Thursday, 31 May 2012

Some food for the thoughts of Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Philip Johnston – IdA/DWP

You weren't invited to Ovum's Industry Congress on 24 May 2011, were you, so you didn't hear Phil Pavitt's talk on the "frictionless services" that he says the public is demanding from HMRC.

Still, you can read about it in Computer World UK, where you will discover that Phil is the Chief Information Officer (CIO, i.e. what we used to call the "DP Manager") at HMRC and he says frictionless services require identity assurance (IdA).

He may be right about that, after all we don't know what a frictionless service is, but he must be wrong when he says: "We don't currently have ID authentication in UK government".

That's just not true. Some of us small businesses have been submitting our VAT returns online using the UK Government Gateway every three months for several years now and that requires ID authentication by the UK government. And millions of people use HMRC's self-assessment website for income tax, again via the Government Gateway.

Why does Phil make this false statement?

Because no-one in Whitehall likes the Government Gateway. It doesn't look anything like the front end of Amazon or eBay or Facebook or Google. They want the Government Gateway to go away, it's old and ugly and not the sort of accessory a hip young CIO wants to be seen dead wearing. It cost millions. It works. It seems to be secure. But it's got to go.

What will the IdA replacement look like? Not long to wait to find out now, says Phil, "in March of this year the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed plans that will see it be the first central government department to roll out identity assurance services, in a project that is set to cost £25 million".

£25 million? What's the betting that there's a 1 in front of that by the time the National Audit Office get to take a look? If we're lucky. Otherwise a 4. While even Oxfam won't want the old Government Gateway, already paid for, years of successful use behind it, but pensioned off in its prime.

What do we foresee? All together now – friction!

Some food for the thoughts of Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Philip Johnston – IdA/GDS

Those chaps in the Government Digital Service (GDS) get about a bit. California. Estonia. And now the White House.

GDS's job is to do Martha Lane Fox's bidding and make public services digital by default. In order to achieve that, they need to deliver an identity assurance service (IdA) and they were in Washington "to share, learn and collaborate with some of the key individuals and organisations in the US wrestling with the challenges of identity in cyberspace" including Senator Barbara Mikulski.

The encounter between these wrestlers "focused on the economic necessity of creating an ecosystem of trust both for individual users of the internet, who are overwhelmed by usernames and passwords, and for businesses where the increasing cost of fraud is offsetting the efficiency benefits from digital channels".

The notion that Whitehall could create an ecosystem of trust needs to be compared with the markets they have created to date, e.g. PFI.

Far from being overwhelmed by usernames and passwords, individuals worldwide appear to be using the web more and more. Of course what GDS are offering is yet more usernames and passwords. But with this difference. Theirs will be the only usernames and passwords we have to remember. They will act as gateways to all the other services we use. We will become entirely dependent on GDS and its various unicorn-hustler agents (Facebook, Google, ..., Mydex) to conduct any transactions with anyone. Can they be trusted in this rôle?

And the cost of fraud appears to be shrinking, not increasing. The only cloud on the horizon is DWP's Universal Credit scheme which, if it follows the government's independent learning accounts and tax credits, promises to be the locus of a fraud feeding frenzy.

But apart from that – three false propositions in one sentence, a record? – after a long bout, there was one result: "the Senator made it clear that volunteers are needed if the voluntary approach in the US is to be successful".

Gluttons for punishment, our GDS delegates went on from the White House to OIX, the Open Identity Exchange, where "there was great interest in what the UK Identity Assurance Programme is doing and an offer from OIX to help us achieve our goals – which we readily accepted".

Hands up everyone who remembers voting to have their identity traded on a US exchange?

Some food for the thoughts of Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Philip Johnston – midata/BIS

Wired magazine carried an article yesterday by Alan Mitchell promising that Personal data stores will liberate us from a toxic privacy battleground.

