Tag Archives: surveillance

Monitoring software in schools: the Department for Education’s digital dream or nightmare? (2)

“Children do not lose their human rights by virtue of passing through the school gates” (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment on ‘The aims of education’, 2001).

The Digital Skills in Schools inquiry [1] is examining the gap in education of our children to enable them to be citizens fit for the future.

We have an “educational gap” in digital skills and I have suggested it should not be seen only as functional or analytical, but should also address a gap in ethical skills and framework to equip our young people to understand their digital rights, as well as responsibilities.

Children must be enabled in education with opportunity to understand how they can grow “to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity”. [2]

Freedom to use the internet in privacy does not mean having to expose children to risks, but we should ask, are there ways of implementing practices which are more proportionate, and less intrusive than monitoring and logging keywords [3] for every child in the country? What problem is the DfE trying to solve and how?

Nicky Morgan’s “fantastic” GPS tracking App

The second technology tool Nicky Morgan mentioned in her BETT speech on January 22nd, is an app with GPS tracking and alerts creation. Her app verdict was “excellent” and “fantastic”:

“There are excellent examples at the moment such as the Family First app by Group Call. It uses GPS in mobile phones to help parents keep track of their children’s whereabouts, allowing them to check that they have arrived safely to school, alerting them if they stray from their usual schedule.” [4]

I’m not convinced tracking every child’s every move is either excellent or fantastic. Primarily because it will foster a nation of young people who feel untrusted, and I see a risk it could create a lower sense of self-reliance, self-confidence and self-responsibility.

Just as with the school software monitoring [see part one], there will be a chilling effect on children’s freedom if these technologies become the norm. If you fear misusing a word in an online search, or worry over stigma what others think, would you not change your behaviour? Our young people need to feel both secure and trusted at school.

How we use digital in schools shapes our future society

A population that trusts one another and trusts its government and organisations and press, is vital to a well functioning society.

If we want the benefits of a global society, datasharing for example to contribute to medical advance, people must understand how their own data and digital footprint fits into a bigger picture to support it.

In schools today pupils and parents are not informed that their personal confidential data are given to commercial third parties by the Department for Education at national level [5]. Preventing public engagement, hiding current practices, downplaying the risks of how data are misused, also prevents fair and transparent discussion of its benefits and how to do it better. Better, like making it accessible only in a secure setting not handing data out to Fleet Street.

For children this holds back public involvement in the discussion of the roles of technology in their own future. Fear of public backlash over poor practices must not hold back empowering our children’s understanding of digital skills and how their digital identity matters.

Digital skills are not shorthand for coding, but critical life skills

Skills our society will need must simultaneously manage the benefits to society and deal with great risks that will come with these advances in technology; advances in artificial intelligence, genomics, and autonomous robots, to select only three examples.

There is a glaring gap in their education how their own confidential personal data and digital footprint fit a globally connected society, and how they are used by commercial business and third parties.

There are concerns how apps could be misused by others too.

If we are to consider what is missing in our children’s preparations for life in which digital will no longer be a label but a way of life, then to identify the gap, we must first consider what we see as whole.

Rather than keeping children safe in education, as regards data sharing and digital privacy, the DfE seems happy to keep them ignorant. This is no way to treat our young people and develop their digital skills, just as giving their data away is not good cyber security.

What does a Dream for a  great ‘digital’ Society look like?

Had Martin Luther King lived to be 87 he would have continued to inspire hope and to challenge us to fulfill his dream for society – where everyone would have an equal opportunity for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Moving towards that goal, supported with technology, with ethical codes of practice, my dream is we see a more inclusive, fulfilled, sustainable and happier society. We must educate our children as fully rounded digital and data savvy individuals, who trust themselves and systems they use, and are well treated by others.

Sadly, introductions of these types of freedom limiting technologies for our children, risk instead that it may be a society in which many people do not feel comfortable, that lost sight of the value of privacy.

References:

[1] Digital Skills Inquiry: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/science-and-technology-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/digital-skills-inquiry-15-16/

[2] UN Convention of the Rights of the Child

[3] Consultation: Keeping Children Safe in Education – closing Feb 16thThe “opportunities to teach safeguarding” section (para 77-78) has been updated and now says governing bodies and proprieties “should ensure” rather than “should consider” that children are taught about safeguarding, including online, through teaching and learning opportunities.

The Consultation Guidance: most relevant paragraphs 75 and 77 p 22

[4] Nicky Morgan’s full speech at BETT

[5] The defenddigitalme campaign to ask the Department forEducation to change practices and policy around The National Pupil Database

 

 

Monitoring software in schools: the Department for Education’s digital dream or nightmare? (1)

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary,  gave a speech [1] this week and shared her dream of the benefits technology for pupils.

It mentioned two initiatives to log children’s individual actions; one is included in a consultation on new statutory guidance, and the other she praised, is a GPS based mobile monitoring app.

As with many new applications of technology, how the concept is to be implemented in practice is important to help understand how intrusive any new use of data is going to be.

Unfortunately for this consultation there is no supporting code of practice what the change will mean, and questions need asked.

The most significant aspects in terms of changes to data collection through required monitoring are in the areas of statutory monitoring, systems, and mandatory teaching of ‘safeguarding’:

Consultation p11/14: “We believe including the requirement to ensure appropriate filtering and monitoring are in place, in statutory guidance, is proportional and reasonable in order to ensure all schools and colleges are meeting this requirement. We don’t think including this requirement will create addition burdens for the vast majority of schools, as they are already doing this, but we are keen to test this assumption.”

Consultation:  paragraph 75 on page 22 introduces this guidance section and ends with a link to “Buying advice for schools.” “Governing bodies and proprietors should be confident that systems are in place that will identify children accessing or trying to access harmful and inappropriate content online. Guidance on e-security is available from the National Education Network.

