Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Data Protection Commissioner can’t protect their data – Leaked Annual Report for 2007

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Below is the press release going out at 11am tomorrow from the DPC but I found it by accident on their site and the full report is here. It’s kind of pathetic that you can actually access the full report from their site because of a badly configured publishing system.

UPDATE: Report is now here.

Once again the report is a crock with investigations that don’t go anywhere with eircom and Newtel reoffending. Newtel got mentioned in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Four in a row next year?

The Data Protection Commissioner launched his report for 2007 today. He has emphasised the responsibility of public and private sector organisations to respect the privacy of those who entrust them with their personal information. Equally the Commissioner has also drawn attention to the need for an appropriate balance to be struck between the ever increasing desire to seek the personal data of all of us as part of the security agenda and the individual’s right to privacy. In this respect he raises the question, “Have we not succumbed to terror and submitted to extremism when we loose the liberty to live our lives without constant intrusion by the State in the name of security?”

Enquiries and Complaints
During 2007 the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner opened 1,037 new complaint investigations, up substantially from 658 in 2006. This very large increase in the number of complaints relates in part to an increase in complaints in relation to unsolicited text (SMS) messages. The Report updates on the actions which the Commissioner has taken to address this issue. He currently has more than 350 prosecutions before the Courts in this area. These prosecutions follow strong action taken by the Commissioner who sent teams of investigators into the premises of those involved to collect evidence. The Commissioner has increasingly made use of his powers to send his officers into premises which contain personal data without notice to ensure that data protection requirements are being met.

The Report updates on the Commissioner’s actions in relation to the issue of unauthorised access to personal data in the public sector, a large number of complaints received in relation to the marketing practices of Sky and also includes case studies of a number of specific investigations into the use of personal data including:

• The use made by Baxter Healthcare of two medical reports relating to a former employee;
• The inappropriate use of CCTV footage by the West Wood Club in Sandymount and covert CCTV by the Gresham Hotel in Dublin;
• Suspension of the operations of a cold-call marketing operation by Newtel communications;
• Inappropriate disclosure of employee information by Aer Lingus;
• A very serious case of inappropriate access to personal information held by the Revenue Commissioners;
• The failure to supply a reasonable means for opting-out from email direct marketing by Ryanair.
• Extensive engagement with Eircom following the receipt of a large number of complaints in relation to unwanted marketing telephone calls. This resulted in a €35,000 donation by Eircom to charity to resolve the complaints
• Excessive information of local residents retained by Croke Park
• Unsolicited email marketing by Tesco arising from technical difficulties

In addition to actual formal complaints received and progressed, the Office dealt with approximately 20,000 telephone enquiries together with over 4,000 email enquiries and a smaller number of enquiries by post.

Other Activities
In a wide ranging report on his Office’s activities for 2007 that reflects the variety of issues the Office is called upon to address, the Commissioner also focuses on:
• The benefits that flow from an increasing awareness of privacy and data protection issues on the part of members of the public, the media and institutions holding our data;
• The occasions when he was obliged to resort to the use of his legal powers to protect and promote the interests of data subjects;
• The responsibility of private sector organisations to protect the personal data of their customers and clients;
• Breach notifications as an example of good practice;
• Developing codes of practice within particular sectors and public bodies to allow a better understanding of data protection requirements among those entrusted with personal data;
• The continuing challenges posed by new technology and the use made of the internet.

The Commissioner has taken the opportunity to highlight his engagement with Government on a variety of issues including the proposed DNA database, the intention to introduce what is known as an “eBorders” system to track all of our movements as we enter and leave the country and a very satisfactory outcome in terms of ensuring that the planning system respects privacy while maintaining transparency.

The Report also includes for the first time an unscientific list of the top ten threats to privacy as identified by the staff of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner. This list, which is by no means authoritative, is intended to provoke discussion of privacy issues.

Oireachtas decide that maybe encryption on TD and Senator laptops = Good idea

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

See the tender.

