Tag Archives: shambles

UK’s coronavirus ‘test and trace’ system is as much a shambles as previous measures

Test and trace: testing can’t be done everywhere in the UK yet, and the information from those tests, along with that for contact tracing, is not secure.

There’s an old adage: “start as you mean to go on”. It seems with Covid-19 that the Tory government has taken it to heart – it started badly, and has got worse.

Plans to trace people who have been in contact with others who have caught the disease have been in disarray since February, when initial attempts to trace Covid-19 contacts were called off.

The Johnson administration tried resorting to technology, with a contact-tracing app for mobile phones that it has been testing on the Isle of Wight.

But the system, developed in co-operation with private contractors, has caused such controversy that many have refused to have anything to do with it.

It has wide-ranging security flaws that allow the data collected by the app to be used for purposes other than those for which it was collected.

The researchers detail seven different problems they found with the app.

They include:

  • weaknesses in the registration process that could allow attackers to steal encryption keys, which would allow them to prevent users being notified if a contact tested positive for Covid-19 and/or generate spoof transmissions to create logs of bogus contact events
  • storing unencrypted data on handsets that could potentially be used by law enforcement agencies to determine when two or more people met
  • generating a new random ID code for users once a day rather than once every 15 minutes as is the case in a rival model developed by Google and Apple. The longer gap theoretically makes it possible to determine if a user is having an affair with a work colleague or meeting someone after work, it is suggested

Apparently the information is currently downloaded to a centralised database, where it could be leaked or otherwise abused.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said on Monday a new law to protect people “is not needed because the Data Protection Act will do the job” and NHSX – the health service’s digital innovation unit – has said using the centralised model will both make it easier to improve the app over time and trigger alerts based on people’s self-diagnosed symptoms rather than just medical test results.

They don’t seem to have our interests at heart, really, do they?

Management of the app is planned to be outsourced to a private firm in the middle of June, according to contract details released by NHSX, and computer engineers working in other European countries and the Far East will have access to the app as part of a troubleshooting role agreed between the NHS and the Swiss firm.

A new, manual test-and-trace regime was introduced across the UK on May 28 but it, too, has problems.

For a start, it has been revealed that personal information collected by both the manual system and the app will be kept for 20 years.

We can ask for it to be deleted, but we are not being given the right to demand it.

And the website explaining what will happen to our data seems to have been either rushed out so that it is riddled with mistakes, or deliberately written to contain terminology that has no legal meaning in the UK.

So, for example, it states that our “personal identifiable information” (a US legal concept) is “governed by the GDPR” (a UK / European law). The phrase is therefore meaningless.

And This Writer has heard that the manual system is not running in some parts of the UK, where the NHS was not ready to roll it out.

So if anybody caught it in London and then travelled to a part of the country that isn’t running test-and-trace (let’s suggest purely for the sake of example, Durham) then the information would be lost and it is possible that infected people would be missed.

These problems are not going to go away.

We have a flawed system that does not cover the whole nation and that seems designed to create problems going forward for years to come. It is typical of the Tories cack-handed attitude to the whole Covid-19 crisis.

Source: Coronavirus: Test and trace system will start on Thursday – BBC News

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Bercow bemoans ‘sorry saga’ of European Arrest Warrant

Perfect timing: Chief Whip Michael Gove arrives in the Commons chamber just as Speaker John Bercow is finishing his attack on the government's handling of the proposed debate and vote on the European Arrest Warrant. The blame for the fiasco has been laid on the government's whips.

Perfect timing: Chief Whip Michael Gove arrives in the Commons chamber just as Speaker John Bercow is finishing his attack on the government’s handling of the proposed debate and vote on the European Arrest Warrant. The blame for the fiasco has been laid on the government’s whips.

John Bercow is a Conservative – although, for much of the time, it’s hard to tell what planet he’s on, let alone whose side.

As Speaker of the House of Commons he is supposed to be impartial but he seems to find it hard to maintain this stance, with his own party bearing the brunt of his displeasure more often than not.

Today has been a prime example. The government had scheduled a debate over the European Arrest Warrant but there was confusion over whether a vote would take place.

It had been promised by the Home Secretary, Theresa May.

But the matter had been complicated when some MPs tried to turn it into an issue about the European Union, rather than justice.

The motion today followed a decision last year to opt out of 133 EU police and criminal justice measures, including the European Arrest Warrant – and was expected to be about rejoining 35 of those measures, including the EAW.

But at the start of the debate, Mr Bercow had to tell MPs that the vote would be on only 10 of the regulations. It seems the government was hoping to slip the EAW through ‘by proxy’. Perhaps the hope was that this would avoid a possible schism in the Conservative Party over the EU.

Former Tory – now UKIP – MP Douglas Carswell tweeted his opinion of this behaviour: “Devious and underhand tactics by govt whips have reduced Commons to a farce.”

The BBC has reported that Mr Bercow said he had expected a vote on the warrant, condemned the situation as a “sorry saga” and added that “the House should not be put in that position”.

He said: “A commitment is a commitment to be honoured, rather than trying to slip things through [by] some sort of artifice.