Guidance: para 78 “Whilst it is essential that governing bodies and proprietors ensure that appropriate filters and monitoring systems are in place they should be careful  that “over blocking” does not lead to unreasonable restrictions as to what children can be taught with regards to online teaching  and safeguarding.” —

Consultation: “The Opportunities to teach safeguarding” section (para 77-78) has been updated and now says governing bodies and  “should ensure” rather than “should consider” that children are taught about safeguarding, including online, through teaching and learning opportunities. This is an important topic and the assumption is the vast majority of governing bodies and proprietors will already be ensuring the children in their school are suitably equipped with regards to safeguarding. But we are keen to hear views as to the change in emphasis.”

Paragraph 88 on p24  is oddly phrased: “Governing bodies and proprietors should ensure that staff members do not agree confidentiality and always act in the best interests of the child.”

What if confidentiality may sometimes be in the best interests of the child? What would that mean in practice?

 

Keeping Children Safe in Education – Questions on the Consultation and Use in practice

The consultation [2] is open until February 16th, and includes a new requirement to have web filtering and monitoring systems.

Remembering that 85% of children’s waking hours are spent outside school, and in a wide range of schools our children aged 2 -19, not every moment is spent unsupervised and on-screen, is it appropriate that this 24/7 monitoring would be applied to all types of school?

This provider software is reportedly being used in nearly 1,400 secondary schools in the UK.  We hear little about its applied use.

The cases of cyber bullying or sexting in schools I hear of locally, or read in the press, are through smartphones. Unless the school snoops on individual devices I wonder therefore if the cost, implementation and impact is proportionate to the benefit?

  1. Necessary and proportionate? How does this type of monitoring compare with other alternatives?
  2. Privacy impact assessment? Has any been done – surely required as a minimum measure?
  3. Cost benefit risk assessment of the new guidance in practice?
  4. Problem vs Solution: What problem is it trying to solve and how will they measure if it is successful, or stop its use if it is not?  Are other methods on offer?
  5. Due diligence: how do parents know that the providers have undergone thorough vetting and understand who they are? After all, these providers have access to millions of our children’s  online interactions.
  6. Evidence: If it has been used for years in school, how has it been assessed against other methods of supervision?
  7. The national cash cost: this must be enormous when added up for every school in the country, how is cost balanced against risk?
  8. Intangible costs – has anyone asked our children’s feeling on this? Where is the boundary between what is constructive and creepy? Is scope change documented if they decide to collect more data?

Are we Creating a Solution that Solves or creates a Problem?

The private providers would have no incentive to say their reports don’t work and schools, legally required to be risk averse, would be unlikely to say stop if there is no outcome at all.

Some providers  include “review of all incidents by child protection and forensic experts; freeing up time for teachers to focus on intervention” and “trends such as top users can be viewed.” How involved are staff who know the child as a first point of information sharing?

Most tools are multipurposed and I understand the reasons given behind them, but how it is implemented concerns me.

If the extent of these issues really justify this mass monitoring in every school – what are we doing to fix the causes, not simply spy on every child’s every online action in school? (I look at how it extends outside in part two.)

Questions on Public engagement: How are children and families involved in the implementation and with what oversight?

  1. Privacy and consent: Has anyone asked pupils and parents what they think and what rights they have to say no to sharing data?
  2. Involvement: Are parents to be involved and informed in software purchasing and in all data sharing decisions at local or regional level? Is there consistency of message if providers vary?
  3. Transparency: Where are the data created through the child’s actions stored, and for how long? Who has access to the data? What actions may result from it? And with what oversight?
  4. Understanding: How will children and parents be told what is “harmful and inappropriate content” as loosely defined by the consultation, and what they may or may not research? Children’s slang changes often, and “safeguarding” terms are subjective.
  5. Recourse: Will it include assessment of unintended consequences from misinterpretation of information gathered?
  6. Consent: And can I opt my child out from data collection by these unknown and ‘faceless’ third parties?

If children and parents are told their web use is monitored, what chilling effect may that have on their trust of the system, of teaching staff, and their ability to look for content to support their own sensitive concerns or development  that they may not be able to safe to look for at home? What limitation will that put on their creativity?

These are all questions that should be asked to thoroughly understand the consultation and requires wide public examination.

Since key logging is already common practice (according to provider websites) and will effectively in practice become statutory, where is the public discussion? If it’s not explicitly statutory, should pupils be subject to spying on their web searches in a postcode lottery?

What exactly might this part of the new guidance mean for pupils?

In part two, I include the other part of her speech, the GPS app and ask whether if we track every child in and outside school, are we moving closer to the digital dream, or nightmare, in the search to close the digital skills gap?

****

References:

[1] Nicky Morgan’s full speech at BETT

[2] Consultation: Keeping Children Safe in Education – closing Feb 16thThe “opportunities to teach safeguarding” section (para 77-78) has been updated and now says governing bodies and proprieties “should ensure” rather than “should consider” that children are taught about safeguarding, including online, through teaching and learning opportunities.

The Consultation Guidance: most relevant paragraphs 75 and 77 p 22

“Governing bodies and proprietors should be confident that systems are in place that will identify children accessing or trying to access harmful and inappropriate content online. [Proposed statutory guidance]

Since “guidance on procuring appropriate ICT” from the National Education Network NEN* is offered, it is clearly intended that this ‘system’ to be ‘in place’, should be computer based. How will it be applied in practice? A number of the software providers for schools already provide services that include key logging, using “keyword detection libraries” that “provides a complete log of all online activity”.

(*It’s hard to read more about as many of NEN’s links are dead.)  

George and the Chinese Dragon. Public spending and the cost of dignity.