Appropriate for ages 0 - ∞.
Photo owned by Britt Selvitelle (cc)

Email sent to TDs and Senators:

In the event of the loss or theft of any such device containing personal data, Members are advised to contact the Gardaí (to report the incident) and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (for advice on the most appropriate steps to be taken in relation to the lost / stolen data).

In order to maximise the security of data which may be on laptops and desktop computers, the Office has recently invited tenders for the provision of a data encryption system. As soon as a contract has been awarded, we will contact Members again to offer the installation of this software on all existing laptop devices. The software will automatically be installed on all laptops issued to Members after the contract has been awarded.

Members are reminded that although they are no longer required to register with the Data Protection Commissioner merely by virtue of their membership of the Oireachtas, they are still responsible for ensuring the safety of personal data which is stored on their computer systems.

The Office will replace stolen laptops only following receipt of a formal Garda report confirming that the loss or theft has been reported to the Gardaí.

There’s more to security than encryption, right? Anyone got a better solution?

Comfort zones, Iterations, Innovations and Product Design

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Apple iPhone = a single button menu system and one of the best mobiles ever. Yet mobile phones are out 20 years. But it’s actually a portable computer with phone properties. Not that the general consumer knows or cares. Nokia marketed their N95 phone to people as a computer in your pocket. And how many of the world did that discourage from buying it with that phrase alone? How many don’t use all the poweful features of it because it treats the menu system like a computer menu system with half a dozen clicks to do something?

Oddly it seems the iPhone takes away choice from people by just doing what it wants. With an N95 it’s menu menu rotate to turn the image sideways, the iPhone does it automatically whether you like it or not. Despite all the other phone companies having mobiles that did mobile Internet it was the iPhone that exploded use of the mobile web in the past year. On a slower connection and less powerful phone…

Look at the Wii. You turn it on. Move the Wiimote and you know exactly what happens. Point at screen, move it about and you know the rest. Yet you’re there playing a computer game with a totally new interface.

Admittedly of course like Apple, Nintendo’s ads are very much like instructional videos too so pre-training new customers is good.

mmm... ear piecing
Photo owned by lorelei (cc)

There seems to be an issue with tech that if you upset the small enough comfort zones of the general public then they won’t buy your product. It does seem to be true. Something very upsetting to the engineers and early adopters who understand the power of these new innovations yet can’t understand why the general public can’t see how great this new thing is. I mean all you have to do is press this, twist that, press this three times and we’re off. Now press this fast to stop it. There. Over time I think this is why we’re seeing so many godforsaken shit web services and pieces of techwank come out which are all clones or tiny iterations of products that we already have. Nothing new is introduced or combined. Perish the thought. So much of these new things launched are just features. That makes the consumer comfortable. And the investors. And pisses off those that remain in the company that enjoy their ingenuity. And early adopters that scream for something new.

Pat Phelan asked are we (I guess he means humanity or the tech world) over-innovating. I don’t think we are. I think we’re scarificing innovation for over-iterating and becoming far too comfortable about making consumers feel comfortable about things remaining the same when we should be innovating on new tech and innovating on ways of introducing this new tech while the customer is almost oblivious. Design a product with underlying innovation so the consumer knows all about how to use it within 5 seconds of picking it up. This is what the iPhone does, it’s what the Wii does, it is not what the N95 does or Microsoft Powerpoint. An engineer won’t like how limited an iPhone is but a consumer doesn’t want to think they will have to change the way they work for the N95. An innovation is not product design. I think too many take that to mean that we should iterate.

Here’s a very long video that eventually sees Steve Jobs introduce the iMac, 10 years ago this week:

Those that can do. Again and again – Twitterfone

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

(Disclaimer: I helped Pat out with the PR for this)

Arrington calls him a serial entrepreneur and he’s bang on. Pat and a few more folks from the Telco 2.0 world have just launched Twitterfone. Or maybe Arrington said it was launching and they had no choice? 🙂


What is it? It’s a voice to text message service using text message rebroadcast service Twitter. I ring a Dublin number, leave a 15 seconds (max) voicemessage. It knows who I am from my caller ID and posts to my Twitter profile with a text version of what I uttered as well as a link to the audio message. Here’s my dulcent tones. And here’s how it showed up on Twitter.

