britain and France attempted to regain control of the Suez canal in 1956, a disapproving Washington froze their access to dollars and doomed the venture. These were not the actions of a neutral arbiter. Britain at the time was staggering from one crisis to another. In 1957, it raised interest rates and stopped banks using sterling to finance trade in an attempt to keep the pound strong (this was the “currency crisis and the high bank rate” that Smithers told Bond about).

City banks, which could no longer use sterling in the way they were accustomed, began to use dollars instead, and they obtained those dollars from the Soviet Union, which was keeping them in London and Paris so as to avoid becoming vulnerable to American pressure. This turned out to be a profitable thing to do. In the US, there were limits on how much interest banks could charge on dollar loans – but not so in London.

This market – the bankers called the dollars “eurodollars” – gave a bit of life to the City of London in the late 1950s, but not much. The big bond issues were still taking place in New York, a fact which annoyed many bankers in London. After all, many of the companies borrowing the money were European, yet it was American banks that were earning the fat commissions.

One banker in particular was not prepared to tolerate this: Siegmund Warburg. Warburg was an outsider in the cosy world of the City. For one thing, he was German. For another, he hadn’t given up on the idea that a City banker’s job was to hustle for business. In 1962, Warburg learned from a friend at the World Bank that some $3bn was circulating outside the US – sloshing around and ready to be put to use. Warburg had been a banker in Germany in the 1920s and remembered arranging bond deals in foreign currencies. Why couldn’t his bankers do something similar again?</p>

An absorbing long read about how we've got into this fine mess.
uk  finance  banking  history 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
Canny Brits are nuking the phone bundle • The Register
Andrew Orlowski:
<p>Consumers are now more aware that they can buy the phone and the network access separately, and are increasingly doing so.

"Many were totally unaware of the true value of the plan, and this marks a real change," CCS Insight analyst Kester Mann told us. CCS Insight calls the unbundling "cracking the code".

Only 36 per cent of UK SIM-only customers expect to take a traditional bundle-plus-phone deal when their current plan ends, CCS found [in a survey of 2,000 people in the UK and France]. Mann noted that this figure is considerably higher than the number of SIM-only customers today, who will upgrade to another SIM-only deal – indicating strong growth for the SIM-only bit of the market. One in 12 phones in use is a second-hand phone.

And there are a variety of fascinating knock-on effects.

<img src="" width="100%" />
<em>Phone fatigue ... 46 per cent of punters say the latest and greatest phones don't wow them</em>

For example, almost 10 per cent of UK punters now buy direct through Amazon. Operators, who have traditionally acted as credit companies, will have to make their bundles more flexible and attractive. High-margin manufacturers may have to make more use of the refurbished channel, or make older models available for longer. In fact, all OEMs have to look at refurb and online.

Mann told us all of these trends are happening already.

"The Amazon figure is surprising and significant. And Amazon plays a large part in the overall 'buying journey'. We found customers who may not have bought the phone through Amazon, but who accessed Amazon in making their buying decision."

The refurbished market is small, at 4% of new purchases, but growing, according to CCS Insight. "We will see more growth," Mann predicted, as buyers look to Argos and eBay.</p>
phones  mobile  uk 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
Britain proposes tougher foreign investment rules to protect national security • Reuters
Andrew MacAskill and Ben Martin:
<p>The decision to tighten the screening of foreign investment rules marks a further shift in policy for the world’s fifth-largest economy which has traditionally been one of the most open markets to global mergers and acquisitions.

Britain is pressing ahead with the changes in parallel with similar efforts in other western economies such as Germany and Australia amid growing levels of Chinese investment.

Under the new rules, the government will broaden its power to investigate deals regardless of the size of the companies’ revenue or market share and have the right to scrutinize any transaction in any sector of the economy.

The government will also have the power to intervene when a company wants to acquire an asset such as a particular piece of technology or intellectual property rather just when they are seeking to buy or take control of a firm.

At present the government can only intervene if a deal creates a group with 25% of the market or with turnover of over £70m ($91.72m). That has already been reduced to £1m for companies that make technology with military or dual-use applications.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy expects the changes will mean the government will investigate around 50 deals on national security grounds each year, up from one this year so far and one last year.</p>

In years gone by this would have been a standard move for a left-wing Labour government, and there would have been eye rolling from right-wing Tories about how you can't interfere in the free market and that foreign investment is important. (It's how most of the water and electricity companies are now foreign-owned.)

Now? Everyone's worried about China and the shutters come down.
china  investment  uk 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
British broadband speed map • FT
Alan Smith, Nic Fildes, David Blood, Max Harlow, Caroline Nevitt and Ændrew Rininsland:
<p>The areas of the country with ultrafast internet have often taken a go-it-alone approach. Small telecoms operators such as B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) in Lancashire and CityFibre in York have replaced old copper wires with their own fibre-optic networks that are independent of the traditional national network, controlled by Openreach, BT’s engineering arm.

And while the data show that speeds are generally faster in urban areas compared with rural ones, this is often the result of strong investment in the suburbs. One of the most striking features of the British internet reality is that connections are very poor in the centre of the main cities, including London, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. In many of those cases, the speed is below the 10 MBit/s threshold set for the “universal service obligation” that the government is set to introduce as a minimum standard for broadband access over the coming years.

In Britain, the digital divide is often not between urban and rural areas: it is between the suburbs and the inner city.</p>

Terrific interactive where you input a postcode and get an idea of how you compare against somewhere else. (The introductory graphic comparing part of Knightsbridge, in expensive London, with rural Shropshire is an eye-opener.) However we're no closer to truly fast, universal wired broadband because there hasn't been competition, unlike the situation that was mandated in mobile (where there were two, then four, then five principal competitors).
uk  tech  broadband  map 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Refusal of new passports for children raises DNA testing fears • Financial Times
Robert Wright:
<p>The Home Office has refused to renew the British passports of at least two children in recent weeks without proof of paternity that lawyers say can be provided only through a DNA test.

In both cases, the mothers of the children were not UK citizens, but their children had already been issued British passports on account of their British fathers.

The cases suggest the Home Office is taking a particularly hard line where the right to reside in the UK of a mother depends on the UK citizenship of their child.

The revelations came after the Home Office ordered an urgent review last week into why its immigration officers have been demanding DNA tests even though guidelines state they should not be compulsory.

Letters from HM Passport Office, a department of the Home Office, were sent to the two women on June 11 and July 2.</p>

Note that this is *renewal*, not instantiation, of the passport. Seems like the "hostile environment" towards immigrants hasn't changed after all.
passport  immigration  uk  dna 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Newsagents to sell ‘porn passes’ to visit X-rated websites anonymously under new government plans • The Independent
Colin Drury:
High street newsagents are to sell so-called “porn passes” that will allow adults to visit over-18 websites anonymously.

