Tom Watson MP

Labour MP (Labour) for West Bromwich East. Ex minister for digital engagement. One of the first MPs to start a blog. For a short period of time in 2006 he was Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the MOD until he resigned calling for Tony Blair to resign. He comes from a advertising background before becoming an MP in 2001. He is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Communications Group, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones, and of the ORG Advisory Council.

Issues

Electronic Voting

09.11.2006 Tom Waton said on his blog "This is not the first time that serious doubts have been raised about electronic voting machines in the USA - so much so that a campaign has been launched to go back to the old style pen and paper for the 2008 presidential elections. I hope the electoral commission people are not thinking of going down the same route in the UK"

Endorsed the free project/fipr resolution on voter verifiable e-voting

Copyright

Term Extension

Tom Watson said on his blog "I'm instinctively attracted to keeping the term at 50 years" 07 November 2006

Music Industry

Tom Watson said on his blog 06 September 2004

I'm a former deputy treasurer of the all party parliamentary music group (long story for another time). I've pondered on the music industry for years now. It struck me that the industry just didn't have an adequate response to the chasmic leaps in technology that confronted it. Rather like the vain attempts of the French to keep their language frozen in time, the music industry couldn't deal with file sharing and all that clever stuff. They had a problem. I mean we can not allow the old-napster-style-sites to drive our talented artists into starvation. For every Bono there are a thousand artists trying to pay the bills at the end of the month after all. So what did the industry do? King Canute like, they tried to pretend nothing was happening and started arresting their customers - not a particularly productive exercise in the long run. What they lacked was a new business plan; one that accepted that the online revolution wasn't going away...

Internet Censorship

Has signed the Amnesty International pledge on Internet freedom to call on all governments and companies to ensure the Internet is a force for political freedom, not repression.

He has also written to Eric Shmidt the Chief Executive of Google to ask him to put pressure on the Chinese government to stop blocking searches for words like "freedom" and "democracy".

Children's Digital Rights

Has met with Pippa King, a lead campaigner against school fingerprinting, and David Clouter, who runs the group Leave Them Kids Alone, along with Libdem MP Sarah Teather, Conservative MP Nick Gibb

More on biometric technology in schools 1st November 2006

The commenter's on the recent post about biometric technology in schools have spurred me on to investigate this more fully. I've tabled a number of questions to the DFES to ask them about what guidelines they give local education authorities on this stuff. I've also asked them to list the types of technology used. If you have any experiences in your area, I'd be interested to know.

Freedom of Information

04.11.2006 In What price freedom of information? on Tom Watson's blog he said

There is currently a debate about how Whitehall deals with these requests. At present, if it costs more than £600 to answer a question, the government can refuse to answer it. This strikes me as being entirely reasonable. The formula used to calculate this sum does not include the cost of an official who has to read the documents and consult with colleagues. Lord Falconer is considering whether to add reading time into the equation. This strikes me as being unreasonable.

RFID

House of Commons debate Information Technology/Retail Crime 27 January 2004

Customers must therefore be made fully aware of the use of RFID and retailers must be completely open and transparent about what they are doing and what any information they collect will be used for, especially if the tags are used in conjunction with CCTV cameras or other surveillance devices. There should be no hidden tags and no hidden readers. We must not allow the technology to be used without any regulation. Before we know it, RFID could become ubiquitous in the retail sector—and not only to prevent theft

DNA database

On his blog National DNA database 5 September 2007

A senior judge has said that we should all be registered on the national DNA database. What’s the point of loading up all those little old ladies who are passed the age in which they can engage in regular law breaking?

Internet Access

Tom Watson argues that a mark of an open society is in its ability to provide unrestricted access to the Internet “Therefore it is vital that liberal democracies do not send mixed signals to closed societies that seek to restrict internet freedoms for their citizens”.

[1] Reference

  1. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2010-01-28d.947.0&s=ACTA#g955.4

Phorm

Has written to BT about Phorm.

Lobbying

He wants to “crack open westminster's lobby cartel”[1] and complained about entertainment companies unprecedented and relentless lobby around the Digital Economy Bill[2].

