Saturday, 30 January 2010

From the horse's mouth.

The national identity card is likely to be counterfeited, police have warned, see here.

At present there would appear to be about 12 card readers available in the UK to verify the authenticity of ID cards. As a result detective chief superintendent Nigel Mawer of the Metropolitan Police no less, states that:

As with any form of identification, it's likely that the ID card scheme would be targeted by people creating false IDs...It's important that people invest in the equipment to enable them to tell if an ID card is genuine, to get the full benefit from an anti-crime perspective.

Detective chief inspector Nick Downing adds:

The cards are not widely distributed at the moment, and the Met has yet to see any fakes....but if the cards do come in across the UK, we will see them being counterfeited.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Saturday stall.

Birmingham NO2ID is holding its monthly stall in New Street, Birmingham from 10.00am to
4.00pm (opposite the Coventry Building Society). Anyone who wishes to help would be most welcome.
We hold a monthly stall on the last Saturday in the month. Contact for more information.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Is this a private joke?

Just when you thought internet snooping had stalled, we find that the government has created the Communications Capabilities Directorate (CCD) as a structure to implement the £2bn Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) see here. The idea is for communications providers to maintain giant databases of everything their customers do online, including email, social networking, web browsing and making VoIP calls. They want providers to process the mass of data to link it to individuals, to make it easier for authorities to access.

The service providers foresee immense technical and civil libertarian problems but government is sanguine and, by the way, this is the fourth European Data Protection Day. In the UK the Information Commissioner's Office is supporting the initiative with activities to teach children, and their teachers, about the importance of privacy. The Information Commissioner has strongly criticised the IMP in the past, see here. I doubt he has a sense of humour.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Conservative civil liberty plans opaque.

The Tories have stated many times that they intend to scrap the ID card scheme and the retention of the DNA of innocent people. I asked for some clarification from Tory shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling:

# Do you also intend to remove names and personal details of innocent people who have been arrested from the Police National Database?
# I understand that you intend to scrap the NIR and just retain basic details on the passport database. However, do you intend to collect fingerprints?

To which I got the cryptic reply: Our plans are limited at present to our proposal to implement the Scottish system for the DNA database and also to abandon the NIR.

Under the Scottish system the DNA of innocent people who are not convicted of an offence have their DNA removed from your DNA database (apart from those charged with violent and sexual offences when the DNA is retained for 3 years).

However, the National Police Improving Agency, NPIA which is responsible for the National Fingerprint Database (IDENT1) states that:

Every person arrested in England, Scotland and Wales for a recordable offence has their fingerprints, palm prints and limited nominal data taken and entered onto the database. DNA and mug-shot photographs are also obtained. This data is synchronised with the "arrest record" on the Police National Computer (PNC) or on the Scottish Criminal History System (CHS).

A consultation in Scotland from February 2009 provides us with this proposal, to:

....bring the law on the retention of fingerprints taken from unconvicted persons into line with DNA retention provisions. Fingerprints and other relevant physical data will be retained from unconvicted persons only if proceedings have been raised against them for a relevant sexual or violent offence.

So, the Tories will use the Scottish system but the Scottish system at present would appear to retain the fingerprints and other personal data of innocent people.

Will the Tories follow any new Scottish system? Will they keep to the present Scottish system? They are certainly not saying.

As for fingerprints in passports - well they certainly aren't saying they intend to prevent these being on the passport database.

Home Office aids teenage drinkers.

The Evening Standard reports that London's teenagers are being encouraged to apply for ID cards.
People aged 18 to 24 will be able to spend £30 on a biometric photocard that can be used to prove their age when buying alcohol or age-restricted goods, to gain entry to a nightclub, or even to travel in Europe...

Home Office minister Meg Hillier said that the National Identity Card would be an “extremely useful tool, and ....with tough new laws clamping down on underage drinking, it will be more important than ever for young people to have access to a universally accepted proof of age.”

Ms Hillier does not mention that this also means having their personal details held on insecure government databases for the rest of their lives, that the cards could be worthless as the Tories and Lib Dems have promised to scrap them and that there are proof of age cards available for £10.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Police state grows apace.

The Guardian has a reply to a FOI request which foretells a bleak future for the UK population. If you thought that the surveillance society couldn't get much worse, think again. We are now to have unmanned drones spying on us from the sky. They should be in place, ready to 'protect' us, in time for the 2012 Olympics. Initially the scheme was intended for use over the English Channel to monitor shipping and detect immigrants crossing from France. However, the documents suggest the maritime focus was, at least in part, a public relations strategy designed to minimise civil liberty concerns.

Our police are also planning to use the drones for the routine monitoring of antisocial motorists, protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers. They say that this will 'revolutionise policing'. A prototype drone equipped with high-powered cameras and sensors is ready for test flights later this year.

In addition, we are informed that: officers have talked about selling the surveillance data to private companies.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

City Police making up ID powers.

More than 2,000 photographers attended the demonstration today in Trafalgar Square to proclaim their common-law right to take pictures in public places.

