Friday, 28 March 2008

NSW Police ask public to be cameraphone cops

Vikram draws attention to a move to encourage citizens to capture crimes on their cellphones and send the information to the police in NSW. Although increasing the surveillance society normally makes me very uneasy and the police forces across the ditch (and here in NZ) are not always noted for their probity, I think that this is a step in the right direction. This is a step up from the well established 111 (911, 999 ...) call with better information content. The French have laws against recording violent crime unless you are a professional journalist which seems a bit repressive, even for the Europeans, but there is a measure of sense in this. How about encouraging a society where it is normal to report crime to the legitimate enforcement authorities rather than publish for a dubious or prurient purpose? There is a problem however with the general capture storage of surveillance material ... Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Monday, 17 March 2008

Children to be added to Britain's DNA database

Mark Townsend and Anushka Asthana in The Observer, March 16 2008 report on the burgeoning DNA database. Now the police are looking to capture data on children who might be thought by someone to be a potential future criminal.

Gary Pugh, director of forensic sciences at Scotland Yard and the new DNA spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said a debate was needed on how far Britain should go in identifying potential offenders, given that some experts believe it is possible to identify future offending traits in children as young as five.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Why do we need training for BPMN and BPMS?

BPMN is intended to formalise the definition of real world business processes. BPMS implementations take a formal definition of business processes (which should be derivable from the BPMN) and control the flow of information around the process. How difficult can it be to develop the design tools to the point that they help the designer think in the 'best practice' of business process and follow the rules of BPMN?

Ismael Ghalimi in Process Discovery describes his plans for experiencing the development of a BPMS-based solution for a well defined requirement. Like most users of a new tool he is going to do it without training. OK, he does have an advantage over mere mortals from close involvement with the underlying standards and a key-player in this emerging market but I look forward to seeing the commentary on his effort.
...model the process at a high level, using an off-the-shelf process modeling tool. For this purpose, I will use Intalio|Designer, but I will do so before having attended a formal training session. The reason for it is the following: while I have been working for Intalio for over 8 years now, and originally came up with the idea and the name for the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), I have never fully read its specification, even less learned the proper way to use it with a process development tool capable of turning pretty pictures into executable code. As a result, I expect this first modeling exercise to produce a process that will look nothing like what I will be capable of doing after having attended the Intalio Traning, and learning more from the gap should be a key benefit of the overall experiment...
Although there is some good training for process design becoming available, I question how much we should be reliant on it to get to work with a formal language (BPMN ), with absolute rules, that is intended to describe things that we are familiar with in everyday business. It is not teaching English to Korean speakers!
I would like Ismael to also consider how the Intalio Designer toolset could be improved with an autopilot or helper that leads you through the process of designing a process and explains the rules of the BPMN as you go.

Privacy and Text Communications

We appear to be facing another challenge to privacy in New Zealand which would take us further towards the surveillance society. The police are seeking the storage of all text communications to facilitate their enquiries. Fortunately, this requires a change in law and will get a bit of discussion. It is to be hoped that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner will be active in the debate.

The relevant rule applying to the retention of text data in NZ is found in the TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFORMATION PRIVACY RULES
Rule 1
Purpose of Collection of Telecommunications Information
Telecommunications information must not be collected by a telecommunications agency
(a) the information is collected for a lawful purpose connected with a function or
activity of the agency; and
(b) the collection of the information is necessary for that purpose.
Note: Except where it is itself a party to a communication, a telecommunications agency will rarely have a lawful purpose to collect the content of any telecommunication. Indeed, it is unlawful to intercept the content of a private communication in most cases (Crimes Act 1961, Part 9A). There are some limited exceptional circumstances relevant to telecommunications agencies (e.g. where acting pursuant to an interception warrant to assist the Police or SIS). Employees of network operators can, in the course of their duties, intercept telecommunications for maintenance purposes but it is an offence for an employee of a network operator to use or disclose information so obtained for unauthorised purposes – Telecommunications Act 2001, ss.114 and 115).
It is apparent that there is no technical requirement to store all texts to provide services to a party in the communication. Vodafone NZ does not do it and Telecom NZ is going to stop the practice.
Although it may be attractive to the enforcement agencies to be able to dip into a historical pool of all telecommunications in pursuit of information about possible criminals and crimes, this would be a fundamental turn-around in perception of the privacy of communications. It is ridiculous to suggest that telecommunications providers should be breaching this basic requirement of the Privacy Commissioner to be "good corporate citizens" as suggested by Police national crime manager Win van der Velde quoted in Dominion Post 8March .