Alan Mitchell, you will remember, is the strategy director of Ctrl-Shift, a consultancy retained by the UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to work on their midata initiative. William Heath is a non-executive director of Ctrl-Shift. Alan Mitchell and William Heath are the founders of Mydex, a company bidding to supply personal data stores in the UK, thereby supposedly liberating us from a toxic privacy battleground.

Mr Mitchell did not find space in his article to mention any of that background but he did, quite properly, emphasise that personal data stores are only recommended if the individuals who use them to disseminate their personal data are guaranteed to have control over how that data is used.

We do not currently have that control. It doesn't exist. It might do in the future but it doesn't exist now. Ctrl-Shift's strategy therefore depends on something indistinguishable from unicorns, which also don't exist. From that point of view, Ctrl-Shift has a strategy problem.

Wired magazine describe Mr Mitchell as "a strategic advisor to the UK Government's Midata project". By the same token, the UK Government therefore has a strategy problem. midata can't work. It depends on something which doesn't exist.

Given which, why do BIS continue to pursue it?

A suggestion for Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Philip Johnston, published on a blog provided "free" by Google

Two articles in the Sunday Times by Jon Ungoed-Thomas – Your emails, sex secrets and health details – all harvested by Google and Google grabs secrets of private lives – and one in the Telegraph next day by Philip Johnston – That car in your street was a Google Street View search engine.

While Google was filming our streets it was also collecting information about our WiFi networks. Without permission and without telling anyone. That was a mistake, said Google when they were found out, which is an odd thing for Google to say. The whole point about Google is that they don't make mistakes.

The US Federal Communications Commission are fining Google $25,000 for impeding their investigation of the matter. Google had revenues in 2011 of $37.905 billion on which it made profits of $9.737 billion. The fine amounts to 81 seconds of profits and is thought not to have dealt a mortal blow to the company's share price.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Protecting civilisation from the fingers of terror

Here's a quotation from an article in New Scientist magazine. You need to know that Visionics is a biometrics company that specialises in face recognition. Now you're an expert:
Airport security isn't the only use for face-recognition software: it has been put through its paces in other settings, too. One example is "face in the crowd" on-street surveillance, made notorious by a trial in the London Borough of Newham. Since 1998, some of the borough's CCTV cameras have been feeding images to a face-recognition system supplied by Visionics, and Newham has been cited by the company as a success and a vision of the future of policing. But in June this year, the police admitted to The Guardian newspaper that the Newham system had never even matched the face of a person on the street to a photo in its database of known offenders, let alone led to an arrest.
Admitted ... the police admitted ...

Clearly, the Newham police, for all sorts of human reasons, somehow entrapped themselves in a deception perpetrated on the public at public expense. Has it happened again?

Last week, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley was singing the praises of the mobile fingerprint readers now issued to policemen patrolling in 28 of the UK's 56 police forces. Home Office figures suggest that the flat print fingerprint technology used in these devices fails about 20% of the time.

Equally clearly, and to the credit of the Newham police, they finally extricated themselves from this fraud with their admission. Will that happen again?

How long before we read in New Scientist that:
... Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley admitted to __________ that the MobileID initiative had never even matched the fingerprints of a person on the street to a set of dabs in its database of known offenders, let alone led to an arrest. In fact all it had achieved was to reduce the chances of a felon being taken down to the nick by a straight 20% at a stroke.

Monday, 28 May 2012

GreenInk 7 – A good day for criminals

Let's see if the Telegraph publish this:
From: David Moss
Sent: 28 May 2012 12:18
To: ''
Subject: A good day for criminals


On 23 May 2012 the Metropolitan Police issued a press release announcing that they are now using mobile fingerprint equipment. Patrolling policemen will check the fingerprints of suspects they have stopped in the street and let them go if their prints are not on file, thereby saving time.

The only figures published by the Home Office suggest that this fingerprinting technology fails about 20 percent of the time – in about 20 percent of cases no match will be made even if the subject's prints are on file. Which suggests that the chances of guilty people being taken down to the station and arrested have just dropped by about 20 percent. Not only in the Met but in 27 other police forces.