In 2005 I sat early one morning in an enormous international hotel chain’s breakfast room, in Guangzhou.

Most of the men fetching two adult breakfasts from the vast buffet wore cream coloured chinos, and button down shirts. They sported standardised haircuts with hints of silver. Stylish women sat at  impeccable tables, cradling  babies in pink hats or spoon feeding small children.

On a busy downtown street, close to the Chinese embassy, the hotel was popular with American parents-to-be.

My local colleague explained to me later, that her sadness over thousands of Chinese daughters exported from a one-child policy nation in 2005 was countered by the hope that loving foreign families were found for them.

She repeated with dignity, party mantras and explanations drilled at school. She has good job, (but still she could not afford children). Too little land, too few schools, and healthcare too expensive. She sighed. Her eyes lit up as she looked at my bump and asked if I knew “girl or boy?” If it were a girl, she added, how beautiful she would be with large open eyes. We laughed about the contradictory artificial stereotypes of beauty, from East and West, each nation wanting what the other did not have.

Ten tears later in 2015, British Ministers have been drawing on China often recently, as a model for us to follow; in health, education and for the economy. Seeking something they think we do not have. Seeking to instill ‘discipline, hard-working, economy-first’ spin.

At the recent ResearchEd conference, Nick Gibb, [1] Minister of State at the Department for Education, talked about the BBC documentary “Are Our Kids Tough Enough” for several minutes and the positive values of the Chinese and its education system. It supposedly triggered ‘a global debate’ when British pupils experienced “the harsh discipline of a Chinese classroom”.

The Global Times praised the  First Minister Mr. Osborne as “the first Western official in recent years who focused on business potential rather than raising a magnifying glass to the ‘human rights issue” during his recent visit [2] when he put economic growth first.

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, was quoted at the political party conference  saying that he saw tax cut changes necessary as a cultural shift.  He suggested we should adopt the ‘hardworking’ character of the Chinese.

An attribute that is as artificial as it is inane.

Collective efforts over the last year or more, to project ‘hard-working’ as a measure of contribution to UK society into politics has become more concentrated, especially around the election. People who are not working, are undermined by statements inferring the less productive for the nation, the less value someone has as a person. Comments are repeated in a sustained drip feed, from Lord Freud’s remarks a year ago that disabled workers were not worth the full wage, to Hancock’s recent revelation that the decision to not apply the new minimum wage to the under 25s from 2016 “was an active policy choice.”  Mr. Hunt spoke about dignity being self-earned, not dependent on richness per se, but being self-made.

“If that £16,500 is either a high proportion or entirely through the benefit system you are trapped. It matters if you are earning that yourself, because if you are earning it yourself you are independent and that is the first step towards self-respect.”

This choice to value some people’s work less than others and acceptance of spin, is concerning.

What values are Ministers suggesting we adopt in the relentless drive for economic growth? [3] When our Ministers ignore human rights and laud Chinese values in a bid to be seen as an accepting trading partner, I wonder at what cost to our international integrity?

Simple things we take for granted such as unimpeded internet  access are not available in China. In Chinese society, hard working is not seen as such a positive value. It is a tolerated norm, and sometimes an imposed one at that, where parents leave their child with grandparents in the countryside and visit twice a year on leave from their city-based jobs. Our Ministers’ version of hardworking Chinese is idyllic spin compared with reality.

China is about to launch a scheme to measure sincerity and how each citizen compares with others in terms of compliance and dissent. Using people’s social media data to determine their ‘worth’ is an ominous prospect.

Mark Kitto from 2012 on why you’ll never be Chinese is a great read. I agree, “there are hundreds of well-rounded, wise Chinese people with a modern world view, people who could, and would willingly, help their motherland face the issues that are growing into state-shaking problems .”

Despite such institutional issues, Mr. Osborne appears to have an open door for deals with the Chinese state. Few people missed the announcements he made in China that HS2 will likely be built by Chinese investors, despite home grown opposition. Ministers and EDF have reportedly agreed on a controversial £25bn development of Hinkley Point C, nuclear plant, with most of upfront costs provided by Chinese companies, although “we are the builders.” [4]

Large parts of UK utilities’ infrastructure is founded on Chinese sourced spending in the UK it’s hard to see who ‘we’ are meant to be. [5] And that infrastructure is a two-way trade. Just as Chinese money has bought many of our previously publicly owned utilities, we have sold a staggeringly long list of security related items to the Chinese state. [6]

In July 2014 the four House of Commons Select Committees: “repeated their previous Recommendation that the Government should apply significantly more cautious judgements when considering arms export licence applications for goods to authoritarian regimes which might be used for internal repression.” 

UK to China exports
Chris Patten, former Hong Kong Governor,  criticised Osborne’s lax attitude to human rights but individual and collective  criticism appear to go unheard.

This perhaps is one measure of British economic growth at all costs. Not only is Britain supplying equipment that might be used for internal repression but the Minister appears to have adopted a singularly authoritarian attitude and democratic legitimacy of the Committees has been ignored. That is concerning.

The packaging of how upcoming cuts will be presented is clear.  We will find out what “hard working families” means to the Treasury. We need to work harder, like the Chinese, and through this approach, we will earn our dignity. No doubt rebuilding Britain, on great British values. Welfare will continue to be labelled as benefits, and with it, a value judgement on economic productivity equated with human worth. Cutting welfare, will be packaged as helping those people to help themselves out of self inflicted ‘bad’ situations, in which they have lost their self worth or found an easy ‘lifestyle choice’.

As welfare spending is reduced, its percentage spend with big service providers has risen after reforms, and private companies profit where money was once recycled in the state system. There is a glaring gap in evidence for some of these decisions taken.

