How Labour already fixed the biggest policy problem in tech

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UK policy
Palace of Westminster. Photo by me, Feb 2020

There is so much to say about what has taken place over the past eight weeks in the UK. I’d probably find it easier to write about those things if I wasn’t just taking the time to enjoy the feeling of fourteen years of stress evaporating off of my shoulders. Seriously, I’ve been the smiling sunglasses emoji since the 22nd of May. 😎

I want to break my mellow vibe for just a few minutes, though, to offer my quick take on the King’s Speech, which took place this morning. The Speech itself, of course, is just the pomp and circumstance in front of the policy slate which Labour has prioritised for their earliest days in government.

My take isn’t about the policy particulars per se: it’s about the bigger picture. And that is why I, the sunglasses emoji, am rejoicing today, as should you.

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So you’ve got to read a 1200 page consultation

UK policy

I recently enjoyed a beer with an Australian colleague who also works in the digital rights field. “Hold my beer” is, in fact, my running joke with Australians, as we both work through our bemusement on how the UK and Australia are constantly trying to outdo each other with hopelessly bad internet legislation that achieves absolutely nothing. To wit, my colleague observed that the Australian regulatory vision, as exemplified by the eSafety Commissioner, is to fix all the problems on the internet and clean it up by…

drum roll please…

overwhelming people with documents.

Yeah baby, that’s the ticket right there.

I thought of that last week, when Ofcom dropped yet another one of their consultations on their enforcement of the Online Safety Act, with still more coming down the road.

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That time I got stalked by the real life TV stalker woman and what it taught me about data protection

Author’s note: I do not grant permission or consent for any media outlet to make a story of this blog post. Why? When you read a post about someone being exploited and think “jackpot! I’ll exploit them some more”, you are on the side of the problem and not the solution. This post, and the previous one which expanded on it, are accounts of systemic failures I experienced including data protection violations, racism, discrimination, and occupational coercion. This story is about me. This story is not a bit of hot goss about a TV celebrity. This story is not about her. Shame on you for not only trying to make my story about her, but also for only validating my lived experiences because you spotted an opportunity for a TV celebrity tie-in.

At some point in my life, which is now approaching the half-century mark, I realised that I am Leo sodding Bloom. I just want to do my job. I just want to hang out with my awesome teenager. I just want my quiet life with my books and my fresh air and my garden vegetables. But do I get it? Oh no. No no no.

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On the world-leading failure of the Conservative vision for internet regulation

UK policy
Monty Python. Black Knight. You know the rest

This post was lightly rewritten in April 2024 for re-use as a briefing.

I‘ve had two moments in my policy work, in recent months, where I’ve experienced that phenomenon that probably has a German word. It’s the one where you find yourself, just for a few seconds, perfectly sober but tripping: hold on, am I awake or dreaming? what year is this? have I gone back in time? is this real?

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Those who choose not to heal

Floral tributes at the Space Mirror memorial. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett, from the Day of Remembrance page.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I’m a space geek. I want to know what’s up there, and I want to know how it got there. That counts whether it’s the stars in the sky (I’m a bit of an amateur stargazer), the satellites whizzing through it (my phone does ISS pass alerts and boy do I sprint to the window), or the best bit of TV drama I’ve seen in years.

I’ve been a space geek since I was a little kid; as I’ve previously written, like so many GenXers, I can identify the precise date and time when looking up caused me to grow up. In adulthood, I’ve found that there’s a lot to borrow from the space programme which can be applied to policy and regulation. I try to do that well. Others, well, they give me a decent laugh trying.

For space geeks, today is the pivotal day of the year. It’s not about a launch, or a milestone, or even a thing.

It’s the day when everyone stops and rips their own guts out.

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2023’s best reads and listens


Better late than never, as usual, here is my roundup of 2023’s best reads, both for work and leisure, and also a rundown of my favourite podcasts.

I read like the world is coming to an end, so what follows is only my best of the best. I don’t gamify or track my reading, and neither should anyone. If it gets you reading more, tracking is fine. If the number becomes the objective, stop.

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A short post on why I will not be writing a long post about Ofcom’s Online Safety Act consultation

UK policy

The late and desperately missed Hilary Mantel’s masterwork, her Wolf Hall trilogy, is 1,888 pages long. I savoured every moment I spent in that world, and grieved each time I was pulled out of it. Her chronicle of the politics of the Tudor court ends, for Thomas Cromwell, as his real life did: he lies on the banks of the Thames, his head freshly severed from his body, feeling his consciousness ebbing out with the tide.

Step over Cromwell’s body, walk a mile west along the Thames, and cross the river, and you will find yourself at the premises of Ofcom, whose first consultation on the rules, restrictions, and enforcement of Britain’s Online Safety Act is 1,742 pages long, and will cause you to feel much the same.

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