Invaded privacy

The arguments about data’s invasion of privacy is a concept that difficult for a database person to understand.

Credit bureaux work with data so that they can differentiate those people who are a poor credit risk from those who are not. The 1998 British Data Protection Act makes holding some of that data illegal. So it’s difficult to differentiate between the good and the bad and creditworthiness is assessed at the highest risk level for everyone. Individuals are obliged to prove that they are less of a credit risk, and those who can’t don’t get credit. Or when there’s too much money around, everyone gets credit, and then there’s eventually a lot of bad debt, and we have a financial crisis.

This thinking is now being extended to protecting the data that can be gleaned from cell phone companies. From the tower records it is possible to determine peoples’ movements. That seems to be cause for concern.

Tracking a persons movements, particularly in Britain with it’s ubiquitous CCTV cameras, has been possible before now. The idea that it’s become easier seems to have raised levels of concern. The cry is that additional legislation must be enacted to protect peoples’ privacy. What that invasion might be is not entirely clear.

Having used data as proof in criminal investigations makes the outcry even more difficult to understand. The ability to determine that the perpetrator called an accessory at the time that the crime was committed is valuable evidence. This is not about what was said; it’s just who and when.

With this kind of data it was possible to prove that a cashier in Guyana and his co-conspirator had defrauded the Guyanese people out of Gy$300 million.

The magistrate ruled that use of the data was inadmissible (incorrectly as it happened), and the criminals were allowed to go free.

That’s what we need – laws making it possible for clever defense lawyers to get criminals off the hook.

If people are so worried about being tracked they can just switch the phone off. No legislation required.

More at:
Out of shape
Will the government’s web ‘snoop’ plans work?

Entering the debate

It’s a pity to see the contenders for the American presidency getting into an advertising slinging match, rather than addressing the country’s very real issues:

  • The growing cost of healthcare;
  • Unemployment;
  • “The fiscal cliff”;
  • The insolvent cities;
  • The growing energy crises;
  • Global warming;
  • The education system;
  • The government deficit;
  • The country’s complex tax structure;
  • The growing gap between rich and poor;
  • retaining America’s position as the World’s superpower and leading economy.

While waiting for a flight, a fellow passenger suggested a solution: “The government builds very large hamster exercise wheels connected to generators. The unemployed are hired to run on the wheels generating electricity. Energy crises, global warming, unemployment, healthcare all fixed.

Wheels are also made available to parents of children who are struggling at school. They are only allowed to watch television from the electricity that they generate themselves.

Similarly sports addicts are obliged to generate the electricity for the coverage that they watch. Healthcare and education improved.

The electricity generated by each person is measured and recorded. Leading contributors are selected to represent the country in the GE World Series. Television rights are sold, and the contenders receive the royalties. Gap between the rich and poor fixed.”

With a little more time, solutions to the other pressing issues would also have been found. We’ll just have to leave those for the presidential hopefuls.


Good or evil

Since 1973 much of world politics has been dominated by oil.

America’s dependence on oil imports is reducing, driven by the reduction in consumption, and increased production at home. American oil consumption fell from 2005 to 2010 as a result of spiking prices and recession, and it is projected to do little more than return, very slowly, to the pre-recession peak over the next two decades.

Meanwhile, America’s shale oil boom is turning the country into one of the world’s dominant energy producers (with Canada rapidly assuming a position just behind). An enormous share of the world’s oil may soon be produced in North America, in other words, potentially altering the economics and politics of oil in dramatic ways.

Fracking, a method of extracting gas from shale is a hotly debated topic. The technique, also called Induced hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping a mix of water, sand, and chemicals down the perforated still pipe and into the reservoir at ultra-high pressure to create small fractures in shale/tight formations which free up the oil and gas to flow up the well.

Hydraulic fracturing has raised environmental concerns and is challenging the adequacy of existing regulatory regimes. These concerns have included ground water contamination, risks to air quality, migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, mishandling of waste, and the health effects of all these.

In Britain the resistance is founded on the belief that minor earthquakes had been caused by fracking that was being performed close by.

New York, Maryland and New Jersey have imposed temporary bans on fracking and Vermont may follow, but everywhere else in America the gas flows unimpeded.

Europe, with its high energy costs and its dependence on Russia for most of its gas, would benefit greatly from exploiting the shale bound reserves. Belief that the ecological risks have not been solved prevents that from happening.

Economic realities might soon force everyone to sort fact from fiction.

More at:
Oil: The Next Revolution
American oil
A world of plenty
An unconventional bonanza
Gas works
Landscape with well
Sorting frack from fiction
A better mix
Keeping it to themselves

Cause to celebrate

Africa is the troubled continent. Somalia, Sudan, Mali, DRC, Nigeria – all riven by conflict. Many of the countries covering the Sahel are suffering starvation.

The appointment of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s most capable politician, to head the African Union (AU) commission brings hope.

A minister since 1994, she headed the ministry of health under Mandela, then foreign minister for 10 years, earning kudos for her quiet diplomacy, with her biggest success coming as minister of home affairs. Prior to her taking the portfolio, the ministry had been consistently ranked the worst in government. Last year, under her guidance was the first time in 16 years that it received an unqualified report from the auditor general.

She’s a great choice to turn the AU into a body that can resolve Africa’s many challenges.

More at:
If Dlamini-Zuma leaves, who will steer home affairs?
Cabinet Report Cards: An Unbalanced Seesaw
Dlamini-Zuma elected to head AU Commission
The AU’s new chief: Who is Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma?

Not going back to that restaurant

An Englishman, a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Welshman, a Latvian, a Turk, a German, an Indian, several Americans (including an Hawaiian and an Alaskan), an Argentinean, a Dane, an Australian, a Slovak, an Egyptian, a Japanese, a Moroccan, a Frenchman, a New Zealander, a Spaniard, a Russian, a Guatemalan, a Colombian, a Pakistani, a Malaysian, a Croatian, a Uzbek, a Cypriot, a Pole, a Lithuanian, a Chinese, a Tibetan, a Sri Lankan, a Lebanese, a Cayman Islander, a Ugandan, a Vietnamese, a Korean, a Kenyan, a Uruguayan, a Czech, an Icelander, a Mexican, a Finn, a Honduran, a Panamanian, an Andorran, a Moroccan, an Israeli, a Palestinian, a Venezuelan, an Iranian, a Fijian, a Peruvian, an Estonian, a Syrian, a Brazilian, a Portuguese, a Liechtensteiner, a Mongolian, a Hungarian, a Canadian, a Moldovan, a Haitian, a Norfolk Islander, a Macedonian, a Bolivian, a Cook Islander, a Tajikistani, a Samoan, an Armenian, an Aruban, an Albanian, a Greenlander, a Micronesian, a Virgin Islander, a Georgian, a Bahamian, a Belarusian, a Cuban, a Tongan, a Cambodian, a Manxman, a Qatari, an Azerbaijani, a Romanian, a Chilean, a Jamaican, a Filipino, a Ukrainian, a Dutchman, an Ecuadorian, a Costa Rican, a Swede, a Bulgarian, a Serb, a Swiss, a Greek, a Belgian, a Singaporean, an Italian and a Norwegian all walk into a very fine restaurant.

“I’m sorry,” says the maître d’, after scrutinizing the group. “You can’t come in here without a Thai.”