Letters: Internet perils, from cyber-attacks to porn

These letters appear in the Saturday 30th March edition of the Independent

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The major cyber-attack alleged to have been perpetrated by one disgruntled IT firm against another, putting the whole internet at risk, demonstrates, as few other events have done in recent times, the folly of over-reliance by governments and commerce on information technology in its present state of development.

As a user of important safety-of-life computer applications for the final 20 years of my professional life, it was made quite clear to me virtually every day that software (and occasionally hardware) and the associated communication systems are far from the state of near-absolute reliability required for 21st-century purposes.

The obligations to file tax information online and to apply for jobs online, with severe penalties for non-compliance, are just two examples of many systems that require far better reliability than is yet available, if thousands or perhaps millions of people are not to be badly disadvantaged by occurrences completely outside their control.

Norman Foster, Duxford, Cambridgeshire

 

Your article about the pernicious effects of internet pornography on children (“We need help to protect children from internet porn, say teachers”, 27 March) was positioned directly above an advert for BT Broadband.

I contacted BT Broadband several months ago about this issue, looking for some way to prevent pornography from entering my home via their broadband cable. I was informed by BT that they do not filter content, and I was offered an add-on product I could download to my computer to set up parental filters. This add-on, however, does not work on Apple products, or on tablets, phones or other mobile devices.  

Apparently, in order to stop BT from sending porn into my home I am expected to find, and pay for, my own filtering software for my Macbook and other devices, download these various software packages on to each device in my home, instal them, and set up the accounts, passwords and filters separately. This is a big ask for your average non-IT expert parent, and probably a futile exercise when children are more IT-savvy than their parents.  

Furthermore, the devices of any visiting friends or extended family members will still be able to use my broadband to access porn, whether I want to provide it or not.  

I understand Mr Cameron wants all internet providers ask customers to “opt in” to allowing adult content. I would be happy if there were just a way to “opt out” of it. Whichever way they want to do it, I call on the Government to act quickly to make internet providers filter their content at the ISP level.  

Ellen Purton, Twickenham, Middlesex

 

Amanda Knox court ordeal drags on

Italian justice is broken. The Supreme Court decision that requires another trial for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito flies in the face of all the facts. In any other Western democracy this case would never even have made it to court.

Every independent forensic and legal expert who has studied it has concluded that the couple were railroaded by an incompetent prosecutor and police force. Meredith Kercher was tragically murdered by one man – Rudy Guede. He has admitted being present, his DNA was on and in her body and he fled to Germany to avoid arrest.

I am privileged to have got to know Amanda, Raffaele and their families. Two more decent and honourable young people would be hard to find. They will now continue to be trapped in a nightmare for years while Italian lawyers continue to exploit poor Meredith’s family.

Nigel Scott, London N22

 

Cardinal’s  shame

Clearly, Philip Hensher is possessed of a great deal more Christian charity for Cardinal O’Brien than I can find in my heart for him (“We can laugh at the cardinal but not his victims”, 23 March).

The whole tone of Hensher’s apologia for the Cardinal angered me greatly. He deserves nothing but our contempt.

It is a requirement of Catholic clergy, gay or straight, that they remain celibate. However much this rule may be broken, it remains a requirement. For that reason, Hensher is wrong to claim that “people are allowed to live their lives however they want”. Not if you’re a Catholic priest. The vocation to that priesthood presupposes – preposterously in my view – a vocation to celibacy.

Hensher is however right in one thing: that “someone hates and fears a forbidden aspect of themselves and is drawn ineluctably to talk about it”. As a gay man, I would rather listen to criticism of my lifestyle and life choices from a straight person than I would from a homophobic closet job. And I wonder what all the anti-gay chants at football matches say about the fans.

I for one am not willing to “shake my head and laugh a little at human folly” in the context of O’Brien. He deserves all “the misery of his guilt, shame and terror”.

Michael Johnson, Brighton

 

Children with no breakfast

Stuart White (letter, 27 March) should wake up and smell the coffee regarding why children may come to rely on school breakfast clubs. It is a sad truth that there are indeed families in the UK who cannot afford simple items such as jam and porridge. However, the main issue overlooked is that some parents simply do not understand that these items need to be bought. Poorly educated parents will not think that cupboards need to be filled with nutritious items. Their precious few pounds will be spent elsewhere.

Is it right that their children should be unable to learn during a morning at school because of their parents’ lack of understanding? Do we want parents’ mistakes to be thrust on their children, leading the children to make the same mistakes in years to come? I think not. The cycle must be stopped and children should be cared for when care is not forthcoming from their own home.

Christina Teague, London SW18

 

State phones were a disaster

While I am no fan of widespread privatisation for the sake of it, I take issue with your correspondent Barry Norman, over his claim that it is always a bad thing (letter, 25 March). He clearly isn’t old enough to remember the telephone system under the good old Post Office.

Before BT, you had to wait up to two years to have a phone installed.Rental and calls were so expensive that the average household couldn’t afford to have a phone. Many long-distance and all overseas calls had to be routed through the operator (unless you lived in London). The exchanges were so old that they would break down with monotonous regularity and the time taken to connect was sometimes longer than the call.Add to that the fact that less than one in 10 households had a phone and yet it still took an age to get faults rectified, and you had a recipe for disaster.

Whilst not perfect, today’s phone system is faster, cheaper and more efficient than it ever was under public ownership.

David Jackson, Birkenhead

 

Hand-written with feeling

Handwriting is alive, well and I believe growing in popularity (letter, 29 March).

Last year when my wife died, I had around a hundred messages of condolence, sympathy and support, more than 75 per cent of them handwritten. The others were from overseas and emails, in order to reach their destination swiftly: yes an advantage of today’s technology.

There is a joy in the close personal contact that can be felt using a fountain pen, an ability to somehow connect closer with the recipient than is possible via the keyboard. Although calligraphy is a niche art form and a delightful one at that, handwriting is a skill, even a discipline, which once learned can bring people closer with the written word. We could do with much more of that immediacy of personal input, to properly express feelings.

Martin Holloway, Honiton, Devon

 

Pay now, eat later

Lisa Markwell may be interested to learn that the system she advocates (28 March) operates at Spires Restaurant in the Northcott Theatre, Exeter.

After being seated, examining the menu and placing your order for the complete meal, the first course, served on a plate, is your bill. The second quickly follows: your change, also on a plate; cards are not accepted. Then the dishes follow seriatim. The diners all appear to be happy and there is no hassle of everyone calling for their bill and trying to pay 10 minutes before curtain-up.

Pat Meares, Exeter

 

Missing million

An official Ukip leaflet was pushed through my letter box this week informing me that “Next year, the EU will allow 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians to come to the UK”. However, the population of Bulgaria is 7 million and that of Romania is 21.3 million. That comes to a total of 28.3 million. So if my maths is correct that leaves a population deficit of 700,000. I wonder where they’ve gone?

Canon Tony Chesterman, Lesbury, Northumberland

 

Apostrophic

We have reached the bottom of the abyss. Near here there was for almost a year a Mercedes garage with a large, professionally produced sign at its entrance announcing: “Our new Smart dealership welcome’s you”. I spoke to several staff members about this but they were all totally obliviou’s. The battle is, I think, lost.

Chris Bond, Newcastle upon Tyne

 

Retired unhurt

It seems that because of his timely retirement the former Chief Constable of South Yorkshire may escape retribution for the Hillsborough cover-up. For us ordinary members of the public “wasting police time” is a crime of significance. Perhaps Mr Bettison could be found guilty of that?

Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

 

Google that

I have just read your report about the Swedish argument over the word “ungoogleable”. Not being sure, I looked it up on the internet, and sure enough, “ungoogleable” is googleable.

Phil Wood , Westhoughton, Greater Manchester

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