He said the public expected “straightforward dealing and they are frankly contemptuous… of what is not straightforward dealing”.

That discussion took place between 4.30 and 5pm and at the time of writing – 7.30pm – MPs remain undecided about what they are debating.

You see, it gets worse. After the Speaker savaged the situation, InJustice Secretary Chris Grayling got up and said the vote would be on all 35 measures the government wants to bring back in – directly contradicting Mr Bercow. That got shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper up on her hind legs to deliver the damning verdict: “What a shambles; what complete chaos.”

It is.

It is another example of the low regard Conservative ministers have for Parliamentary procedure and the rule of law.

If they want to push a measure through, then they will descend to any depth in order to achieve it. In this case, it seems they wanted to avoid giving Eurosceptic Tories a chance to rebel against the government, so the Chief Whip (Michael Gove), the Justice Secretary (Chris Grayling) and the Home Secretary (Theresa May) seem to have cooked up a fudge, with a vote on only 10 measures but the decision expected to count on the EAW as well.

That is “not straightforward dealing”. It is “trying to slip things through [by] some sort of artifice”.

It is not statesmanlike.

It certainly isn’t honest.

It is the behaviour of people who clearly do not deserve to be ministers in the UK government.

But then, the Coalition has made a mockery of Parliament ever since May 2010.

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We have an Education Secretary who wants to overwrite history with lies

– Having failed to find a video clip, here’s an audio version of the scene in Blackadder Goes Forth, in which Captain Blackadder explains to Private Baldrick how World War I began. Michael Gove questions its accuracy but it seems correct, according to the history I learned at school.

If anybody doubted it before, now we can be certain: Michael Gove does not want schools to teach facts – he wants your children to learn jingoistic propaganda. By rote.

We can deduce this from his extraordinary attack on one of Britain’s most revered TV comedies, Blackadder Goes Forth.

He said the show (which, as we all know, mixed some of the best verbal humour of the 1980s with searing social commentary and arguably the most moving ending of any TV comedy at all) peddled left-wing “myths” about the First World War, “designed to belittle Britain and its leaders”.

According to politics.co.uk, Gove said the popular series had sought to denigrate British patriotism and had been used by “left wing academics” to portray the British war effort as a “shambles” led by an out-of-touch elite (so in that way, one assumes, the war was run much as the entire UK is today).

“Our understanding of the war has been overlaid by misunderstandings, and misrepresentations which reflect an, at best, ambiguous attitude to this country and, at worst, an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honour and courage,” the article quoted from his article in the Daily Mail.

He’s wrong, of course. Putting patriotism to the side (it is arguable whether that is a virtue), honour and courage are celebrated by Blackadder; there is no lack of it in the lead characters. Blackadder is perfectly willing to help the war effort by foiling a spy in one episode, for example. Lieutenant George is full to the brim with ideas about honour, courage, fair play and Britishness. Even Baldrick does his bit (although he probably doesn’t understand why). The point of the show is simply that the title character is not willing to lead the men for whom he is responsible into certain death.

“The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely War, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite,” Gove continued.

“Even to this day there are Left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths.”

In fact, there are academics of all kinds happy to feed these notions because they are based on facts, rather than the ramblings of Mr Gove’s deluded mind.

It is, frankly, terrifying that a man with such ludicrous and – in context – dangerous views may hold the position of Secretary of State for Education.

Gove went on to claim that the war was a “noble cause” and a “just” conflict against the “social Darwinism” of the Germans.

Social Darwinism, for those who don’t know, is the attempt to apply the concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest to politics; it argues that the strong should see their wealth and power increase while the weak should see it decrease.

It is strange that Gove should attract attention to this theory, as its strongest supporter in today’s Britain is his cabinet colleague, Iain Duncan Smith. Coalition policies on social security are clearly based on this principle yet Gove has never raised a whisper of protest against them.

Gove went on to say the war “was seen by participants as a noble cause”. Of course it was – they were fed a constant stream of propaganda by their commanders, in order to ensure their co-operation and keep their spirits up. This did not mean soldiers could not use their own eyes and ears to work out what was going on, and repressive behaviour by authorities at the army camp in Etaples led to the mutiny of September 1917, dramatised in the novel (and BBC TV series) The Monocled Mutineer, which attracted considerable criticism at the time of transmission (1986) for alleged left-wing bias.

It is worth noting that questions in Parliament after the novel was published led to the revelation that all records of the Etaples Board of Enquiry, where the mutineers were tried, had been destroyed long before.

And Gove ridiculously claimed that the Battle of the Somme – which the politics.co.uk article claimed has become a byword for futile and indiscriminate slaughter, was a vital “precursor” to victory. In fact it was nothing of the sort. The Germans gave up because the failure of one offensive after another had left their troops severely disillusioned and their country in danger of revolution – which in fact took place shortly before Armistice Day.

You have much to fear from an administration willing to have a man like Michael Gove running its schools.

He would rather tell your children lies than let them learn the truth; it might give them political ideas that disagree with his own.

His comments are yet more proof that we have a government built on lies.

How are we going to change it?

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