A Christmas Quiz

Around this time last year, I was stuck in a queue to get onto the A5103 into Manchester one rainy morning, when I realised that I would be 40 in just over two years. I was stubbornly keeping a foot in the normal working world, despite getting nothing out of my job, and working for an organisation that was dying a long, incremental death. A wise man once observed to me that nobody lies on their deathbed and says ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office’. He was right, and on that morning, I went into the office and quit. Freed from the responsibility I might have to an employer, I started as a full time trainer and consultant, and subsequently, began blogging and tweeting.

I do not miss working for The Man. However, as my last two jobs involved working with some great people, I do miss the office banter, the communal ridiculing of senior officers, and dealing with angry punters (seriously, if you want to outsource your most aggressive applicants, let me know). Another thing I miss is participating in, and sometimes running, the office Christmas Quiz. In the absence of real office colleagues, I have decided to run a quiz for blog readers and twitter followers, and there is an actual prize.

You can choose from:
A) A day’s training delivered by myself on any Information Governance topic – FOI, Data Protection, the Environmental Information Regulations, or something more specialist like DP & HR, marketing and the law, or DP, FOI and the Media. Whatever you want, you get. I will train up to 20 people. You will get the same tailored course I would do for you if you were paying.
B) A complete review of all your organisation’s existing FOI, DP and other IG policies, including a full report on changes and improvements that I think you should make to improve them and avoid them causing enforcement action.

Check out my website www.2040training.co.uk for more information (see what I did there?).
If they choose prize option (A), the winner’s organisation will agree to pay my expenses – standard class travel and an inexpensive hotel if you’re far from Manchester and an overnight stay is required. Option (B) will be done remotely.
Both options are UK only prizes (but this does include the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands).
The winner must claim their prize before the end of June 2012.
Any organisation that has already booked training with me will receive the prize in addition to the contracted work.

You can either answer the Anoraks Quiz or the Civilians Quiz. You can submit an entry in both categories that counts as two entries. All entries go into the draw, but there is only one prizewinner overall.
Answer the questions set out below, marking your answers with the appropriate quiz name or names. Email your answers to mail@2040training.co.uk by the 31st January 2012 including your name, organisation and email address.
No purchase is necessary, and you will not be added to a mailing list.
The winner is the entrant with the most correct answers in either category. All entries will be read and marked, and a draw made of all entries with the highest number of correct answers (i.e. everyone who gets 10/10 in either category) from the 2040 top hat.
The correct answers will be published with the winner’s name and organisation (should they consent for it to be published) on this blog on 15th February 2012. Again with permission, the winner’s name will be tweeted from @tim2040 on the same day.
Your contact data will be used solely for the purposes of the competition; they will not be retained or shared with any third parties. Entrants will not be contacted unless they have won. All details will be deleted once the winner has claimed their prize and will be retained solely for the purposes of a re-draw in the event that the winner is unable to claim their prize for any reason.
Any promotional activity – quotes, testimonials, or a local-paper style thumbs-up winning photo on the 2040 website – will be at the winner’s discretion.
Quiz 1: Anoraks
1) Who do I think has been the best UK Information Commissioner?
2) When discussing commercial prejudice during the passage of the FOI Act (Scotland), name one of the products used in the Scottish Parliament to illustrate the concept of a trade secret.
3) In which country is Aarhus, host of the convention that gave rise to the Environmental Information Regulations?
4) True or false: the Information Commissioner is forbidden from prosecuting Government Departments for a breach of a Data Protection Act Enforcement Notice.
5) Who is David Murray, protagonist in an important UK privacy case?
6) What is the closest equivalent to S42 of the FOI Act 2000 in the EIRs?
7) Why is it technically impossible for the answer to question (1) to be Eric Howe?
8) What is the significance of the numbers in the name of my company, 2040 Training?
9) Which is the odd one out: Durant, Eszias, Markinson?
10) For which political party was the UK Information Commissioner Chris Graham twice an unsuccessful parliamentary candidate?
Quiz 2: Civilians
1) How many fictional characters have achieved a Christmas Number 1 since 1990?
2) How many of the four Die Hard movies are set at Christmas?
3) What fruit is the Belgian beer equivalent to mulled wine, Gluhkriek, flavoured with?
4) Does the large illuminated Father Christmas outside the Town Hall in Albert Square in Manchester look like Zippy from Rainbow?
5) Which of the following Christmas-themed horror movies have I invented? Kill Crazy Santa, Silent Night Deadly Night, You Better Watch Out
6) Which newspaper revealed the contents of the Queen’s Christmas Message in 1992?
7) What is Justin Bieber’s Christmas Album called?
8) Name a Christmas tradition that is pagan in origin? HINT: although celebrating a festival around the winter solstice is a pagan tradition, the answer is not ‘Christmas’.
9) According to the popular Christmas song, how many gifts did my true love send to me in total?
10) Which TV characters have a dog called ‘Santa’s Little Helper’?
Good luck, and regardless of your religious or philosophical convictions, I hope you keep out the cold and enjoy the season with your nearest and dearest. There will be more blogs in 2012.

Every time you attack the Data Protection Act, a fairy dies

According to comments reported in the Daily Mail (http://tinyurl.com/bqa5dpm), Baroness Deech says that a school should be able to tell a university that a prospective applicant’s mother is an alcoholic, and their father abandoned them, without fear that the parent or child be able to find out. The inability to share information so vital to the matriculation process, coupled with the drastic effect on job references that Deech is so exercised about she cannot actually cite any examples, is so damaging that were she to be made Prime Minister for the morning, abolishing the whole Data Protection Act would be her first task.
In the years I have been working on Data Protection, I have encountered some ludicrous views on the Act’s idiosyncrasies, so I cannot say for certain that the noble Baroness’ musings are the worst. I still have a soft spot for Tom Utley’s haunting account of his niece’s flute exam results not being accessible allegedly because of the machinations of the Data Protection Act. He was clearly so thunderstruck by the story he used it twice, first in the Daily Telegraph (http://tinyurl.com/dxte7kt) and later in the Daily Mail (http://tinyurl.com/cdw4tuo). I like the tale because its account of a daft teacher mistakenly using the DPA as an excuse not to give out the results, and then said results actually being obtained because a request was made under the DPA, is an advert for the legislation, not a condemnation. At worst, all Mr Utley’s story does is underline the vital need for good quality, pragmatic Data Protection training, if you know what I mean.
Anyway, Deech’s opinions are more troubling because she is not trying to fill a newspaper column, but is (ostensibly) a sensible and serious establishment figure with a seat in the House of Lords. In her fantasy PM moment, she would prevent social services clients from finding out what happened to them as children, stop individuals from correcting inaccuracies in their credit records, and ban patients from seeing their medical records. There would be no right to stop marketing, no ability to sue for damages for unfair or inaccurate uses of data. Your records would not need to be adequate or accurate. Security would be optional. And of course, the foundation of the DPA, the obligation on organisations to tell you what they’re doing with your data and why, that would be gone as well. All so that important people who know best can exchange their opinions without having to justify them. We’ve already had GPs bleating about having to hand over medical records without being able to charge insurance companies £97 for them (http://tinyurl.com/cu99nsy), and now the establishment wants to kill vital legislation so we can get back to the good old days when you could exchange information in secret. Because that never did anyone any harm, right?
It’s possible that Deech doesn’t know what else the DPA does, and in wishing to allow institutions to provide life-changing references without those affected (and other third parties) being able to assess fairness and accuracy, she doesn’t know what else she is wishing away. I doubt it – I’m sure her genuinely illustrious career in the law, academia and public service would have introduced her to its wider implications. And besides, Wikipedia claims (http://tinyurl.com/cyrhu6j) that her first cousin is the UK’s Blackbelt Openness Champ Maurice Frankel, so perhaps he might have given her a few pointers. But even on its own terms, her antipathy to transparency would shift power from individuals back to organisations, allowing them to say what they like about people with impunity. It’s an elitist and undemocratic approach – but I did mention that she is a member of the House of Lords.
When writing a reference, you have to be objective, fair, and accurate. If you have a valid opinion that the person might not like, you should include it and stand by it. If organisations really want to send or receive references written by people too spineless to justify their comments, they’ll end up with references written by people who might make them up to settle scores. Indeed, Deech’s proposal would facilitate that.
The Data Protection Act is often abused. Organisations routinely hide behind ‘Data Protection’ as a cover for poor or unhelpful customer service (for example, there are several ways to quickly and easily allow family members legitimate access to a relative’s account which DP does nothing to prevent). People who are confused, uncertain or indecisive about the use and sharing of personal information sometimes use Data Protection as a shield for their hesitancy. As we enter the festive season, head teachers up and down the land may tell parents that ‘Data Protection’ prevents them from filming their kids at Nativity Plays (parents are, in that context, absolutely exempt from the Data Protection Act under Section 36). But the Act is solid and sensible, and gives us rights and protections we need to protect us from the powerful, the arrogant and the lazy. We need a better explained, better regulated DPA, not an abolished one.
So I would like to add the first item to my Christmas list for Santa’s perusal. I would like Baroness Deech to get her wish, but only for herself. Like George Bailey’s journey to a Bedford Falls where he didn’t exist in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, I request that Santa lets the Baroness experience a world where the admittedly imperfect but nevertheless essential Data Protection Act simply doesn’t apply to her, and anyone can share any information about her, regardless of purpose, quality or relevance. People who don’t need to can read her personnel file or her medical records, and write references that she isn’t allowed to see, or even know about. She can’t correct inaccuracies, and her data is strewn around the streets on lost pen-drives and files left on the rooves of cars.
OK, we’re all apparently experiencing that last bit, but you get the idea.