UK Government Spaceport Sited in Worst Place

The government is getting excited, the UK is set for new space age! Launching rockets into space from Scotland, supported by the taxpayers with spaceflight grants worth over £30 million as part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy. Sutherland at latitude: 58° 10′ 18.00″ N will be the northernmost operational spaceport in the world. The reason spaceports are usually and preferably sited near the Equator is because that is where the Earth’s rotational speed is the highest. Rockets launched from sites near the Equator get an additional natural boost that helps save the cost of putting in extra fuel and boosters. So putting a spaceport in the North of a northern hemisphere country is just plain dumb.

This is why government industrial strategies are a bad idea. Politicians pick projects for political reasons, “local jobs” – a for-profit enterprise would never consider a launch site at this a northern latitude. There are plenty of British territories nearer the Equator. Even Cornwall would be a better launch site…

Labour Party’s Data Broker Fined £140,000 By Information Commissioner

The company from which Labour bought the personal data of more than a million individuals during the 2017 election has been fined £140,000 by the Information Commissioner for a “serious contravention” of the Data Protection Act.

The Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that Lifecycle Marketing Mother and Baby Ltd (LCMB), trading as Emma’s Diary

“…contravened DPP1 by selling the personal data of more than 1 million individuals to the Labour Party for use in the Labour Party’s general election campaign in 2AL7 without informing those individuals that it might do so, As a result, LCMB processed that personal data unfairly and without satisfying any processing condition under Schedule 2 DPA.”

The ICO found:

In May 2017, LCMB supplied 7,065,220 records to Experian Marketing Services under a data supply agreement listing the Labour Party as Experian’s client. The data supply agreement specified the delivery date for the data as 5 May 2017…

Each record comprised the following personal data: name of parent, household address, the presence of children up to 5 years old and date of birth of both mother and child. The records thus comprised the personal data of both mothers and young children. LCMB obtained that personal data via its online registration on its website and via an offline registration form.

Experian, apparently acting as an agent or processor on behalf of the Labour Party, loaded those records onto a database it hosted for the Labour Party to assist the Labour Party with a direct marketing mail campaign for the general election in 2017. LCMB told the Commissioner that the records it supplied would have helped the Labour Party send political marketing communications to people with young children about, for example, Labour’s intention to protect Sure Start centres. This was done in the constituencies for 106 parliamentary seats.

According to LCMB, the records it disclosed were deleted by Experian following the general election on B June 2017. In its letter to the Commissioner of 30 January 2018, LCMB told the Commissioner that “All data supplied agreed to be contacted via the postal channel and by 3rd party marketers and the usage of the mums’ data is fully outlined within or Privacy Policy,” It transpired, however, that this was not the case.

A Labour spokesman says the party will no longer be using the company and will be reviewing how they purchase their data. Labour they insist bought the data in good faith. There is no indication the party itself has broken the law.

“We welcome the ICO’s report. The Labour Party holds data from a variety of sources, like all UK political parties. We have neither bought nor used Emma’s Diary data since the 2017 general election and we will be reviewing our approach to acquiring data from third parties in light of the ICO’s report.”

Labour MPs have been tweeting about the ICO report on Facebook data breaches all day. Oddly none have mentioned the above finding. Sure Carole Cadwalladr will be splashing on this for the Observer this weekend…

Williamson Heckled By Siri

Gavin Williamson’s phone goes off as he speaks at the despatch box. Was he heckled by the sound of his own voice? One of his Insta stories from the Commons chamber? With the audio turned up, it turns out it was actually Siri: “I’ve found something on the web for Syrian Democratic Forces”

Perhaps soon AI will be able to replace MPs as lobby fodder. Dread to think what else Siri has overheard the Defence Secretary say…

Assange Out In July?

