Monday, 30 November 2009

Today - ID cards are go

Here are some bits and pieces:

The Identity and Passport Service Framework Agreement is published giving information about the NIR and telling you that accredited organisations will have access to it. See here.

The database that backs up the national ID cards has officially been unveiled, and so far it holds just 538 names. Of those, all are British citizens and just one is a foreign national, despite people such as overseas students being given the cards since last November. The one foreigner is from the EU. See here

(The Home Office press department has not yet replied to a query as to whether there are two separate databases for foreigners and British citizens, and where data on foreigners was currently being held.)

1,107 eligible volunteers/guinea pigs, from the Greater Manchester area, London and the two airports, have made an appointment to enrol for an identity card out of a population of 1.7 million. See here.

Fingerprint checks on foreigners at border controls is operational see here.

Parental CRB checks.

In the last post, I mentioned that people would soon need to have a police check in order to become parents. I was joking but this is becoming nearer reality with the report by the Daily Mail that home-schooling parents could be required to undergo a CRB check in order to teach their own children! The estimated 40,000 parents who choose not to send their children to school should be vetted, says Ofsted.

If, as a result, they are deemed unsuitable to teach their children then, ominously, it is said that social workers could become involved. It is alleged that we already have some cases whereby single mothers experiencing post-natal depression have not gone to see their GP, fearing social workers will remove their baby. So the next logical step really could mean CRB checks for ALL parents.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Prove your innocence!

Slowly we are all becoming suspects, all having to prove our innocence.

The ContactPoint database will, rightly, highlight children who are at risk but it will also categorise those who may possibly be at risk and also note the details of every other child just in case. It is intended that details will be removed when the child is 18, so, once all 11 million plus children are on the database, that will mean that over 600,000 records will be destroyed annually. Who will do this and do you not think there will be the temptation to keep them, just in case? Especially if the child has had contact with the legal system.

Then we have the DNA database which, rightly, contains the DNA of convicted criminals and those implicated in recent serious crimes. Then it also contains those whom the police consider 'dodgy', those who have committed minor misdemeanour's and those who just happened to be at the scene of a crime. These details are ostensibly only to be kept for 6 years, who is to delete the information and who will check that this is done?

Then there is the ISA vetting and barring register of 11 million plus adults who work with children or vulnerable adults. This contains, rightly, those convicted of abuse but also any false accusations or suspicions and all the rest, just in case. Agencies and employers that employ a range of people who just might come into contact with children or vulnerable adults will check their prospective employees, just in case. Do you think that anyone with a suspicion on their record will get a job?

We now have the proposal by ACPO Limited and the Home Office for yet another new law and order database – this one including individuals who are unconvicted, but against whom there exist unsubstantiated allegations of domestic violence. See here. And so it goes.

The logical conclusion is that there should be parental screening and only those deemed suitable should be allowed to bear and rear children.

Also, there should be a database of politicians and civil servants. But then who would compile it and what would be the criteria for being deemed unsuitable for the job?

Friday, 27 November 2009

Don't be coerced.

Big Brother Watch writes:

As a result of a very successful PledgeBank campaign, our friends at No2ID have a legal fund devoted to assisting people who don't want to "apply" for an ID card.

While frank compulsion has been dropped for now, the strategy of implementation the Government is mounting is plainly still inherently coercive.

There is notionally "voluntary" application from this Autumn but some people - those working for IPS, its contractors, and the originally designated airports - Manchester and City Airports* - may find themselves under real "indirect" pressure to apply...

That is prima facie unlawful under s16 of the Act as well as potentially a violation of all sorts of employment rights. That is not to say that it won't happen, though - the Home Office, with a desperate need for the scheme to be said to have succeeded, claimed to have opened for business with an application 'opportunity' for its own staff at the end of last month.

If any civil servant or member of contractor staff or airport worker is being pressed, or deceptively "invited", to apply, then get in touch with No2ID - they can help you.

By Alex Deane

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Principle - a route to prison.

In a recent article about the IMP Intercept Modernisation Programme, this writer, tongue in cheek, encouraged you to consider encryption.

However, government has got there first and we now have the first case of imprisonment for refusal to give keys to decrypt computer files to the police. The Register tells the story of a schizophrenic science hobbyist with no previous criminal record.

The 33-year-old man is currently held at a secure mental health unit after being sectioned while serving his sentence at Winchester Prison. He was sentenced to nine months imprisonment under Part III of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). The powers came into force in October 2007.

In his final police interview it was suggested that the refusal to decrypt the files or give them his keys would lead to suspicion he was a terrorist or paedophile.