Perhaps Nick Herbert, the policing minister at the Home Office, would like to comment on this new way of saving police time.

David Moss

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Police forces all over the UK are introducing mobile fingerprint equipment. Result? Approximately 20% of the criminals who would otherwise have been taken down to the station will now be asked politely to go on their way

The Guardian tell us today that the Metropolitan Police have bought themselves some new equipment – mobile fingerprint readers. They are the 25th UK force to do so.

It all seems very sensible:
One of the aims of the technology is to cut the number of trips police make to the police station, so that officers can spend more time on the frontline.

Mark Rowley, assistant commissioner at the Met, said: "Evidence has shown that a full identification arrest can tie-up both the subject and the police officer for several hours. Even a traditional identity check conducted on the street can take an extended period of time to complete.

"It is effective particularly in revealing serious and violent offenders who will do everything they can to prevent the police from knowing their true identities."
It isn't.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Home Office, Heathrow Airport, the security of the UK border and the safety of the Olympics

Here's a copy of a press release that's just been issued. Forgot to mention the French. Zut. They're lapping it up, too, just like the Indians.



Home Office



China (re Golden Shield)

Pakistan (re NADRA)

FBI (re NGI)

UIDAI (re Aadhaar)


The Home Office – Misfeasance in public office
23 May 2012
Six questions for editors to ponder:
  • The Home Office have been asked to reassure the public by publishing a justification for spending public money on biometrics technology they've previously proved to be useless. For 2½ years they've refused. Nor did they present any evidence as to the reliability of their chosen biometrics to the court. Why? Is it because they can't? Is it because there is no justification and our money is, indeed, being wasted?
  • The court sees no iniquity in that potential waste of money and describes it as not "in itself or in any way material". If this isn't an iniquity, what is?
  • We are assured by the Home Office and the court that the procurement of IABS didn't break any UK or EU rules. That finding of the court is accepted but so what? The Home Office are still refusing to release the IBM trial report to the public. They go further. The Home Office say the trial was conducted under such specific constraints that reading the report wouldn’t tell the public much. In other words they admit that they have no justification whatever for spending our money on biometrics. The procurement complies with the rules but it could still be iniquitous and the Home Office could still be guilty of misfeasance in public office.
  • Dame Helen Ghosh, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, told the Home Affairs Committee that "... there are plans ... to reduce the staff of the Border Force by around 900 people ... that is driven as much by technological introductions like e-gates, as well as a risk-based approach. Border Force will be getting smaller". Is it wise to replace human beings with technology that costs more and doesn't work?
  • Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive of what's left of the UK Border Agency, says of IABS in the March 2012 issue of the staff magazine that "the system, delivered by the agency in partnership with Suppliers IBM, Morpho, Fujitsu, Atos Origin and Software AG, is the first multi-modal biometric matching system. It provides greater accuracy in fingerprint matching together with an integrated facial matching element. It delivers a more comprehensive service, underpinning the agency’s objective to secure our border and reduce immigration". It isn't the first. Pakistan's was the first, and much good it's done that unfortunate country. The IABS biometrics provided by Morpho could be more reliable than the previous system but still useless. Just a little less useless. Is Mr Whiteman misleading his staff as to the history and the reliability of UKBA's biometrics?
  • Sir David Normington, Dame Helen's predecessor, caused Lin Homer and Brodie Clark to write to David Moss asserting that smart gates were being installed at UK airports on the basis of a trial at Manchester Airport. When John Vine, the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, as he then was, reported on his May 2010 inspection of Manchester Airport, he said "we could find no overall plan to evaluate the success or otherwise of the facial recognition gates at Manchester Airport and would urge the Agency to do so [as] soon as possible". This evidence of the Home Office consistently misleading the public, Parliament, ministers, the media and its staff was put before the court. The Home Office made no response. Neither did the court in its decision. The allegation is a serious one. Why doesn't it warrant a response?