What is next? If for example, universal benefits such as Universal Infant Free School Meals are cut, it will take food literally from the mouths of babes, in families who cannot afford to lose hot school dinners, living in poverty but not qualifying for welfare. The policy may be flawed because Free School Meals based on pupil premium entitlement does not cater for all who need it, but catering for none of them is not an improvement.

Ministers focus the arguments of worth and value around the individual. Doctors have been told to work harder. Schools have been told to offer more childcare to enable parents to work harder. How much harder can we really expect people to work? Is the Treasury’s vision is for us all to work more to pay more taxes? It is flawed if by adopting the political aim, the vast majority of people take home little more pay and sacrifice spare time with our friends and loved ones, running our health into the ground as a result.

The Chinese have a proverb that shows a wisdom missing from Ministers’ recent comments: “Time is money, and it is difficult for one to use money to get time.”

I often remember the hotel breakfast room, and wonder how many mothers, in how many in cities in China miss their daughters, whom they could not afford to keep, through fear of the potential effect. How many young men live without women in their lives who would want to, but find the gender imbalance a barrier to meeting someone. How many are struggling to care for elderly parents.

Not all costs can be measured in money.

The grandmother I met on the station platform last Wednesday had looked after her grandchild for half the day and has him overnight weekdays, so that Mum can first sleep and then work a night shift stacking shelves. That’s her daughter’s second shift of the day. She hardly sees her son.  The husband works the shelf-stacking third shift to supplement his income as a mechanic.

That is a real British family.

Those parents can’t work any harder. Their family is already at breaking point. They take no state welfare.  They don’t qualify for any support.

Must we be so driven to become ‘hard working families’ that our children will barely know their parents? Are hungry pupils to make do as best they can at lunchtime? Are these side effects children must be prepared to pay if their parents work ever harder to earn enough to live and earn their ‘dignity’ as defined by the Secretary of State for health?

Dignity is surely inherent in being human. Not something you earn by what you do. At the heart of human rights is the belief that everybody should be treated equally and with dignity – no matter what their circumstances.

If we adopt the Ministers’ be-like-the-Chinese mantra, and accept human dignity is something that must be earned, we should ask now what price have they put on it?

MPs must slay the dragon of spin and demand transparency of the total welfare budget and government spend with its delivery providers. There is a high public cost of further public spending cuts. In order to justify them, it is not the public who must work harder, but the Treasury, in order to deliver a transparent business case what the further sacrifices of ‘hard working families’ will achieve.

 

###

[1] ResearchEd conference, Nick Gibb, Minister of State at the Department for Education

[2] New Statesman

[3] https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/jen-persson/why-is-government-putting-health-watchdogs-on-leash-of-%E2%80%98promoting-economic-growth

[4] The Sun: George Osborne party conference speech with 25 mentions of builders: “We are the builders”, said Mr. Osborne.

[5] The Drum: Li Ka Shing and British investment https://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2015/01/28/meet-li-ka-shing-man-o2-his-sights-has-quietly-become-one-britains-biggest

[6] Arms exports to authoritarian regimes and countries of concern worldwide The Committees http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmquad/608/60805.htm#a104

 

[image: Wassily Kandinsky ca 1911, George and the Dragon]

smartphones: the single most important health treatment & diagnostic tool at our disposal [#NHSWDP 2]

After Simon Stevens big statement on smartphones at the #NHSWDP event, I’d asked what sort of assessment had the NHS done on how wearables’ data would affect research.

#digitalinclusion is clearly less about a narrow focus on apps than applied skills and online access.

But I came away wondering how apps will work in practice, affect research and our care in the NHS in the UK, and much more.

What about their practical applications and management?

NHS England announced a raft of regulated apps for mental health this week, though it’s not the first approved.  

This one doesn’t appear to have worked too well.

The question needs an answer before many more are launched: how will these be catalogued, indexed and stored ? Will it be just a simple webpage? I’m sure we can do better to make this page user friendly and intuitive.

This British NHS military mental health app is on iTunes. Will iTunes carry a complete NHS approved library and if so, where are the others?

We don’t have a robust regulation model for digital technology, it was said at a recent WHF event, and while medical apps are sold as wellness or fitness or just for fun, patients could be at risk.

In fact, I’m convinced that while medical apps are being used by consumers as medical devices, for example as tests, or tools which make recommendations, and they are not thoroughly regulated, we *are* at risk.

If Simon Stevens sees smartphones as: “going to be the single most important health treatment and diagnostic tool at our disposal over the coming decade and beyond,” then we’d best demand the tools that work on them, work safely. [speech in full]

And if his statement on their importance is true, then when will our care providers be geared up to accepting extracts of data held on a personal device into the local health record at a provider – how will interoperability, testing and security work?

And who’s paying for them? those on the library right now, have price tags. The public should be getting lots of answers to lots of questions.

“Over the coming decade”  has already started.

What about Research?: I know the Apple ResearchKit had a big reaction, and I’m sure there’s plenty of work already done on expectations of how data sharing in wearables affect research participation. (I just haven’t read it yet, but am interested to do so,  feel free to point any my way).

I was interested in the last line in this article: “ResearchKit is a valiant effort by Apple, and if its a hit with scientists, it could make mass medical research easier than ever.”

How do we define ‘easier’? Has Apple hit on a mainstream research app? How is ‘mass medical research’ in public health for example, done today and how may it change?

Will more people be able to participate in remote trials?

Will more people choose to share their well-being data and share ‘control’ phenotype data more in depth than in the past?

Are some groups under- or not-at-all represented?

How will we separate control of datasharing for direct care and for other secondary uses like research?

Quality: Will all data be good data or do we risk research projects drowning in a data tsunami of quantity not quality? Or will apps be able to target very specific trial data better than before?