The 16-digit cards will allow browsers to avoid giving personal details online when asked to prove their age.

Instead, they would show shopkeepers a passport or driving licence when buying the pass.

The UK’s film censor, the British Board of Film Classification, carried out a public consultation ahead of age-verification laws that are to be introduced this year that will require viewers to prove they are over 18 when viewing certain sites.

The legislation is designed to stop children accessing online pornography.

But there are concerns that asking adults to hand over passport or driving licence details to view adult material could leave them open to data-hacking and blackmail.

Some 56% of British adults admitted to watching pornography in a 2014 study carried out by The Observer.

David Austin, chief executive with the BBFC, told The Daily Telegraph that such a process would be “simpler than people think” to create.</p>

Well, that's one way to keep local newsagents alive, I guess.
Porn  uk  government 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Xiaomi phones to be sold in UK, Italy, and other European markets • Android Authority
Oliver Cragg:
<p>The Beijing-based firm today announced that it has partnered with CK Hutchinson to bring Xiaomi products to Three Group Europe stores in Austria, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, Sweden, and the U.K.

Three — one of the four major carriers in the UK — has confirmed that Xiaomi phones will be sold in stores across the country in the near future. This marks the first time Xiaomi phones will be officially available to buy in the region without having to resort to importing websites.

“We have been watching Xiaomi’s success from afar and impressed with the huge range of connected devices that they currently offer,” said Tom Malleschitz, chief digital officer at Three’s U.K. division.</p>

Has Xiaomi managed to figure out how to get around the patent infringement claims that are sure to follow this?
xiaomi  three  uk 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
UK electricty generation sources - 2017 versus 2016 • MyGridGB
Andrew Crossland:
<p>I have just released a new page on the MyGridGB website which tries to chart how electricity generation is changing year on year. It can be found here.

These charts tell some important stories about electricity in Britain and how fast it is changing. I now describe three biggest stories in the data and my predictions for 2017.

<strong>The decline of coal:</strong> The amount of coal used for electricity was 30% lower in Q1 2017 than it was in Q1 2016 despite there being very little difference in our demand for power. Coal power stations are rapidly being decommissioned and being replaced by renewables and gas.

<strong>My prediction:</strong> coal power stations will be switched off several times over the coming months (April onwards) when demand is low. The amount of times this happens will be affected by the global price of coal and gas which affects the choice of power stations to use.

<img src="" width="100%" />

<strong>The rise of intermittent generators:</strong> Wind and solar continue to grow and 2017 also saw an increased in metered generation from hydroelectric dams. Overall, low carbon renewable generation was 26% higher in Q1 2017 than it was in Q1 2016. The early signs from 2017 are that wind has overtaken coal to be the third biggest provider of electricity in Great Britain. In fact, wind turbines generated nearly 60% of what nuclear power stations provided.

<strong>My prediction:</strong> 2017 will see wind overtake coal as the third biggest provider of electricity in Great Britain.

Note that my values include an estimate for so called “embedded wind” turbines. Embedded wind refers to smaller turbines which are not included in the Elexon Portal data which I use for this website or gridwatch. At the time of writing, I estimated that around 30% of the installed wind capacity in Great Britain is embedded.

<img src="" width="100%" /></p>

The "carbon intensity" (how much carbon is burnt per kWh) is falling fast too.
uk  electricity  generation  carbon  solar  wind 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
UK and US move on Chinese group, citing national security • FT
Nic Fildes, Shawn Donnan and Pan Kwan Yuk:
<p>Britain and the US have moved against one of China’s largest telecoms equipment makers, adding to a growing list of restrictions imposed by western governments on Chinese companies on national security grounds.

The measures taken against ZTE Corp, which cuts it off from US suppliers and bars it entirely from doing business in the UK, comes amid a particularly aggressive move by the Trump administration, which has already used the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, a secretive national security body, to block or force changes to several Chinese-linked deals.

It also is likely to add to mounting economic tension between Washington and Beijing, which are locked in a rhetorical trade war that threatens to impose tariffs on $150bn in bilateral trade.

US commerce department officials insisted the move was not related to other actions taken in recent weeks by the White House, noting ZTE’s violations were first investigated by the Obama administration. But experts said the sanctions were part of a growing anti-China backlash not only in London and Washington, but also Germany, Australia and Canada.

“Things are pretty rocky right now,” said Matthew Goodman, an expert on US-Asian economic ties at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.</p>

The US said ZTE had supplied Iran and North Korea with equipment; the UK says ZTE's ownership by the Chinese government raises security concerns.

While it will be able to use open-source Android (AOSP), ZTE is going to be stuffed in trying to sell handsets outside China. It won't be able to get Google's Play Store or other apps. ZTE was, until now, the fourth-biggest phone vendor in the US (says analyst Avi Greengart).

And the network equipment business, a far more lucrative space, is in effect shot in two gigantic markets. ZTE is toast.
zte  us  uk  iran 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
The UK government's own Brexit analysis says the UK will be worse off in every scenario outside the EU • Buzzfeed
Alberto Nardelli has a big scoop:
<p>The government's new analysis of the impact of Brexit says the UK would be worse off outside the European Union under every scenario modelled, BuzzFeed News can reveal.

The assessment, which is titled “EU Exit Analysis – Cross Whitehall Briefing” and dated January 2018, looked at three of the most plausible Brexit scenarios based on existing EU arrangements.

Under a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, UK growth would be 5% lower over the next 15 years compared to current forecasts, according to the analysis.

The "no deal" scenario, which would see the UK revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, would reduce growth by 8% over that period. The softest Brexit option of continued single-market access through membership of the European Economic Area would, in the longer term, still lower growth by 2%.

These calculations do not take into account any short-term hits to the economy from Brexit, such as the cost of adjusting the economy to new customs arrangements.</p>

The government didn't deny this:
<p>A government spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “We have already set out that the government is undertaking a wide range of ongoing analysis in support of our EU exit negotiations and preparations.

"We have been clear that we are not prepared to provide a running commentary on any aspect of this ongoing internal work and that ministers have a duty not to publish anything that could risk exposing our negotiation position.”</p>
brexit  uk 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
25,000 children in Britain are problem gamblers, report finds • The Guardian
Rob Davies:
<p>Fruit machines remain the most common introduction to gambling for young people at 24%, followed by the National Lottery at 21%.

But the Gambling Commission said children were increasingly being exposed to gambling in less traditional ways, such as through eSports (computer games competitions) and via social media.

The report found that 11% of children took part in skins betting, whereby online gamers can bet using in-game items, such as weapons or outfits, which can have real monetary value if traded.