At the oral hearing in the matter of David Moss v Information Commissioner and the Home Office held on 24 February 2012, David Moss turned up in court and so did the Information Commissioner's staff and his barrister, but the Home Office didn't.
Why not?
The hearing concerned the Home Office's Immigration and Asylum Biometric System. IABS was due to go live at the border by the end of 2011 under the direction of Ms Jackie Keane, a senior civil servant at the UK Border Agency. She missed that date but bits of IABS went live at the end of February, with the results we all saw in the ensuing weeks, Heathrow at 'breaking' point as Border Force struggles to cope, leaked memos warn, ‘Minister lying over Heathrow queues’ says BA chief, and so on. We may surmise that the Home Office were too busy to attend.
On the other hand, the barrister who has represented the Home Office since the case began a year ago was there in court, except that this time he was representing IBM.
Because IABS is an IBM contract. It was awarded to them in 2009.
Stacked to the rafters with Nobel prize-winners in most disciplines, nevertheless IBM had no particular expertise in biometrics and no products of their own. They arranged a competition between six biometrics companies and chose Sagem Sécurité (now Morpho) as the best. In the process, they also made good their lack of biometrics expertise – in fact, IBM played a blinder there.
IABS was initially estimated to be worth £265 million and a lot of that money – public money, your money and mine – is being wasted according to David Moss because the biometrics chosen by the Home Office don't work. That's what the case is about.
You know they don't work. You read the BBC's report on the year-long trial of biometrics, ID cards scheme dubbed 'a farce'. You read the Telegraph's report on the smart gates installed at UK airports, Airport face scanners 'cannot tell the difference between Osama bin Laden and Winona Ryder'. You watched Brodie Clark tell the Home Affairs Committee that fingerprint checks are the least reliable identity/security checks made at the border, the ninth and bottom priority for his (now ex-)Border Force officers and the most sensible check to drop when the queues build up and threaten to get out of control.
David Moss lost the case anyway. It was a 2-to-1 majority decision against, a sort of a Minority Report 2 – they may not work at Heathrow or anywhere else in the real world but biometrics are the bee's knees in Hollywood films.
With the explicit permission of the court and the Home Office and the Information Commissioner you can read IBM's evidence in the case, please see attached. IBM's Commercial Director on IABS, Mr Nicholas Swain, explains that all the testing on biometrics was done by IBM and the results belong to IBM and that's why the public aren't allowed to see them despite paying for IABS. We're just meant to suppose that IABS will help to make the border secure and keep the Olympics safe despite all the respectable published evidence to the contrary. You can read Jackie Keane's evidence, too. She agrees with Nick.
It was all IBM's idea according to Ms Keane. OK, the Home Office gave IBM five million pairs of fingerprints to use as test data. And the Home Office specified the acceptance tests that had to be passed. And the Home Office agreed to pay IBM £265 million. But that's all.
It's been a long haul. It goes back 2½ years to a Freedom of Information request submitted on 6 January 2010. And it's not over yet because the other day David Moss submitted an application for permission to appeal. This could go on for years more.
While we're waiting for closure, we have those six questions above to ponder. And this one – what's IABS really about? It's obviously nothing to do with biometrics, as the court effectively acknowledges at paragraph 8 of its decision.
All relevant documents can be discovered at:

Notes to editors

1. As the Treasury Solicitors say (30 April 2012), "the submissions and open evidence lodged with the Tribunal in this case were relied upon and put in evidence at a hearing held in public". We really do all have permission to quote from this material and to comment on it.

2. Without wishing in any way to "lead" you, it is suggested that it will be most fruitful to start with the evidence submitted by the Home Office and IBM. And the evidence of Professor Ross Anderson at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory who points out that the banks have rejected biometrics as being too unreliable and asks why in that case do the Home Office trust them?

3. The background to this case is set out in the first few pages of the appeal document and centres on Whitehall’s competence and its duty to acknowledge the supremacy of Parliament, a subject which you will see there exercises the Home Affairs Committee.

