Weekend news roundup

15 Mar 2010

A quick glance at some of the technology stories breaking in the weekend papers.

Security flaws dog patient records system

The Sunday Business Post reported yesterday that a patient records system built by the Health Service Executive (HSE) at a cost of €60 million has been plagued by security flaws and operational problems. In one case, HSE auditors discovered that catering staff had access codes allowing them to read confidential personal details of hospital patients. The Integrated Patient Management System (IPMS) is used by 10 acute hospitals and 20 other HSE centres to manage patient records and was originally intended to link up all HSE records nationwide to aid the treatment of patients. However, internal audits conducted in June last year uncovered a series of five ‘‘high level’’ security risks within the IPMS system, adding that controls to support the system were ‘‘inadequate’’. As a result, the key patient management system is now being rolled out differently in each location across the country, rather than centrally. The audit states that the differences between how hospitals operated the system were ‘‘fundamental’’ and would cause considerable difficulties if the HSE ever tried to link IPMS into a national database of patient records. Crucially, there was no national roll-out strategy for the system, despite the HSE committing €60 million to the project, according to the audit information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Eircom has yet to implement three-strikes rule

The same paper also reported that Eircom has not yet implemented its controversial three strikes rule against any file sharers. The rule, which was adopted more than a year ago by Eircom in answer to legal pressure from music companies, compels Eircom to disconnect customers who are suspected of downloading or swapping copyrighted work online, such as films or music. Music companies are currently seeking to apply legal pressure on other Irish internet service providers (ISPs) to follow the three-strikes principle. However, the European Parliament has thrown a roadblock in the way of a three-strikes law being adopted in Ireland. In a vote last week, the parliament censured the European Commission’s rumoured plan on including a three-strikes law as part of a new global treaty on fighting copyright theft, the AntiCounterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta).

Call for payment for news that are not sites’ own

The Observer reported yesterday that Google and other websites that carry news they do not produce should be taxed and the money generated used to prop up local newspapers, says a report which warns control of the media is concentrated in too few hands. The Commission of Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society, headed by Tony Blair’s former head of policy, Geoff Mulgan, will warn next week that news is becoming “recycled ‘churnalism’ and aggregated content”. In a report, Making Good Society, the commission says a future government must preserve freedom on the internet, ensure the media is not controlled by powerful interests, and promote accuracy. It says four publishers control 70pc of the local and regional press, three companies – BBC, ITN and BSkyB – produce national television news and just four companies have nearly 80pc of the commercial radio market. In a rapidly changing market, more than 100 local and regional newspaper titles vanished last year – a trend amplified, says the commission, by advertising revenues and audiences shifting to online platforms.

Digital Hub to expand?

The Sunday Tribune reported that Dublin City Council believes the Digital Hub in Dublin will expand to include the site of the former Chamber Weaver flats which were demolished 18 months ago. “It would be in an area where an extension of the Digital Hub activities might be expected in time,” a council official told councillors recently. The 1.6-acre site was expected to be sold on for commercial and residential development but the downturn in the market means the council does not anticipate “that there will be any development interest in all or part of the site for some time”. In the interim, the council is considering using the site for allotments, community gardens, car parks or events like a circus or a market.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years