How: One size will not fit all. How will data stored in wearables affect research in the UK? Will those effects differ between the UK and the US, and will app designs need different approaches due to the NHS long history and take into account single standards and be open? How will research take historical data into account if apps are all ‘now’? How will research based on that data be peer reviewed?

Where: And as we seek to close the digital divide here at home, what gulf may be opening up in the research done in public health, the hard to reach, and even between ‘the west’ and ‘developing’ countries?

In the UK will the digital postcode lottery affect care? Even with a wish for wifi in every part of the NHS estate, the digital differences are vast. Take a look at Salford – whose digital plans are worlds apart from my own Trust which has barely got rid of Lloyd George folders on trolleys.

Who: Or will in fact the divide not be by geography, but by accessibility based on wealth?  While NHS England talks about digital exclusion, you would hope they would be doing all they can to reduce it. However, the mental health apps announced just this week each have a price tag if ‘not available’ to you on the NHS.

Why: on what basis will decisions be made on who gets them prescribed and who pays for the,  where apps are to be made available for which area of diagnosis or treatment, or at all if the instructions are “to find out if it’s available in your area email xxx or call 020 xxx. Or you could ask your GP or healthcare professional.”

The highest intensity users of the NHS provision, are unlikely to be the greatest users of growing digital trends.

Rather the “worried well” would seem the ideal group who will be encouraged to stay away from professionals, self-care with self-paid support from high street pharmacies. How much could or will this measurably benefit the NHS, the individual and make lives better? As increasingly the population is risk stratified and grouped into manageable portions, will some be denied care based on data?

Or will the app providers be encouraged to promote their own products, make profits, benefit the UK plc regardless of actual cost and measurable benefits to patients?

In 2013, IMS Health reported that more than 43,000 health-related apps were available for download from the Apple iTunes app store. Of those, the IMS Institute found that only 16,275 apps are directly related to patient health and treatment, and there was much to be done to move health apps from novelty to mainstream.

Reactionary or Realistic – and where’s the Risks Assessment before NHS England launches even more approved apps?

At the same time as being exciting,  with this tempting smörgåsbord of shiny new apps comes a set of new risks which cannot responsibly be ignored. In patient safety, cyber security, and on what and who will be left out.

Given that basic data cannot in some places be shared between GP and hospital due for direct care to local lack of tech and the goal is another five years away, how real is the hype of the enormous impact of wearables going to be for the majority or at scale?

On digital participation projects: “Some of the work that has already been done by the Tinder Foundation, you take some of the examples here, with the Sikh community in  Leicester around diabetes, and parenting in other parts of the country, you can see that this is an agenda which can potentially get real quite quickly and can have quite a big impact.”
(Simon Stevens)

These statements, while each on different aspects of digital inclusion, by Simon Stevens on smartphones, and scale, and on consent by Tim Kelsey, are fundamentally bound together.

What will wearables mean for diagnostics, treatment and research in the NHS? For those who have and those who have not?

How will sharing data be managed for direct care and for other purposes?

What control will the patriarchy of the NHS reasonably expect to have over patients choice of app by any provider? Do most patients know at all, what effect their choice may have for their NHS care?

How will funding be divided into digital and non-digital, and be fair?

How will we maintain the principles and practice of a ‘free at the point of access’ digital service available to all in the NHS?

Will there really be a wearables revolution? Or has the NHS leadership just jumped on a bandwagon as yet without any direction?

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[Next: part three  – on consent – #NHSWDP 3: Wearables: patients will ‘essentially manage their data as they wish’. What will this mean for diagnostics, treatment and research and why should we care?] 

[Previous: part one – #NHSWDP 1: Thoughts on Digital Participation and Health Literacy: Opportunities for engaging citizens in the NHS – including Simon Stevens full keynote speech]

Nothing to fear, nowhere to hide – a mother’s attempt to untangle UK surveillance law and programmes

“The Secret Service should start recruiting through Mumsnet to attract more women to senior posts, MPs have said.”
[SkyNews, March 5, 2015]

Whilst we may have always dreamed of being ‘M’, perhaps we can start by empowering all Mums to understand how real-life surveillance works today, in all our lives, homes and schools.

In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt at his 1933 inaugural address:

“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly…

“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

It is hard to know in the debate in the ‘war on terror’, what is truthful and what is ‘justified’ fear as opposed to ‘nameless and unreasoning.’

To be reasoned, we need to have information to understand what is going on and it can feel that picture is complex and unclear.

What concrete facts do you and I have about terrorism today, and the wider effects it has on our home life?

If you have children in school, or are a journalist, a whistleblower, lawyer or have thought about the effects of the news recently, it may affect our children or any of us in ways which we may not expect.

It might surprise you that it was surveillance law that was used to track a mother and her children’s [1] movements when a council wasn’t sure if her school application was for the correct catchment area. [It legally used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, (RIPA) [2]

Recent headlines are filled with the story of three more girls who are reported to have travelled to Syria.

As a Mum I’d be desperate for my teens, and I cannot imagine what their family must feel. There are conflicting opinions, and politics,  but let’s leave that aside. These girls are each somebody’s daughter, and at risk.

As a result MPs are talking about what they should be teaching in schools. Do parents and citizens agree, and do we know what?

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, Labour MP told Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live: “I really do think this is not just an issue for the intelligence services, it’s for all of us in our schools, in our communities, in our families to tackle this.”

Justice Minister Simon Hughes told Murnaghan on Sky News it was important to ensure a counter-argument against extremism was being made in schools and also to show pupils “that’s not where excitement and success should lie”. [BBC 22 February 2015]

There are already policies in schools that touch all our children and laws which reach into our family lives that we may know little about.

I have lots of questions what and how we are teaching our children about ‘extremism’ in schools and how the state uses surveillance to monitor our children’s and our own lives.

This may affect all schools and places of education, not those about which we hear stories about in the news, so it includes yours.