4. Where does this story fit in the newspaper or on the radio/TV current affairs programme? Not on the fashion pages perhaps, but certainly in horoscopes and probably almost anywhere else – UK news, international news (they're all at it, look at India), EU news (the European Commission love biometrics and "eIDs", electronic identities), Westminster/politics, Whitehall/governance, the business pages, law reports/the Constitution, travel, sport (c.f. security at the Olympics generally and specifically UKBA's trip to Istanbul for the world wrestling championships to collect biometrics), the technology pages, cartoons, the crossword, ...

About David Moss
David Moss has worked as an IT consultant since 1981. The past 9 years have been spent campaigning against the Home Office's plans to introduce government ID cards into the UK. It must now be admitted that the Home Office are much better at convincing people that these plans are a bad idea than anyone else, including David Moss.


Updated 21.2.18

It's getting on for six years since the blog post above was published.

Nothing has changed as far as the Home Office are concerned:
  • Despite their record, the Home Office are still in charge of UK border control and they still find it a challenge, to put it politely, please see Border Force not ready for extra checks, claim MPs and Time has run out for May’s Brexit immigration plan.
  • The director of strategy and transformation at the UK Border Force is Mr Christophe Prince according to his LinkedIn entry, the same man who was a deputy director of the UK Border Agency (RIP) for the three years 2006-09.
  • And the UK Border Force still relies on IABS, the Immigration and Asylum Biometrics System, run for the moment by IBM and still relying on Morpho biometrics technology.
In the outside world things have moved on a little:
  • The UK Government Digital Service (GDS) have contracted with Morpho to supply "identity provider" services to GOV.UK Verify (RIP), the failed identity assurance scheme.
  • GDS have stated it as a strategic objective of theirs to incorporate more biometrics into public services on the basis that it's innovative to do so.
  • And Safran have sold Morpho to private equity investors, who have changed its name to Idemia.
Idemia gets about a bit. It always has, whatever it was called at the time.

In 2012 they were found guilty of bribery to win business in Nigeria. The bribery of which they were found guilty took place between 2000 and 2003. They appealed and had the verdict overturned in 2015.

There was a spot of bother in Kenya when the opposition party claimed that Idemia had cost them the August 2017 general election. It was the devil's own job for the Kenyan authorities to have the October re-run conducted the way they wanted, and not Idemia.

There was the earlier problem revealed by Naomi Klein in 2008 when she discovered that face recognition technology being used in Operation Golden Shield had been sold to China by L-1 Identity Solutions, Inc., a company subsequently bought by Idemia. That trade is against the law in the US. It is barred by the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security post-Tiananmen export controls.

Everything seemed to be going profitably enough for Idemia in India, where their products are used for biometric registration under Aadhaar, the identity assurance scheme for 1.2 billion Indians, until ...

... enter Russia. Idemia allegedly bought some Russian software and inserted it into its own products to improve performance but didn't tell anyone.

Now that some disaffected Idemia ex-employees have made this allegation, the Indians are a little non-plussed. Rather as the Americans may be, also: "The company, now named Idemia, has provided fingerprint-recognition software to the Department of Defense and agencies in 28 states and 36 cities or counties across the US — from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to the New York Police Department", not to mention the FBI. Cue fears of cyber-espionage being carried out by software buried deep in the security, military and justice systems.

What goes around comes around. The Indians are also worried about allegations that some other software they use in Aadhaar has CIA tools hidden in it but that's another story.

The question here is, do GDS and the Home Office want anything to do with Idemia? How well-prepared are they? Why take the risk? What's the point? After all, it's not as though the biometrics works.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Ministry of Justice soon to be Chakrabartiless

The Times, 19 May 2012:
Whitehall mandarin wins race for bank
A leading Whitehall official has secured the top job at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, making him the first Briton to win the post.

In a diplomatic victory for Britain, Sir Suma Chakrabarti, who serves as the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, will lead the EBRD for the next four years ...
Whitehall – misfeasance in public office
HM Courts Service Trust Statement for the year ended 31 March 2011
HM Courts Service hides “Libra” IT’s new shortcomings

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Cabinet Office soon to be Watless

Cabinet Office press release, London 16 May 2012:
Ian Watmore to leave the Civil Service
Ian Watmore, Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office, is leaving the Civil Service at the end of June, after a seven year career in the Civil Service, six of them as Permanent Secretary in three different roles, and a long career in the private sector.

