Science in the New Parliament: the official science and technology briefing for MPs
I missed this, so I’m not sure when it was released; but the May issue of POSTnotes has some fascinating snippets. POSTnotes are the scitech briefings for MPs produced by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, and the May issue is specifically for the new parliament.
On DEAct it says:
…some controversial provisions will require further scrutiny. In particular, it allows for “technical measures”, such as internet account disconnection, to be taken against users found to be infringing copyright persistently.
The section on ‘Internet Regulation’ is worth quoting in full:
The growth in internet use poses regulatory challenges.
- Internet traffic is global but regulations vary between countries. Problems can arise at interfaces: for instance, a user in one country accessing computer resources in another may not know which country’s data protection laws apply.
- This could be exacerbated by the shift to “cloud computing”, whereby applications and data storage are outsourced to remote providers.
- Online attacks can be used to gain access to personal information or to commercial or government data.
- The current generation of internet protocol (IP) addresses, which identify devices on the internet, is running out. The replacement system may not be rolled out in time to avoid problems.
- There will be on-going debate over whether to allow some types of internet traffic to be prioritised over others or whether to preserve “network neutrality”.
On ‘personal data’, it includes:
Another key question is whether personal data should be held by the government in large, centralised databases or in distributed systems over which individuals have more control. Electronic privacy is a growing issue more generally, as shown by the recent controversy over changes in Facebook privacy settings. Government IT projects have been attacked as large, bureaucratic and wasteful. Critics have argued for smaller, more flexible projects, and wider use of open-source software in government.
POST will already have some insights on the likely direction of the new government in some areas. So the indication that some “controversial provisions [of DEAct] will require further scrutiny” is welcome. As is acceptance of the argument for smaller IT projects and greater use of open source software. I am less happy with the attitude towards ‘net neutrality’: there should be no on-going debate – net neutrality should be a given.
But I am most concerned about the section misleadingly called “Environmental Security”. It includes:
Technology can help people to conserve or reclaim natural resources and to use them more efficiently. This will deliver more resilient systems of production. For example, genetically modified crops can increase yields and withstand harsher conditions.
I fail to see the connection between reclaiming natural resources and GM crops. I reject the suggestion that there is any proof that GM crops can “increase yields and withstand harsher conditions”. This reads not as an introduction to an issue; rather it sounds like the explanation of a policy. This is Caroline Spelman and DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency foisting GM crops on the public without genuine debate. This is not democracy; and it is not what Cameron and Clegg promised us.