Monthly Archives: April 2010


Joseph Harker writes in The Guardian about concerns over DNA retention at “Black Britain Decides”, a hustings addressed by senior politicians, starting with Harriet Harman: She raised a cheer when she made the valid point that only Labour governments had ever passed race equality laws. But she had little to say apart from: “We are opposed to prejudice,” and when the issue of the DNA database came up, she was roundly booed. From the start, she had come across as someone regurgitating a years’-old speech, with no consideration whatsoever for her audience. Despite a video message from David Cameron, they booed George Osborne’s entrance, too. Maybe the shadow chancellor had just come along so that, like his boss, he can now tell his friends he’s met a black man. And the dissent grew when he began his speech by talking about Martin Luther King; Barack Obama; and 1950s Britain. Jeers […]

Labour takes black support for granted


David Bond writes in the Independent: Thirty years ago, very little data was kept on British citizens – but now all that has changed. With support from the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation and The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, I have completed a feature documentary about the issues. It is called Erasing David. My producer hired Cerberus, a top firm of private investigators, to track me down. All they had to go on was my name and a recent photograph. I was to try to avoid being physically caught by them for 30 days. My first move was to get out of the UK to leave a cold trail as soon as possible. I booked tickets on Eurostar in another name, and changed them to mine at the last minute. I visited Paul Rusesabagina in Brussels. Hotel Rwanda is based on his experiences. He has a strong aversion to ID cards. […]

How to disappear completely


Toby Stevens writes on the Computer Weekly web site: One of the biggest flaws in the National ID Scheme’s architecture is its failure to support peer-to-peer authentication in any meaningful way. The government has promoted it as a way to interact with government, UK border controls, proof of age scenarios, and… that’s about it really. However, this is a classic case of designing a system around the needs of a minority user group: those who lack other trusted credentials, or often come into contact with the authorities. It’s an approach that disregards the needs of everyone else. Like most people with a ‘conventional’ lifestyle (i.e. someone who is not regularly in contact with police, UKBA or social services) I rarely need to prove who I am. My wallet contains two credit cards and a debit card, a few bits of plastic for club memberships (IoD, British Cycling, Britannia Rescue etc) […]

Gissa proper National ID Card



Fiona McIntosh writes in the Sunday Mirror: The letter looked so dull I almost threw it in the bin without opening it. More boring council ­rubbish. But I read it, and it wasn’t dull at all. It was bloody terrifying. My NHS chief executive was writing to tell me my private ­medical records were about to be put on an online database. My “summary care” record detailing every allergy, cough, disease, test and operation I’ve ever had were to be dug out of my GP’s office and spewed into ­cyberspace. The brochure promised “internationally recognized security measures” would keep my records confidential. Would these be the same “internationally recognized security measures” used to protect the Child Benefit data – which ­included my bank details and NI number – that went missing from ­Revenue and Customs two years ago? That’s reassuring, then.

NHS data transfer is bad form


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Ian Quinn writes in the doctor’s magazine “Pulse”: GP leaders have attacked NHS IT chiefs over trusts being left in a state of total confusion about the Summary Care Record rollout. More than a week ago the Government ordered the uploading of care records to be suspended in areas where the DH had launched an accelerated rollout, after the BMA successfully argued that there had been insufficient consultation with millions of patients. However, it has emerged that Connecting for Health has still not acted on the ruling to provide guidance to trusts about what they should do next, with some NHS bodies apparently pushing ahead with the rollout despite ministers’ intervention. When contacted by Pulse, NHS East of England, one of the SHAs involved in the accelerated rollout, claimed that ‘no decision’ had been made about the continuing uploading of records, despite the BMA having being sent written confirmation from […]

Trusts push ahead with Summary Care Record rollout despite DH ...


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Charlotte Gore writes on Guardian Comment is Free: Britain’s government is not constitutionally limited in its reach and power. The only check against absolute power of the government is other politicians voting in the two houses. For example, Jack Straw attempted to give himself the power to be able to access any data in the country if he felt it “necessary” – and they stopped him. Lord Mandelson attempted to give himself the power to be able to do “anything necessary” to deal with copyright infringement in the odious digital economy bill … but he was stopped, again, by the House of Lords. On other issues where the potential for abuse of power isn’t screamingly obvious, we haven’t been so lucky: the ID card programme, for example, lurks quietly in the background, waiting for another act of parliament to become compulsory for all. There’s 13 years of authoritarian legislation on […]

Coalition is good for civil liberties



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The Register reports: Speaking during a crime debate on BBC Daily Politics programme on 20 April 2010, Alan Johnson said scrapping the identity card scheme at this stage would be counterproductive and a “waste”. “The money all comes back because we charge for ID cards. If we stop now you’ve wasted all the capital investment and you get no money back because we will charge for the ID card,” said Johnson. He was referring to Conservative and Liberal Democrat proposals to scrap identity cards if elected. The cards are part of the National Identity Service, which will cost an estimated £5.3bn over a decade. Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling and Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Chris Huhne also participated in the debate. Johnson accused them of making false claims about there being a “big pot of money” waiting if the scheme were to be dropped. Huhne labelled Johnson’s claims “absolute […]

Johnson: ID cards will pay for themselves


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Stephen Glover writes in the Daily Mail, advocating an explicit opt-in for databases of personal information, including the Summary Care Record: I shouldn’t have to take the time and trouble to visit a website or fill in a form to ensure that my personal information is not put on a database. The NHS should write to me laying out the pros and cons honestly (which it certainly doesn’t) and requesting my consent before going ahead. In the Sixties, students protested about the files which universities then kept on them. These were largely academic, and by their nature could only be read by a few people in authority who had a proper reason for doing so. Yet the students went mad – going on strike, staging sit-ins and so forth. Forty years later, far more voluminous and deeply private information about us is stored online which can potentially be read by […]

Call me paranoid, but why isn’t there more outrage over ...