Skins betting, an industry <a href="">worth up to $5.1bn (£3.8bn) last year</a> according to one US report, is a common feature of games such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

And earlier this year, <a href="">two men were convicted</a> for running a website that allowed children to bet on the Fifa series of online football games.

More than one in 10 children reported having played casino-style games, which simulate roulette or fruit machines, on Facebook or smartphone apps.

The commission’s statistics indicate that children who play such games, many of which have a PEGI (Pan European Game Information) 12 age rating, are more likely to gamble in real life.</p>

A downward spiral, started early. There's a lot of nonsense pleading by the companies that run the gambling machines, and gaming generally, about "jobs at risk". Gambling like this quickly goes out of control, and <a href="">puts livelihoods at risk</a>.
uk  children  gambling 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
Apple and Samsung dominate UK smartphone market in 3Q17 • Counterpoint Research
<p>Research director Peter Richardson added, “The Apple iPhone 7 was the bestselling smartphone and contributed to 15% of the total smartphones sold in Q3 2017. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus were second and third. Samsung also has a strong range across all price bands and it, together with Huawei, provided a strong volume platform that was resilient to attack from most other brands.”

Speaking about UK distribution channels, Peter Richardson said, “The UK operators and retailers have developed one of the best multi-channel distribution systems worldwide; few other countries offer quite the same level of sophistication. However, the limited range of brands offered in volume by the main operators means that market share is concentrated among just a few players. We don’t see this changing any time soon as distribution power is, if anything, being increasingly focused among the main operators.”

<table><tr><td>UK Bestselling Smartphone Rankings – Q3 2017</td><td>UK Smartphone Sales Ranking and Market Share – Q3 2017</td></tr><tr><td><img src="" width="40%" /></td><td><img src="" width="40%" /></td></tr></table>

Market Summary
• UK handset market declined 8% YOY in Q3 2017.
• Smartphone penetration reached 93% of all the mobile phones sold in the quarter.
• Top 5 brands account for almost 90% of the smartphone sales in Q3 2017.
• Apple continues to be the bestselling brand followed by Samsung. Chinese vendors Huawei, Alcatel and Motorola capture the next position in the UK smartphone market.
• In the premium segment Apple led the smartphone market followed by Samsung.</p>

That's some concentration. Five brands doing 90% of business. Apple and Samsung capturing more than 80% of the value.
apple  samsung  uk 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Equifax says 15.2 million UK records exposed in cyber breach • Reuters
John McCrank:
<p>Credit reporting agency Equifax Inc said on Tuesday that 15.2 million client records in Britain were compromised in the massive cyber attack it disclosed last month, including sensitive information affecting nearly 700,000 consumers.

The US-based company said 14.5 million of the records breached, which dated from 2011 to 2016, did not contain information that put British consumers at risk.

Overall, around 145.5 million people, mostly in the United States, had their information compromised, including Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses.</p>

Marvellous. Expect phishing attacks based around this soon too.
equifax  uk  britain 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Porn ID checks set to start in April 2018 - BBC News
Leo Kelion on the UK government's proposals:
<p>two experts who advised the government on its plans have expressed reservations about both how quickly the scheme is being rolled out and its wider implications.

"It seems to me to be a very premature date," commented Dr Victoria Nash, lead author of a report commissioned in the run-up to the law being drafted. "The idea you can get a regulatory body up and running in that timeframe seems extraordinary to me. And while I don't have a problem with asking these companies to act responsibly, I don't see it as a solution to stopping minors seeing pornography."

This, she explained, was because the act does not tackle the fact that services including Twitter and Tumblr contain hardcore pornography but will not be required to introduce age-checks. Nor, she added, would teens be prevented from sharing copied photos and clips among themselves.
"It may make it harder for children to stumble across pornography, especially in the younger age range, but it will do nothing to stop determined teenagers," Dr Nash concluded.

One cyber-security expert on the same advisory panel was more critical. "The timeline is unrealistic - but beyond that, this is one of the worst proposals I have seen on digital strategy," said Dr Joss Wright from the Oxford Internet Institute. "There are hundreds of thousands of websites where this material can be accessed and you are not going to catch all of those. There's privacy issues - you're requiring people to effectively announce the fact they are looking at this material to the credit card authorities.

"And there's serious security issues from requiring people to enter their credit card details into untrusted sites."</p>
porn  uk  creditcards 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
How Britain voted at the 2017 general election • YouGov
<p>Since last week’s election result YouGov has interview over 50,000 British adults to gather more information on how Britain voted. This is part of one of the biggest surveys ever undertaken into British voting behaviour, and is the largest yet that asks people how they actually cast their ballots in the 2017 election.

The bigger sample size allows us to break the results down to a much more granular level and see how different groups and demographics voted on Thursday.

<img src="" width="100%" />

And this is telling too:

<img src="" width="100%" /></p>

As they point out, the older people get, the more likely they are to vote Conservative. But: those with degrees (from any time) are <em>more</em> likely to vote Labour; those with GCSE or below (9th grade, in the US) vote Conservative 55-33 Labour.

Lots more to digest.
uk  politics 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
Land ownership map • Who owns England?
<p>Who owns land is one of England's most closely-guarded secrets. This map is a first attempt to display major landowners in England, combining public data with Freedom of Information requests. To follow the investigation and help us fill in the gaps, visit the <a href="">Who Owns England? blog</a>.

The map also displays some data for Wales and Scotland, where landowners' data includes this; our project is focused on England. Investigation by <a href="">Guy Shrubsole</a>, map by <a href="">Anna Powell-Smith</a>.</p>

But of course Powell-Smith would be involved - she does great mapping/data stuff. "Overseas companies" own nearly a quarter of a million acres, in some very odd places.
uk  maps  land 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Digital Economy Act: UK Police could soon disable phones, even if users don't commit a crime • The Independent
Aatif Sulleyman:
<p>UK police could soon have the power to remotely disable mobile phones, even before the user actually commits a crime.

The Digital Economy Act, which has just passed into law, contains a section stating that officers will be able to place restrictions on handsets that they believe are being used by drug dealers.

The Home Office has told The Independent that UK police haven't gained the powers yet, as "the introduction of powers included within Acts are often staggered and further details will be developed by the next Government".

The next Secretary of State needs to make regulations, which then have to be approved by both Houses of Parliament, before officers can start targeting phones.

Police also wouldn’t be able to disable devices directly.

Instead, the Director General or Deputy Director General of the National Crime Agency, or a police officer of the rank of superintendent or above, would have to apply for a court order that would then be sent to a telecommunications provider.

The government wants to crack down on so-called "deal-lines" used by gangs to remotely deal drugs in rural areas.

