I Can See For Miles

Posted on 1st September 2008

Idiocy At Work, #1 in a possible series.

In July 2008 I received a letter from my opticians (Dollond & Aitchison), which I've only just got around to reading, and basically proclaims I am breaking the law for doing nothing! Apparently it regards a bit of new legislation that I've never heard of and which they fail to back up with any reference to the actual legislation. The actual quote is:

"Legislation designed to protect the health of your eyes means you are required to have a regular check to ensure that we can continue to supply you with contact lenses."

Further into the letter they also say:

"You must act before 21/07/2008 otherwise we cannot supply you with any more lenses."

So now I'm a criminal and blacklisted by D&A from them ever supplying me any contacts lenses ever again! WTF! How to drive away business in a nutshell. I have tried to phone their office, but keep getting an answer phone, so will have to wait to attempt to follow this up. However, I cannot believe a company would be so stupid as to commit commercial suicide by selling their customers this kind of rubbish.

There is no law that I am aware of that has ever been drawn up, that now means several million people in the UK are now criminals for never had their eyes checked in the last year. Or is it just contact lens wearers? On top of that, that any previous supplier to that (now branded) criminal is now banned for life from ever supplying contact lenses to that criminal. Now I am willing to be educated, so I'll pursue this as I don't believe that the message they are selling is the correct one. If it is then this country is in an even bigger quagmire than I thought, and if it isn't then I'd like to know why they think it's a good sales initiative to use scare tactics to frighten their customers into getting a contact lens check.

To be continued....

If anyone out there in webland is aware of the appropriate legislation and can point me at an online version, I'd be very grateful. If anyone from D&A reads this, then feel free to contact me to explain why you think threatening your customers is a good sales tactic.

File Under: health / law / life

Dirty Laundry

Posted on 5th August 2008

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I don't have a lot of respect for Record Companies these days. Once upon a time their founders and executives were people who had a passion for the music, and were more interested in investing and supporting their artists, with a view of the long haul. For some bands, such as The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, U2 and many others, the rewards have been emmense for all concerned. However, since the mid-80s the major labels have bought each other out, or merged to the point we now have only 4 companies effectively deciding the future of the music industry in the US and Europe. None of the executives are in it for the music, and probably wouldn't even be able to name half of the artists they look after.

As such it is no surprise that the music sharing litigation debacles that has been lingering around for the last 8 years, are still going strong. In one case, Tanya Andersen was falsely accused by the RIAA of illegal file sharing. Now in most instances that story wouldn't make much of an impression. However, what came to light in this case is that the RIAA (and consequently the big 4 behind that organisation), were so determined to win the case they tried to contact Tanya's daughter, in order for her to confess of her mother's file sharing activities. Now bearing in mind the fact that Tanya's daughter is 8 years old, and that investigators had made several attempts to contact her daughter, including contacting her elementary school (primary school for UK readers), without Tanya's knowledge or permission, many would consider that intimidation.

Tanya's lawyers have now filed a suit for $5 million, for malicious prosecution, "alleging fraud, racketeering, and deceptive business practices by the record labels." I sincerely hope she wins the case, sending a message to all those ripping the credibility out of what was once a great music industry, that bullies and money grabbing tactics are not wanted here. If she wins, it could lead to a class-action suit, opening the floodgates for others who have also been falsely accused. In a recent update to the ongoing action, Tanya's lawyer was awarded $103,175 in legal fees following the dropping of the charges against Tanya. In another story it seems the tactics are now finally being investigated in North Carolina. If it's illegal for anyone to hack into a company computer, why do these record companies think it's legal to hack into an individual's computer? These aren't isolated stories either, there appear to be several cases that are taking on the RIAA.

I'm just hoping that the BPI are also paying attention to these cases, and don't follow the same bully-boy tactics after their attempts 2 years ago to get the ISPs to terminate accounts without evidence. With the recent announcement that ISPs are now going to signup to an agreement, I can see several customers becoming innocent victims. Hopefully some will be made aware of Tanya Andersen's case and follow a similar legal path.

