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Conflict of Interest Derails UK Government Open Source Consultation 34

judgecorp writes "The UK government's consultation about the use of open source in public sector IT has been sent back to square one, with discussion results scrapped because the facilitator, Andy Hopkirk, is involved with Microsoft. Hopkirk is well regarded, but the open source community feels the debate dismissed RF (royalty free) standards in favor of the FRAND definition, which is more favorable to proprietary vendors."
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Conflict of Interest Derails UK Government Open Source Consultation

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  • Hopkirk (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    >discussion results scrapped because the facilitator, Andy Hopkirk...
    Hands up who expected the next word to be "(deceased)".

  • by Internal Modem ( 1281796 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:44AM (#39820119)
    According to the post, he may be respected, but has been labeled unethical: "This [relationship with Microsoft] could be seen as a clear conflict of interest and should have been declared by the relevant parties at that meeting."
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When crap like this is pulled there needs to be a demerit system that now weighs more heavily against the side which was found to behaving unethically. Like Proprietary software has 120 points, Open Source alternatives 119. However, due to the unethical stunt you pulled we award you 50 demerits. So the final score is Open Source 119, Proprietary 70. We will therefore use open source whenever it is feasible.

      • When crap like this is pulled there needs to be a demerit system that now weighs more heavily against the side which was found to behaving unethically.

        There isn't a point system. However, there's a much more simple thing, and it's actually the law already. Products from companies involved in corruption should be excluded from all governmental contracts for a period of time as happened for example to Boeing in the USA. If Microsoft products were suspended for e.g. 10 years, this would be a salutory lesson for all involved in corruption.

    • by sosume ( 680416 )

      God forbid a company is making profit selling commercial software in the EUSSR!

    • by makomk ( 752139 )

      This is basically what Microsoft have always done, though, isn't it? There was even an internal memo describing the usefulness of this particular tactic - quietly getting a Microsoft stooge as the moderator of the discussion - in I think the Halloween documents.

    • I wonder how respected he'll be now that he's got caught first trying to hide then pathetically to play down the pretty obvious strings running up to the Microsoft glove.

      It's not so much that he did it that's outrageous, it's the insulting assumption that he could just shrug and get away with it.

      These comments are based on reading TFA, by the way, it really is as bad as the summary makes it sound for once.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Reality here is the bill for the cost of the effort to date should be forwarded to M$ as it were their interests that were deceitfully forwarded, M$ can then choose whether or not to get the 'bad' doctor to pay for it or not.

        That companies can try this stuff on again and again, without any penalty is getting way out of hand. Some real penalties should be applied especially when they stooge up government based investigations that will likely lead to legislation.

    • He can't be that evil, he has a most impressive white beard.
  • FTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:53AM (#39820255)

    "not been paid to specifically write their response to the Open Standards consultation but he is engaged to help them tease out the issues"

    Wow, what a bunch of political weasel wording by Hopkirk. It all depends on how "specific" Hopkirk defines "specifically." That's not just mere conflict of interest. That's conflict of interest and then still lying about it.


    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      That's not the right way to look at this. You can't call the facilitator having consulted for Microsoft a "conflict of interest" without that applying equally to someone who benefits from the adoption of truly open standards.

      The problem here is that Dr. Hopkirk didn't *disclose* his ties to Microsoft. I give Dr. Hopkirk the benefit of the doubt that he attempted to steer the roundtable impartially -- to the best of his knowledge. But he concealed information that was important for *other* people to make a

      • by bmo ( 77928 )

        >This statement is so provocatively absurd, that it can only be the product of self-deception.

        I think you nailed it.


  • by Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft playing dirty? Who would have thought!

  • Not surprising... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:58AM (#39820317)

    I've worked in Local Government IT on an account for a London Borough for over 12 years, both on the client and contractor side.
    It seems pretty much mandatory that as much public money as possible spent on IT is funnelled straight to Redmond.
    It's therefore not really surprising that they should invite someone strongly connected with Microsoft to discuss Open Source.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by symbolset ( 646467 ) *
      We all know how committed to maintaining openness and compatibility Microsoft is. For many years their support of free and open systems has been legendary.
      • Your comment is actually insightful, as anyone who has tried to install a pirated version of Windows 7 has discovered (i.e., if we define "free" as in beer, and "open" as in "wide open for piracy").

        OTOH, MS might very well be monitoring the IP addresses of update requests and scanning them for fixed IPs assigned to businesses so that they can refer evidence of piracy by commercial entities to the proper BSA national branch office.

        Frankly, MS has a stake that people pirate their OS and tools for home use, be

  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:07AM (#39820447) Homepage Journal

    and profits in pocket.

    not paid specifically to do that, but paid anyways. if he was going to continue to be paid depending on the results would have been the next question to ask.

  • The one positive out of this, is the reaction of the Cabinet Office deputy CIO, Liam Maxwell. When he heard about the problem, he confronted Hopkirk, then having heard his account fired him for not declaring his conflict of interest, binned the responses he had facilitated, and extended the consultation. It seems we have one civil servant who is determined that this consultation will be held fairly. So all our UK readers now have another 5 weeks to get their responses in: http://consultation.cabinetoffice. []

"Everyone's head is a cheap movie show." -- Jeff G. Bone