According to the government, these gangs exploit children and vulnerable people as couriers, using "specific" mobile phone numbers.</p>

Basically, targeting the setup as seen in The Wire - except this is before it's sure a crime has occurred.
police  uk  encryption 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Unite against the Tories • Tactical 2017

Most constituencies can only be realistically contested by two parties.
This site shows which way you should vote on 8th June to prevent the Tories from getting into power again.</p>

With this you choose your location, and hence your constituency, and it suggests how you should vote. It's based on a <a href="">spreadsheet</a>.

What seems interesting to me is that we now have multiple efforts to create tactical voting systems which are driven from the grassroots. (This is <a href="">by David Kitchen</a>, who I think is a centrist Labour activist.)
voting  uk 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Britain is about to have its first day without coal • Bloomberg
Anna Hirtenstein and Andrew Reierson:
<p>The U.K. is headed for its first full day without burning coal to make electricity since the Industrial Revolution more than a century ago, according to grid operator National Grid Plc.

“Great Britain has never had a continuous 24 hour period without #coal. Today is looking like it could be the first,” the National Grid control room’s Twitter account posted on Friday.

The U.K. was an early adopter of renewable energy and has more offshore wind turbines installed than any other country, as well as fields of solar panels with as much capacity at seven nuclear reactors. The government aims to switch off all coal plants by 2025.

Neighboring countries have similar agendas and energy companies across the continent closing and converting coal-burners at a record pace. Europe’s use of the most polluting fossil fuel is <a href="">drying up quicker than many expected</a>.

“A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again,” Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace U.K., said in an email.</p>

The UK has far more coal plants and generation than other European countries:

<img src="" width="100%" />
coal  power  uk 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
House prices by square metre in England & Wales • Anna Powell-Smith
<p>This map shows for the first time the average price per m2 of houses in each postcode district in England & Wales. It uses new government data on floor area from EPC certificates, matched with 6.2 million residential house sales since 2007.

Sale prices range from more than £20,000 per square metre in SW1X (Belgravia) and W1K (Mayfair) to under £1,000 in postcodes like DN31 (Grimsby) and CF43 (Rhondda). Click to see details for a postcode, or zoom to London, Birmingham, Manchester.</p>

Such wonderful work. As you'd expect, London has all of the most expensive space (for the top 100); you have to go to Richmond (still London really) and then Oxford to escape its gravitational pull.

Powell-Smith is amazing. Since you're wondering:
<p>Methodology: Sale prices taken from Land Registry's Price Paid dataset of residential property sales to individuals since August 2007. Floor area in m2 per property taken from Energy Performance Certificates. I join each property sale to the property's most recent EPC, using normalised addresses: this finds a match 79% of the time, for around 6.2 million property sales. The aggregate price per m2 for each postcode district is then calculated as the total price of all sales, divided by the total floor area of all properties</p>
uk  data  property 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Budget 2017: UK solar industry facing devastating 800% tax increase • The Independent
Ian Johnston:
<p>Britain’s solar industry is facing devastation and consumers could see energy bills rise after the Chancellor Philip Hammond refused to listen to pleas to cancel a planned tax hike of up to 800% on rooftop solar schemes.

The Solar Trade Association described the Government’s refusal to bend over the increase – due to come into force in April – as “nonsensical” and “absurd”.

Bizarrely, state schools with solar panels will be forced to pay, while private schools will remain exempt.

Mr Hammond barely mentioned the energy sector in his speech – apart from a promise to help the oil and gas industry “maximise exploitation” of the remaining reserves in the North Sea.

According to the Government’s own figures, solar power is expected to become the cheapest form of electricity generation sometime in the 2020s.

But the UK solar industry lost 12,000 jobs last year and there has been an 85% reduction in the deployment of rooftop solar schemes.

So the sector had hoped the Government would listen to their request to drop the huge increase in business rates affecting rooftop solar from next month.

Some 44,000 solar “microgenerators” who are currently exempt from business rates could be faced with a bill of hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds. 

Speaking after reading the detail of the Budget in Treasury documents, Leonie Greene, of the Solar Trade Association, told The Independent: “Fair to say we are dismayed. We are facing an extreme business rate rise of up to 800%. Listening to what the Chancellor said today, there was no mention of energy apart from oil and gas. I have to say we are astonished because deployment of solar is at a six-year low… What he is doing is advantaging old technology and disadvantaging new ones. It’s nonsensical."</p>

It is utterly stupid. Businesses that install solar benefit everyone because they (a) provide jobs for fitters (b) contribute surplus energy to the grid which reduces non-baseline demand for fossil fuels at CCGT (combined cycle gas turbine) stations, which are the ones brought on and off line quickly when demand shifts.

The alternative? You don't have solar, and so you're reliant both on big power companies building gigantic power plants in time to meet estimated future demand, and the import of energy - two points of potential failure. Plus the fact that raising tax bills in that way could put some companies out of business. Raising it for schools will squeeze already tight budgets even further.

It doesn't affect domestic solar - thankfully. And if you're wondering why it doesn't affect private schools: it's because they're constituted as charities.

Now contrast this with the next link...
uk  solar  tax 
march 2017 by charlesarthur
UK Digital Strategy: 7. Data - unlocking the power of data in the UK economy • GOV.UK
This is now official UK government policy:
<p>The true potential of data can only be harnessed if it is open for use by others. The UK leads the world in open data, and the government is committed to building on this and being open by default. All official statistics are now published under the open government licence and we have made over 40,000 government datasets available through our web-portal.

We also lead the world in the quality of our openly available geospatial data and we will continue to support innovators and businesses to use this data. This includes through the Ordnance Survey’s GeoVation programme which runs competitions to help entrepreneurs use geospatial data and technology to develop their ideas, and provides a Hub where new start-ups can access desk-space, mentoring, and legal and professional support.

But government still holds data that could be opened up for researchers, campaigners, established companies and entrepreneurs to use. It is our ambition to ensure data is shared wherever appropriate. This will help businesses and government to innovate, generate maximum economic value and help create new digital products and services that enhance citizens’ lives.</p>

11 years ago, Michael Cross and I <a href="">started the Free Our Data campaign</a> in the Guardian's Technology section:
<p>Britain's public sector information is held by some 400 government departments, agencies and local authorities. Assets range from wills dating back to 1858, house values recorded in the Land Registry, maps and the risk of flooding to individual homes. Much is of great commercial interest, especially when it can be presented on innovative websites such as These sets of data are the modern crown jewels - but instead of treating them as a resource to boost national wealth, the government locks them up, restricting access to those who pay.</p>

What was once controversial is now government policy.
uk  freeourdata  data  open  government 
march 2017 by charlesarthur
Ministers accused of "out-trumping Trump" over use of health data to track alleged illegal immigrants • BuzzFeed News
James Ball:
<p>The NHS is now required to hand the Home Office the addresses of people it suspects of being in the country illegally, BuzzFeed News can reveal, under a new policy that has led to the government being accused of “out-Trumping Donald Trump”.

