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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Data hell

Like the Bourbons this Government seem determined to learn nothing and forget everything. This morning's Guardian confirms that Britain is leaving this year in the same way as we departed 2007, at the bottom of the World league table when it comes to protecting people's privacy.

The paper reports that the Government is planning to go-ahead with creating a huge database that will keep track of everyone's calls, emails, texts and internet use but, as if to add insult to injury, they are going to ask the private sector to manage it:

External estimates of the cost of the superdatabase have been put as high as £12bn, twice the cost of the ID cards scheme, and the consultation paper, to be published towards the end of next month, will include an option of putting it into the hands of the private sector in an effort to cut costs. But such a decision is likely to fuel civil liberties concerns over data losses and leaks. Macdonald, who left his post as DPP in October, told the Guardian: "The tendency of the state to seek ever more powers of surveillance over its citizens may be driven by protective zeal. But the notion of total security is a paranoid fantasy which would destroy everything that makes living worthwhile. We must avoid surrendering our freedom as autonomous human beings to such an ugly future. We should make judgments that are compatible with our status as free people."

Maintaining the capacity to intercept suspicious communications was critical in an increasingly complex world, he said. "It is a process which can save lives and bring criminals to justice. But no other country is considering such a drastic step. This database would be an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information," he said. "It would be a complete readout of every citizen's life in the most intimate and demeaning detail. No government of any colour is to be trusted with such a roadmap to our souls."

The moment there was a security crisis the temptation for more commonplace access would be irresistible, he said.

The problems of keeping this data secure are huge as it is without involving an outside contractor. It is at the point of competitive tender that things start to go wrong. Government's use such a process to keep costs down but when it comes to ICT projects the opposite happens. Development costs grow out of control and the project becomes unmanageable. This scheme will be no exception.


The Independent has this comment from Chris Huhne:
"A major database for email, mobile phone calls and the internet would be an astonishing and Orwellian step. 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not a blueprint."

These proposals must be resisted with all possible means. The risk of misuse by maverick operators within government is simply too great.
£12 billion on this "superdatabase", what's so super I don't know, £6 billion on ID cards, quite a few billion on bailing out the Banks.

Who's paying for this?

What are they going to do with this information when they get it?
We couldn't agree more with you Peter, Chris Huhne and Sir Ken Macdonald.

This simply has to stop, because once it's in place, it will be impossible to get rid of.
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