Not a very subtle prod to Julian Assange here from FCO minister Alan Duncan, assuring him that he will be given medical attention if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy. Interesting that this follows the Guardian reporting that he may be on the way out of the Embassy soon – Guido hears similar whispers. Watch this space…

Telegraph Tech Teething Problems

The talk inside the Telegraph at the moment is that plans are being drawn up to improve their embarrassing gender pay gap – at 35%, the biggest of any UK newspaper or broadcaster – by firing a load more male executives. That’s one way to level things up…

In order to dispel the bloodbath narrative there has been a mad scramble to launch a big new tech team. Yesterday 12 new appointments were announced as the paper tries to show some signs of life. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The plan was to hire at least 14 tech journalists, one in London and one in California, but they couldn’t fill the other jobs. A real sign of the times that the Telegraph wants a technology correspondent in California and can’t convince anyone to do it. Several hacks were tapped up internally, and plenty more elsewhere, but no-one wants to go near it because they think the job will be canned in a year…

Labour MP CC’s All Constituents to GDPR Email

Corbynista MP Marsha De Cordova has chosen GPDR day to unleash an utterly spectacular data protection fail. In an effort to comply with the new data measures, the Battersea MP’s office sent a ‘GDPR Consent Form’ to constituents via email. There was just one problem. Her office put every constituent’s email in the address line, rather than BCC, therefore sharing dozens of personal emails addresses without permission. Good work…

Intriguingly, De Cordova’s GDPR form – by which constituents can give permission to others to handle casework on their behalf – states:

“In some cases, we may need to contact outside agencies regarding your case.  They often require additional information such as your Date of Birth, National Insurance Number and any reference numbers you may have obtained through previous contact with the agency.  Please supply us with this information where appropriate in the section below.”

So in order to sign up to the MP’s GDPR-compliant process, constituents have to surrender even more of their personal information. MPs are having a GDPR meltdown, but this takes some beating…

Crowdpac UK Shuts

Crowdpac, the Steve Hilton backed start-up to crowd fund political campaigns, is shutting down its UK arm today. Having raised only £600,000 since 2014 through the Crowdpac platform, it was losing money. Originally it was non-partisan and the intention was to bring some transparency to political funding.

It switched in 2016 to being a left-wing fundraising platform for Trump-hating Remainers. That might have worked but the management were pretty clueless about marketing and the whole vibe just came over as very US corporate in comparison to Momentum. The crowdfunding sector is very profitable when it works, Crowdpac just never achieved the necessary critical mass…

Barnier’s Lost in Space Over Galileo

Remainers are becoming more and more excited over the impact of Brexit on UK participation in EU space activities, especially the Galileo satellite network. The Galileo navigation system is the EU’s rival to US-owned GPS. A key element of the system, designed for military and emergency services, is a timing and navigation signal called the PRS (Public Regulated Service). The European Commission says the UK will not be able to access the PRS without further agreements after Brexit. Michel Barnier is weaponising the issue in his latest attempt at brinkmanship. He said yesterday:

“Third countries and their companies cannot participate in the development of security-sensitive matters.”

That’s more than a bit rich from Barnier: British experts designed much of the cryptography behind the system and developed the security technology protecting PRS. The satellites are currently controlled from Portsmouth. UK companies control the crucial security information – those firms have been reminded by ministers that they should not enter into new Galileo contracts in response to EU posturing. Moreover, the UK has poured £1.2 billion of taxpayers’ money into developing the system. It is already years late. If the EU makes an issue of it, the British will withdraw, sending costs spiralling for the EU-27 and delaying the project even further due to their lack of expertise…

Meanwhile, the UK government has already started work on its own system. A UK Space Agency spokesman said:

“The UK Space Agency is leading the work to develop options for a British alternative to Galileo, to guarantee our satellite positioning, navigation and timing needs are met in the future.”

Taking back control to infinity and beyond?

Switzerland and Canada are member countries of the European Space Agency without being in the EU or, in Canada’s case, europe. This will, as with Euratom and the Open Skies Agreement, turn out to be bluster on both sides and a deal will be done…

Labour Revoke Uber’s Licence in Brighton

The Labour administration that runs Brighton and Hove City council has revoked Uber’s licence to operate in the city. They are citing a 2016 data breach by American hackers to declare that Uber do not meet the fit and proper persons test. Uber will appeal, if they lose Brighton residents will no longer be able to use the taxi app. Socialism isn’t cool, kids…

UK Tech Investment Surges 115%

We were warned before the referendum by George Osborne, economists, think tanks, the IMF, OECD and investment banks that business confidence would collapse and investment would dry up if Britain voted to Brexit. Last year, the first full year when investors knew Britain would be Brexiting, saw tech investment hit a record with €7.1 billion* raised, a 115% year-on-year increase in investment in the high-tech industries and firms of the future. That is more than France and Germany combined…

Source: a report by technology investment firm GP Bullhound.