The data sharing deal, which makes it much easier for the Home Office to use NHS information in tracking down people who have overstayed their visas or are accused of immigration offences, has been condemned by health charities as causing a major risk to public health, as well as to people who may be deterred from seeking treatment for serious illness.

BuzzFeed News has seen letters from the Home Office to GPs that have led in at least one case to people being wrongly refused basic healthcare to which they were entitled, as well as communications asking doctors to hand over the details of their patients so the Home Office could take action against them.</p>

There's lots more detail; it's a clear datagrab by the Home Office, going after information that arguably it doesn't have any right to. But this move is almost surely out of reach of the Information Commissioner, because it's done by the government.
data  health  uk  immigration 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
Fixing our broken housing market • Department for Communities and Local Government
From the DCLG white paper:
<p>Alongside the improved registration of land, the Government proposes to improve the availability of data about wider interests in land. There are numerous ways of exercising control over land, short of ownership, such as through an option to purchase land or as a beneficiary of a restrictive covenant. There is a risk that because these agreements are not recorded in a way that is transparent to the public, local communities are unable to know who stands to fully benefit from a planning permission. They could also inhibit competition because SMEs and other new entrants find it harder to acquire land. There is the additional risk that this land may sit in a ‘land bank’ once an option has been acquired without the prospect of development.

Therefore, the Government will consult on improving the transparency of contractual arrangements used to control land. Following consultation, any necessary legislation will be introduced at the earliest opportunity. We will also consult on how the Land Register can better reflect wider interests in land with the intention of providing a ‘clear line of sight’ across a piece of land setting out who owns, controls or has an interest in it.

In addition, HM Land Registry will make available, free of charge, its commercial and corporate ownership data set, and the overseas ownership data set. These data sets contain data on 3.5 million titles to land held under all ownership categories with the exception of private individuals, charities and trustees.</p>

"Free of charge" is the key word there. Terrific to see that the government has completely reversed its previous position where it seemed to be looking to sell off the Land Registry, or its function. This is a fitting win after the death of Hans Rosling, who campaigned hard for open government datasets.
uk  government  housing  landregistry  freeourdata 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
Britain has passed the 'most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy' • ZDNet
Zack Whittaker:
<p>It's 2016 going on 1984.

The UK has just passed a massive expansion in surveillance powers, which critics have called "terrifying" and "dangerous". The new law, dubbed the "snoopers' charter", was introduced by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2012, and took two attempts to get passed into law following breakdowns in the previous coalition government.

Four years and a general election later - May is now prime minister - the bill was finalized and passed on Wednesday by both parliamentary houses. But civil liberties groups have long criticized the bill, with some arguing that the law will let the UK government "document everything we do online".

It's no wonder, because it basically does.

The law will force internet providers to record every internet customer's top-level web history in real-time for up to a year, which can be accessed by numerous government departments; force companies to decrypt data on demand - though the government has never been that clear on exactly how it forces foreign firms to do that that; and even disclose any new security features in products before they launch…

…The bill was opposed by representatives of the United Nations, all major UK and many leading global privacy and rights groups, and a host of Silicon Valley tech companies alike. Even the parliamentary committee tasked with scrutinizing the bill called some of its provisions "vague".</p>

The "decryption on demand" simply can't be done. The "new security features" is likely to give GCHQ the chance to think whether it can exploit it - though there'll be nothing there which an alert intelligence agency wouldn't already know about; it's more to give them something to accuse companies of.

The government will suggest that the new powers are necessary to "stop terrorism". We'll see whether it has any cases it can point to in a few years' time that flowed from this.
privacy  uk  surveillance 
november 2016 by charlesarthur
A sequence of spankingly bad ideas • Medium
Alec Muffett is a specialist in security and privacy, and isn't impressed with the UK government's plans to introduce mandatory age verification (AV) for access to online porn:
<p>If our goal is to implement AV then any or all of the solutions may be implemented; however:

• all of the mechanisms are circumventable<br />• multiplying or combining them will leave them still circumventable, whilst reducing usability and practicality still further.<br />• at least one of these mechanisms may have significant collateral impact upon mechanisms which defend us against fraud<br />• at least one of these mechanisms operates in direct contravention of the policies of major source of information that it utilises<br />• at least two of these mechanisms involve the creation of — presumably huge — databases which may be repurposed in future for monetisation, e.g.: advertising web-tracking, data mining, etc.<br />• one of these mechanisms seeks to leverage any or all of the other mechanisms; if they are unfit for purpose, so is it</p>

Still, at least it will satisfy the Conservative backbenches.
uk  porn  age 
october 2016 by charlesarthur
Search and browse UK broadband statistics • Think Broadband
Very nifty: postcode-based search if you want it (and if your broadband speed is less than you wanted, you'll want to); and some dramatic graphs of how 4G and broadband speeds are moving.
broadband  uk 
october 2016 by charlesarthur
Has the UK got Tech Talent? • BBC News
Rory Cellan-Jones:
<p>Across BBC News outlets this week, under the banner Tech Talent, we are asking whether the UK can compete in the global technology industry - and why we haven't produced a tech giant on the scale of Google or Apple. Here are my thoughts on those questions.

In the last ten days I've met the founder of a British games company which is still independent after a quarter of a century, and about to launch one of Sony's first virtual reality titles.

I've attended a celebration to mark the extraordinary success of the Raspberry Pi, a tiny computer created in Cambridge to teach children to code, which has now achieved global sales of ten million.

And I've had a demo of the latest products from a fledgling company called Chirp, created by a University College London scientist to transmit data via an audio signal.

All of these are examples of a thriving British technology landscape. So why, over nearly 20 years of covering the tech scene, do I keep getting asked the same thing - where is the UK's Google?</p>

What isn't mentioned in the piece, but seems relevant, is that Google, Apple, Facebook and so on can count on scale: the US is largely homogenous and can be largely covered using a single language (add Spanish and you're pretty much at 100%). The UK is part of Europe (presently) but crucially you can't reach all its users with a single language, plus there are cross-border differences in business practice.

That said, the UK has produced lots of top-flight tech companies. We just tend to overlook them until they get bought.
uk  technology  business 
september 2016 by charlesarthur
The UK wants to police welfare recipients’ spending with the blockchain • Motherboard
Jordan Pearson:
<p>The UK government is tracking the spending of people who receive welfare by posting their purchases to a digital ledger that can never be altered—specifically, a blockchain, the technology underpinning virtual currencies like bitcoin.

The use of such technology to police how the poor spend their money has come under fire from privacy advocates and anti-poverty activists alike.

The trial, which began in June, is the result of a partnership between UK company GovCoin Systems, University College London, Barclays, and energy company RWE npower. The trial was announced by former banker and current Conservative Minister of Welfare Reform David Freud at the 2016 Payments Innovations Conference in London.