Royal Charter on Self-Regulation of the Press

[...] At this late hour, I hear that the charter extends its remit to internet publishing. I hope that we can make the distinction between self-publishing for pleasure and digital news reporting for profit. [3]

Links

News

2012-06-25 - The Guardian - Tom Watson adds voice to campaign to stop Richard O'Dwyer extradition
Author: James Ball
Summary: Tom Watson MP adds his voice to the campaign to stop the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer to the USA for copyright infringement. "Somewhere behind this case lie the powerful vested interests of the content industry. If they succeed in exercising their lobbying might by forcing the extradition of an able student to face trial in America, it will further undermine public confidence in an important treaty designed to combat terrorism. But let's also be honest about what is going on at the heart of this case: a generation for whom the net is not a 'new' technology are being hung out by an older generation of lawmakers who do not understand the new reality of the connected digital planet. Mr O'Dwyer's situation can be sorted out with common sense at the top of the UK government and US administration. But how many more bright youngsters will have their lives turned upside down because we haven't reached a new copyright settlement that understands the internet is here to stay?"
2009-10-19 - The Register - New minister for Whitehall IT
Author: Chris Williams
Summary: Junior minister Angela Smith has been handed the government IT brief, with responsibility for security across Whitehall. She will take over some of the Cabinet Office responsibilities of "digital engagement" minister Tom Watson, who quit the front bench earlier this year.
2009-09-04 - Tom Watson - Digital books and copyright reform: Europe cannot afford to be left behind
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: ... Book buying frustration feeds my growing fervour for copyright reform. The European Commission is holding a hearing next week to examine the impact in Europe of an agreement between American authors and publishers and Google to resuscitate millions of out of print, in-copyright books such as The Winds of Change. If all goes ahead as expected, American readers and researchers will be able to purchase digital copies of these titles – and their accumulated knowledge. European readers and researchers will have less luck. The continent’s hodgepodge of backward-looking copyright rules designed to protect content creators are preventing an American-style breakthrough to bring the world's lost books back to life. Europe needs a radical intellectual property update in order to accelerate the spread of knowledge - or it risks turning into a museum.
2008-12-27 - Tom Watson - Andy Burnham and Internet site classification
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: I've just read this story that says that Internet sites might be given "cinema-style age ratings". I'd be very interested to know your views - supportive or not. Internet regulation is not in my policy area but I promise you I will forward your views to Andy Burnham and Lord Carter.
2008-12-07 - Tom Watson - The Content Management Dilemma
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: Financial necessity led to the editorial team of Discover magazine to opt for an open source solution for their new content management system. And this article by Henry Donahue confirms that they are pretty happy with the results. A lesson for government web people.
2008-08-22 - Tom Watson - "Ohio's voting machine glitch exposed"
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: "The maker of touch-screen voting machines used in half of Ohio's counties has admitted that its own programming error is to blame for votes being dropped in some counties." from the Columbus Dispatch.
2008-08-20 - Tom Watson - Tag:gov
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: "A piece of knowledge is open if you are free to use, reuse and redistribute it" The Open Knowledge Foundation has a distinct definition of what it takes for knowledge or information to be open. They think you have to overcome three barriers simultaneously for knowledge to be truly open - social, legal and technical. See the packaging data for re-use post to see how the Power of Information taskforce are working with the Open Knowedge foundation to achieve this with their work.
2008-08-13 - Tom Watson - Blog publishing in the UK: Why it failed
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: "A piece of knowledge is open if you are free to use, reuse and redistribute it". The Open Knowledge Foundation has a distinct definition of what it takes for knowledge or information to be open. They think you have to overcome three barriers simultaneously for knowledge to be truly open - social, legal and technical. See the packaging data for re-use post to see how the Power of Information taskforce are working with the Open Knowledge foundation to achieve this with their work.
2008-07-09 - Tom Watson - Rebooting democracy
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: I've just started working through Reebooting America and it’s a joy. As Micah and his colleagues say: "The jarring juxtaposition of our political reality against the potential for great political change is vividly revealed in the awful uses of technology (eg touch-screen voting machines and microtargeting of voters by what beer they buy) versus wonderful uses of technology (eg cell phones used to mobilze voters or live-blogging of political events that engage thousands of people in direct conversation with candidates)" Tim points to a particularly interesting contribution by Yochai Benkler. He says: "The next phase in the integration of large-scale cooperation into democracy will come when we begin to use platforms for collecting, filtering, and refining proposals for action and active contributions....
2008-03-31 - Tom Watson - Bad Phorm
