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This page provides occasional items, linked to the original articles, as we attempt to keep up with the rapidly changing situation on civil liberties.
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Response to Tony Blair’s press conference on ID cards

Posted by James Hammerton @ 2:32 pm on 26 November, 2006.
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics, the database state.
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Recently Tony Blair gave a press conference defending ID cards and attacking the opponents. The UK Liberty blog, just recently created, has taken Blair’s speech apart here. This is well worth reading in full.

“Yes they ARE watching you” — increasing notice taken of big brother Britain

Posted by James Hammerton @ 11:19 pm on 23 November, 2006.
Categories privacy and surveillance, the database state.
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Increasingly the mainstream media are taking notice of the steady erosion of privacy that’s occurring in Britain, some of the latest examples are:

  • Iain Hollingshead, writing in the Telegraph:

    It’s not just the paranoid who are nervous. The sanguine figure of Parliament’s Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, yesterday attacked the Government’s planned £224 million children’s register, which will contain the details of every child in Britain, saying it will not only devalue parents but “shatter” family privacy. The volume of personal information held on children has already reached unprecedented levels and is “set to increase dramatically”.

    Meanwhile, motorists now face the threat of being fingerprinted at the roadside. Yesterday 10 police forces across England and Wales started using handheld gadgets to check speeding motorists against a fingerprint database of 6.5 million crime suspects.

    If the scheme, which will be voluntary, becomes compulsory, the day may not be too far away when laws could be introduced that would mean criminal penalties for drivers who refuse to let their fingerprints be checked. That is, of course, assuming you haven’t already been hauled in for failing to produce your ID card on demand or supplying a sample to the police DNA database. I jest. Or do I?

    Earlier this month a report published by the human rights group Privacy International gave Britain a similar privacy ranking to Russia and China, placing us at the top of a European surveillance league. The fears voiced by the Information Commissioner that we have “sleepwalked into a surveillance society” seem to be confirmed.

    The full article is well worth reading for a primer as to just how much information is gathered about us during our daily lives. The Privacy International rankings referred to can be found here. More info on this report here.

  • Henry Porter writing in the Observer:

    The most shocking part of Britain’s frantic rush towards a fully fledged surveillance society is not so much the threat to personal liberty, although that is important; it is the lack of security in the systems that are confidently held up to be the solution to the problems of 21st-century crime and terrorism.

    While each of us is required to give more and more information about ourselves to the government’s various centralised databases, and submit to increasing surveillance in our daily lives, almost no one seems to consider the risk to us if these systems are breached.

    For some time now, I have been warning about the menace that these systems may come to represent in the hands of future governments, the nature of which we cannot know. But having spent the last few months making a film, Suspect Nation, with the director Neil Ferguson - about the growth of surveillance since 9/11 - I realise that the threat exists in the present. Both of us were astonished at the gaps in security that we found and the insouciance of government.

    Suspect Nation was shown on More 4 on Monday 20th November and has already appeared on YouTube. It will be shown again on More 4 at 7.05pm on Saturday the 25th November. It is well worth the hour’s viewing time.

Round up on ID cards and the National Identity Register

Posted by James Hammerton @ 6:29 pm on 7 October, 2006.
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics, the database state.
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As promised in my previous article, here is my round up of developments related to the British government’s plans for an ID card with associated national identity register:

In summary, it seems that more and more problems with the scheme are being highlighted, but the government wishes to press on, whilst the opposition increases and hardens. The ID card and national identity register are but the most visible and intrusive of various schemes where the government wishes to capture, use and share data about the mass population, my next article will thus be round-up of more general developments in privacy and the use of personal data.

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