“Claimants are using an app on their phones through which they are receiving and spending their benefit payments,” Freud said, <a href="">according to a press statement</a>. “With their consent, their transactions are being recorded on a distributed ledger to support their financial management.”</p>

The risk, as Jenni Tennison of the Open Data Institute points out, is that this very personal data could leak out. I don't know why the government is choosing personal data, rather than something impersonal, for this blockchain test. (Via <a href="">Matthew Leach</a>.)
blockchain  welfare  uk  government 
july 2016 by charlesarthur
Thoughts on the sociology of Brexit • Political Economy Research Centre
Will Davies:
<p>One of the most insightful things I saw in the run-up to the referendum was <a href="">this video</a> produced by openDemocracy’s Adam Ramsey and Anthony Barnett discussing their visit to Doncaster, another Labour heartland. They chose Doncaster because it looked set to be a strong pro-Leave location, and wanted to understand what was at work in this.

Crucially, they observed that – in strong contrast to the Scottish ‘Yes’ movement – Brexit was not fuelled by hope for a different future. On the contrary, many Leavers believed that withdrawing from the EU wouldn’t really change things one way or the other, but they still wanted to do it. I’ve long <a href="">suspected</a> that, on some unconscious level, things could be even stranger than this: the self-harm inflicted by Brexit could potentially be part of its appeal. It is now being reported that many Leave voters are aghast at what they’ve done, as if they never really intended for their actions to yield results.

This taps into a much broader cultural and political malaise, that also appears to be driving the rise of Donald Trump in the US. Amongst people who have utterly given up on the future, political movements don’t need to promise any desirable and realistic change. If anything, they are more comforting and trustworthy if predicated on the notion that the future is beyond rescue, for that chimes more closely with people’s private experiences.

The discovery of the ‘Deaton effect’ in the US (unexpected rising mortality rates amongst white working classes) is linked to rising alcohol and opiate abuse and to rising suicide rates. It has also <a href="">been shown</a> to correlate closely to geographic areas with the greatest support for Trump. I don’t know of any direct equivalent to this in the UK, but it seems clear that – beyond the rhetoric of ‘Great Britain’ and ‘democracy’ – Brexit was never really articulated as a viable policy, and only ever as a destructive urge, which some no doubt now feel guilty for giving way to…

…The Remain campaign continued to rely on forecasts, warnings and predictions, in the hope that eventually people would be dissuaded from ‘risking it’. But to those that have given up on the future already, this is all just more political rhetoric. In any case, the entire practice of modelling the future in terms of ‘risk’ has lost credibility, as evidenced by the now terminal decline of opinion polling as a tool for political control.</p>

Excellent analysis. Read it too for its take on "facts" v "data" and the claims in the campaign.
brexit  politics  europe  uk 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Apple’s encryption looks safe as UK Commons passes spy bill • Bloomberg
Jeremy Kahn:
<p>The U.K. House of Commons on Tuesday passed a controversial bill giving spy agencies the power to engage in bulk surveillance and computer hacking, but ceded some ground to protests from the technology industry and civil liberty groups.

The bill, which was introduced by the Conservative Party-led government in March after modifications to address concerns from tech companies and privacy advocates, passed by a vote of 444 to 69. Most of the opposition Labour Party voted with the conservative majority to advance the bill to the House of Lords, while the opposition Scottish National Party, citing concerns about privacy and civil rights, voted against it.

Many of the surveillance techniques - such as scooping up the metadata of communications and using malware to gain access to the computers and mobile phones of terrorism suspects - have already been in use by U.K. spy agencies and the law now gives them explicit authority…

…The version of the bill passed Tuesday makes clear that companies aren’t required to build backdoors to their encryption and will only be required to remove such code in response to a government request if doing so is technically feasible and not unduly expensive.</p>

Everyone else's encryption is safe too, but whatever.
encryption  uk 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
"Internet Connection Records": answering the wrong question? » Paul Bernal's Blog
On the topic of the UK government's proposed Investigatory Powers Bill, which wants to introduce an "internet connection record" that could be queried for any person:
<p>The real problem is a deep one – but it is mostly about asking the wrong question. Internet Connection Records seem to be an attempt to answer the question ‘how can we recreate that really useful thing, the itemised phone bill, for the internet age’? And, from most accounts, it seems clear that the real experts, the people who work in the internet industry, weren’t really consulted until very late in the day, and then were only asked that question. It’s the wrong question. If you ask the wrong question, even if the answer is ‘right’, it’s still wrong. That’s why we have the mess that is the Internet Connection Record system: an intrusive, expensive, technically difficult and likely to be supremely ineffective idea.

The question that should have been asked is really the one that the Minister asked right at the start: how can we find all these terrorists and paedophiles when they’re using all this high tech stuff? It’s a question that should have been asked of the industry, of computer scientists, of academics, of civil society, of hackers and more. It should have been asked openly, consulted upon widely, and given the time and energy that it deserved. It is a very difficult question – I certainly don’t have an answer – but rather than try to shoe-horn an old idea into a new situation, it needs to be asked.</p>
uk  spying 
march 2016 by charlesarthur
The snooper’s charter is flying through parliament. Don’t think it’s irrelevant to you » The Guardian
Scarlet Kim:
<p>Should the British bill pass in its current form, the UK government will have the power to force Apple and other technology companies to undermine the security of their products and services. The bill permits the agencies to hack – the government calls this “equipment interference” – to obtain “communications” or “any other information”, including through surveillance techniques, such as remotely “monitoring, observing or listening to a person’s communications or other activities”.

The bill authorises agencies to compel “telecommunications providers” to assist them in effecting a hacking warrant, unless “not reasonably practicable”. Apple has pointed out that the term “telecommunications provider” is so broadly defined as to expand the government’s “reach beyond UK borders to … any service provider with a connection to UK customers”. Apple and other technology companies <a href="">have spoken against many provisions of the investigatory powers bill</a>. In particular, they have noted that the bill “seems to threaten to extend responsibility for hacking from government to the private sector” and rejected “any proposals that would require companies to deliberately weaken the security of their products”.</p>

And yet it is just barrelling through Parliament, without any reflection. The result is obvious - Apple will build a phone that even it cannot hack. (Software updates are something the user has to agree to.)
apple  iphone  snooper  uk  parliament 
march 2016 by charlesarthur
Driverless lorry convoys to be trialled in the UK » Ars Technica UK
Sebastian Anthony:
<p>Convoys of automated lorries will be trialled on UK motorways, chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce in his 2016 Budget speech later this month.