"There could be child pornography, there could be bomb-making recipes," said one detective. "Unless you tell us we're never gonna know... What is anybody gonna think?"

JFL says he maintained his silence because of: "the principle - as simple as that".

What would you do?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Second city - second DNA listing

The Guardian has found the DNA database figures by region and the West Midlands comes second after Northumbria. We have 118 samples on the database per thousand population yet this does not appear to correspond to our position in the crime statistics. The Human Genetics Commission (HGC), an independent Government advisory body, has called for new rules for officers on when it is right to take a sample and add it to the database - now the largest of its kind in the world with five million samples.

In its report Nothing to hide, nothing to fear?, the authors said current policies have a "disproportionate effect" on different age and ethnic groups and worries about some being stigmatised. Young black men are "very highly over-represented" the report says, with more than three quarters of those aged 18-35 on the database.

Alan Johnson says there is the need to protect the public, but in a way that's proportionate to the threat. He says: I believe that the government's proposals do precisely that but I also welcome the debate as a necessary part of implementing such sensitive measures.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Nation at war?

This blog has already posted on the ID card scheme of World War 2, 1939-1945 and the undesirable outcomes that stemmed from it, see HERE.
One of the features of any war is the natural desire of the government to protect valuable items. So, during WW2 many of the London museums dispersed their treasures around the country to places unlikely to be enemy targets. The National Gallery even put some works of art in a disused Welsh slate quarry, considered at the time to be an ideal safeguard. While the picture above shows a barrage balloon, a WW2 defensive measure against low flying enemy aircraft.

So what to do about Cyber warfare? Well it would seem our government is determined to gather all our data into one place with the ID card scheme and the linking of the databases that support it. Here it will be an easy target for any enemy. A great deal of the detail in this link HERE deals with the US response to a future Cyber war in respect of terrorism. But please read it through. You will see that any data source is open to attack and according to the competence and aggression of the attacker the outcomes will vary. The idea that the UK is safe from attack if ridiculous, quite the contrary.

Because of government policy we are a tempting target. An attack could mean anything from cash machine failure to total civic disintegration leading to violence and death. So who is going to protect us from this and how? Well it won't be the Home Secretary Alan Johnson who, on behalf of the government, is hell-bent on making it easier for any enemy to locate the single source of data and attack. By contrast the barrage balloon was a great success!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


Halesowen is yet another school that has introduced a fingerprinting system ostensibly to encourage healthy eating. The new system cost £23,000 to install and, as usual, the school received a Government grant to help with costs. The angry comments by parents at the end of the article would seem to outweigh the complacent ones. The headteacher stated:

This is a Government-backed initiative and will help the school with our healthy eating policy. Parents will be able to know that their children are eating healthy and they are not spending their dinner money at the local shops on chocolate or chips.”

If this is a problem then could not the children be kept in school?

Whenever there is an article like this the headteacher invariably claims that parents' fears are groundless, that the system merely converts pupils' fingerprints to a number and that no images of fingerprints are kept. They always repeat this 'information.' Well, this 'technical' nonsense comes courtesy of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency Becta which is a quango advising schools on technology. Quote:

A numerical value is derived from the child’s fingerprint when it is first placed on the reading device .... Schools do not keep an image of the fingerprint.

The spin is that this is all totally innocuous and bears no relationship to how the police and others store fingerprint templates or even how computers work! There are numerous security and privacy issues which could be very serious but the major offence is the principle that fingerprinting of children is becoming widespread in educational settings so that children find this 'normal', that the teachers do not seem to mind, that this does not contravene data protection rules, that it is not mandatory to ask for parental consent and does not even merit parliamentary discussion.

Perhaps if the teachers' fingerprints were also on the database there might be some protest?

Leave Them Kids Alone LTKA gives the pros and cons.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

£200 to prove your innocence.

The Scottish police routinely delete the DNA of people arrested but not convicted of any other offences. In England and Wales we are informed that it can take up to 10 months, involves five administrative stages and up to nine staff to get records removed. Tomorrow our poor Queen will have to announce that innocent people will have to pay £200 for the privilege of having their DNA removed from the database, under the terms of yet another policing bill.

Now could it be that ACPO Britain's most powerful police body, run as a private business with an annual income of around £18million, could possibly profit from this?
Company No. 03344583

Company No. 03816000

School Entry Wellbeing Review

If you have a 5 year old then watch out. Lincolnshire Community Health Services (CHS) have a pilot consisting of a 4-page, tick box survey containing 100 questions.

