Yearly Archives: 2010

According to the Daily Telegraph: Civil servants were urged to sign up their own families for ID cards as the controversial scheme flopped, a freedom of information request has revealed. Confidential reports into trials of the £30 cards expose for the first time the chaos that surrounded their introduction. The £1bn scheme was launched in Greater Manchester in November last year but proved a hugely expensive failure, with only 13,200 people signing up. It was scrapped by the coalition government days after it came to power. Today, the reports obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal how: Senior Whitehall officials were urged to email friends and relatives to encourage them to buy cards because of fears about the level of demand; UK and overseas border guards refused to recognise the cards – with one traveller chased through an Italian airport after trying to use one as ID; The Home […]

Civil servants were ‘urged to get families signed up for ...

Kashmir Hill writes in the American Forbes Magazine: The next big privacy battle may be over who has access to your DNA. It is becoming surprisingly easy for someone to test your DNA without permission. Every drop of saliva you leave on a Styrofoam coffee cup or hair follicle that falls to the floor contains DNA that in theory can be tested for everything from ancestry to disease risk. In 2009 New Scientist writer Michael Reilly “hacked” a colleague’s genome using samples from a water glass. He found labs willing to extract DNA from the glass and amplify it, producing enough DNA to send off to a direct-to-consumer genetic testing company. Within weeks Reilly had results predicting his colleague was at risk for baldness, psoriasis and glaucoma. Amazingly, there is no [American] federal law against surreptitious DNA testing. There is also little regulation of what consumer genetics companies such as […]

Genome Hackers

Judith Duffy writes in the Daily Express: Dozens of Scottish schools have introduced “intrusive” biometric systems, such as fingerprinting, to identify pupils as young as four. New figures show 68 schools are now using technology to manage meals, control library books and even allow access to toilets. Almost two-thirds are primaries, where fingerprinting and palm recognition can be used to identify young children. And another 10 schools in Midlothian have the capability for biometric ID but are not yet using it. Yesterday, critics said the extent which the technology was being used in Scotland’s schools was “worrying”. Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Robert Brown, who uncovered the figures through Freedom of Information legislation, said: “If the vast majority of Scotland’s schools can let children move round the premises and pay for their lunch without biometric identification, it is difficult to see why it is necessary for these 68 schools. Public bodies […]

Biometric ID check on Scots schoolchildren as young as four

The Daily Mail reports: Identity cards are to be officially abolished, after peers finally withdrew their demand that the 12,000 people who paid £30 for them should be allowed to claim their money back. The coalition’s Identity Documents Bill, which repeals the previous Labour administration’s Identity Cards Act 2006, gained Royal Assent to become law last night before the Commons rose for the Christmas recess. The Government was defeated in November during the Bill’s report stage, when peers voted by 220 to 188 (majority 32), for a Labour amendment that would have let cardholders claim a refund. But the defeat was later overturned by MPs, who invoked Commons’ financial privilege to prevent the Lords insisting on the amendment, which ministers claimed would cost some £400,000. Tonight’s climbdown by Labour peers’ deputy leader Lord Hunt of Kings Heath followed a lengthy and ill-tempered debate in which ministers suffered a further defeat, […]

ID cards – RIP

Damian Green MP writes on the Guardian Comment is Free web site: Today’s final abolition of the intrusive and expensive ID card scheme is the climax of a long campaign that has been extremely close to my heart. I believe civil liberties and values that we should fight to uphold have been under serious threat for some years. So it is with enormous pleasure that I celebrate as the identity documents bill passes into law and scraps the ability of the state to gather volumes of personal biographical and biometric information from citizens without the data serving any specific purpose or benefit.

Scrapping ID cards is a momentous step

Sophie Curtis writes in eWeek Europe: Cuts in ICT spending have helped the coalition government make £1 billion worth of efficiency savings since May 2010, the Cabinet Office has revealed. Half of the £1 billion was made through a moratorium on consulting, ICT, recruitment, marketing and property spending, with more than £400 million coming from halting major projects, such as ID cards. The government has said it hopes to save a total of £3 billion during its first year in power. “This government is leaving no stone unturned in cutting unnecessary and excessive expenditure to protect jobs and the frontline services on which people depend,” said Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

Government IT Cuts Achieve Major Savings

Kenneth Roy writes in the Scottish Review about the Scottish Citizen’s Database: In practice, the bizarre logic of economic recovery quickly falls apart. In the most notorious case of child abuse in the UK for many years, it was found that one of the causes of Baby P’s death was the obligation placed on staff to underake extensive information-gathering as a pre-requisite of purposeful intervention. By the time all the information had been gathered, the child was dead. Yet it is extensive information-gathering that lies at the heart of current Scottish policy and is being zealously pursued by the e-Care Programme Board, which consists almost solely of civil servants and includes not a single elected representative.

Here’s how they got you on the database without you ...