Twitter Down

Twitter is down – thousands of users have reported service interruptions and difficulties accessing their timelines. The Down Detector website recorded a spike in outages. TweetDeck seems unaffected. You’ve gone too far this time, Vlad…

590 Million Facebook Profiles Potentially Harvested By Guardian App

The Observer’s main revelation over the last couple of weeks has been their claim that Cambridge Analytica harvested data from 50 million Facebook accounts. They found that CA’s Aleksander Kogan collected data from 270,000 accounts and was able to access data from all their friends – on average 185 users per account – making up a total of 50 million. This does seem to add up, the most recent figures suggest the median number of Facebook friends per account is just under 200. 

The Guardian app’s privacy policy reveals they also collect data from your Facebook account, and the accounts of all your friends. This data includes “your name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID and any other information you choose to share according to your Facebook account settings, as well as the user details of your Facebook friends”. You have to give permission to have your data, and that of your friends, collected if you want to use the app. This has been happening for years…

The Guardian say their app has 3.2 million active users. If those users have on average 185 Facebook friends each, that means the Guardian has potentially accessed the personal Facebook data of something like 592 million accounts. That is more than ten times the number Cambridge Analytica reportedly got hold of. This is a conservative estimate as it only includes “active” users of the Guardian app – it will have been downloaded by many more down the years. Will Damian Collins be hauling the head of data and CEO of the Guardian in front of his select committee?

Cadwalladr’s Sunday Scoop: Top Remainer Paid AIQ

Guido hears Carole Cadwalladr has another big scoop lined up for Sunday about money paid to the Canadian digital marketing firm AggregateIQ. Carole has emailed Michael Gove asking what AIQ did for his leadership campaign in the summer of 2016. Has she uncovered a new layer to the great Brexit conspiracy? It turns out AIQ was paid £2,720.46 in July 2016 to set up the campaign website. The payment was put through by campaign manager Nick Boles, a prominent Remainer and Stronger In campaigner. Which slightly throws a spanner in the works for Carole’s next sinister Brexiteer flow chart. Just how deep does the conspiracy go? 

Guardian App Harvests Your and Your Friends’ Facebook Data

The Guardian app harvests your personal data from your Facebook page and also the data of all of your friends – the exact same central allegation the Observer has been making against Cambridge Analytica. The privacy policy of the Guardian Facebook app makes clear if you don’t grant permission to have your and your friends’ social media data harvested you cannot use the app:

When you first access the App, for example by clicking on a link to a Guardian article from your Facebook newsfeed, you will be presented with a Facebook permissions page, which will advise you about the Facebook information you will be sharing with the App and other Facebook users. You can then decide whether or not to share your Facebook information by using the App. If you decide not to grant permission you will not be able to use the App. 

By granting permission you will be agreeing to share your Facebook user details (including your name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID and any other information you choose to share according to your Facebook account settings) as well as the user details of your Facebook friends, and information about your use of the App, for example, the articles you are reading.”

The Guardian’s general privacy policy also reveals they sell your “behavioural data” to third parties:

“We may also share anonymised behavioural data with advertising partners, including commercial organisations that fund content labelled ‘Supported by’, ‘Paid content/Paid for by’ or ‘Advertiser content/from our advertisers’. This may mean that when you are on other websites, you will be shown advertising based on your behaviour on theguardian.com. We may also show you advertising on our site based on your behaviour on other sites.

They also reveal the Guardian uses data from third-party surveys – this is exactly how Aleksandr Kogan got his data for Cambridge Analytica:

“To assist us in our marketing, in addition to the data that you provide to us if you register, we may also obtain data from trusted third parties to help us understand what you might be interested in. This ‘profiling’ information is produced from a variety of sources, including publicly available data (such as the electoral roll) or from sources such as surveys and polls where you have given your permission for your data to be shared.”

Did the Guardian sell your behavioural data to Cambridge Analytica? Are they the missing piece of the jigsaw that blows this whole conspiracy wide open? Over to you, Carole…

Observer’s Whistleblower Personally Offered to Harvest Data For Vote Leave

The whistleblower who says social media data harvesting is “grossly unethical” personally wrote a pitch to Vote Leave offering to harvest data for them during the referendum campaign, Guido can reveal. Christopher Wylie, the pink-haired former Cambridge Analytica employee turned Observer whistleblower, has spent the last week talking up his opposition to data harvesting:

“It was a grossly unethical experiment because you are playing with an entire country, the psychology of an entire country without their consent or awareness… It’s like Nixon on steroids.”

