By January 30, 2015EU insight

By the London technology team

Online voting: Goodbye apathy?

This week saw the publication of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy’s report ‘Open Up’. Set up in November 2013, the Commission examined how Parliament could make better use of technology and better engage with citizens. 

Published 100 days ahead of the 2015 General Election, it recommends that secure online voting should be an option for all voters by 2020. With voter apathy and mistrust for Parliamentarians an ongoing issue, the report calls on the Commons to ensure that everyone understands what it does by 2020. It also urges a fully interactive and digital Commons by 2020 and the creation of an online forum for public participation after the election.

It remains to be seen just how much progress will be made – the Commission will meet in a year’s time to review this but may face stiff opposition from ‘traditional’ Parliamentarians who see such changes as untenable.

You can find the report in full here and an excellent summary by Oliver Wright in The Independent.

Peers claim Snapchat and Whatsapp aided ISIS

During the debate on the amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill (CTSB) which would, if accepted, have effectively introduced the abandoned and much maligned draft Communications Bill, a number of bizarre claims were made by  peers.  Lord King, the former Defence Secretary admitted that he knew nothing about both WhatsApp and Snapchat, but warned his colleagues that ‘terrorists and jihadists do’. He then proceeded to attribute ISIL’s advance across Syria and Iraq to their intelligent use of both systems.

Whilst WhatsApp and Snapchat communications are encrypted, the claim that these apps are somehow partially to blame for ISIL and its worrying advance across the Middle East is somewhat extreme. Later on in the debate, Lord Blair, made comments claiming that all ‘transmissions’ over VoIP are ‘untraceable’ and that the system is commonly used by terrorists and criminals.

In the end, the amendments to the Bill were withdrawn and it is perhaps a considerable relief that these poorly informed members of the House of Lords’ efforts to radically transform the laws governing access to communications data were in vain.

Lord King’s comments were covered widely in the media, with the Guido Fawkes blog providing particularly witty and pithy coverage.

Apple have very fruitful quarter

Apple shareholders were delighted this week as the fruity electronics manufacturer saw the highest ever quarterly profits ($37bn) recorded by any company, due to the new iPhone shifting 74.5m units (equal to 1% of the entire world). It shows they are still in the game, having lost market share to rival firms in recent years.

However all is not what it seems, as most of these units are not with consumers, but with telcos who buy them in bulk and sell them over time. Apple won’t mind as they still get paid and telcos know selling premium handsets is a long game as high-end phones tend to be sold on lucrative two year contracts, with only a small percentage of consumers eligible to upgrade at any given time. Only a few consumers actually buy premium phones outright (even though it’s usually better value for money), or pay an early exit fee, despite the stage-managed hysteria and long queues outside Apple stores.

The company now sits on a market cap of $650bn and cash reserves of $120bn and whilst the shareholders must be happy, they are also nervous. Company results day also means increased political and media interest in tax affairs, with Apple criticised alongside other tech firms for how they are structured.

There was a glut of Apple stories this week, with interesting pieces by  Oscar Williams-Grut in  the Independent, Sean Poulter in the Daily Mail and Ben Wright in the Daily Telegraph.