Well done to Sean O’Sullivan and Ivan McDonald from Dial2Do who were involved in making this. It’s some of their core tech that powers Twitterfone. Sabrina’s design work at play too which is really fun I have to say. Love it.

Great to see yet another project from Pat launched and the same from Sean and Ivan. I can’t see young Phelan ever stopping.

HR Managers should check out our Facebooks, our Twitters and our Blogs

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

There’s an article over on PR Squared that says every PR person/firm should be immersing themselves in Twitter and seeing how people are interacting on it. There’s also been article after article about the fact that we’d want to be careful with how we interact on Bebo, Facebook et al as HR people and bosses are watching what we do there. So?

Googling isn’t enough…
No longer are they just Googling us if we apply for jobs, they are Facebooking us too and maybe the really clever ones will look us up on Twitter. I can’t find a link to it now but there was a great example of a guy looking for an investment off a VC that insulted the VC as he was about to meet him or maybe it was after. The VC had subbed to the guys Twitter to see what he was like. He found out. There’s all these rules for HR departments about only being allowed to assess you based on your CV, references and their interviews with you. They can’t bring anything else into it. I’m sure though that while it is never written policy or official, they do probably Google you. Which really doesn’t bring back much apart from Axe Murderer type headlines.

Polar Bears Fight Climate Poverty
Photo owned by oxfam international (cc)

Through interacting with people on blogs and Facebook (to a lesser degree) and Twitter (to a much stronger degree) I’ve made some good friendships and learned a lot about people I’d consider to be my peers. Over a while you’ll see those people you know you can work with and know you could never work with. I really think a HR Department should be sitting their arses into that interaction space or else encouraging their staff to do so. Though I have a weird idea of what HR should be about compared to what they think they should be doing.

HR Departments are the humourless spinster types with rulers instead of the cool teacher that let you watch the Life of Brian during religion class. I really think that a company should give time off or “late” starts for their staff to attend networking events during the week. Let them get to know people, potential clients as well as potential staff. Then do the same for blogs and websites and industry discussion forums. Let them to get to know everyone in the industry not just the company. Attach the usual opinion not of the company of course.

The telecoms industry in Ireland is tiny and everyone knows each other and people move back and forth between companies a good deal. They all know of each other from interacting with each other during and after work. CVs seem to be a formality for some people that switch jobs. Wouldn’t that be a good thing? Wouldn’t it be better for you if you could choose who you worked with and HR also were able to identify the best candidates because they knew them a bit more than the show they put on during their interviews?

Mulley won’t get jobs because of this blog…
I figure I’ll get work from my blog (and I do) and my LinkedIn and as a result of my behaviour and misbehaviour on Twitter. I also won’t get work because of my antics (Green Party Communications Manager, Fine Gael Youth Campaign Manager for example) and that’s pretty much fine for me. I wouldn’t like to work with a group that have a cork up their arse because I use curse words and it’s nice there’s no awkwardness when I’m in there. I’d also like if my HR department managed to avoid hiring the headcase who gets upset that I laugh too much or the way I hang up my phone.

eWrite Lite – A cheap and cheerful way for non-techies to update their website

Friday, April 25th, 2008

I met Gordon from eWrite yesterday and towards the end of the meeting he demoed the new eWrite Lite service to me. It impressed me. It’s simple to use, no software is needed to be installed on the client machine. It’s all done via the web browser. I’m sure I’m not alone in having to teach people how to use some visual editor like Frontpage or the like in order for them to update their simple websites.

eWrite Demo screenshot

I’m thinking very basic business sites or sites for sports teams or organisations. eWrite looks after that with an editor that does all the basics but does it right. There’s this whole niche or maybe blurry area for brochure like sites where they need updating now and then but they’re just too small for any web design company to do without charging a few hundred quid. The jobs that generally land on me or kids in the Junior Cert who are neighbours of the business person.