Arthur Martin writes in The Daily Mail about television historian Dan Snow’s attempt to evacuate Britons stuck on the Continent: It had started in high hopes as the 31-year-old set sail from Dover early on Sunday at the head of a squadron of five speedboats. Moved by the plight of his friend Sam Peters’ wife Debs, who was stuck in France, he had rounded up friends from the boating world with a plan to make at least three crossings. In total up to 500 people might have been able to cross the channel on the open boats. A website had been set up to register people’s details in advance to meet the requirements of border controls on each side of the channel. Despite these precautions, the Home Office’s eBorders scheme contributed to the difficulties and lengthy delays Mr Snow encountered: It seemed the flotilla might set sail way at last. […]

Dunkirk spirit is sunk by French as British civilian rescue ...



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Jean-Paul Flintoff writes in The Times about the forthcoming film “Erasing David”, in which film-maker David Bond attempts to elude private detectives: The journalist and privacy campaigner Henry Porter told Bond that privacy is like eyesight, or touch: “It’s that important.” Phil Booth, national co-ordinator of the campaign No2ID, broadly agrees. “Privacy is not something that people feel, except in its absence. Remove it and you destroy something at the heart of being human.” You might think that the detectives, having made such impressive use of information that is publicly available, would disagree. In fact, it’s precisely because they know how information can be misused that they make the best possible advocates for privacy. “We’re often asked to do TV projects and we say no,” Mee says, when I meet them in Soho. “But we liked the fact that this project was going to take the lid off the massive […]

Can you disappear in surveillance Britain?


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Ian Quinn writes in the GP’s magazine, Pulse: The Department of Health has backed down over the Summary Care Record and today agreed all uploading of records in areas subject to the recent accelerated rollout will be stopped until GPs and patients have been properly consulted. Ministers caved in to demands from the BMA after it threatened a mass boycott of GPs, and are now pledging that no records will be uploaded until a further period of consultation has been launched with both practices and patients. Connecting for Health had paid SHAs millions to take part in an accelerated rollout of the care record, but Pulse revealed last month that those plans had come off the rails, amid GP anger over the lack of information they and patients had received. In a separate comment piece, he writes: The general election build-up, especially the day after the first-ever leadership TV debate, […]

DH suspends all uploading of accelerated Summary Care Records


Jane Fae Ozimek writes in The Register: Big Brother Watch has high hopes that the next government might listen to what it has to say on on the intersection of technology and civil liberties. Only occasionally alarmist, Big Brother Watch are generally sound – and this manifesto, compiled with a little help from NO2ID and Privacy International, is no exception. It also has the distinct advantage – for researchers and journalists condemned to wade through the long-winded official party outpourings – of being confined to just two sides of A4, with one handy checklist of policies they would like to see an incoming government implement. On the whole, there is little here for Reg readers to take issue with. Under three main headings – Privacy, Liberty and Surveillance – Big Brother Watch set out what they hope to see happening at once (within three months) within a year, and within […]

Big Brother Watch manifesto makes plea for privacy



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Deborah Orr writes in The Guardian: Labour has governed badly because it has sought to wield authoritarian power over the private lives of ordinary people – eat your greens, get an ID card, get checked by the Criminal Records Bureau, don’t drink, don’t take drugs, don’t get pregnant too young, don’t be a lapdancer; while leaving the market to please itself – sell ghastly food full of corn syrup, hire whom you like from anywhere in the world you like, run children’s education, sell cheap booze at any hour, open clubs where young people can gather to get off their faces, bombard children with innuendo and sexual imagery, open a lapdancing venue. The “big government” spends much of its time and our money on servicing the people and communities that the market doesn’t fancy, or doesn’t treat well, rather than persuading the market that it has a moral duty to […]

The village that shows us what society really means


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Nick Clegg writes in Computer Weekly: High price of government snooping So new technology can help deliver fairness. But if we have learnt anything from Gordon Brown’s Labour government, it is that it can also be used to limit freedom. Britain has 1% of the world’s population, but 20% of its CCTV cameras. Every minute, some bureaucrat gets access to information about our personal communications, and now the government wants companies to store information about our internet and e-mail use too. Labour’s passion for intrusive technology has cost us billions. Huge IT commissioning disasters, which go over time and over budget, are a familiar story, like Connecting for Health and C-Nomis. The government’s attempt to hide the details of ongoing public sector IT disasters by shredding Gateway reviews was nothing short of scandalous. Full review of government IT procurement We will take a totally different approach. We will end the […]

LibDems would scrap ID cards, biometric passports and child database


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Tom Wells writes in The Sun: Bungling officials have labelled 15,000 innocent people as criminals in the past six years, The Sun can reveal. The blunders by the Criminal Records Bureau, a Home Office agency, amount to around seven smears every day. The victims discovered they had been branded sex offenders, violent thugs or fraudsters when they had a CRB check before a new job. Many went through lengthy appeals to clear their names. Our Freedom Of Information probe found the CRB coughed up an incredible £290,000 last year alone in “apology payments” to the worst-affected victims. Last night a spokesman for privacy campaigners NO2ID said: “You only need to look at the laid-back approach the Government has to its own data to realise it is hardly going to take more care in looking after other people’s – even when an incorrect record can ruin someone’s life.”

15000 wrongly branded criminals