Author Topic: NO2ID Newsletter No 155  (Read 716 times)

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Offline Margie

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NO2ID Newsletter No 155
« on: August 18, 2010, 06:22:00 pm »
++ NO2ID Supporters' Newsletter No. 155 - 12th August 2010 ++

Up to now NO2ID has had reason to be pleased with the new government. It may not have moved as certainly or as far as we would like on mass surveillance projects, but it has shown willing, quickly cutting back the ID scheme and cancelling ContactPoint. But this week's pre-announcement of the idea of using credit-reference agencies to detect benefit fraud is a sign that the ideas of "Transformational Government" have not vanished from Whitehall alongside the terminology.

No-one wants to promote fraud. But that does not mean anything claimed to be an anti-fraud measure is worth its other consequences. The details of the scheme are very sketchy so far, but NO2ID will be taking a very close interest in the costs to privacy as well as the cost-effectiveness of any mass data-sharing that it involves. Fishing expeditions to turn up suspects are a very different matter from targeted investigations. 'Computer says no,' would be a weird way to run a welfare system.

We need to be alert to how information about individuals is used. It must be limited to one purpose, not passed on in detail to government departments where there will be a temptation to find other uses. Nor must the contractors be rewarded without responsibility. They should be subject to the same data-protection spot-checks as would DWP doing the same work for itself. And if they are to be paid a bounty for catching
fraudsters, then we should also ask about compensation for intrusions and erroneous accusations against honest people.
Turning to databases and information-sharing as a magic answer to intractable old problems was a bad habit of the previous administration. If the Cameron government takes up that habit, then NO2ID will fight it every step of the way.
What just happened?

+ ContactPoint switch off and the Database State +
William Heath from the IdealGovernment website was interviewed on the BBC's Today programme last week about the switch off of the ContactPoint database. When asked why ContactPoint was created Heath said: "I think it was muddled thinking, I think there was an idea that huge technology systems, huge centralised databases would solve all society's social problems. It met the politicians fallacy of something must be done, here
is something - but it was profoundly ill conceived." Heath is a founder of MyDex, a community interest company set up to help people to protect and realise the value of their personal data as they transact online. On the Database State Heath said: "We should see it in terms of a problem of data logistics. The idea that all the organisations we deal with can gather ever larger amounts of personal data about us and that this will somehow determine our needs and preferences and keep us safe is a fallacy." When host John Humphreys threw out the well worn "nothing to hide, nothing to fear", Heath responded: "I think that those who think they have nothing to hide aren't living life properly and ought to be ashamed of themselves."
Listen to the short interview at

+ Credit agencies and data mining +
The government announced this week that it plans to use data obtained by credit reference agencies to gather evidence of benefit fraud. In his book 'No Place to Hide', Robert O'Harrow Jr. looks at companies that harvest databases for data matching and profiling in the United States. The government has stated that what the credit agencies do is perfectly legal. In a 1998 Washington Post article O'Harrow wrote about a credit agency in the USA called Acxiom, he wrote: "What Acxiom does is perfectly legal -- bringing together an array of facts from scattered sources. But the phenomenon known as "data warehousing" or "datamining" represents yet another example of how traditional notions of personal privacy have become obsolete, outstripped by technology's ability to
peer into personal lives." See and

+ Comic book explores surveillance and personal data +
A comic book called "Under surveillance" described as "an information and awareness tool for young adults" is available to download from the European Digital Rights (EDRi) website. The comic was created within the European project "Sensitization and information of young European citizens on the protection of their personal data" and was coordinated by the French League of Human Rights (LDH), in partnership with the
European Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AEDH), European Digital Rights (EDRi), the Czech association Iuridicum Remedium (IuRe) and the Spanish association Comunicació per a la Cooperació (Pangea).
What's next?

*+ Before 31st August - Take part in Metropolitan Police Authority DNA Database Survey +*
The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) want to know your views on the National DNA Database and the use of DNA in policing. The survey closes on Tuesday 31 August 2010. The review will be published on the MPA website once completed. You can complete the questionnaire online or by calling 020 7202 0233 to request a paper copy (with freepost envelope) or telephone questionnaire.
To take part visit

*+ Date TBC - Identity Documents Bill 3rd Reading +*
The Identity Documents Bill has now completed its Committee Stage and will next have its Report Stage and 3rd Reading in the House of Commons before moving on to the House of Lords. Follow the bill's progress at
"ID" in the news
*+ NHS patient record leaflet campaign halted - Channel 4 News 12/8/10 +*
The Government has ordered health authorities to stop mailing out information leaflets on the system designed to put patient records on to a central computer system because of concerns that it did not make it clear how people could opt out.  See
*+ ICO warns coalition on benefits snooping plan - The Register 11/8/10 +*
The Information Commissioner has asked coalition ministers to explain their plans to use credit reference agencies to gather evidence of benefit fraud, citing privacy concerns. Christopher Graham today said he has requested a meeting with the welfare minister Lord Freud.
*+ Privacy fears over the benefit bounty hunters - Daily Mail 11/8/10 +*
Ministers are to press ahead with controversial plans to use private sector 'bounty hunters' to track down benefit cheats, despite concerns about the impact on civil liberties. David Cameron yesterday confirmed Government plans to use credit agencies to trawl through the records of benefit claimants to look for evidence of extra income.
*+ Where's the benefit in private sector chasing welfare cheats? – The Herald 11/8/10 +*
The Tories objected to the multi-billion-pound cost and fretted a little over civil liberties. The LibDems inveighed against the surveillance society and objected, as a footnote, to mad bureaucratic extravagance.
*+ Databases can't fix society. But society can fix the databases - Ideal Government 8/8/10 +*
The closure of ContactPoint and the onset of the Databankendämmerung is -- let's say it again -- cause for celebration. It's also cause for congratulation to those who campaigned long and hard, with negligible resources, against the brick wall of prevailing wisdom to get rid of it.
*+ ContactPoint database was 'surrogate ID card for children', says minister - The Telegraph 7/8/10 +*
Labour's controversial child protection database has been switched off, with a minister dismissing it as a "surrogate ID card scheme".
*+ finally kills ContactPoint - The Register 7/8/10 +*
So, farewell then, ContactPoint, the database we never quite came to love. In the end, it was victim to straitened economic circumstances and lacking the courage of its own convictions
*+ Decision day arrives for CfH and NPfIT - e-Health Insider 5/8/10 +*
The National Programme for IT in the NHS is set to end in its current guise, with plans tabled for further deep cuts, and the name NHS Connecting for Health to be dropped.
**(Please send me any items of interest you encounter - Editor( )


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