Hancock’s Half-Hour

Hancock’s Half-Hour

Matt Hancock MP is the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport so you may think it is only fitting that he should be the first MP to venture into the digital world with his own app.

That’s what he did last week, with I assume the best of in intentions. However, the launch itself was a PR disaster and only confirmed my belief that government ministers rise to the level of their own incompetence.

The app is called Matt Hancock MP which is a big mistake. The choice of name produces interesting system alerts such as “Matt Hancock would like to access your camera”, “Matt Hancock would like to access your photos” and “Matt Hancock keeps stopping”.

As he is the minister in charge of regulating porn on the internet only Matt Hancock was surprised when the first rush of users posted porn images. Now Google App Store‎ has a “Parental guidance” notification for downloading the app.

Google say parental guidence for Matt Hancock app

The app also launched with privacy issues, which is not good news when you are responsible for overseeing data protection laws in the UK. Pat Walshe, an international data protection and privacy consultant, said the app had “some of the worst privacy standards” he had ever seen. The app even asks you to accept its privacy policy after rather than before installation.

Users downloading the iPhone version say the app is accessing their photos and data even after they refused it permission to do so. The developers, Disciple Media are quoted as saying that “getting access to your photos without permission is a feature, not a bug”. So that’s alright then.

Reading the daily press comments on this comedy of errors had me wondering if Matt Hancock had taken advice on this project and if so from whom. Maybe if he had used a developer from his own constituency rather than a London based off the shelf app making company things might have been different.

We all know that in the future the most successful economies in the world will be those that executed well on their digital strategy. Currently the junior minister in Matt Hancock’s department responsible for Digital and the Creative Industries is Margot James MP who graduated from the LSE ten years before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. Let’s hope she is taking advice from members of the social media generation and not from her boss.

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