Well, I think now I know what to do with them. Direct them to eWrite. eWrite costs 200 euros a year so certainly doesn’t break the bank.

Phantom 105.2 on the iPhone?

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Not yet. There’s an app for the iPhone called iRadio and it lists Phantom amongst a few 1000 other stations in its directory but when you try and play Phantom it just doesn’t work. There’s been a good few complaints about iRadio’s directory and the fact some stations are barely audible when they play if at all.

New iPhone hand model
Photo owned by mbrubeck (cc)

So does anyone want to build an app for the iPhone to do what iRadio does but in a workable way? I’ll pay something but not something that will cost more than the phone! Phantom’s streams are here. I have a feeling that iRadio might be looking in the wrong location for the mp3 stream but you can’t manually input any stations into this app and I’ve not found any others out there.

Someone did come up with some clever php hackery that told Safari that an mp3 stream was in fact an mp3 but that means you need to have access to a server and redirect the stream.

Then there’s the option of running a webserver on the iPhone that does this. Looks fun for people that play with code on iPhones. (That would not be me) Wrap it into an app though and I’d be happy to use it. Of course there’s more than Phantom out there (don’t tell them I said that), it would be nice to have an app that could choose other Irish radio stations too. Those that stream mp3s and not bloody realplayer media formats.

Facebook Chat arrives

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

It seems a little flimsy especially after using Meebo which feels a bit more robust.

If you log into Facebook this morning you’ll see a new bar all along the bottom, a bit like the status bar on your browser and over on the right of it you’ll see something like this:

Facebook Chat

When you click on it you’ll see all your friends who are online and you can chat to them by clicking on their name. Just like MSN or AIM or Meebo. Nothing new at all to IM but it might get those who don’t use existing IM services to start using this to chat to each other. Another piece of stickiness on the Facebook Venus Flytrap. This is what a chat window looks like. I hope Brian Mc doesn’t mind his chat shown here:

Facebook Chat b

One feature I do like is the Newsfeed updates show up in the chat too. That’s pretty viral.

Facebook Chat 2

So handy for those that don’t have IM and I’m sure just like Facebook Mail, they have plans to allow you access your other IM services soon.

Fringing brilliant – Incoming and outgoing VoIP/Skype on Irish iPhone

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Fring released their client for the iPhone yesterday. Hubba hubba. Skype now on my iPhone as well as Voice over IP, GTalk, MSN and more. Thanks to Fring you can get free and very cheap calls on your iPhone and hell you can even port a landline number to it.

Fring on iPhone

And here comes the but:
Only works on WiFi right now. Edge doesn’t seem to be good enough for it but with the 3G iPhone around the corner, Fring is probably using this as a testbed for the newer version.

Ireland doesn’t have a lot of open WiFi points right now, well unless you are an evil hacker who breaks into eircom wireless modems, so it won’t be as useful or mobile but consider when you travel to the states or the UK with all their open Wifi points. Fecking heaven. Ring my Irish landline and I pickup for free in the States. Well done Fring.

Microsoft to run sweaty obese man beauty contest on Craggy Island

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Or maybe I got the press release arseways… feck

Drink Feck Arse Code

(yes that glass does say Drink Arse Feck Code, but Fr. Jack says Drink Feck Arse Girls )

Microsoft are holding sponsoring the first Developers Developers Developers conference in Galway on May 3rd 2008. The event will take place at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. While the states have Ted talks, this event will have Dougal talks. I hope they get all the speakers to wear red sleeveless jumpers. On the Sunday they’re going to Craggy Island (Inis Oirr) for a walkabout. Have a look at the DDD Ireland website for details of the talks and speakers. It’s all free by the way.

Here’s the biggest evangelist for Developers ever, g’wan Steve Ballmer: