Saturday, 27 June 2009

Next NO2ID meeting

Birmingham NO2ID will meet at 7.30pm this Tuesday, 30th June, at Bennett's Bar, 8, Bennett's Hill, Birmingham B2 5RS. All are welcome.

Giving power back to the people.

David Cameron's speech is linked to for reference. He informs us that we are living in 'a control state,' and he tells us how he will reform this and give us back our civil liberties. He makes a few extremely welcome and definite promises:

..."the next Conservative Government will scrap the Contact Point database of children's details. We will scrap the ID Card scheme....And we will remove innocent people's records from the DNA database."

He mentions the NIR (National Identity Register), the huge national database which is to back passports and ID cards, but does not state categorically that he will do away with this.

We thoroughly welcome his promises but we must hold him to them and ask for more details regarding his proposals.

Unfortunately, we have experience of governments not keeping to manifesto promises.

Friday, 26 June 2009

I have just come across this article by Mark Thomas. It includes the above download that might be handy to carry during during this (hopefully) long, hot summer.

ps Perhaps this Stop and Search card might be helpful to NO2ID campaigners running stands in areas where the powers that be are less then helpful?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Tories to scrap ContactPoint but rollout continues.

CYPnow Children & Young People Now, tells us that:

Councils will not stall on rolling out ContactPoint the controversial database containing details of 11 million children in England.

The long-term future of the system, which cost £224m to develop, is in doubt after the Conservatives revealed they would scrap it should the party come to power at the next general election.

But Conservative councillor Les Lawrence, chair of the Local Government Association's children and young people's board, said the Conservative policy would not affect the way councils approach the rollout.

He said: "All local authorities work on the basis of ensuring they work within the law.To act outside that would be to hold the current elected government in contempt.In that sense they will fulfil the letter of the law, whether every single authority fulfils the spirit is a matter of conjecture."

Lawrence added that a number of authorities do have concerns around the security of children's information in the system.

Liverpool City Council has written to the government seeking assurances on a number of issues. A spokesman for the council said the authority will continue to adopt the system but is concerned about possible civil liberty implications.

These include the security of the information held in the database and whether parents and schools are fully aware of the system's introduction. ( From a small,personal survey, I can assure you they are not; most teachers and parents I have spoken to have never heard of it.)

Professionals working with children are currently undergoing training to enable them to use the online database.

A number of early adopter authorities, as well as the charities Barnardo's and Kids, are already ahead of a national rollout planned for later this year.

Deep packet inspection

The Wall Street Journal reports that:

The Iranian regime has developed, with the assistance of European telecommunications companies, one of the world's most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet, allowing it to examine the content of individual online communications on a massive scale.

Interviews with technology experts in Iran and outside the country say Iranian efforts at monitoring Internet information go well beyond blocking access to Web sites or severing Internet connections. The Iranian government appears to be engaging in a practice often called deep packet inspection, which enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes, according to these experts.

China's vaunted "Great Firewall," which is widely considered the most advanced and extensive Internet censoring in the world, is believed also to involve deep packet inspection.

Human-rights groups have criticized the selling of such equipment to Iran and other regimes considered repressive, because it can be used to crack down on dissent.

However, the UK proposes using deep packet inspection in its Intercept Modernisation Programme in order to protect its citizens!!

“the objective of the Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP) is to maintain the UK’s lawful intercept and communications data capabilities in the changing communications environment. It is a cross-government programme, led by the Home Office, to ensure that our capability to lawfully intercept and exploit data when fighting crime and terrorism is not lost. It was established in response to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister’s national security remit in 2006.”
See here.

Monday, 22 June 2009

NHS database delays increase

There is one aspect of the National Identity Register and ID cards that is rather reassuring, namely that our government is in charge of it. So it may be some time....

The chaos encompassing the plan to computerise all NHS records linked to a central database or 'spine' is still having major problems. news.zdet reports that:

The government was warned back in 2004 that immediate action was needed to fix problems in the £12.7bn programme to revamp NHS IT. The National Programme for IT (NPfIT) is facing a number of difficulties: key projects to digitise patient records by 2014-2015 are already running four years late, two major suppliers have walked away from the project and there is no practical central mechanism to manage health trusts' expenditure on implementation and training activities.

Reviews of the delivery of the Care Records Service (CRS) found bad feeling towards the electronic medical records project among clinicians had been compounded by technical difficulties. These included suppliers missing deadlines for rollouts of patient administration systems (PAS) and delays in the deployment of the Spine central database, which limited the tasks the PAS could be used for.

Earlier this year the Public Accounts Committee, described the Department of Health's progress on CRS as "very disappointing" and said if the deployment of the scheme did not improve, the department should consider abandoning the planned national implementation of it.

The Department of Health's response:

New IT systems in the NHS are delivering better, safer and faster care."

If you haven't already done so go to the The Big Opt Out and prevent having your GP data uploaded to the 'spine'.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

ID card contract delayed

The Register tells us that:

The Home Office confirmed yesterday it is delaying awarding the key contract for the national ID card project - actually making the cards for UK citizens.

Fujitsu, IBM and Thales were all in the running to make the cards. But this contract will not now be awarded until autumn 2010 - after the general election, which at the moment is the Tories' to lose.

The timing is slightly suspicious - shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling yesterday wrote to all five suppliers warning them not to sign their lives away on a project the Tories have promised to scrap. Could it be that the suppliers told the Home Office they didn't want to sign anything just yet?

However, it is salutary to remember that Mr Grayling has pledged to honour two super-size contracts to procure a biometric identity database for the vast majority of UK citizens who possess a passport.

Stockholm Programme

Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have pledged to scrap the ID card system and the National Identity Register(NIR). However, it is unclear as to how they will reconcile these promises with the proposals set out in the EU's 'Stockholm Programme. The legal powers to establish this new techno-surveillance are delivered to Brussels by the Lisbon Treaty.

The European Civil Liberties Network (ECLN) has published a Statement calling on civil society groups and individuals to voice their opinions on the EU's Stockholm programme and work towards a democratic Europe:

The “Stockholm Programme” sets the agenda for EU justice and home affairs and internal security policy from 2010 to 2014 and will extend militarised border controls, discriminatory immigration policies, mandatory and proactive surveillance regimes and an increasingly aggressive external security and defence policy. The ECLN believes these policies constitute an attack on civil liberties and human rights. It calls for active civil society engagement and opposition to dangerous authoritarian tendencies within the EU.

Tony Bunyan,
the Statewatch editor, comments:

"What stands out are the proposals related to the Future Group report. A promise to balance better data protection and EU standards for "Privacy Enhancing Technology" with the law enforcement agencies demands for access to all information and communications. An "information system architecture" to bring about the sharing of all data across the EU. The use of "security technologies" to harness the "digital tsunami" to gather through mass surveillance personal data on peoples' everyday activities through public-private partnerships.

What is new is the clear aim of creating the surveillance society and the database state. Future generations, for whom this will be a fully developed reality, will look back at this era and rightly ask, why did you not act to stop it."

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Interception Modernisation Programme.

A report by the LSE on the Interception Modernisation Programme which involves the surveillance of the communications activities of all UK citizens is summarised by finchannel:

# The proposals can only work if entirely new laws are passed by Parliament and if the public can be persuaded that the threats from terrorism and crime are so extensive as to justify ever greater levels of intrusion and expenditure.

# How was the quoted cost of £2bn reached, what is and what is not included in the cost estimates and from where are the costs to be met?

# Is it still feasible to distinguish between content and communications data?

# Who will actually control the 'DPI' (Deep Packet inspection) 'Black Boxes' to be installed at content service providers?

# We think that at a practical level the communications data/intercept distinction will be impossible to intercept both for ISPs and the courts. Moreover the existing balance of protections against abuse will also be lost.

'We are also concerned that the Home Office is characterising its aims as maintaining an interception capability when police powers and capabilities to watch the public have increased significantly over the last 15 years. We need a full debate about the balance between threats to public safety, police powers, the effectiveness of safeguards and cost.'

Sir Tim Berners-Lee states:

" deep packet inspection is the electronic equivalent of opening people's mail. This is very important to me, as what is at stake is the integrity of the internet as a communications medium, clearly we must not interfere with the internet, and we must not snoop on the internet."

After all he did invent the internet and bestowed it on the world for free!

Grayling letter

The Register reports that the Tory Party has written to firms involved in bidding for ID card contracts and told them to think long and hard before signing anything. The shadow Home Secretary has written the following letter to the IT contractors concerned:


As you will be aware, the Conservative Party has stated publicly that it is our intention to cancel the ID card project immediately on our being elected to government.

I am writing to you as one of the companies involved in contracting for the project. I wanted to make it clear to you that our intention to cancel the project remains unchanged. I think it is important that the companies concerned bear this carefully in mind before committing to any long term contracts for the project, since it will not be our intention to proceed with the work if we are elected.

In addition, I wanted to draw your attention to my concerns about the nature of the contracts that are in development.

In March, the Home Secretary announced that the cancellation of two contracts for the national identity scheme, one to upgrade passport application systems, and one for a biometric database, would incur costs of £40 million.

Whilst we do not intend to scrap the programme introducing biometric passports, I wanted to make it clear that we will take an extremely sceptical view of any future contractual arrangements on ID cards that appear to have been put in place simply to tie the hands of a future Government.

In light of this, I urge you to consider very carefully your future involvement in the ID Card project.

Yours sincerely

Chris Grayling

However, Computer Weekly points out potential problems.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Richard Thomas CBE, an honourable man.

Richard Thomas, who has perhaps become most famous for coining the phrase: “sleepwalking into a surveillance society,” has been awarded a CBE.

Computing World tells us that Richard Thomas was indirectly responsible for the MPs’ expenses row by ruling that politicians’ spending should be published after a Freedom of Information request for the details was originally rejected by the government.

He has also been highly critical of privacy scandals involving lost data at the Ministry of Defence, HM Revenue and Customs and other government departments, as well as warning of the risk to individual privacy posed by creating a central database on personal information for the national ID card.

It is suggested that someone departing such a high-profile public-sector position might have expected higher honours, perhaps even a knighthood.

Thomas will be succeeded next month as Information Commissioner by former Advertising Standards Authority chief executive Christopher Graham.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Why not write to Alan Johnson?

The new Home Secretary Alan Johnson is now in charge of the ID card system and National Identity Register.If you feel strongly about ID cards and the NIR, why not write to him and express your concerns regarding the scheme? If you are able to write, it is much more effective if you write in your own words.

Write to the Alan Johnson at:
Home Office
Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Or e-mail to:

DRAFT LETTER (to copy if desperate!)

Dear Mr Johnson,

I am concerned that in the current financial circumstances and extremely high level of debt the government intends to spend at least £5.5 billion on the ID card scheme. In addition, there will be the cost of the supporting infrastructure to process the cards, scanners etc, at both a national and local level.I am also concerned that I may be heavily fined if I do not inform the authorities of changes in my personal details.

The National Identity Register will contain more than 50 items of my personal information. The government record on keeping such information secure is highly compromised so I am worried about identity fraud.

I will be given a National Identity Registration Number (NIRN) which will become an 'identity hub' and we have seen how the incidence of identity theft has increased in both the USA and Australia where identity hubs of a single main number have been introduced.

There are many reports (some by your own government) that say that the cards will neither prevent benefit fraud nor terrorism so the intrusion into my civil liberties is even more unnecessary. Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are opposed to the NIR and ID cards as are many members of the public.

I do hope you reconsider the introduction of such an expensive database which worries so many people with its Orwellian overtones.

Yours sincerely,

Here are some suggestions that you may like to use to help compose your own letter. 

1. National Cost: concern about the government’s own forecast cost of £5.5 billion for the implementation of ID cards which excludes the additional cost of card readers / scanners and other infrastructure to support the cards. Particularly in the current financial climate and high levels of government debt.
2. Personal Cost: concerns about the personal cost estimated at somewhere in the region of £90 together with fines of up to £1000 for failing to keep information up to date thus including the ease with which otherwise law-abiding members of the public could be criminalised for pure administrative errors.
3. Security: concerns about government’s ability to keep secure the up to 50 items of personal data that will be held on the National Identity Register particularly in the light of recent data losses.
4.Increasing ease of identity theft: concerns that one National Identity Registration Number (NIRN) will increase the ease with which identities can be stolen. On top of this, the presumption of accuracy of the NIR itself will make it far more difficult to prove one’s own identity once stolen.
5. Terrorism and Fraud: concerns that many reports (some commissioned by government itself) state that the cards will neither prevent fraud nor terrorism therefore the stated benefit when measured against the cost to my privacy and civil liberties is not proven and therefore is unacceptable.
6. Conservative and Lib Dem opposition: opposition is fuelled by an awareness that an ever increasing proportion of the public are against the NIR and the ID card scheme and will have a bearing on the way in which the public vote at the next election.
7. False positives: increasing the amount of biometric data held on databases like the NIR and the DNA database has been shown to, rather than increase the likelihood of detection of criminals / terrorists, increase the number of “false positives”. It will also result in every member of the public being a “suspect” and at risk of being convicted based purely upon biometric data whose accuracy is far less than the “beyond reasonable doubt” level of criminal responsibility would normally allow.

And wouldn’t it be great if you spread the word and encouraged some friends to write too!?

Thursday, 11 June 2009

A quarter of the adult population on ISA database

The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) database which will hold information on the 11.3 million people who have contact with children or vulnerable adults, has been delayed again until July 2010. This database is designed to build on the existing system of Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks. However, the CRB, which will provide intelligence to ISA, makes thousands of errors every year - 12,225 people have disputed the results of a criminal record check and had their complaint upheld in the last five years.

The ISA database includes a criminal record check as well as data from "List 99" which can include cautions and dropped charges. It will also include a list of those considered unsuitable to work with children maintained by the Department of Education and another list of those barred from working with vulnerable adults.

From July 2009 everyone on the scheme will be subject to continuous monitoring - the database will check all entries against any new information from police or other sources. Registering on the database will cost £64 unless you are an unpaid volunteer.

Richard Thomas, who is stepping down after more than six years as Britain’s first Information Commissioner, has serious concerns about the system. He says the database would contain:

"allegations, some rumour, some speculation ....... if (officials) start making wrong decisions or allow the data to get into the wrong hands the scope for damage to be done both to individuals and the system as a whole is quite considerable."

Mr Thomas said the combination of treating rumours as relevant and the power to ban an individual from a job had the capacity to damage an innocent person in their career, financially and socially. The case of John Pinnington is one such example.

The outgoing commissioner also criticised the creation of the ContactPoint database, which contains records on all 11million children in England.He said it had similarities with the ISA system, in that both contained masses of material potentially irrelevant to the stated aim of protecting vulnerable children, and both were a ‘step too far’ for freedom.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Opt in or opt out?

The Register reports that a public mobile phone directory for the UK will launch on June 18th. It will contain millions of private numbers bought from marketing departments. Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, briefly worked as a consultant on the venture. He left two years ago after it became clear the business plan was dependent on opt-out, rather than an opt-in consent:

"It's a fundamental problem that people may not have expected their number to be used for this purpose when they didn't tick a box on a form for something else."

Davies said the firm's apparent unwillingness to discuss its data sources was also concerning. Connectivity says that each person will have the chance to opt out the first time they are contacted via the directory, but it could take a few weeks!

The Information Commissioner's Office said it was satisfied the system would comply with the law claiming that use of direct marketing data was no different to other companies who use similar contact lists for cold calling. However, Davies said few would have imagined that agreeing to be contacted for marketing purposes might mean their number would be included in a directory usable by anyone.

Perhaps the Information Commissioner could ensure that those opt-out boxes could be just a little bigger and more prominent?

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Guilty until proven innocent.

A national network of cameras and computers automatically logging car number plates will be in place within months, the BBC has learned.

John Catt found himself on the wrong side of the ANPR system. He regularly attends anti-war demonstrations outside a factory in Brighton, his home town.It was at one of these protests that Sussex police put a "marker" on his car. That meant he was added to a "hotlist".

This is a system meant for criminals but John Catt has not been convicted of anything and on a trip to London, the pensioner found himself pulled over by an anti-terror unit.

"I was threatened under the Terrorist Act. I had to answer every question they put to me, and if there were any questions I would refuse to answer, I would be arrested. I thought to myself, what kind of world are we living in?"

Sussex police would not talk about the case.

The police say they do not know how many cameras there are in total, and they say that for operational reasons they will not say where the fixed cameras are positioned.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, whose job it is to protect personal data, has concerns about the lack of regulation.He said:

"There's very little monitoring. I mean, my office has very limited powers."We have very limited resources. We are not actively monitoring that area. You're right to ask the question. No one's checking it at the moment"

Monday, 8 June 2009


Today is the 60th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell's 1984.

The former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

The National Identity Register will hold a small amount of personal biographic details separately from biometric fingerprints and photographs...

However, NO2ID tells us that the National Identity database:

would grow year on year until eventually the government has a file(and card) on every person in the UK. The file (and card) could contain or link to financial history, health background, religion, ethnicity, criminal convictions, purchase history, physical whereabouts of the 'target citizen, political profile etc. etc. Each passing year will hear a call for more data to be added to the system in the name of "anti-fraud" "anti-terrorism" "protecting children" "anti tax-evasion" or any one of a number of similar reasons.

Remember that clause 152 (to allow information sharing of your personal information) of the recent Coroners and Justice bill was only defeated by a campaign by civil libertarians and NO2ID.

Ms Smith continued that it would be:

incredibly difficult for anyone to steal or exploit another's identity.

Whereas NO2ID tells us that the scheme:

will create a huge underground lucrative trade in fake ID estimated to be worth billions.

Now who is using doublethink?

Doublethink:The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them....To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient

Saturday, 6 June 2009

You've got nothing to fear......

The Daily Mail tells us that:

Youths with no criminal record are being targeted for arrest so their DNA can be logged on a database in the event they commit crimes.

A total of 386 under-18s had their DNA taken and stored by police last year in one north London borough - more than one a day.

An experience officer working for the Metropolitan Police admitted the DNA was being stored as part of a 'long-term crime prevention strategy'.

The officer said: 'We are often told that we have just one chance to get that DNA sample and if we miss it then that might mean a rape or a murder goes unsolved in the future.'

He added: 'Have we got targets for young people who have not been arrested yet? The answer is yes.

We are always told that DNA evidence is totally reliable. In law, one of the principles of proof is: beyond reasonable doubt. When these two issues come together in court, which will be dominant? We have all too often seen the massive influence given to so-called expert witness evidence.

Henry Porter in his Guardian blog tells us that:

A lawyer and genetic scientist has raised the disturbing possibility of false matches being made in the police national DNA database (NDNAD). He suggests that the DNA database – which at the end of September 2008 had 4,343,624, samples, including those from hundreds of thousands of innocent people – is now so large that it is mathematically predicted an innocent person will be matched to a crime they did not commit.

Just imagine the false positives if ever there were 60 million people on the database and, whatever happened to the European Court's ruling regarding the retention of the DNA of innocent people?

Thursday, 4 June 2009

German privacy video looks at retention of communications data .

The NO2ID national website recommends Alexander Lehmann's video:

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Pupil power

Henry Porter blogs about Essex schoolchildren walking out of school on the grounds that their civil liberties were being breached. The story comes from the local newspaper the Waltham Forest Guardian. It tells us that:

PUPILS walked out of classrooms in protest against Big Brother-styled CCTV cameras recording their lessons.

They were so angry with the installation of the equipment at Davenant Foundation School in Chester Road, Loughton, they refused to return until they received assurances it had been turned off.

It meant they missed three weeks of studies and led to the drafting of a petition signed by about 150 of their peers.

And when they did return to the classroom they all wore masks to continue their protest.

Good for them. We may assume they are also angry about their details being put on the huge ContactPoint database without their permission.

ContactPoint petition

The ContactPoint database of the 11 million children in England is functioning but has aroused little protest. However, the Independent Schools Council (ISC) representing 500,000 pupils has always been opposed and states that the scheme is:

" disproportionate and unsafe; likely to be an expensive failure and put at risk more children than it helps."

It makes detailed points regarding security, interference with family life, child protection and well-being.

You can request that your child be 'shielded' but, unless you have a very good reason or are a VIP your request will probably be refused. You can also sign the e-petition because your child matters.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Change of Home Secretary but campaign goes on.

The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith is to step down from her Cabinet post. When Smith took over the Home Office one of her main tasks was to introduce ID cards and the National Identity Register. Once in post she announced that people were always coming up to her to say they were keen to obtain one!

So who will take over? Also, what next for the NO2ID campaign?

The incoming Home Secretary will have to decide whether to press ahead regardless or make concessions over this deeply unpopular scheme. The former option will inflate government spending and bring more resentment from an increasingly angry public and the latter would need careful examination to see whether there was a real climbdown here or yet more spin.

The NO2ID activists and all those interested in maintaining our civil liberties will be following events with interest.