New Presentation: Overthrowing (local) goverments using open source techniques

The title is an exaggeration; I've learned that you need to have a witty title to get your paper read or presentation viewed. Here's a talk on the infrastructure requirements of a local goverment campaign -this one- and a review of what works and what doesn't. Some of the terms used in the talk only make sense to software developers, especially those who have worked in open source projects. They were the planned audience.

It was presented at OpenTech 2008, which was a really fun event in London. The MySociety team were out in force, and there may be some followup discussions on what need local campaigns need. One of their presentations was interesting: What do they know, which relays FOI requests to any authority of choice, and collects all results. They create a new email address for every request, so can collect all correspondence and the FOI documents themselves. It acts as a central store of all the FOI documents so retrieved.

My proposed 'George' application - a laptop-hosted program that logs all bluetooth discoverable devices (usually phones with bluetooth enabled in the 'discoverable' mode), doesnt exist yet. I've run a first pass collecting six months worth of data, but now we need to write some code to analyse that data and produce statistics. For paths and greenways, we just want to know useage numbers and what percentage of foot traffic is so discoverable. What worries everyone -myself included- is that you can start 'mining' the data to discover things the people don't want to share. Like how often they follow a route, what their times are and who they use the route with. Yet this collection and mining is currently legal. There is a lot to be said for banning it under data protection/privacy rules -maybe I can code something that provokes such an action. At least you can turn bluetooth discovery off; tracking phones by their messages to the base stations are much less optional, yet that is what is being deployed in a Portsmouth shopping centre.


 (Disclaimer: these slides are the opinion of one person and not an official postmortem/analysis from the project. All statements in here are unsubstantiated hypotheses. All future plans are subject to change without prior notice)