James O'Neill's Blog

November 1, 2007

A police state ?

Filed under: General musings,Security and Malware — jamesone111 @ 2:46 pm

I’ve talked about serendipity a few times before. And a couple of strands in the News today show it at work.

The information commissioner has served notices on 4 polices forces telling them that some information they hold about people is no longer relevant and should be deleted. The BBC has examples of the things he’s talking about in their report of the story. I’ve got a lot of time for the current Information Commissioner – a man called Richard Thomas. He talked about “Sleepwalking into a surveillance society” – and the Today programme where I heard about the police issue, later had another privacy story, this time on CCTV (which you can hear about 20 minutes into their listen again segment) But that’s not the serendipitous thing I was thinking about.  

The government’s ID card scheme tends to raise the hackles of people who fret about the surveillance Society or “the database state”*. There is a fine line between having a view about the use of IT (quite proper for someone working at a company like Microsoft) and party politics (which should stay out of a work blog). So I’ll just say I found it interesting when the news also reported that both candidates for the leadership of the Liberal party say they will lead civil disobedience by refusing to carry the card (one has it on his web site, the other doesn’t). I can’t remember a major party’s leader taking such a position on any kind of legislation, however unpopular.

I’m curious to know if people think I should or shouldn’t use this blog to talk about my views on privacy, protection of the individual on line and similar themes. Commenting is only a click away.



* No-2-ID defines the “Database state” as “‘the tendency to try to use computers to manage society by watching people.” and cites the following examples:

  • ID interrogation centres, for passports and ID cards
  • ePassports that help collect data about your travel for…
  • International eBorders schemes that exchange Passenger Name Record information with foreign countries as well as collecting them
  • Recording of all car journeys, using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)
  • ‘Entitlement cards’ as part of or linked to the ID scheme, logging use of public services
  • Centralised medical records without privacy
  • Biometrics in schools – fingerprinting children as young as 4 or 5
  • ‘ContactPoint’, a database collecting sensitive information on every child
  • Fingerprinting in pubs and bars – landlords forced to monitor their patrons
  • A greatly expanded National DNA Database (NDNAD)
  • New police powers to check identity
  • Increasing Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks for employees and volunteers
  • Businesses under pressure to verify ID of staff and customers with the government
  • This post originally appeared on my technet blog.


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