Adrian Short

Why must Sutton Council's bin software fail when Veolia's servers are busy?

Sutton Council has been having problems with its IT systems supporting its waste and recycling contract with Veolia. Online forms to report things like missed bin collections haven’t been working, leaving “customers” who already have a problem with the waste and recycling service itself with an extra problem with the system they need to use to report the problems. A recent council newsletter for councillors as tweeted by Tory opposition leader Tim Crowley is quick to assign the blame to Veolia:

Google InLink spy kiosks targeting kids in London and Leeds

Google’s wifi spy kiosks in London and Leeds have been targeting young children in breach of the service’s privacy policy. The service, branded as BT InLinkUK and run by a Google company called Intersection, encouraged children to “call Santa” and leave him a voicemail on the street-based kiosks over Christmas: A bit of fun whilst out and about over the festive period. Use our Call Santa feature and leave the main man a message.

BT InLink in London: building a privatised "smart city" by stealth

The most important urban development in London is currently being built with little fanfare and even less scrutiny. It will create no office space, no homes, no shops and no leisure facilities yet it will change the shape of London for years to come. Sadiq Khan has nothing to say about it. Local councillors are supposedly powerless to stop it. Londoners haven’t been asked if they want it and even on a clear day it’s quite hard to tell exactly what it is.

Brexit: Control or influence?

Boris Johnson’s £350m a week for the NHS lie is really just part of the whole meta-lie about the EU: that it’s separate from the UK. The EU is a membership institution. The UK is (still) a member state. The EU isn’t “them”, it’s “us” and our partners. While the EU has 28 member states of which the UK is just one, we’re one of the big three (the others being France, Germany) that have huge influence.

Who decides what happens to Charlie Gard, and why?

There are many myths and misconceptions about the Charlie Gard legal case.

Architecture, class and beauty

Grenfell Tower reclad

Many of you will have seen or heard stories that the cladding put on Grenfell Tower was to improve the view of rich(er) neighbours nearby. This cladding is suspected to be a significant factor in the disaster, leading to the rapid and unexpected spread of the fire.

This story isn’t true.

Is #SuttonBinShame a bad data problem?

Sutton Council handed its waste and recycling collection service over to outsourcing firm Veolia at the beginning of April. Veolia’s contract required it to operate a substantially new service in the borough aimed at increasing the recycling rate and reducing the amount of waste going to landfill. This has meant more bins for different types of waste and different collection cycles to those previously operated. It’s fair to say that the new service has been an unmitigated disaster for everyone concerned, not least residents such as myself.

Samaritans Radar: cargo cult technology

Content note: Suicide and depression. So Samaritans Radar has been “suspended” – whatever that means – for now. Samaritans still aren’t taking legal responsibility for the data and we don’t know what’s happened to the personal data of the over 1.9 million people who were being monitored by the app. But despite these very important issues going unaddressed, the discussion has moved on to what comes next. Samaritans have launched an online survey to get people’s feedback on the app and part of the idea there is to give them a sense of where they should go from here.

Samaritans Radar suspended - but it's not over yet

I’m very pleased that Samaritans have finally suspended the Samaritans Radar app this evening. Samaritans Radar was a project that should never have been conceived. By its closure, it enabled Samaritans to monitor over 1.9 million people on Twitter without their knowledge or consent, create sensitive personal data about their emotional and mental health status, and then publish that to effectively anyone. It was unethical and illegal. Samaritans Radar has done real damage to people with mental health problems and caused huge disruption in communities of support on Twitter.

Samaritans Radar: Response to Samaritans' 4 November statement

The Samaritans’ statement this evening entirely fails to address the concerns of people who want Samaritans Radar to close. It’s clear that the people the Samaritans have been listening to most in the last few days are their lawyers. If the Samaritans are to be believed, the Samaritans Radar app: creates no new personal data that isn’t already public (almost certainly impossible) is not controlled by the Samaritans (so who does control it?