He is returning to his home in the North West of England to focus on non-executive and spousal roles in charity, sports, academic and church activities ...
Efficiency and reform, Whitehall-style
Less for more
Whitehall – misfeasance in public office
Whitehall – SNAFU

17 May 2012: ‘Aggressive ministers’ blamed after mandarin quits
6 August 2012: Cabinet Office press release – "The new Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office, Richard Heaton, takes up his new role today ..."

Updated 17.4.16

Four years later, Watmore to return?

Updated 20.9.16

Yes, Watmore to return, in 10 days time.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The good news about cloud computing continues to blow in

HM Government plans to deliver all public services over the web. In particular, Whitehall will store all its data in the G-Cloud – the government cloud – and we parishioners will all access public services through public clouds. (Parishioners who can't use the web will no longer be parishioners.)

Cloud computing, we are told by Whitehall officials and IT salesmen, will be more flexible, cheaper, more secure and more resilient than what is, by implication, the present inflexible, expensive, insecure and non-resilient service.

In witness whereof the reader is referred to the cloud computing section of The Register magazine where he or she may discover that:
Meanwhile, the runaway train that is the growing popularity of cloud computing is gathering base. El Reg, as the magazine is affectionately known, reported on Sage's plans to move their 6.3 million customers into the cloud. That's 6.3 million people/companies using Sage's estimable product to keep the books. How are the plans going? Wait for it ... get your ticket while there's still time:
At the end of last year Sage had converted just 1,000 of its customers from cloud sceptics to adopters, out of an installed base of 6.3 million.

Will anyone notice the difference?

When Sir Bob Kerslake took over as head of the home civil service from Sir-Gus-now-Lord O'Donnell, "oh no not another over-promoted council leader" was one of the few printable comments.

His detractors may soon revise their opinion. He has just executed stage 1 of a simple two-stage plan. Let today's Times tell the story:
Whitehall gets seven weeks at home for Olympics
Civil servants have been told they can work from home for seven weeks during the Olympics, prompting incredulity from ministers, MPs and business leaders.

Tens of thousands of civil servants based in Central London will be allowed to work from home from July 21 – six days before the opening ceremony. Flexible working arrangements will remain for the 15 days between the Olympic Games and the Paralympics, ending on September 9 after the second closing ceremony.

Business groups expressed deep dismay at the plans. A spokesman for the Business Services Association, which represents Britain’s biggest outsourcing companies, said: “Seven weeks is a long time to have the heart of government working intermittently ...
There is no need for "business groups" or anyone else to experience either "incredulity" or "dismay". Stage 2 requires nothing more from Sir Bob than on 8 September to tweet all his ex-civil servants the simple message "don't bother to come back" and ... voilà – a gold medal for Sir Bob.

UPDATE 18 May 2012Revealed: Civil servants get extra three days holiday if they work over 36 hours a week

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Safran's directors generously give away their shareholders' intellectual property and $1.6 billion of their shareholders' money

Safran press release, Paris 26 July 2011:
Safran completes the acquisition of L-1 Identity Solutions Becomes world leader in biometric identity solutions

After completing all required approval procedures, Safran (NYSE Euronext Paris: SAF) today announced that it has finalized the acquisition of L-1 Identity Solutions, Inc., a leading identity management solutions provider in the United States, for a total cash amount of $1.09 billion ($12 per share), which was originally announced in the press release on September 20, 2010. Following this transaction, Safran becomes the world leader in biometric identity solutions ...

L-1 will join Safran’s existing security business, operating as Morpho, and will be renamed MorphoTrust. The new company will be partly managed as a proxy structure, thus providing appropriate protection for U.S. national security ...