We all want the best for our young people and security in society, but are we protecting and promoting the right things?

Are today’s policies in practice, helping or hardening our children’s thinking?

Of course I want to see that all our kids are brought up safe. I also want to bring them up free from prejudice and see they get equal treatment and an equal start in life in a fair and friendly society.

I think we should understand the big picture better.

1. Do you feel comfortable that you know what is being  taught in schools or what is done with information recorded or shared by schools or its proposed expansion to pre-schools about toddlers under the Prevent programme?.

2. Do government communications’ surveillance programmes in reality, match up with real world evidence of need, and how is it measured to be effective?

3. Do these programmes create more problems as side-effects we don’t see or don’t measure?

4. If any of our children have information recorded about them in these programmes, how is it used, who sees it and for what purposes?

5. How much do we know about the laws brought in under the banner of ‘counter-terror’ measures, and how they are used for all citizens in everyday life?

We always think unexpected things will happen to someone else, and everything is rightfully justified in surveillance, until it isn’t.

Labels can be misleading.

One man’s terrorist may be another’s freedom fighter.

One man’s investigative journalist is another’s ‘domestic extremist.’

Who decides who is who?

Has anyone asked in Parliament: Why has religious hate crime escalated by 45% in 2013/14 and what are we doing about it? (up 700 to 2, 273 offences, Crime figures [19])

These aren’t easy questions, but we shouldn’t avoid asking them because it’s difficult.

I think we should ask: do we have laws which discriminate by religion, censor our young people’s education, or store information about us which is used in ways we don’t expect or know about?

Our MPs are after all, only people like us, who represent us, and who make decisions about us, which affect us. And on 7th May, they may be about to change.

As a mother, whoever wins the next General Election matters to me because it will affect the next five years or more, of what policies are made which will affect our children, and all of us as citizens.

It should be clear what these programmes are and there should be no reason why it’s not transparent.

“To counter terrorism, society needs more than labels and laws. We need trust in authority and in each other.”

We need trust in authority and in each other in our society, built on a strong and simple legal framework and founded on facts, not fears.

So I think this should be an election issue. What does each party plan on surveillance to resolve the issues outlined by journalists, lawyers and civil society? What applied programmes does each party see that will be, in practical terms: “for all of us in our schools, in our communities, in our families to tackle this.”

If you agree, then you could ask your MP, and ask your prospective parliamentary candidates. What is already done in real life and what are their future policies?

Let’s understand ‘the war on terror’ at home better, and its real impacts. These laws and programmes should be transparent, easy to understand, and not only legal, but clearly just, and proportionate.

Let’s get back to some of the basics, and respect the rights of our children.

Let’s start to untangle this spaghetti of laws; the programmes, that affect us in practice; and understand their measures of success.

Solutions to protecting our children, are neither simple or short term. But they may not always mean more surveillance.

Whether the Secret Service will start recruiting through Mumsnet or not, we could start with better education of us all.

At very least, we should understand what ‘surveillance’ means.

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If you want to know more detail, I look at this below.

The laws applied in Real Life

Have you ever looked at case studies of how surveillance law is used?

In  one case, a mother and her children’s [1] movements were watched and tracked when a council wasn’t sure if her school application was for the correct catchment area. [It legally used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, (RIPA) [2]

Do you think it is just or fair that  a lawyer’s conversations with his client [3] were recorded and may have been used preparing the trial – when the basis of our justice system is innocent until proven guilty?

Or is it right that journalists’ phone records could be used to identify people by the police, without telling the journalists or getting independent approval, from a judge for example?

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These aren’t theoretical questions but stem from real-life uses of laws used in the ‘counter terrorism’ political arena and in practice.

Further programmes store information about every day people which we may find surprising.

In November 2014 it was reported that six British journalists [4] had found out personal and professionally related information had been collected about them, and was stored on the ‘domestic extremist’ database by the Metropolitan Police in London.

They were not criminal nor under surveillance for any wrongdoing.

One of the journalists wrote in response in a blog post on the NUJ website [5]:

“…the police have monitored public interest investigations in my case since 1999. More importantly if the police are keeping tabs on a lightweight like myself then they are doing the same and more to others?”

Ever participated in a protest and if not reported on one?

‘Others’ in that ‘domestic extremist list’ might include you, or me.

Current laws may be about to change [6] (again) and perhaps for the good, but will yet more rushed legislation in this area be done right?

There are questions over the detail and what will actually change. There are multiple bills affecting security, counter-terrorism and data access in parliament, panels and reviews going on in parallel.

The background which has led to this is the culmination of lots of concern and pressure over a long period of time focuses on one set of legal rules, in the the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

The latest draft code of practice [7] for the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) [8] allows the police and other authorities to continue to access journalists’ and other professionals’ communications without any independent process or oversight.

‘Nothing to hide, nothing to fear’, is a phrase we hear said of surveillance but as these examples show, its use is widespread and often unexpected, not in extremes as we are often told.

David Cameron most recently called for ever wider surveillance legislation, again in The Telegraph, Jan 12 2015  saying:[9]

“That is why in extremis it has been possible to read someone’s letter, to listen to someone’s telephone, to mobile communications.”

Laws and programmes enable and permit these kinds of activity which are not transparent to the broad public. Is that right?

The Deregulation bill has changes, which appear now to have been amended to keep the changes affecting journalists in PACE [10] laws after all, but what effects are there for other professions and how exactly will this change interact with further new laws such as the Counter Terrorism and Security Act [p20]? [11]

It’s understandable that politicians are afraid of doing nothing, if a terrorist attack takes place, they are at risk of looking like they failed.

But it appears that politicians may have got themselves so keen to be seen to be doing ‘something’ in the face of terror attacks, that they are doing too much, in the wrong places, and we have ended up with a legislative spaghetti of simultaneous changes, with no end in sight.

