Friday, March 06, 2009

Clause 52 Coroners and Justice Bill

Important prompt from the Open Rights Group:
"Refuse consent for information sharing

Posted by Jim Killock in Data Protection, Identity at March 6th, 2009

Information sharing provisions in the draft Coroners and Justice Bill include some of the most wide-ranging and potentially intrusive proposals ever laid before Parliament. In particular, clause 152 is a profound threat to privacy, liberty and the rule of law.

The new powers are designed to give ministers a fast-track procedure to share data across departmental databases, overriding data protection, human-rights and confidentiality.

We strongly object to these powers on the basis of principle and practice. On principle, they would sweep away fundamental democratic liberties. In practice, the Government has consistently failed to manage large-scale ICT projects, resulting in massive data losses and vast expense.

Just as importantly, Parliamentary scrutiny will be sidestepped by introducing information sharing orders via secondary legislation, overseen only by the toothless Information Commissioner’s Office.

Polls show the public are against the proposals, which would give Government far too much power over our personal data. But polls aren’t always important: it’s up to you, the committed, motivated few to stand up to protect the rights of the wider community.

We can make a difference and, with the bill scheduled for a third reading in the House of Commons during March, its vital we take action now. We are asking three things from you:

  1. Please write to your MP today - very simple using writetothem - about clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill, stating explicitly that you refuse to consent for your personal data to be used under any information sharing order. Explain in personal terms the harm to society that these powers will cause and demand that they stand up against clause 152.
  2. Please go along to MP’s surgery and press for a face to face conversation. Many of you have the technical expertise to clearly explain the risks associated with the database state in general and data-sharing in particular, which is key to understanding why clause 152 is so dangerous.
  3. To raise awareness of clause 152, please blog about this call to action and your related correspondence.

Further materials

  1. This Privacy International Black Zone report includes extended commentary and a detailed list of data-sharing examples.
  2. This NO2ID briefing indicates both the broad concerns and gives a detailed legal analysis of the proposal.
  3. NO2ID also have an extensive archive of background material

Open Rights Group is funded by technologists who care for digital rights. Please donate."

The Government obsession with giving those clever computer things voluminous amounts of personal data in the hope that they will automatically fix complex, systemic, social, economic, regulatory and environmental problems is stupidly dangerous. I am reminded of a terrific article, Privacy in a Noise Society, from about 5 years ago by Nicklas Lundblad at the St Anna Institute in Stockholm. Abstract:
"In this paper, an economic study of different levels of expected
privacy, both individual and collective, is used to demonstrate
that we live neither in a dystopian control society nor in a utopian
privacy enhanced society, but rather in a noise society
characterized by high collective expectations of privacy and low
individual expectations of privacy. This has profound
consequences for the design of privacy law, privacy enhancing
technologies and the sociology of privacy."
As Lundblad says "...anyone but not everyone can be mapped in detail...We live in a society where it is possible to chart the lives of anyone, but not the lives of everyone." Information overload and cost effectively preclude the latter.

UK government ministers, at least of the current Nu Labour brand, seem just destined not to get it.

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