Friday, January 19, 2007


I suppose it’s because, in the last 1000 years, this country has never been invaded, has never had its citizens “governed” by unelected people from another country, that we don’t realise just how important is the degree of personal freedom we enjoy. Perhaps taking this Oh So Important Freedom for granted, because, as a body of people, we have never been subjected to an overpowering totalitarianism, that we seem to be prepared to submit to the current insidious and gradual erosion of personal privacy which is going on around us at a gathering and seemingly unstoppable pace.

You simply wonder who the people are who want all this information, and what precisely their Grand Plan is, because it’s totally unclear to me. Just take a look at the following list –

1994: Government paves the way for major expansion of CCTV - there is now 1 CCTV installation for every 14 people in this country (more than anywhere else in the World!), and these machines are now sprouting ears to listen to what we are saying, and pattern recognition to see how many people are around, and what they are doing.

1995: The world’s first National DNA Database is established in England and Wales.

2004: Number of DNA profiles hits the two million mark. The Prime Minister has suggested that the DNA of every British adult should be stored by the state. The national database now holds 3.7 million samples, 6 per cent of the population, far higher than any other country. More than one million have been taken from people never convicted of an offence.

2004: Information Commissonaire Richard Thomas warns that Britain is ’sleepwalking into a surveillance society’

2005: MPs vote to introduce identity cards

2006: Identity Cards Act becomes law

2007: Data-sharing by Whitehall departments likely to be introduced

2008: Foreign nationals will have to start supplying fingerprints, eye or facial scans added to a National Identity register

2008: Children’s database, covering all under-16s in England and Wales, will be launched

2009: The first biometric identity cards will be issued to British citizens when they renew their passport

2010: NHS Database will store the records of 50 million patients providing details over the internet, and we all know how secure that is, don’t we? Millions of medical records are to be transferred to a central NHS database, allowing staff anywhere to access patients’ information. People who object will not be able to opt out. The most personal information will be available to hospital managers, IT departments, high street pharmacists and civil servants.

2010?: The Department of Transport is examining plans to use satellite technology to keep tabs on every vehicle’s exact movements. Estimated introduction date is around 2010, and Motorists will be forced to have a black box fitted in their cars, and will be billed for every journey they make. So if you fancy an illicit affair from 2010 onwards, make sure you go by public transport, and pay by cash! Actually, I have a view that some form of Road pricing is required – I just think it should be administered by an independent organisation, without the potentially sinister Government implications which the current plans imply.

2012?: ID cards compulsory - A whole new bag of worms!

In all of this, the government smoothly attempts to mollify us by claims that they all address Terrorism, Crime, Illegal Immigrants, Identity Theft and improved “efficiency” – it’s always terrorism, by the way, isn’t it?

They claim to be going for “Joined Up” government, but we now seem to have a set of leaders who are prepared to stand by and watch the exponentially increasing fiasco of MRSA, killing hundreds, probably thousands of people each year in hospitals, which my simple mind used to imagine were places where you got better from illnesses. And the same Government, at the same time, is stealthily and very quietly, totally, permanently and adversely changing every individual in this Country’s relationship with the State, to prevent a level of “Terrorist” destruction one or two orders of magnitude less than that. My simple mind is obviously missing a great chunk of the Westminster strategic Jig-saw here.

The situation is further exacerbated by the Public Sector’s seemingly total inability to get any of these things to work. We hear about the unbreakable level of security which will be permanently inbuilt into all these systems, and how foolproof they will be, meaning that, in their eyes, our concerns about unlawful usage of personal information are totally unnecessary and quite misplaced.

Is it just me or can anyone else recall ever seeing anything about failures in the Sex Offenders' Register, the CSA, the Criminal Records Bureau, the recent problems tracking criminal records from overseas, and the utter ineptitude the Government continues to show in its dealings with illegal immigrants.

A colleague of mine, well versed in matters Computeral, will say that the weakest link in any system is the guy who has his finger on the keyboard, and even for just the National Medical System, that number must run into many tens of thousands. Just look at the list above and see who will have access to your personal medical records - Hospital managers, IT departments, high street pharmacists and civil servants. It’s interesting to note that “The Times” reports that the National Medical database will not include information on “celebrities” and “politicians”. Now I wonder why that would be – we’d know for sure the truth about Blair’s MMR injections, and that would never do, would it? Or actually, we wouldn’t because the information would never get out.

And there was me thinking that when I went to see my Doctor, I was having a private and confidential chat with him about my innermost secrets!

The strange thing about all this, and it’s an issue which has worried me in this Blog before, is that the younger members of our society don’t seem to share these concerns. I suspect they have been brought up in an environment where it’s becoming the norm anyway, so What’s there to worry about?

It’s only when it starts to affect them personally that it starts to strike home that maybe, just maybe, this is important. Like when the CSA sends a series of demands and threats for randomly different amounts of money, none of them supported by any rational analysis, and you can’t get any information about it, or even speak to someone to discuss it. Or when the Health Visitor, ostensibly coming to your house to help with your child’s progress, asks to look around the house, and you realise they want to see any evidence of your child being maltreated. You then realise that there is a degree of official suspicion about you.

Maybe it’s a bit late then.

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