It’s certainly no way to make legal changes understandable to the British public.

Political change may come as a result of the General Election. What implications will it have for the applied ‘war-on-terror’ and average citizen’s experience of surveillance programmes in real life?

What do we know about how we are affected? The harm to some in society is real, and is clearly felt in some, if not all communities. [12]

Where is the evidence to include in the debate, how laws affect us in real life and what difference they make vs their intentions?

Anti-terror programmes in practice; in schools & surgeries

In addition to these changes in law, there are a number of programmes in place at the moment.

The Prevent programme?[16] I already mentioned above.

Its expansion to wider settings would include our children from age 2 and up, who will be under an additional level of scrutiny and surveillance [criticism of the the proposal has come across the UK].

How might what a three year old says or draws be interpreted, or recorded them about them, or their family? Who accesses that data?

What film material is being produced that is: ” distributed directly by these organisations, with only a small portion directly badged with government involvement” and who is shown it and why? [Review of Australia‘s Counter Terror Machinery, February 2015] [17]

What if it’s my child who has something recorded about them under ‘Prevent’? Will I be told? Who will see that information?  What do I do if I disagree with something said or stored about them?

Does surveillance benefit society or make parts of it feel alienated and how are both its intangible cost and benefit measured?

When you combine these kinds of opaque, embedded programmes in education or social care  with political thinking which could appear to be based on prejudice not fact [18], the outcomes could be unexpected and reminiscent of 1930s anti-religious laws.

Baroness Hamwee raised this concern in the Lords on the 28th January, 2015 on the Prevent Programme:

“I am told that freedom of information requests for basic statistics about Prevent are routinely denied on the basis of national security. It seems to me that we should be looking for ways of providing information that do not endanger security.

“For instance, I wondered how many individuals are in a programme because of anti-Semitic violence. Over the last day or two, I have been pondering what it would look like if one substituted “Jewish” for “Muslim” in the briefings and descriptions we have had.” Baroness Hamwee:  [28 Jan 2015 : Column 267 -11]

“It has been put to me that Prevent is regarded as a security prism through which all Muslims are seen and that Muslims are suspect until proved otherwise. The term “siege mentality” has also been used.

“We have discussed the dangers of alienation arising from the very activities that should be part of the solution, not part of the problem, and of alienation feeding violence. […]

“Transparency is a very important tool … to counter those concerns.”

Throughout history good and bad are dependent on your point of view. In 70s London, but assuming today’s technology, would all Catholics have come sweepingly under this extra scrutiny?

“Early education funding regulations have been amended to ensure that providers who fail to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs do not receive funding.” [consultation guidance Dec 2014]

The programme’s own values seem undermined by its attitudes to religion and individual liberty. On universities the same paragraph on ‘freedom of speech’ suggests restrictive planning measures on protest meetings and IT surveillance for material accessed for  ‘non-research purposes’.

School and university is a time when our young people explore all sorts of ideas, including to be able to understand and to criticise them. Just looking at material online should not necessarily have any implications.  Do we really want to censor what our young people should and should not think about, and who is deciding the criteria?

For families affected by violence, nothing can justify their loss and we may want to do anything to justify its prevention.

But are we seeing widespread harm in society as side effects of surveillance programmes?

We may think we live in a free and modern society. History tells us all too easily governments can change a slide into previously unthinkable directions. It would be complacent to think, ‘it couldn’t happen here.’

Don’t forget, religious hate crime escalated by 45% in 2013/14 Crime figures [19])

Writers self-censor their work.  Whistleblowers may not come forward to speak to journalists if they feel actively watched.

Terrorism is not new.

Young people with fervour to do something for a cause and going off ‘to the fight’ in a foreign country is not new.

In the 1930s the UK Government made it illegal to volunteer to fight in Spain in the civil war, but over 2,000 went anyway.

New laws are not always solutions. especially when ever stricter surveillance laws, may still not mean any better accuracy of terror prevention on the ground. [As Charlie Hebdo and Copenhagen showed. in these cases the people involved were known to police. In the case of Lee Rigby it was even more complex.]

How about improving our citizens’ education and transparency about what’s going on & why, based on fact and not fear?

If the state shouldn’t nanny us, then it must allow citizens and parents the transparency and understanding of the current reality, to be able to inform ourselves and our children in practical ways, and know if we are being snooped on or surveillance recorded.

There is an important role for cyber experts in/and civil society to educate and challenge MPs on policy. There is also a very big gap in practical knowledge for the public, which should be addressed.

Can  we trust that information will be kept confidential that I discuss with my doctor or lawyer or if I come forward as a whistleblower?

Do I know whether my email and telephone conversations, or social media interactions are being watched, actively or by algorithms?

Do we trust that we are treating all our young people equally and without prejudice and how are we measuring impact of programmes we impose on them?

To counter terrorism, society needs more than labels and laws

We need trust in authority and in each other in our society, built on a strong and simple legal framework and founded on facts, not fears.

If the Prevent programme is truly needed at this scale, tell us why and tell us all what our children are being told in these programmes.

We should ask our MPs even though consultation is closed, what is the evidence behind the thinking about getting prevent into toddler settings and far more? What risks and benefits have been assessed for any of our children and families who might be affected?

Do these efforts need expanded to include two-year-olds?

Are all efforts to keep our kids and society safe equally effective and proportionate to potential and actual harm caused?

Alistair MacDonald QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said:

‘As a caring society, we cannot simply leave surveillance issues to senior officers of the police and the security services acting purportedly under mere codes of practice.

What is surely needed more than ever before is a rigorous statutory framework under which surveillance is authorised and conducted.”