File Under: law / music / rant

This Property Is Condemned

Posted on 8th June 2007

I spotted the story of Julie Amero on the BBC News site this morning. While I'm glad there has been some sense to provide a second trial, with more appropriate evidence, I'm also disappointed that this should ever come to trial in the way it has. While I totally agree that minors shouldn't be exposed to the kind of images these sites promote, I also don't agree that a single SUBSTITUTE teacher should be held accountable in the way that she has.

Firstly she's a substitute teacher, meaning that her knowledge of the computer security systems is likely to be extremely limited at best and more likely non-existent. Did the school fully brief her on the security measures they have in place? Perhaps she should be suing the school or the state for not reasonably putting in place security measures to prevent children being exposed to this sort of thing in the first place. However, that perhaps also isn't fair, as in far too many cases the school or the local governement don't have any idea about computer security. It's why there are specialist computer security companies that are called in to investigate and secure companies and organisations.

I work for a company called MessageLabs. We work in an industry where stopping malicious content is part and parcel of the job. When you consider that in email alone we stop over 70% of mail as spam, virus, inappropriate content or illegal images and are also seeing increasing numbers within our web scanning and instant messaging serives too, computer security is a huge and very specialised business. MessageLabs are the largest company of it's kind in the world, and as such, every minute we stop hundreds of messages with the sort of payloads that would cause this kind of content to be popped up on unsuspecting computers. Are you really expecting a substitute teacher to have that level of knowledge and skill?

Part of the problem is education, and that isn't meant to be ironic. In Julie Amero's case, if the prosecution wins, then we are now expecting every single person to be accountable for ensuring every single aspect of their work environment is not going to get them arrested. By implication, we're also now stipulating that every single individual MUST be come a security expert. That ain't gonna happen. In my opinon this focus is totally misplaced. The responsibility for protection at the workplace lies solely with the employer. In this instance the school or state should have taken reasonable steps to ensure that all computer security measures were deployed to ensure that the desktop computers were adequately protected, and that their network was also appropriately protected, both from intrusion and in restricting the sites that can be viewed by any computer in the school. But whether you take action against the individual or the school or the state, you are still prosecuting the victims.

Taking a step back, the law basically stipulates that minor should not be exposed to this sort of imagery, which I agree with. However, as the law is very bad at being able to hold those truly responsible accountable, they go after easy prey. Although I do believe the law could be better written to make this sort of thing virtually disappear over night.

This kind of promotion is typically from the pornographic, gaming and drug industries. None of which a minor should be exposed to. What if the law found the owners of those sites personally accountable for the distribution of harmful matter to minors? What if institutions, such as schools, colleges and libraries, or businesses, such as internet cafes, and maybe even individuals in the right circumstances were able to prosecute the site owners? How quickly do you think that this sort of invasion would disappear? Unfortunately, those three industries are extremely big business, and can employ people to ensure that bills don't get passed that would effect them in this way. As such the justice systems become corrupt by allowing victims such as Julie Amero to be held up as a scapecoat.

I really hope that the prosecution's case fails, as otherwise the kind of precedence it will set, really isn't something I want to think about.

File Under: education / law / security / technology

Smoke Get In Your Eyes

Posted on 1st May 2007

There is some talk of resisting the forthcoming government ban of smoking in enclosed places. Being a non-smoker I'm going to be quite relieved to not go home stinking of someone's smoke after a night out. If you're a smoker, take a step back and ask yourself the following:

  • Would you light up at a restaurant?
  • Would you light up at your work place, if you work in an office?
  • Would you light up in the cinema?
  • Would you light up on the bus?

In many cases, hopefully most, you'll have answered no. However, it wasn't that long ago that you could quite happily do all of the above without worrying about being fined or worse. The latest moves to make pubs smoke free, at least inside, will eventually become as expected as the 4 places listed above.

Although it doesn't stop me from going out, I do know of others who avoid smokey pubs for health reasons. For non-smokers it isn't a nice taste or smell to have to endure. I already help pay for the damage done through smoking related illnesses, I'd rather that money was spent on treating conditions and diseases that sufferers have not bought upon themselves.

File Under: government / law / rant / smoking

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