#TechTop3 – Our three top tech stories of the week

By August 1, 2014EU

By the London technology team

Lords reports on how to deal with ‘revenge porn’ and the ‘right to be forgotten’

It was a high profile week for ‘revenge porn’ with widespread coverage; from a highly sought after spot on the Today programme to a double page spread in the Sun. Activity was partially fuelled as a result of the publication of the Lords Communications Committee’s first report into social media and criminal offences. The Committee recognised the value of social media but criticised the activities of a small minority responsible for “spoiling it for everyone else”, in reference to four particular activities: cyber-bullying, trolling, revenge porn and virtual mobbing.

Whilst ‘revenge porn’ was just one of the issues examined by the Committee it gathered the vast majority of related press coverage, illustrating the strength of feeling around this growing phenomenon. The Committee concluded that existing laws were sufficient for dealing with most social media offences but did note that the treatment of incidents of revenge pornography deserved “further consideration”. It is unlikely that the debate over how to deal with ‘revenge porn’ will end anytime soon.

In addition, the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee F issued a damning report on the ‘Right to be forgotten’ judgement, calling it “unworkable, unreasonable, and wrong in principle”. The report stated that there were several reasons why the judgement will not work in practice, and questioned whether it was desirable for a search engine to be the ones who judge content.  With the House of Lords only rising on Wednesday, the report gained high profile favourable coverage in The Guardian, Daily Mail, The Independent and BBC News.

The internet is our best friend, apparently

Kate Bussmann wrote a great piece in the Telegraph this week about our increasing reliance on the internet. Plenty of pieces have been written already about how we rely on the internet for everyday tasks, however this article looks in depth at how the internet has become people’s most trusted confidant. She highlights several examples of how people use the online world for emotional support, outsourcing complex personal issues to those posting on forums, rather than talk to someone they actually know.

Bussmann also makes a point that you can learn a lot about someone from their search history, and whilst saying “our search histories have become a mirror to every aspect of our lives” is probably a bit of a stretch, she certainly has a point about the way they can itemise users concerns and fears. The article also lists the most popular Google questions, which is never dull.

The article is available in full here.

Big infrastructure plans for London

With the uncertainty about Boris Johnson’s short term ambitions it was an interesting week for the Mayor of London to publish his “London Infrastructure Plan 2050”. The £1.3 trillion plan includes several projects Johnson believes are necessary to keep London a global city, such as transport (including the Thames estuary airport), utilities, housing, green spaces and digital connectivity. Specific technology plans include:

  • Rolling out 5G mobile broadband across in London by 2020.
  • Ensuring 100% superfast broadband coverage in London, using fibre and other technologies.
  • Smart utility grids, traffic control and bringing ‘the internet of things’ to London.
  • Mayoral control over telecommunications planning.

Given the long term vision and wide scope of the infrastructure plan, the report is light on detail, namely on how to actually fund the plan, and it also pre-empts decisions around localism and the Airports Commission’s recommendations.  Politically, infrastructure is a national vote winner, but can run in to sustained local resistance, and Johnson is known to have studied the plans of former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who got a controversial $50bn infrastructure plan approved in California. It also helps Johnson in his quest for a lasting legacy regardless of whether or not he stands in next year’s General Election.

The full report can be seen here and a presentation here.