Whether we are disabled PIP protesters outside parliament or mothers on the school run, journalists or lawyers, doctors or teachers, or anyone, these changes in law or lack of them, may affect us. Baroness Hamwee clearly sees harm caused in the community.

Development of a future legislative framework should reflect public consensus, as well as the expert views of technologists, jurists, academics and civil liberty groups.

What don’t we know? and what can we do?

According to an Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard on October 2014 [20] only one in five people think the police should be free to trawl through the phone records of journalists to identify their sources.

Sixty-seven per cent said the approval of a judge should be obtained before such powers are used.

No one has asked the public if we think the Prevent programme is appropriate or proportionate as far as I recall?

Who watches that actions taken under it, are reasonable and not reactionary?

We really should be asking; what are our kids being shown, taught, informed about or how they may be  informed upon?

I’d like all of that in the public domain, for all parents and guardians. The curriculum, who is teaching and what materials are used.

It’s common sense to see that young people who feel isolated or defensive are less likely to talk to parents about their concerns.

It is a well known quote in surveillance “Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.” But this argument is flawed, because information can be wrong.

‘Nothing to fear, nowhere to hide’, may become an alternative meme we hear debated again soon, about surveillance if the internet and all communications are routinely tracked, without oversight.

To ensure proper judicial oversight in all these laws and processes – to have an independent judge give an extra layer of approval – would restore public trust in this system and the authority on which it depends.

It could pave the way for a new hope of restoring the checks and balances in many governance procedures, which a just and democratic society deserves.

As Roosevelt said: “let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.”

 

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[On Channel4OD: Channel 4 – Oscar winning, ‘CitizenFour’  Snowden documentary]

References:

[1] The Guardian, 2008, council spies on school applicants

[2] Wikipedia RIPA legislation

[3] UK admits unlawfully monitoring communications

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/20/police-legal-action-snooping-journalists

[5] Journalist’s response

[6] SOS Campaign

[7] RIPA Consultation

[8] The RIPA documents are directly accessible here

[9] The Telegraph

[10] Deregulation Bill

[11] Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015

[12] Baroness Hamwee comments in the House of Lords [Hansard]

[13] Consultation response by charity Children in Scotland

[14] The Telegraph, Anti-terror plan to spy on toddlers ‘is heavy-handed’

[15] GPs told to specify counter terrorism leads [Prevent]

[16] The Prevent programme, BBC / 2009 Prevent programme for schools

[17] Review of Australia’s CT Machinery

[18] Boris Johnson, March 2014

[19] Hate crime figures 2013-14

[20] Ipsos MORI poll, October 2014

 

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 image credit: ancient history

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Happy [belated] Birthday Kafka

Yesterday, July 3rd, was Kafka’s birthday. I started to write about him, and fell asleep with a book in my hand, waking in Kafkaesque style this morning not knowing where I was or why. But thank goodness, I did not wake up as a beetle. [1]

The overly used descriptor Kafkaesque has more recently come to take  on a generic meaning, and his name  associated with a dark view of the state and surveillance. [2]  I wonder what he would have made of it?

The surveillance state is more contemporary than ever in mainstream thought, since Snowden, a year ago. We can look at The Trial, in which the protagonist is accused of an unknown crime, under assumed guilt and secrecy surrounding the process and reflect on the latest moves towards a secret court in the UK. In ‘The Great Wall of China‘ Kafka considered both points of the debate how to protect the People from outsiders, the Barbarians. As we see security at airports tightened today against an invisible threat, its central theme as valid today as in the 1920s, exploring the authority’s exploitation of fear and uncertainty over what constitutes a nation and what should be defended. In Das Schloss ‘the Castle‘ the authorities are drowning in documents, but cannot find the one which is relevant to the accused. Kafka questions the purpose of massive data gathering when the authorities appear not use the documents they collect. Both the latter stories mentioned in Alan Greenblatt’s article, on the Surveillance Society. [3]

His work is perhaps more relevant than ever.

As a Germanist, his work featured strongly in my studies, but I appreciate it more now, and am currently working on a project which is based in the time of his life (1883 -1924) and into the second world war.

It was both a fascinating and demanding time and place to live.

He was a German speaker living in what is now, the Czech Republic. The issues of identity and belonging are everyday ones for the residents like him, in a country whose borders were fluid and changing. Whose government switched the state language between Czech and German, and issued new passports in his lifetime, more than once, and in state institutions in which it was dictated how many employees should be of which – Czech or German – ethic origin. It is little spoken of today, but the fifty years before WWII set the stage for the struggle of ethnicity and its horrific consequence for millions of ordinary citizens in post war Czechoslovakia and its neighbours. The resulting forced migrations [4] of 3 million ethnic Germans from the Sudetenland alone, and the deaths of a disputed number in the region of half a million, and up to two million more who disappeared, is a little talked of consequence of the war and its preceding years.

He died before this, in 1924. His best known works are those in which the State, power, identity and emotional struggles are entwined in dark and often unexpected situations.

His work is ever popular, and his many themes, quotes and associated artwork are widely used. His concepts contemporary.

He was reportedly an avid reader, and advocated reading books which challenge:

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?”  

– from a letter to Oskar Pollak (January 27, 1904)

He inspires me to keep writing mine.

 

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Artwork from the Schocken/Pantheon Kafka library, cover designer Peter Mendelsund

[1] Metamorphasis: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/metamorph/ – one of Kafka’s best known works

[2] Salon’s view of the NSA’s Internet surveillance program and how it uses Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act.

[3] Alan Greenblatt article, Our Surveillance Society – What Orwell and Kafka might say –  June 2013 http://www.npr.org/2013/06/08/189792140/our-surveillance-society-what-orwell-and-kafka-might-say

[4] Forced migrations of ethnic Germans in post WWII http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_and_expulsion_of_Germans_%281944%E2%80%9350%29