Jean-Paul Herteman, Chairman and CEO of Safran, said: "We are delighted to have finalized this transaction, which is perfectly aligned with the Group’s development strategy in the security business..."
At the date of purchase, L-1 Identity Solutions, Inc., had never made a profit. Hardly surprising. The company was a ragbag of failed biometrics businesses, including Visionics Corp., Identix, Inc., and Viisage.

Identix is particularly well known in the UK. In 2004, the UK Passport Service conducted a year-long trial of biometrics which proved that they are not reliable enough for use in passports, ID cards, residence permits, visas, driving licences and the like, please see cribsheet below. The trial was carried out using Identix products (Appendix C, p.254ff).

"$1.09 billion" may seem like a very precise number. It isn't. Unmentioned in the press release above, Safran took on about $500 million of L-1's debt in addition to buying the company. Safran's shareholders' initial stake is therefore a lot higher than $1.09 billion, please see for example this 16 May 2011 Bloomberg article:
Safran, a Paris-based maker of airplane engines for Airbus SAS and Boeing Co., agreed to buy L-1 for $12 a share, or 48 percent more than L-1’s 20-day trading average before it was first reported July 15 that Safran was considering a purchase of L-1. The offer is valued at $1.58 billion including net debt.
And for that, Safran doesn't even get unfettered control. There's a "proxy structure" in there "providing appropriate protection for U.S. national security". Pleading national security, Safran's US Federal and State contracts could be switched to the all-American 3M Cogent, leaving Safran with nothing to show for $1.58 billion.

You can see why L-1 would be pleased with this deal. It's not obvious what's in it for Safran.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Chaos at Heathrow, border security in doubt, safety of the Olympics threatened – and the unions call a strike?

Later this week, the UK Border Agency are due to go on strike.

If they do, the strike won't improve the ghastly economic situation the UK finds itself in and it won't improve UKBA's reputation with the public. All the strike will achieve is to provide opportunities for hollow laughter at jokes along the lines of how can you tell that UKBA are on strike, what difference does it make if they're working ...

At some point, hours or days after the strike has started, it will stop. And the public impression will be that there is an industrial relations problem at UKBA.

Which there may well be.

But there is also a more fundamental problem at UKBA, a problem that won't be solved by arbitration and which will persist even when the strike is over – the senior Whitehall management of UKBA appears to be irremediably incompetent.

A strike would be welcomed by Theresa May, Damian Green, Helen Ghosh and Rob Whiteman. The greatest present the unions could give them, an unexpected relief, they would think that Christmas had come early.

By focusing the public's attention on pay and pensions, the strike will divert attention from the impression that the management is hopelessly out of its depth and it will thereby to some extent let them off the hook. The unions are making a mistake. The strike, if it happens, will delay the solution to the problem of management failure at UKBA and make that solution harder to achieve.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Francis Maude seeks future in Estonia

Ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken poses
for the Brave New World Tourist Authority
Last time it was California, the Granola state, take away the nuts and the fruits and you're still left with the flakes.

Ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken trundled Francis Maude round the creators of the brave new world, including Google, where the unfortunate minister was walked through the new identity ecosystem, whatever that means, please see The behaviour of the Cabinet Office is infantile.

This time it's Estonia. In his blog post Estonia’s technology economy and online service provision- back to the future? the ex-Guardian man explains: "We saw how Estonia had devised an Identity system which works for them, and we left with a keen understanding of how all this underpins the culture and economic growth".

A delightful country by all accounts where everything is computerised and in the cloud. So much so that Estonia was brought to its knees in 2007 by nothing more than a DDoS attack, a distributed denial of service attack. (This fact is currently the subject of Guardian revisionism, How tiny Estonia stepped out of USSR's shadow to become an internet titan. It remains a fact.)

That is the glorious future envisaged for our knees by ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken, now a Colonel in the feared Kabinet Offiski's Government Digital Service (GDS), who tweets "I think I may stay in Estonia forever. Which may be good news at GDS....". Please ...

Has Francis Maude fallen for it?