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: I'm writing to BT too.
2008-03-11 - Kable - Minister wants more mash-ups
Summary: Tom Watson said that one of his priorities for the transformation of government is that data mash-ups, in which users can take and combine data to meet their own preferences, becomes embedded in the thinking of all departments. ... As an example, he cited work done by mySociety.org ... "We need to build stuff small, test it, then iterate, iterate, iterate," he said.
2008-03-10 - Tom Watson - The power of information
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: The text of the speech given by Tom at the Tower '08 conference.
2007-10-14 - Tom Watson - Global reach
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: ... it is worth linking to “Everyone’s guide to by-passing internet censorship for citizens worldwide”. I’ve just added the publishing organisation - citizen lab, to the sidebar links too.
2007-09-05 - Tom Watson - National DNA database
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: A senior judge has said that we should all be registered on the national DNA database. What’s the point of loading up all those little old ladies who are passed the age in which they can engage in regular law breaking?
2007-08-24 - Tom Watson - Should the public sector provide free wireless networks?
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: Or rather, should the public sector be prohibited from providing free WiFi if they decide to do so? The experience in Prague and Paris is that the EU competition people are going to be dragged into a public/private row they’d rather keep out of. I’m not very familiar with the arguments in this debate. What do you think?
2007-08-10 - Tom Watson - Facebook fix gives advertisers the green light
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: Apparently Facebook now allow their advertisers to opt-out of appearing on the ‘groups’ pages of their site. So they’ll be no Virgin or Vodafone branding on the BNP group site any more. In this article, a Facebook representative seems remarkably complacent in saying that half their advertisers don’t have a problem appearing everywhere on the site, presumably including the BNP section. I love these teen-geek business people. The glass is always half full for them.
2007-08-07 - Tom Watson - Google government
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: Google have a home page in the US that you can use to search any government department. It strikes me as a good idea for the UK.
2007-02-14 - Tom Watson - Freedom of Information
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: Here’s a civil servant I admire. Whatever your view of the Freedom of Information Act; you may loathe and detest it, the fact is that it exists. It’s become part of the democratic fabric of the nation. I use it frequently - very often to ascertain facts that I cannot get from Parliamentary Questions. To change it now, would be folly.
2007-02-07 - Tom Watson - Europeans and DRM
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: An interesting article just posted by Steve Jobs on the front page of the Apple site. He argues that we should stop beating up on iTunes for the use of DRM protected music and get the record companies to pull their finger out. I just want the whole industry to sort themselves out and stop fighting each other. Then they can find a sensible way forward with the online music revolution taking place under their noses.
2007-01-28 - Tom Watson - Hacking Democracy
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: Hacking Democracy is a documentary film by Simon Ardizzone and Russell Michaels, made for HBO in 2006. It documents anomalies and irregularities with electronic voting systems that occurred during the 2004 election, especially in Volusia County, Florida, and investigates the integrity of electronic voting machines. There is a rare UK screening on Tuesday, February 6th, UCL Gower Street at 7pm. I’m going to try and get there and I’m told MPs from the other parties will be attending as well.
2007-01-13 - Tom Watson - Not-a-U-turn victory
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: The Reg publishes a story claiming that the government has U-turned and decided to offer advice to schools about how they may or may not introduce biometric technolgy in schools. The DfES deny a U-turn however. They say that they were always revising and improving its guidance. Who is right? It’s a six of one and half a dozen of the other situation although I’m going to bank it as a goal for backbench pressure anyway
2007-01-12 - The Register - UK to review school fingerprinting
Author: Mark Ballard
Summary: The Department for Education and Skills is to reconsider the fingerprinting of school children after a four year campaign by parents. ... Pippa King, a lead campaigner against school fingerprinting, and David Clouter, who runs the group Leave Them Kids Alone, have meetings scheduled next week with the Libdem MP Sarah Teather, Conservative MP Nick Gibb and Labour MP Tom Watson.
2006-12-06 - Tom Watson - Gowers review
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: In an early post, I'd talked about the Gowers Review that was considering extending the copyright term for recorded artists to over 50 years. He chosen not to do that and the BPI are not happy about it. The extended link has their press release about the matter.
2006-12-01 - Tom Watson - Watching him illegally watching you?
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: The information commissioner believes that the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology may be illegal. This would be very difficult for current police operations. For one, there has been an increasing reliance of ANPR by traffic police in recent years. ...
2006-11-28 - Tom Watson - Seeing and listening?
