Monthly Archives: April 2009


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Eamonn Butler writes in the Daily Mail: So it has now become one of the main causes of anxiety. Among all the other worries that people face – the recession, crime, hospital superbugs and terrorism – a new fear has emerged: that of the Big Brother state. According to a survey by the Mental Health Foundation, we are a pretty fearful lot. In fact, more than seven million of us are living with some sort of anxiety problem. And the proliferation of surveillance equipment such as CCTV cameras (of which we have more than the rest of Europe put together) only makes people more worried of the very things the cameras are designed to tackle: crime and terrorism. It is ironic that something which is supposed to put our minds at rest has exactly the opposite effect. But there is also a darker side to the proliferation of monitoring equipment […]

With recent police activity, anti-terror adverts and CCTV everywhere no ...


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Miles Erwin writes on the front page of Metro: New laws demanding that all phone calls, e-mails and internet hits are stored for a year have been roundly dismissed by voters. In a survey conducted for Metro, 60 per cent of Britons rejected a European directive requiring all communications to be recorded to help crack down on criminals. Just 23 per cent of 1,247 voters questioned by the PoliticsHome website approved of the scheme, which came into force last Monday. Thirty-three per cent said the laws would make them feel less secure against 22 per cent who felt safer. The survey also showed that 56 per cent of people are worried about the possibility of a ‘Big Brother state’ and 63 per cent believe the government holds too much information already on individuals. The detailed polling results are available here.

Voters: Hands off our e-mails


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Nigel Nelson, writing in the Sunday People, reports the Immigration Minister’s plans to use ID cards to track students’ movements: The scheme means we will have a comprehensive database including fingerprints so we can be sure those who wish to come here are who they say they are. We can check them against international watch lists and criminal records. It will give us the ability to monitor their movements in this country so we will know where they are. And when they are not where they are supposed to be. I have already stopped hundreds of bogus business colleges acting as fronts for illegal immigration by insisting colleges register with the Home Office. Students are most welcome to come here to study legitimately, but that is what they should be doing – nothing else. That is why I am in favour of them having their IDs checked each day they […]

Card checks on students have to be speeded up



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According to the Mail on Sunday: Private schools are refusing to provide information on their pupils for use in a controversial Government database. The £224million system, called ContactPoint, aims to hold the details of every school-aged child in England, including GP and parents’ mobile-phone numbers, as well as a log of what services they use, such as a school nurse. It is estimated that this information could be used by more than one million people, from police officers to school administrators. Now, in the latest blow to the widely criticised database, the Independent Schools Council, which represents the private education sector, has joined critics who fear that data will not be secure and could be used improperly.

Private schools say no to providing pupil details for Government ...


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Michael Cross, writing in the Guardian, thinks the Database State is an electoral gift to the Conservative Party: These gifts are likely to be deployed in the Conservatives’ first potentially election-winning manifesto in a generation. We have already been promised measures to cancel the ID card, and the government this week handed the opposition another treat by placing the largest chunk of the business with US-based firms. The legally compromised national DNA database would also be scrapped. If the government doesn’t get there first, the Tories have promised a close look at the NHS’s “hubristic supercomputer”, a reference to the NHS National Programme for IT in England. This too will be popular – though it could be awkward if the review concludes the problem is that the programme has spent too little, rather than too much, money.

Government IT policy is spoiling those Tories rotten


Tony Collins writes in Computer Weekly: The official explanation for passport fee increases will always be that they are needed to cover the cost of more security to get in line with US and European requirements. But that argument goes only so far. The internal cost of producing each passport – called the unit cost – was about £15 in 1999 – and this was expected to fall with the advent of new technology. Indeed, there was talk in 1999 that the Treasury would allow the Passport Service, on the basis of a £15 unit cost, to make a profit. Since then there have been many fee increases, leaving one to wonder whether the cost of ID cards is being subsidised by passport fee increases. The Identity and Passport Service denies that passport fees have been increased to cover the cost of ID cards, but its spokesman conceded that passport […]

Are passport fees paying for ID cards?



