Poynter, pointlessness and the people who still believe

December 18th, 2007

I said before that any call for a White Paper or Public Inquiry is totally insane, and anyone who calls for one is delusional. As we have now seen, there has been a report that does nothing to stop the ID / centralized database juggernaut:

The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) believes that the Government’s response to the interim Poynter report shows that they just don’t understand what has gone wrong. Their refusal to abandon the headlong rush towards Transformational Government — the enormous centralised databases being built to regulate every walk of life — is not just pig-headed but profoundly mistaken.

Both Alasdair Darling, commenting on the HMRC fiasco, and Ruth Kelly, telling the House about the loss of 3 million people’s personal information, told us that once `lessons have been learned’ and `procedures tightened’ the march to ever-larger database systems will continue.

Before Transformational Government came along, only small amounts of data were lost — but as the new databases cover the whole population, everyone’s affected now, not just a few unlucky people.

Transformational Government means putting all of the eggs into one basket and it is creating:

  • The multi-billion pound identity card scheme, to hold data on the whole population
  • The National Health spine, which will make everyone’s health records available for browsing by a million NHS workers
  • ContactPoint which will record details on every child in England, with details of their parents, carers and indicators of whether they have any contact with social services. Three hundred thousand people can look that information up.
  • A universal pensioner’s bus pass scheme which will hold the data on 17 million people, and in principle will let any bus driver learn your age and address — when all that it should record is an entitlement to free travel.

Ross Anderson, Chair of FIPR and Professor of Security Engineering at the University of Cambridge said, “the Government believes that you can build secure databases and let hundreds of thousands of people access them. This is nonsense — we just don’t know how to build such systems and perhaps we never will. The correct way to design such systems is to localise the data, in a school, in your local GP practice. That way when there is a compromise because of a technical failure or a dishonest user then the damage is limited.

“You can have security, or functionality, or scale — you can even have any two of these. But you can’t have all three, and the Government will eventually be forced to admit this. In the meantime, billions of pounds are being wasted on gigantic systems projects that usually don’t work, and that place citizens’ privacy and safety at risk when they do.”

Richard Clayton, FIPR Treasuer said, “Personal data ought to be handled as if it were little pellets of plutonium — kept in secure containers, handled as seldom as possible, and escorted whenever it has to travel. Should it get out into the environment it will be a danger for years to come. Putting it into one huge pile is really asking for trouble. The Government needs to completely rethink its approach and abandon its Transformational Government disaster.”



The reason why no White Paper or report is going to stop any of this is that BILLIONS of pounds in contracts have been handed out to the friends and family of ministers and none of them are willing to stab their friends and family in the back.

It doesn’t matter what any report or paper says, they will push this until either the people revolt or the people give in. That is why anyone calling for reason is a fool. That is why anyone depending on the processes of democracy is delusional. The only thing that is going to stop all of this is an explosion of the type we saw with the poll tax, or some other similar mass revolt that cannot be ignored.

We all know what sort of shape they can take and marching is not one of them.

But you know this!

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