The Review asks parents to indicate whether their child "often lies or cheats": whether they steal or bully; and how often they eat red meat, takeaway meals or fizzy drinks. In addition questions are asked about their health and their partner’s health, whether they or their partner are in paid employment.

Completing the review is evidently voluntary but, as this initial communication will be followed up with a reminder, then a third letter and a potential home visit from the School Nursing team, parents don't see it this way.

It is a sad indictment of the relationship between citizen and state that one mother said she felt that merely objecting to this questionnaire might lead to her and her child being placed on some sort of risk register. As DoH guidance states that local areas should aim for 100 per cent coverage of children in the locality, then her suspicions do not sound unreasonable.

Sections 12 and 29 of the Children's Act 2004 include provisions whereby the Secretary of State may order the setting up of databases. In theory, they allow for government to demand whatever information it sees fit to demand in respect of children, and to pass it on to any third party. Nonetheless, the regulations do not appear to include any powers to demand information on parents.

If successful, all parents in England and Wales will be (very firmly ) advised to fill in the review.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Liberty going down

The rightly respected Henry Porter has set out his thoughts on why, in terms of civil liberties, we've never had it so bad, see HERE. It was Harold Macmillan who used the phrase “you've never had it so good” in 1957. At that time the UK was still recovering from the effects of WW2. Many people had suffered in the depression of the pre-war years and by the mid-1950s were desperate for a better life. Now, 50 years later, it is formally recognised that the good years, fought for and worked towards by so many ordinary people, have been replaced with a sustained period of decline of liberty. Porter is specific in his condemnation, Home Secretaries: Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, and John Reid are blamed. Clarke is given special treatment by Porter due to an article the former wrote recently and reached through the link above.

Porter knows his subject well and gives defined examples with plenty of detail to reinforce his point. Put simply the situation we are in is not due to some accident, misunderstanding or even incompetence, it is wholly due to malevolence on the part of these men.

The fury of Porter, like his position as the foremost reporter in the UK on this subject, is impressive. It is an inconvenient truth for some people such as recent Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, current incumbent Alan Johnson and others, to admit this state of affairs has come about. This is akin to pretending that the most memorable feature of the maiden voyage of the Titanic was a strong smell of fresh paint. It is pathetic, a criticism also levelled by Porter at Clarke!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Fill in the face?

According to a press release by the Liberal Democrats, over 15,000 people have disputed their criminal records check since the inception of the CRB in 2002 and last year over 2,500 were in dispute.

Disclosures can be disputed if your name is the same as a criminal, if inaccurate information is held by the police or if you are the victim of identity fraud.

Chris Huhne said:“These disputes do not fill you with confidence that the Government can run the new Vetting and Barring Scheme and check millions more people without making the same mistakes.”

It is estimated that at least 11 million people are to be on the ISA database.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Sticker hate.

Alan Johnson announces that the DNA of young offenders, involved but not charged with violent offences are to be retained for 6 years on the precautionary principle; councils are recruiting Stasi-style “neighbourhood champions” or 'snoopers' to report on their neighbours' misdemeanours or thought crimes; hundreds of organisations are able to enter your home and everywhere you are being watched.

Feeling paranoid? Apart from campaigning for NO2ID you could vent your anger by placing a sticker on some intrusive sign or camera.Big Brother Watch, an offshoot of the Taxpayers' Alliance, has some stickers that you can obtain for free. Not exactly NO2ID's remit but it might make you feel better.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Time for encryption?

The European Union's Data Retention Directive orders countries to pass laws requiring telecoms companies to retain phone and Internet usage records for between six and 24 months so that they can be used to help solve crime. This was initiated by Tony Blair during his rotating presidency. The citizens of many EU states have protested against this chilling project.

In the UK this is called the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) and is to cost £2billion. Initially the government wanted to store all this data on one huge, central database but they decided against this and decreed that Internet service providers (ISPs) should do this job. There have been protests from ISPs, phone providers and civil liberties' groups on technical, financial and moral grounds.

This programme also included the GCHQ project called Mastering the Internet (MTI) which involves fitting thousands of deep packet inspection probes to monitor the use of VoIP, chat rooms etc

Now there has been a delay and this proposal will not be part of the Queen's speech. See here.

The Tories say they would immediately subject the IMP to a Privacy Impact Assessment (sigh) and it is not mentioned in the Lib-Dems' Freedom Bill.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Biometrics 100% accurate - David Blunkett

The NO2ID forum has a report on the Biometrics 2009 conference. Some interesting facts emerged:

The fingerprint database for the Visa Information System (VIS) for Schengen countries is expected to stabilise at about 100 million entries.