Tom Whitehead writes in the Daily Telegraph: The Home Office has only issued half as many ID cards to foreign nationals as it had predicted because of “wrinkles” in the programme. The setback emerged as the head of the Government agency tasked with producing the cards signalled they could include chip and pin technology to help combat identity fraud. Last November, ministers predicted that between 40,000 and 50,000 non-EU nationals would have cards by the end of last month in the first roll out of the controversial scheme. But by the end of last week just 22,500 cards had been issued. Toby Stevens, writing on his blog at Computer Weekly, is puzzled by the “Chip and Pin” comment: I’m lost at what’s being achieved here. So, to prove my identity, I put my ID Card in an ATM and enter a PIN to provide a relatively weak binding: but seeing […]

Home Office issues only half the planned ID cards


Ian Dunt, writing on the politics.co.uk web site, reports a letter written by shadow home secretary Chris Grayling to the home secretary this morning: Dear Jacqui I am writing to you concerning the continued use of the DNA database to store the data of innocent people. As you will be aware, this practice is now illegal following the recent ruling by the European Court. I urge you to stop this practice immediately. We are today announcing our alternative proposal for the management of the database. The proposals would have the effect of implementing the Scottish system across the UK, with a few minor modifications. This framework is compliant with current law. I strongly urge you to implement these proposals immediately. It is not acceptable for the Government to be continuing with the old regime when it has been ruled illegal. It is also contrary to the rules of natural justice […]

Tories promise to reform DNA database


Jenni Russell writes in the Sunday Times: All along we have been assured that we needn’t worry about leaks and that the security of our information won’t be compromised. Last week we saw that the state can’t even guarantee the privacy of a few hundred lawmakers, let alone their 60m constituents. The naivety of the Speaker’s reaction was petrifying. He told the Commons that he was deeply disappointed by the leaks. They should not have happened. The outside contractor that had processed the claims had been security vetted and had been employed “in good faith”. Reassured? Me neither. But that naive approach is characteristic of the state’s approach to our data. It doesn’t understand that it is impossible to guarantee the security of the massive and comprehensive databases it is assembling on us. Files will be lost or hacked into but, above all, individuals will decide to snoop or leak. […]

Jacqui gets a taste of her ugly snooper state



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David Pollard writes in The First Post: Together with about 250 others, my profile is on the National DNA Database (NDNAD) in connection with the rape and murder of my partner forty years ago. The police asked that samples should be volunteered during their 1997 re-investigation. Despite the firm assurance that they would be used in this enquiry “for the purposes of elimination only”, these profiles remain on the database. This can’t be right. It was a lie that the samples were for the purpose of elimination only. Now the Child Database is under development, and there is no reason whatever to suppose that the authorities will display any greater scruples about the way in which data is managed and gathered than they have shown with the NDNAD. If the authorities lie, then why should anyone else choose not to? And why should we trust them with our data? The […]

New Labour’s genetic database harms children


Charles Arthur writes in The Guardian: But the leakage of the database of expenses shows that things have gone badly awry. Tom Steinberg, founder of MySociety, took some vicarious pleasure from MPs learning the lesson of database security the hard way, ahead of the planned introduction of ID cards. “The utilitarian in me suggests it’s much better to see 650 people slightly burned than millions destroyed,” he tweeted. Everyone’s been very worked up about Jacqui Smith’s expenses. True, there’s been a lot to get worked up about. But the continued failings of the government, of parliament, and of MPs to protect their own data and systems bodes badly for the future. In a world where MPs are dissuaded from using an important privacy tool, where databases can’t be secured, where important networks are open to untrammelled infection – they want ID cards? Honestly?

Conficker is a lesson for MPs – especially over ID ...


Simon Jenkins writes in The Guardian: ID cards and NHS computers promise to store the defining details and medical records of the entire population. As data sharing spreads, these records will be virtually open to public view. In 2000, just nine organisations were allowed warrants to access secure government records: the figure is now almost 800. For a small fee, anyone will be able to learn anything about anyone else. It may be illegal, but like computer downloads it will happen. This means every patient’s medical history will become available to insurance firms, rendering some uninsurable. Court and criminal records will end the privacy of a spent conviction and make many, including those who have committed no crime, unemployable for being on a police data system. It was reported last week that terrorism laws are more used for local government and crowd control than national security. As she battles to […]

Here’s proof. The innocent do have something to fear