Kenneth Roy writes in the Scottish Review: We no longer need to imagine a futuristic world in which everyone has a number known only to the authorities; a world in which the most intimate details of our lives are able to be shared without our permission or even knowledge; a world in which we are electronically tracked from the womb to the grave. We no longer need to imagine such a world because, in Scotland, we are already living in it. The database state is not unique to us, but it is being pursued here with unabated zeal. Within weeks of coming to power, the coalition government scrapped Contact Point, a notorious data-sharing scheme in England and Wales, in response to concerns about its intrusion into private lives. There is no sign of a similar initiative north of the border, where the full extent of the database state, with its […]

Intimate details of our lives are being ‘monitored’ and shared ...

Bruno Waterfield writes in the Daily Telegraph: The European Commission has demanded Britain justifies the widespread and routine fingerprinting of children in schools because of “significant concerns” that the policy breaks EU privacy laws. The commissioner is also concerned that parents are not allowed legal redress after one man was told he could not challenge the compulsory fingerprinting, without his permission, of his daughter for a “unique pupil number”.

Europe tells Britain to justify itself over fingerprinting children in ...

Andrea Petrou writes in Tech Eye: Although many rejoiced when the Coalition government scrapped the controversial ID scam earlier this year, there have been some casualties. According to Home Office Minister of state Damian Green, there’s now £6.5 million worth of pre-purchased IT hardware sitting in boxes which will probably never see the light of day. Privacy groups have said this should make ministers “hang their heads in shame”. Responding to questions by MPs about the overall investment that had been put into the programme, Green told the Commons that “in respect of the Critical Workers Identity Card and Early Interest Scheme” much kit had been bought in but had now been withdrawn and “securely stored”.

Killing off ID card scheme leaves hardware casualties

Fiona Barr writes in EHI Primary Care: GPs in London have been told to do nothing about the Summary Care Record until they get the go-ahead from the BMA’s GP committee. Londonwide Local Medical Committees has told GPs that it believes patient opt-in is the only acceptable way forward. it has also told them that the BMA’s General Practitioner Committee is continuing to discuss an opt-in with NHS Connecting for Health. In October, the Department of Health published the results of its two reviews of the SCR that recommended that its content should be limited to core information and that an opt-out form should be included in patient information packs. Health minister Simon Burns said he hoped the reviews would “draw a line under the controversies that the SCR has generated.” However, it would seem that GPs remain concerned by the implied consent model, and that this could yet prove […]

London GPs told to hold fire on SCR

According to the Guardian’s editorial: The implications of the WikiLeaks disclosures for vast government databases are considerable. The confidential medical records of more than 50 million UK citizens will soon be sitting on a centralised £12bn computer system which can be accessed by as many as 250,000 NHS staff from 30,000 terminals. The NHS Spine is, essentially, no different from Siprnet, the military intranet at the heart of these leaks. The vision of a 22-year-old private soldier reading – and allegedly copying – the innermost secrets of US diplomacy is hardly a reassuring one.

WikiLeaks: The man who kicked the hornet’s nest

Gerald Warner, writing in Scotland on Sunday, gives his opinion on the wider context of the current Wikileaks disclosures: Now technology has taken a hand, with destabilising consequences for the ruling elites. At first, technology was seen as an ally of guided democracy: CCTV surveillance, DNA records, biometric identity cards, all the instruments of intrusion that could be conscripted into the service of the “soft” totalitarian state. Then it gradually became obvious the internet was a threat to state control. China was the first tyranny to become concerned and to pioneer counter-measures; it is a fair bet that technical experts from the Free World will soon be flying to Beijing to acquire expertise in policing the web. This is the start of a new arms race, in which the intruder state and the individual citizen compete to install and circumvent censorship in alternating stages, with each striving to stay one […]

WikiLeaks strips bare facade of ‘transparent’ democracy

The Economist web site is hosting an online debate on the motion “This house believes that any loss of privacy from digitising health care will be more than compensated for by the welfare gains from increased efficiency”. Here are excerpts from the opening remarks: The moderator’s opening remarks Mr Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran Welcome to our great online debate on the future of digital health care. Medicine may be the last great industry to resist the digital revolution. Many doctors, especially in America, still use paper health records. However, this is about to change. Britain’s health system is undergoing a painful and costly process of digitisation. Thanks to some $30 billion of federal subsidy from the Obama administration to come over the next five years, so too will America’s. Many other countries are watching. Consumer advocates worry that if the move is rushed, patient privacy will suffer. Already, Britain’s NHS and […]

Health 2.0

Sheila Struthers writes in the Scottish Review: Getting It Right For Every Child (Girfec) and its English equivalent Every Child Matters (ECM) are constantly presented as having been developed as a result of the Laming report (published on 28 January 2003) on the death of Victoria Climbié or, in Scotland, the Herbison report (released to the public by the Highland child protection committee on 7 March 2006) on the death of Danielle Reid. This cannot be: the line we have been spun is a great big whopping lie. ‘Privacy and data-sharing: the way forward for public services’, a performance and innovation report dated 2002, was published by the Blair UK government and set out (among other intended reforms) changes to children’s services which the public and professionals were led to believe were being instigated as a result of the Laming or Herbison reports. ‘For Scotland’s Children – Better integrated children’s […]

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