The Times reports that the trials will take place on a northerly stretch of the M6, which runs from Birmingham all the way up to the border of Scotland, near Carlisle. The Department for Transport confirms that planning for "HGV platoons" is under way, though it did not comment on whether the trials will receive funding in the Budget, nor give any kind of timeline for the fleet's deployment.

A DfT spokesman said: "We are planning trials of HGV platoons—which enable vehicles to move in a group so they use less fuel—and will be in a position to say more in due course." The Times reports that these platoons could consist of up to 10 driverless lorries, each just a few metres away from each other.

The DfT's "less fuel" claim refers to "drafting," where the first lorry in the platoon creates a slipstream, significantly reducing drag and fuel consumption for the other lorries behind it. In a semi-automated lorry demo a couple of years ago, the fuel economy for a platoon of lorries improved by about 15%. Expand that out to the thousands of trucks that are on UK roads at any one time and you're looking at potentially huge cost reductions.</p>
selfdrivingcar  uk  lorries 
march 2016 by charlesarthur
UK within 0.8% of the original BDUK phase 1 superfast broadband goal » thinkbroadband
Andrew Ferguson:
<p>The UK is edging closer to its original BDUK target of 90% superfast broadband across the UK every week and it is looking like the 24 Mbps or faster target will be crossed in March and the EU figure of 30 Mbps another couple of months later. Given the political ambition is 95% superfast coverage by the end of 2017 and as individual projects push on and they are getting to ever more sparsely populated areas in the main the 95% figure may look easy but we are seeing roll-outs slowing in some areas as the premises per cabinet ratio gets worse.

What is interesting is observing the complaints about broadband which are not diminishing even though more people can get superfast broadband but are actually increasing, and this is even allowing for the lobbying that is underway over what Ofcom should and will do with Openreach. We believe that complaints are going to get worse as coverage levels improve, this is because those missed out will be increasingly worried they are in the final 5% which has no firm delivery promises yet.</p>

I'm in the 5%.
broadband  uk 
february 2016 by charlesarthur
Xavier Niel explores move to enter UK mobile market »
Niel set up Free, a French mobile network which has been a great hit, as Daniel Thomas explains:
<p>Interest from Mr Niel’s telecoms group in the British market will worry rivals, given its record of offering low prices that deeply undercut existing offers.

The launch four years ago of Free, Iliad’s mobile offering in France, disrupted the market, leading to an intense price war that slashed profits among the existing three operators. Orange’s proposed acquisition of Bouygues Telecom is an attempt to reverse the effects of the introduction of the low-cost rival.

A similar deal is being proposed in the UK with the purchase of O2 by Three, the UK’s smallest mobile group, which is owned by Hong Kong’s CK Hutchison. If the deal were to go through, it would reduce the number of competitors from four to three.

However, the deal is set to be challenged in the next week by the European competition regulator, which will set out a range of objections given the potential loss of competition for customers as well as third-party mobile providers that use the two networks under wholesale contracts.</p>

The UK mobile market really is very competitive. Adding Free would shake it up even further.
free  uk  mobile 
january 2016 by charlesarthur
Google's 2.5% UK tax rate » ITV News
Robert Peston:
<p>Google and HMRC would of course argue that for taxable purposes my calculation of its UK profits is wrong.

They would say that there is a global convention that the profits in the UK should be measured as a margin or increment on top of what it would cost Google to operate here if all its operations were subcontracted to a third party.

Those notional taxable profits would appear to be a bit more than a couple of hundred million quid for for the 18 months to the middle of last year.

And the British taxman would want credit for increasing that margin or increment in its latest negotiations with Google, to capture (in a way that I freely admit I don't understand) a new assessment of the maturity of its UK business and the low risk of operating here.

They would argue that it would be wholly inappropriate to tax Google on profits measured as I suggested, because most of the costs and business risks of developing Google were taken in the US - and therefore it is only fair that the bulk of the taxable profit of this global giant should be attributable to the US.

In other words, the British taxman and Google would both insist that the Chancellor and the Exchequer are getting quite as much tax as they deserve - perhaps even more - given that multinationals conventionally pay most tax in their homeland (or America in this case).

Here is the punchline. George Osborne, who is struggling to reduce the government's deficit and needs every penny of tax he can lay his hands on, would seem to concur that he is not being short-changed by mighty Google.</p>

Peston's calculations are the same as mine.
google  uk  tax 
january 2016 by charlesarthur
U.K. government: no end-to-end encryption please, we’re British… » TechCrunch
<p>Speaking during a <a href="">debate on encryption</a> in the House of Lords yesterday, Baroness Shields, the Minister for Internet Safety and Security — and a former European VP at Facebook — dubbed the rise of end-to-end encryption as “alarming”.

“There is an alarming movement towards end-to-end encrypted applications,” she said. “It is absolutely essential that these companies which understand and build those stacks of technology are able to decrypt that information and provide it to law enforcement in extremis.”

Shields’ comments came in response to a question which made direct reference to the use of messaging app WhatsApp by ISIL extremists.

“The Prime Minister did not advocate banning encryption; he expressed concern that many companies are building end-to-end encrypted applications and services and not retaining the keys,” added Shields.

Despite reiterating Tory attacks on end-to-end encryption, Shields did specify that it is not, in fact, government policy to push for the creation of backdoors in services.</p>

Joanna Shields used to be in charge at AOL Europe too. And we wanted more people with experience of tech to be in government? Doesn't seem to be making any difference to the general level of knowledgeability.
encryption  uk  government 
october 2015 by charlesarthur
Apple Pay expected to go live in the U.K. on July 14th, £20+ transactions starting this fall » 9to5Mac
Mark Gurman:
Apple appears to be planning to enable its Apple Pay iPhone mobile payments service in the United Kingdom on July 14th, according to sources at multiple retailers. Apple has informed some Apple Retail employees in the U.K. that Apple Pay support will go live on that Tuesday, while an internal memos for supermarket Waitrose plus an additional retail partner indicate the same date…

Apple will also begin training its U.K staff on supporting Apple Pay on July 12th.

Given that the UK has widespread availability of NFC terminals, the UK could quickly become the largest location for Apple Pay payments - the penetration of iOS devices is high (32% or so of smartphones).

Vaguely related: <a href="">it's 20 years since Mondex tried to create cashless shopping in Swindon</a>. I was there.
applepay  uk  mondex 
july 2015 by charlesarthur
Windows Phone is like religion – it gets people when they are down » The Register
Paul Kunert:
A division of the shipments shows Microsoft grabbed 7.6% of sales [0.57m handsets] during the quarter, up from 5.8% in the prior year quarter. The total market [for UK smartphone sales] declined 1.5% to 7.6m.

“Microsoft is slowly building share without a flagship or high-spec handset - they are after the volume end of the [professional] market. This strategy will probably change when Windows 10 comes out,” Coulling said.

