Posts Tagged ‘google’

Labour Digital: Welcome to the Brave New World

10/03/2014, 11:03:44 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The internet, claims the opening sentence of The New Digital Age, the bestseller by Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, is among the few things that humans have built that they don’t truly understand. Labour has, however, resolved to learn and act accordingly.

That is the goal of Labour Digital, launched last week at Google Campus. The crossbencher Martha Lane Fox and Labour’s Parry Mitchell, the digital entrepreneurs of the upper house, spoke, as did John McTernan, who will gather digital policy ideas for the next Labour manifesto.

Lane Fox and Mitchell both focused on the digital divide – unequal access to digital technologies. Some are highly digitally literate, many are not, denying them tremendous benefits. As an egalitarian party, correcting this should be a Labour priority.

For 20 years, Labour spokespeople have stressed the need for adaptation to globalisation. Yet, in a seminal mid-1990s paper, Richard Freeman, a Harvard economist, attributed more importance to technological change in determining the wages of the low skilled than international trade. Labour spokespeople, however, have less frequently highlighted the importance of adaptation to technological change.


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The Sunday review: Starbucks

09/12/2012, 08:00:58 AM

by Anthony Painter

I imagine the first Starbucks store that opened in Pike Place market in Seattle was quite an exciting affair. The coffee was probably great. It must have been a remarkable local institution. Four decades later, Starbucks is now synonymous with corporate greed. What a few weeks it’s had – a long way from Pike Place.

What has taken place shows that direct action works. No, not UK Uncut. But that of MPs. Step forward Margaret Hodge, a name mostly associated with New Labour. Who’d have thought it? But when a special report appeared on Reuters in the middle of October, it was the House of Commons public accounts committee that reacted. A few weeks later and Starbucks is £20 million out of pocket. Investigative journalism and a backbench House of Commons committee – it doesn’t get much more old politics than that but it did the trick.

Starbucks seem pretty par for the course when it comes to multinational tax avoidance. In this case, moral outrage seems to have done the trick as thousands turned away from Starbucks, helped by campaigns such as 38 Degrees (UK Uncut have a habit of putting people off rather than encouraging them to join their campaigns – whatever the claims of the direct action left or paranoid right). But moral outrage only goes so far. Starbucks will be hoping it’s all died down in a couple of years and then get back to business as usual.


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Demonstrating against Google? Because of the anti-Islam film? You’re kidding right?

17/10/2012, 07:00:39 AM

by Rob Marchant

On Monday, the Telegraph reported an attendance of over ten thousand at a demonstration outside the UK headquarters of Google, over the controversial film “The Innocence of Muslims”.

The first point to note is that these are only a small handful of the 1.6 million Muslims who live in Britain, and who care passionately enough about the subject to get up and do something, in this case to try to ban it. Yes, we can and should respect the fact that some of our population are annoyed at the negative portrayal of their religion, and that they have the right to demonstrate (the vast majority of Muslims very likely see this news and merely shrug, or are possibly even irritated by the counter-productivity of the protests themselves).

But perhaps it is important is that those other thousands of sensible, free-speech-loving Muslims do not merely shrug, and that they can engage with the idea that, however irritating, banning is not the answer. In particular, it is important that their religious leaders, and so-called “community leaders”, do not merely shrug, or worse, indulge this silliness.

In part, it’s about free speech, but in part, it’s also about the long-term health of this religion: because there seems to be an existential crisis developing within it, a polarisation between moderate and extremist which has been slowly brewing for decades over the twentieth century which is making  for an explosive collision with progressive, humanitarian values in the twenty-first.


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Can it be right to have a transparent public sector while private companies grow rich off people’s personal information?

02/11/2010, 12:30:17 PM

by Ian Lucas

ONE of the focuses of civil liberties campaigners in recent years has been on the growth of information held about individuals by the state.

Yet while these concerns have grown, it is remarkable how little attention has been paid to the amounts of data held on individuals by private companies. The area is slowly coming under scrutiny – and is creating a difficult area for the government to regulate.

The pitfalls and problems were laid out in a recent debate in Westminster Hall – notable for several reasons, not least the number of Tory MPs, in a government pledged to cutting red tape, calling for fresh regulation.

In some ways, the shock at recent stories – such as Google’s capturing of personal data from the roadside as its cars compiled pictures for its street view application – is not surprising. One of the side effects of civil liberties campaigns focussing on the role of the state has been, as I said during the debate, that we have paid too little attention to the increase in the collection of information by private organisations.

Some of this information is given by a direct choice – the Facebook status update, the tweet about plans for the evening – even when those using such sites may not have considered all the implications of their actions.

But what happens where information is being gathered in other ways – such as the use of cookies to monitor people’s activities online and target products at them? The passing of internet activity logs by ISPs? Or even those events, such as the street view row, where personal information is taken without consent? These are diverse issues relating to personal; privacy and the real question here for any government is – how do you enforce any system you set up?

Much was made during the debate of a system of self-regulation. I have some concerns about this. Looking at the recent data security issues involving mobile phones and the News of the World, and the response of the press complaints commission, it is clear that some self-regulatory bodies can be less than robust in dealing with complaints. While we should recognise the strengths of self-regulation, such as the possibilities it poses for international agreement, we should also be aware of the dangers a weak system poses.

And I believe there is a wider problem than simply internet regulation which also needs consideration – which is the entire manner in which information about individuals is collected and used by third party organisations.

But how do we tackle this? First, by raising the profile of the issue with the general public. A greater amount of information would help people make an informed decision about their actions. People need to know much more about the scale of the information companies keep, and why it is being kept.

Second, we – in Parliament and in the country at large – need to have a very wide discussion about our next steps. I would be interested to hear people’s views on how we proceed. But I think we must recognise that private organisations should be scrutinised in exactly the same way and to the same extent as governmental organisations.

Can it be right to have a transparent public sector while private companies grow rich off people’s personal information?

Ian Lucas is Labour MP for Wrexham and a shadow business minister.

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