YET the false match rate using fingerprints with VIS is something like 25%.

Phil Booth of NO2ID pointed out that the UK Passport Service biometrics enrolment trial demonstrated that 31% of the able-bodied population, and 52% of the disabled, can't have their identity verified by face recognition technology at all.

The FBI representative concurred: "face recognition just can't deliver the highly reliable verification required to be of any use." This is even though the FBI has been evaluating facial recognition technology since 1963!

Alex Lahood of the UK Border Agency calmly repeated the government's pledge to check the identity of everyone entering and leaving the UK by 2013. When asked how, he said: "probably face recognition and fingerprints".

David Blunkett: biometrics "will make identity theft and multiple identity impossible. Not nearly impossible. Impossible."

Tony Blair: "biometrics give us the chance to have secure identity".

Gordon Brown: biometrics “will make it possible to securely link an individual to a unique identity”.

Jacqui Smith: "As the [ID] cards become more widely available the whole country will see real benefits for citizens, businesses and the country by giving a convenient and secure proof of identity that locks people to one identity".

Alan Johnson: "when the man in front of you has an ID card you just know he is who he says he is".

Shame on ABTA

ABTA has been accused of acting as a propagandist for the government by promoting ID cards, see here. Its senior spokesman claimed that the card would encourage people to book cross-channel ferries because it would provide an easier and cheaper form of ID than a passport.

Guy Herbert, general secretary of NO2ID gave an excoriating reply:

Anyone registering for an ID card will be fingerprinted (at their own additional expense) and placed on an official database for life. They will acquire onerous duties to inform the authorities of changes in their personal circumstances, will face severe financial penalties for failures to comply with the associated bureaucracy, and be signing a blank check for future charges... What will your members’ customers think of a travel agent who urges them to do something like that in order to get on a ferry?

I hope that ABTA is aware that, as part of ‘voluntary’ enrolment, from 2011 the IPS plans to require passport applicants to join the ID database (or they won’t get a passport). You ought to be, since the impact of that on the travel industry can only be entirely negative.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Absent fathers hiding in wheelie - bins?

Formerly 1,600 officials could authorise access to communications records and order surveillance operations under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). Only director-level bureaucrats will now be able to do so. As this may mean that fewer people may be charged for putting out their bins on the wrong day I was going to give some grudging praise to Alan Johnson but have now changed my mind.

We now find that investigators from the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC), which has taken over the Child Support Agency, are to have access to phone and e-mail records. This will evidently allow it to find some 5,000 missing parents who are refusing to pay towards their children's upkeep. See here.

"The use of intercept in evidence characterises a central dilemma we face as a free society - that of preserving our liberties and the rule of law, while at the same time keeping our nation safe and secure....
.....It should be possible to find a way to use some intercept material as evidence, provided - and only provided - that certain key conditions can be met. These conditions relate to the most vital imperative of all - that of safeguarding our national security."

Prime Minister, Gordon Brown

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

More thought crime

Behavioural vetting is being considered by the ISA to determine those fit to work with children or vulnerable adults. The ISA has confirmed its intention to use behavioural vetting and has decided to put in place a scoring system.

Items will be assessed on the basis of "whether relevant conduct or a risk of harm 'on the face of it' seems to have occurred". Also...

"the case worker will examine... 'predisposing factors', such as 'those factors relating to an individual’s interests or drives'; 'cognitive factors', such as 'strong anti-social beliefs'; and 'behavioural factors', including 'using substances or sex to cope with stress or impulsive, chaotic or unstable lifestyle. Drug use, sex life, favourite films'."

The guidelines were leaked two months ago, but have subsequently disappeared from public view. Do you think that job applicants with sociopathic or paedophile tendencies might just be tempted to be somewhat untruthful?

Monday, 2 November 2009

Quango adopts chaos theory?

The new ISA database, which intends to hold the details of at least 11 million adults, is evidently in chaos. See here. Employers have a legal duty to report concerns about anyone they think could be a danger to those children or vulnerable adults and face up to five years in jail if they fail to do so. Unsurprisingly, there have already been so many 'referrals' from employers they are expected to take six months to process.

Also, people who were on either the Vetting or Barring lists were contacted telling them that, unless they appealed they would automatically be added to the other list. The ISA received so many appeals that, to consider each one would have meant failure to meet the October 12 deadline, so apparently they approved them all!

At present 250 staff work for the ISA, so expect a huge expanse of this quango, the sidelining of thousands of innocent people forever, as well as the accreditation of some genuinely dangerous paedophiles.