Yet after Wylie left Cambridge Analytica, he sent a pitch to Vote Leave offering to harvest data for them during the referendum. In a pitch sent to Vote Leave’s Dominic Cummings in January 2016, Wylie wrote:

“We will trial social data harvesting for Vote Leave and use some of our own technology to target and acquire online data about UK voters.”

Wylie went on:

“Several online panels would be set up to target a cross section of voters… We would try to further increase the sample by accessing the social networks of the panel respondents. We would also harvest online and social data”

This is the email Wylie sent to Cummings personally offering to harvest data:

Click to enlarge

This is Cummings’ reply rejecting Wylie’s offer:

Click to enlarge

You can read Wylie’s rejected pitch to Vote Leave in full here. And you can read Cummings’ blog post responding to the latest Observer claims, and explaining how he thought Wylie was a “charlatan“, here.

The Observer and other Remainers seem determined to use Wylie’s claims about “unethical” data harvesting to somehow discredit the referendum result. What they haven’t mentioned is Wylie was himself offering to harvest data for Vote Leave after he left Cambridge Analytica. How does he explain that one?

MPs Told: ‘Don’t Tell People Your Passwords’

The Information Commissioner’s office has written to MPs to remind them not to share their usernames and passwords with others. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham wrote to all MPs this week:

“My office observed reports from social media in early December 2017 in which a number of Members openly revealed their practice of sharing their login details and passwords. I was concerned by these reports and have decided to write to all Members to highlight the importance of following good practice in respect of password management and information security.”

During the Damian Green scandal press reports noted the practice of MPs sharing their passwords with staff. Sharing passwords could give MPs plausible deniability over their online actions…

The letter from the ICO came to MPs in the notoriously impregnable form of a Microsoft Word document. The properties tab in Word revealed the username of the document’s author and members of ICO staff who had edited it. Some way to go to achieve max info sec…

Standard – Deliveroo Love In

Guido cannot think what Deliveroo have to do in return for the endless puff pieces and positive coverage the Evening Standard gives them. In the last few months the Standard has written a glowing profile of Deliveroo’s founder and top and tailed multiple Deliveroo press releases on how they help feed the hungry and offer free food to their rivals’ customers. Well if you can’t use the editorship to help out your close friend and former adviser, now Deliveroo’s head of global comms, what’s the point? 

49 Russian Twitter Trolls Sent Just 942 Tweets During Referendum

Over in Washington, Twitter’s Nick Pickles has told grandstanding Damian Collins and his Culture, Media and Sport select committee that the company detected just 49 accounts linked to a Russian “troll factory”, which sent out a mere 942 tweets during the EU referendum. This is 0.005% of the total number of accounts that tweeted about the referendum. Earlier Collins lost it with Facebook’s representative for denying there was any Russian intervention, snapping: “But you haven’t looked! You haven’t looked!”, and even implying Facebook was lucky not to be “closed down” and its executives “face prosecution. Almost as if Collins is an arch-Remainer using his position to push the Russia / Brexit conspiracy theory, even when the tech companies themselves say it’s a load of nonsense…

Matt Hancock: ‘I’m Sorry I’m Not the Prime Minister’

Silicon Roundabout’s Matt Hancock spoke at the 10 Downing Street charities reception on Monday night. Guido’s co-conspirator recounts his opener:

“Hello and welcome to Number Ten.

“Firstly, I’d like to apologise that I’m not the Prime Minister… [laughter]

“But it’s an honour to address so many people who do so much, working tirelessly every day, to make life better for the citizens of this country.”

If only there was an app where we could all share these gems…

Matt Hancock Calls App Britain

They may have the Silicon chip but we have the Silicon chap: Matt Hancock. The Culture Secretary is calling app Britain – he has created a new social network where fans can keep up with his every move.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Dr Alexander Kogan, the app developer who originally harvested the Facebook data, said…

“I think what Cambridge Analytica has tried to sell is magic and made claims this is incredibly accurate and it tells you everything there is to tell about you. But I think the reality is it’s not that. If you sit down and you really work through the statistics and you think what does a correlation of point three means, those claims quickly fall apart. And that’s something any person with a statistical background can go and do.”

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