Despite this, Windows barely touches the sides of the sprawling UK shipments achieved by phone royalty Samsung and Apple, the combined sales of which came to 4.93m units.

Sammy declined 8.5% in Q1 to 2.54m devices, giving it a 33.6% share of spoils, as it continued to work through the inventory bottleneck that ruined profits in 2014.

…Apple sales recovered on the back of the iPhone 6’s release, growing 7.8% to 2.43m units, narrowing the gap that Samsung opened up a year ago.

Windows Phone still not really doing anything. Maybe those are being bought by businesses?
uk  smartphone  sales 
june 2015 by charlesarthur
Apple Pay UK: some retailers to ditch £20 contactless limit » Pocket-lint
Stuart Miles:
As is the case with Apple Pay in the US, Apple has convinced retailers and banks to remove the limit because they can prove the customer is present thanks to the use of the Touch ID fingerprint scanner on the iPhone.

MasterCard have confirmed similar options for Apple Pay retailers in the UK too:

"Currently the vast majority of payment terminals here in the UK are set to accept contactless transactions up to the £20 spending limit, but that will rise to £30 in September (for cards as well)," a spokesman for MasterCard told Pocket-lint when we asked about clarification on the limit thresholds.

"As more digital services like Apple Pay come to market, we're [MasterCard] supporting retailers and banks as they update the terminals so that they can accept authenticated transactions above that limit from digital devices."
applepay  uk 
june 2015 by charlesarthur
comScore ranks top UK digital media properties for March 2015 » comScore, Inc
More than 47.5 million UK unique visitors accessed the Internet in March 2015 across desktop and mobile (smartphone and tablet) platforms. 45.1 million visitors accessed the Internet via desktop while 36.4 million users browsed the web via mobile. 

According to comScore MMX Multi-Platform, which provides an unduplicated view of usage across desktop, smartphone and tablet, Google Sites ranked as the top property with nearly 46 million combined desktop and mobile Internet users. The majority of Google Sites’ audience visited from both desktop and mobile platforms (66%), while 28% visited exclusively from desktop and 5% were mobile-only users. BBC Sites was the second most popular online property with a multi-platform audience of 40.6 million, 36% of which were mobile-only.

There is so much to extract from the short table in the release. For instance: Google gets 96.7% of the total audience; Amazon gets 77% of it, and more people access Amazon mobile-only than desktop-only; Mail Online, Sky sites, Apple, Trinity Mirror, Twitter and LinkedIn get more visits via mobile-only (which is 5% of the total audience) than desktop; all the media groups get more visitors via mobile-only than desktop-only.

If you re-sort it by mobile-only, Sky actually comes top - and Google comes last.

One to really mull over. Can hardly accuse the news organisations of being behind the times.
comscore  uk  media 
april 2015 by charlesarthur
A&E in crisis: a special report >> Daily Telegraph
Robert Colville:
here’s where I’m going to start: in a small green-painted room off one of the main corridors of that same hospital, where 10 women and two men are studying the spreadsheet projected on the walls and firing jargon back and forth.

“Four in urology with a decision to admit.” “306 is gone, 728 still waiting.” “With all that agreed, does that give you any ITU capacity?” “They’re desperate to bring the liver over from Worcester.” “Time to be seen is at 1hr 54.”

This is the “Ops Centre” of one of the country’s biggest hospitals, where I am spending the week as a fly on the wall. At this and other daily bed meetings, the senior nurses and managers get together to work out who is in the hospital, and where they need to go next.
They go through, ward by ward, listing spare beds and allocating them to the people in A&E. They can see who’s been waiting longest, where the pressure points are, and what needs to be done to resolve them.

This, then, is the story about the NHS that I want to tell. It’s the story of the NHS as a system – a system that takes millions of patients through from the GP surgery and A&E department to treatment, recovery and discharge.

This is a tour de force from Colville, in a piece so long and deep it could have come from the New Yorker (of the 1980s). If you want to understand the pressures on the UK's NHS emergency services - which are clearly shown here not to be just about "money" - this is the single article to read.
nhs  uk  emergency 
january 2015 by charlesarthur
Government secures landmark deal for UK mobile phone users >> GOV.UK
From the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (via Culture minister Savid Javid):
Under the agreement all four of the mobile networks have collectively agreed to:

• a guaranteed £5bn investment programme to improve mobile infrastructure by 2017;<br />• guaranteed voice and text coverage from each operator across 90% of the UK geographic area by 2017, halving the areas currently blighted by patchy coverage as a result of partial ‘not-spots’;<br />• full coverage from all four mobile operators will increase from 69% to 85% of geographic areas by 2017;<br />• provide reliable signal strength for voice for each type of mobile service (whether 2G/3G/4G) – currently many consumers frequently lose signal or cannot get signal long enough to make a call; and<br />• make the deal legally binding by accepting amended licence conditions to reflect the agreement – it will be enforceable by Ofcom.

What's odd about this is that the detail of the agreement hasn't been published, and the problem of coverage tends to be on trains - these requirements could be fulfilled by sticking some mobile masts on the Scottish highlands, but wouldn't solve many peoples' problems.

Also, why is a culture minister prodding carriers? Shouldn't it be the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills?
mobile  notspot  uk  carrier 
december 2014 by charlesarthur
Dixons Carphone shines but we’re not taking the tablets >> London Evening Standard
Computer tablets have failed to capture the [UK] consumer’s imagination this Christmas — they were tipped to be the biggest festival seller but sales have actually fallen, according to the boss of Dixons Carphone.

Seb James, chief executive of the newly merged phone and electricals retailer, suggested most people already had one and a technology shift was needed before people buy new versions.

His comments come as the company, created from a merger of the Currys, PC World parent and Carphone Warehouse, reported its first set of half-year results since the deal this year.

Sales rose 5% to £5.02bn in the six months to beginning of November. However, the company made a £20m loss before tax, thanks to the £100m spent on the merger — lawyer and banker fees alone amounted to about £11m.

Wonder what form a "technology shift" would need to take to get people buying a new round of tablets.
tablets  uk 
december 2014 by charlesarthur
Breached webcam and baby monitor site flagged by watchdogs >> BBC News
The public is being warned about a website containing thousands of live feeds to baby monitors, stand-alone webcams and CCTV systems.

Data watchdogs across the world have drawn attention to the Russian-based site, which broadcasts footage from systems using either default passwords or no log-in codes at all.

The site lists streams from more than 250 countries and other territories.

It currently provides 500 feeds from the UK alone…

…China-based Foscam was the most commonly listed brand, followed by Linksys and then Panasonic.

This "warning" is shutting the stable door after the horse has moved to the next town, got married and brought up a family. The terrible security on the systems, though, is the makers' fault.
privacy  webcam  uk 
november 2014 by charlesarthur

Copy this bookmark:

to read