Tag Archives: really bad ideas that need to be reversed

Nothing To Hide (Apparently)

Remember when the government rolls out the fallacy of ‘If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear’? They normally do this when talking about the ability to spy on all our emails and phone calls, install CCTV in our homes and other such privacy busting measures. After all, the argument goes, if we are all open and honest about everything then crime, terrorism and pedophiles will no longer exist.

(I’ll not delve too deeply into that particular fallacy)

Well it seems that they have not taken this motto to their own breast. Instead the government has decided to veto the information commissioners order to reveal the NHS Risk Register.

Let me explain the risk register, because part of the reason the government says it wants to keep this secret is because it is awfully complicated and it is unlike us mere members of the public could ever understand it.

The NHS risk register is how to measure the risk of something bad happening due to to governments changes. It does this by measuring two things – how likely something is to happen and how bad it would be if that something did happen. It measures both of these elements on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the worst.

So for example – rating the likelihood of something bad happening, you would give ‘Being hit by a meteorite’ a 1 because it is incredibly unlikely. You would give ‘Being hit by a bus’ a 2 because it is more likely (though not common), and you would give ‘catch a cold’ a 5 because it is really quite likely.

Then you rate the impact that a bad thing would have, again on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the worst. So ‘Being hit by a meteorite’ would be a 5 because it’s likely to kill you stone dead. ‘Being hit by a bus’ is probably a 4, it’s likely to do some lasting damage to you. ‘Catching a cold’ would be a 1 because it’s unlikely to do very much harm to you.

You then multiply these two numbers together to get the relative risk. So ‘being hit by a meteorite’ would be a 5 (1×5) because while it is really nasty it’s unlikely to happen. ‘Being hit by a bus’ would be a 8 (4×2) and ‘Catching a cold’ would be a 5 (1×5) because although it is likely in the wet and cold climate of the UK the actual harm is quite small.

These numbers are actually based on science, previous evidence and clever predictions- unlike what i have just done these numbers are not just plucked out of thin air. It’s a good way of managing and mitigating the harm of the risks involved in any activity.

That is the risk register in a nutshell. It’s the equivalent of buying a car after kicking the tyres and checking that it’s not two cars welded into one.

As the NHS reform bill went through the various stages of being voted on by the commons and the lords, a number of people who were to vote on it asked if they might actually look at the risk register – kick the tyres as it were. At each request the government refused. Why would the people voting for this legislation need to see if this car is a ringer? Don’t you trust the government? You must be some sort of Trotsky.

At one point in the lords, they actually voted against seeing the risk register. I believe this is the lord’s version of sticking their fingers in their ears and humming loudly.

The information commission, after a freedom of information request, ruled that the government should publish the risk register, the government then went to a number of different courts in an effort to not do this. However, none of the courts agreed with the government because, well, they aren’t idiots.

Yesterday the government invoked the nuclear option – a veto for ‘exceptional circumstances’. Stating that the reason for this veto was because ‘otherwise the civil service might tell lies if they realise that the plebs might look at their working out’.

Essentially the government is admitting that the risk register is full of 4×4 and 5×5 risks and that if the public were to see this then they might start questioning if the NHS reform bill was actually worth the risk. Why else would you work so harm to hide something if it’s contents were not explosive to your governing of the UK?

In the Queens speech today one plan was for ‘businesses to have less inspection’. Ostensibly so that they can get on with the business of making profit rather than, I dunno, being in compliance with the law. I suspect that this will apply to all those private companies taking over parts of the NHS – After all, actually inspecting them might show that the companies involved may not have their patient’s best interests at heart. And that would be damaging to the government.

I would be willing to put money on the risk register containing a 4×4 risk of ‘Private healthcare companies break the law and provide sub-standard service’…


This blogpost was written while listening to Rob Dougan ‘Furious Angels’


‘Give us 30% or Vinnie breaks your legs’

I’m trying to get my head around how astoundingly stupid Apple can be.

The new (or possibly ‘it’s always been this way, but now we are enforcing it’) policy of in-app purchases for Apple products smells suspiciously like extortion to me.

It works like this – You download an app, let’s say the Kindle app that I mentioned in my last post. If you want to buy content for that app, in this case a kindle book, you are allowed to go, via a button in the app itself, to the Amazon website where the transaction is made.

Apple has changed this so that, in order to have your app allowed in the store, you must make the purchase available within the app itself.  And give Apple 30% of the money you’ve charged the customer.

In the case of the Kindle app – despite not owning the book, not providing the service that lets you browse books and not hosting and serving the file to your device – Apple demand 30%

Amazon do something similar for people who self-publish their ebooks, they take 30%, but in return they run the website, host the file, serve the file and have a pretty robust e-commerce back-end to the website that takes care of all the credit card charges.

Apple do nothing – and charge 30%.

The worst thing is that this is mandated. In my reading of the policy, Amazon will have to offer in-app purchases and give Apple their 30%  Amazon will not be allowed to only offer books on their website. They are also not allowed to bump up the price of their ebooks by 30% to cover for the Apple percentage, as that is specifically ‘against the rules’.

It’s not just Amazon, Comixology (that I adore) will be hit in a similar way, as will anyone else wanting to make content for applications in the iPhone/iPad store.

So, what choice does Amazon and other companies have if they want to keep playing in the iOS market?

1) Bump their prices up by 30% across all their outlets in order to pay the Apple tax.

2) Tell Apple to shove their protection racket where the sun doesn’t shine and withdraw from the platform all together.

3) Go to the courts and start making noises about anti-trust and anti-competitive behaviour.

I’m hoping that they go for option 3. I love the Kindle for iPad app, I adore the Comixology for iPad app. I use my Tesco shopping app all the time.

Tesco shopping app?

The Tesco shopping app lets me buy my groceries from the comfort of my sofa. But does my Chicken and Mushroom Fray Bentos pie count as an in-app purchase?  Technically it would appear so – in which case Apple may start claiming that they are entitled to get their 30% of my shopping bill.

(I think that Tesco will be safe as the in-app purchasing rules state ‘content’, not ‘yummy pies’)

I await the day that Apple start demanding 30% of the cost of the electricity that I use to charge my iPhone on the same basis.  Or that, as Safari can be used to see adverts on the web, that Google hands over 30% of their ad revenue.

Realistically – I see some rumbling of lawsuits from Amazon and others and Apple then backing down.

That, or Kindle for iPad and other similar software going ‘jailbreak only’.