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: Should powerful microphones be attached to CCTV cameras in order to help the police with their surveillance activities? Official snooping has become a way of life and we shouldn't be surprised by these ideas says The Stirrer. What do you think? Update: I just submitted the following question on this: "What discussions he [the home sec.] has had with a; the police and b; the surveillance industry about the introduction of listening technology with CCTV systems and if he will make a statement?
2006-11-14 - Tom Watson - Hacking Democracy
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: A block of free places (see below) is available for a private screening in central London on Thursday of 'Hacking Democracy,' an HBO Films documentary on the controversy surrounding the security of the electronic voting machines routinely used in US elections such as this week's landmark Mid-Term race. The film claims to "expose the vulnerability of computers - which count approximately 80% of America's votes in county, state and federal elections - suggesting that if our votes aren't safe, then our democracy isn't safe either.
2006-11-09 - Tom Watson - Pull the plug on electronic voting?
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: A third of all Americans used electronic equipment to vote in the elections. Malfunctions or glitches were reported in at least five states. This is not the first time that serious doubts have been raised about electronic voting machines in the USA - so much so that a campaign has been launched to go back to the old style pen and paper for the 2008 presidential elections. I hope the electoral commission people are not thinking of going down the same route in the UK
2006-11-07 - Tom Watson Blog - The biggest free aspidistra in the world?
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: I'm instinctively attracted to keeping the term at 50 years but I'd be interested to know your views.
2006-11-01 - Tom Watson MP - More on biometric technology in schools
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: The commenter's on the recent post about biometric technology in schools have spurred me on to investigate this more fully. I've tabled a number of questions to the DFES to ask them about what guidelines they give local education authorities on this stuff. I've also asked them to list the types of technology used. If you have any experiences in your area, I'd be interested to know.
2006-10-28 - Tom Watson Blog - Biometric schools?
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: So a Scottish school is the first to introduce biometric technology. They've introduced a vein-scanning system to register kids in the dining hall. The theory being that the free meals kids are not stigmatised and, I assume, they can track what they're eating. Here's another way of looking at it: its a thin end of the wedge that will lead to the kids being tracked 8 hours a day. I've not made my mind up on all this stuff yet.
2004-09-06 - Tom Watson Blog - Music paradise?
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: I'm a former deputy treasurer of the all party parliamentary music group ... It struck me that the industry just didn't have an adequate response to the chasmic leaps in technology that confronted it. Rather like the vain attempts of the French to keep their language frozen in time, the music industry couldn't deal with file sharing and all that clever stuff. They had a problem. I mean we can not allow the old-napster-style-sites to drive our talented artists into starvation. For every Bono there are a thousand artists trying to pay the bills at the end of the month after all. So what did the industry do? King Canute like, they tried to pretend nothing was happening and started arresting their customers - not a particularly productive exercise in the long run. What they lacked was a new business plan; one that accepted that the online revolution wasn't going away. ...
2004-06-05 - Tom Watson Blog - Troll software patents
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: And why is David Brent working for e-bay?
2004-05-15 - Tom Watson Blog - European Software Patents Directive
Author: Tom Watson MP
Summary: A lively topic for a sunny Saturday. The people at the Public Whip have suspended their site for a couple of days in protest at the potential problems the directive might cause. I'm going to write to Patricia Hewitt about it, although like many things in my line of work, I wish I'd known about this 3 months before the decision was going to be taken rather than three days! If you can help them out in anyway, I'm sure they'd appreciate it.
2003-07-05 - The Register - Meet Tom Watson MP: Blogger extraordinare
Author: Drew Cullen
Summary: Our attention is drawn the UK's blogging MP, Tom Watson (Lab, West Bromwich East), and his extraordinary attempt to speak to Da Yoof.
2002-07-03 - BBC - Should Britain introduce ID cards?
Author: Paul Reynolds
Summary: Our correspondent, Paul Reynolds put your questions to Tom Watson MP and Helen Disney ... Tom Watson "My personal view is that the Reader's Digest know more about us than the British state. And if we're going to go down the road of having an entitlement card, we need a full debate in the country to see what kind of benefit it can bring and crucially to reassure people that it's not going to cost the taxpayer a great deal of money to implement the system..." "... My view is it should be voluntary..." "Well, there's no doubt about it. An ID card would allow us to tackle organised crime, which in the last decade has gone into housing benefit fraud in quite a big way, it costs us billions of pounds in social security fraud in Britain, and this is one way of attacking that organised crime."

References

  1. Tom Watson: Crack open the lobby cartel, rip up the rules, and let a new era of accountability begin
  2. Digital Economy Bill – unprecedented and relentless lobby around the Digital Economy Bill,
  3. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2013-03-18c.632.0#g644.1