[Dave Birch] It must make me sound like some sort of snob, but I genuinely feel that one of the problems with the discussion of identity, privacy and related issues in the public sphere is that, ultimately, the policymakers, regulators and politicians just do not understand either technology as part of the problem or technology as part of the solution. Ian Brown’s review of the Thomas/Walport report about data sharing touches on this:

While it makes a brief mention of credentials (r. 5), the report is extremely backward-looking on technology,

[From Blogzilla: Thomas/Walport data sharing review published]

The problem, I think, is more insidious than it seems at first. It isn’t just that the people writing the report don’t understand the technology, it’s that they don’t even appear to think that the technology is important. As I noted at the time of the review…

Pete Bramhall from HP sagely noted that the consultation document began with the statement that it assumed a familiarity with the Data Protection Act and other relevant legislation. How come, he pointed out, it did not assume a familiarity with rudimentary information technology, basic data security, elementary cryptography or, indeed, anything else that might help to develop a privacy-enhancing infrastructure for the modern world. Quite.

[From Digital Identity Forum: Another thing invented by lawyers]

How are we going to get a genuine breakthrough in identity management when the gap between the “two cultures” appears to be widening. No, not those two cultures but the cultures of information and communications technology one the one hand and lawyers (particularly the ones that end up in the government).

It’s hard to know where to go with this. I’d like to stop moaning and put forward some concrete suggestions, but I’m not sure that I have any. Others are being more constructive. Jerry Fishenden has been talking, wisely, about trying to assemble some kind of technology manifesto:

modern governments need to develop a better understanding of how to integrate technology as a fundamental policy lever rather than persist with an out-dated view of IT as merely a “necessary evil” or overhead for administering and operating aspects of policy.

[From NTO UK – Jerry Fishenden’s technology policy blog]

I fear Jerry may be too late though, since no-one studies science or technology in the U.K. any more. The news that physics teachers are dying out is only the latest piece of evidence.

Almost one in four secondary schools in England no longer has any specialist physics teachers

[From BBC NEWS | Education | Physics teacher shortage warning]

A generation from now we will be able to match together a political class that knows nothing about technology with a population that doesn’t either. I’m afraid that the Nobel prize-winner Harry Kroto may have been right when he said in The Guardian last year that

I think there is every likelihood that the lack of scientifically educated and aware young people in the UK will result in ever poorer performance on a global scale

[From Science has been neglected for decades says Harry Kroto | Science | The Guardian]

Against this backdrop, should we be at all surprised that it’s proving difficult to try and come up with a vision for identity, privacy and security that can deliver anything in the coming age? I’m not giving up that easily!

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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