As we both went through the process of trying to wrap our heads around the 1700-page Ofcom consultation on the Online Safety Act, which we both must do for our respective clients, geek tech lawyer par excellence Neil Brown did exactly what I did, which was procrastinate the task by blogging about it. He wrote:
If yesterday’s blog post about the Investigatory Powers Amendment Act didn’t cause you to lose the will to live, today you also have 1700+ pages of draft Ofcom guidance to read and respond to, as their round one of Online Safety Act enforcement.
That is what I shall be wonking this week for a client, as much as I’d love to wonk the other thing.
As you read through both and prepare your responses and strategies, as you should be doing, please remember that neither of these legislative processes are about “big tech” “social media” “tech giants”, and anyone who tells you so is full of shite: these processes impact any service of any size in any country which can be accessed in the UK, regardless of innocence or guilt.
Our policymakers assume the latter.
By the way: as you’re doing exactly what I am doing today, which is figuring out how on earth you even create a workplan to turn 1700 pages of cross-referenced consultation language into an actionable task, remember that the impact assessment for the Act famously said that getting to grips with the scope of compliance could be done in just over four hours by a regulatory professional on a wage of £20.62 per hour.
Yesterday I was rudely summoned away from a beautiful autumn day of wild foraging by The King.
Specifically, I was given a heads-up about one of the bills which would be in yesterday’s King’s Speech – the first of the King’s reign, and the first and only one of Rishi Sunak’s time in office.
The bill in question is the Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill, the outcome of a consultation held over the summer, which I obviously missed being out of work. (Neil Brown did not miss one word from his tech lawyer perspective, and TechUK were equally diligent from the service provider perspective.) There was also an independent review which requires prior knowledge of the IPA.
The problem is that aside from the rather legalistic topics dealt with in the summer consultation and independent review, some of which do indeed have merit, the politicians have stepped in.
Normally I wouldn’t waste my time reacting to churnalism – the adage about getting into a fight with a pig comes to mind – but the other day I saw an example of the genre which not only hit rock bottom, but then proceeded to dig. It related to UK internet regulation, which until last year was my line of work. And it’s Scottish, so I have to step up.
I cannot start the story where I want to start it, because I have to start it where everyone else who was there starts it. It’s how we calibrate our positions, time-stamped and geo-coordinated to the precise moments and exact locations where each of us was standing when we looked up to see it.
The story of that day always starts with the colour of the sky. It was blue.
And just like that, I went back to work. You couldn’t make it up: after 51 weeks of unemployment and job searching, I got multiple freelance contracts in a single week.
And I am very much back at it: Read More
Friday funnies abounded this morning, as a tech lobbying organisation published a blog post that is probably going to get somebody fired:
This is remarkable. The age verification lobbyists have issued a rambling retort to a @bazzacollins piece that looks very much like they pasted the unedited rough draft into the post and accidentally hit "publish". https://t.co/7xezgE6P8N
— Heather Burns (@WebDevLaw) September 1, 2023
One line in their piece jumped out at me and a lot of people too:
“If we can put a man on the moon, we can prove your age online without putting your privacy or personal data at risk.”
Now, leaving aside the dubious reasoning behind comparing tech regulation in 2023 to the American moonshot campaign of 1963-1969,
There’s something important to be said about that sentence – something that has very apt parallels for our own issues today, including the internet regulation debate it tried to reference.
There’s even a lesson to teach. A positive one.
So if you waft space geekery in my general direction, hoo boy, I am activated. This is my happy place. Strap in, folks, I’m coming in hot.
This guide to a US online “child safety” law written for young people, explaining why they should in fact oppose it, is remarkable for an unexpected reason:
we have never seen anything like this, here in the UK, explaining draft legislation allegedly in young peoples’ interest in language they can understand and act on.
Why is that?
I have had quite a few requests from folks, and followers, who want me to join this or that social media app so that they can keep in touch with me, as the birdsite degrades further by the day.
I’m starting to feel like a broken record on my answer to their questions, so for anyone looking for me:
Today there was some policy-related manufactured drama around the question of whether reading some sci-fi, at a tender age, can influence a child’s future career.
That question doesn’t even need an answer – of course it can.
When I was a university student in the 90s, I bought a housekeeping manual which I still have, and still use. It’s one of those books that tells you the right way to do laundry, how to set a table, how to mend your clothes, how not to accidentally kill yourself with fire, and that sort of thing. The book is very 1990s, very American, and very middle class – let’s face it, I have never needed to know the proper way to clean a chandelier – but that somehow adds to its charm. (Do buy a copy if you’d like to experience it.)
A brief admin announcement: after some difficult but necessary soul-searching on both our parts, Smashing Magazine has today made the ebook version of Understanding Privacy available on Amazon.
Here’s a button, because I like playing with this theme’s shortcodes.Get Understanding Privacy on Amazon
That link goes to the American Amazon site. If you try it in your own, it should work in your own currency; for example, I can see it on the UK site in the king’s own sterling here. Try changing the .com in the URL to your national TLD.
Of course, you can still order the ebook version, or the ebook + gorgeous hard copy version, on Smashing’s own site.
If you’re new to my book, you can get to know it here.
You gotta do what you gotta do
Obviously I have very mixed feelings about this tough but necessary decision to “go corporate”.