On the same day that the European Court of Human Rights ruled that stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act were too wide, it emerged that City of London police were claiming they may demand identification from photographers – powers that no legislation gives them. In a statement given to Amateur Photographer, City of London Police said:

"Photographers should carry identification where possible and be prepared to answer questions about why they are taking photographs, if they are asked."

Even under the controversial - now, arguably illegal - 'stop and account' powers in the Terrorism Act 2000, police have no power arbitrarily to demand you identify yourself, let alone produce documents on the spot. They can only do so in connection with the investigation of a suspected offence.

Phil Booth, NO2ID's National Coordinator, said:

"Even the Terrorism Act does not give police power to demand identification arbitrarily. In backing this 'advice to photographers' by vague menaces, the City force is trying to make it compulsory to carry ID in the square mile. Anyone with a mobile is a photographer nowadays.

It is not a free country where police make up powers to suit themselves. If what you are doing is lawful, then your identity no business of the police. This is a perfect illustration of the danger of the government’s ID scheme. They'll say they 'need to know'. They don't. Official ID obsession means harassment for citizens - legally or illegally."

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Demonstration 23rd Jan.

I'm a Photographer, not a Terrorist! invite all Photographers to a mass photo gathering in defence of street photography. Saturday 23rd January 2010, Trafalgar Square

Good government IT - for once not an oxymoron.

Today modest genius, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, unveiled the public beta version of, a website dedicated to opening up government statistics to the public. Much of this information has been available before, if you knew where to look. But – in Sir Tim’s words:

– “government data is something we have already spent the money on… and when it is sitting there on a disk in somebody’s office it is wasted.”

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

0.26% of Mancunians entrust their personal data to government for life.

From the ID card scheme's launch in Manchester on 30 November 2009 to 14 January 2010, 1,300 people who live in Greater Manchester have applied and attended an enrolment appointment for an ID card. See here. This equates to 0.26 per cent of the city's population.

The Home Office tells us that:
People want ID cards. Polling has showed a consistent 60 per cent of people support the National Identity Service. This has translated into more than 600 calls per day from people requesting application packs".

A spokesman for NO2ID told Public Servant Daily:
That the Home Office is fiddling the figures on the levels of public support for ID cards should come as no surprise - it's been doing so for years.

Meanwhile a Scottish doctor has illegally accessed the summary care records of celebrities and politicians, including Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond merely out of curiosity and will not be charged with any offences. See here. If Gordon has an ID card we do hope his 50 items of personal information, including fingerprints, are securely stored.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

IT Klondike!

Several publications are linking to a survey of Labour's 10 most notorious IT schemes. The Independent claims that government has spent £26 billion on computer systems that have suffered severe delays, run millions of pounds over budget or have been cancelled altogether. The surprise is that all the papers seem astounded by this.

Also, they all repeat the canard that Labour is not intending to push the roll-out of ID cards and the NIR is not even mentioned. Nonetheless, there are useful summaries of the major schemes, some of which I had not heard of.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

ANPR used as cash cow.

The Independent on Sunday reveals that police are using controversial car-surveillance technology aimed at catching criminals and terrorists to target members of the public in order to meet government performance targets and raise revenue.

Police whistleblowers also claim that intelligence stored on the national Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) database is "at least 30 per cent inaccurate", which has led to the wrongful arrest of innocent motorists and the seizure of their cars.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Smart meters - are they such a smart idea?

The European Union said in 2006 that smart meters should be made mandatory, but voters in the Netherlands have vigorously opposed a compulsory rollout and succeeded in persuading politicians to vote against it. The fears are that data on energy consumption could be misused by criminals, police or insurance companies. Dutch consumer and privacy organisations were concerned that information relayed as frequently as every 15 minutes could allow employees of utility companies to see when properties were empty or when householders had bought expensive new gadgets. See here.

The UK government intends to spend £8.1 billion establishing a smart meter system and database. The present trials, which are being conducted with four of the leading suppliers, are throwing up potential problems, including issues about access to properties and the need for rewiring and repiping. Datamonitor is warning that the introduction of smart metering will rival the creation of the internet as a telecommunications project and will stretch utility industry practices and processes to breaking point.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change wants to see 47 million meters in 26 million properties by 2020 and states:

Data protection and system security are crucial issues for the success of the rollout and operation of the smart metering and will be a vital part of the implementation work we will be doing. We will take a rigorous and systematic approach to assessing and managing these issues.

Well they would say that wouldn't they?

Vote against the database state

You can vote against ID cards and the database state here. Power 2010 has decided on 5 reforms of the UK parliament and scrapping ID cards and rolling back the database state is in second place.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Post Office diversifies.

A FOI request has just revealed some interesting information about the government's struggle to ramp up 'biometric enrolment' of the general population. The plan is to enrol you on the scheme and take your fingerprints, facial photo and signature in Post Offices across the UK, if you apply for a passport from the end of 2011.

The UK Border Agency's 'Commercial Strategy On Future Biometric Enrolment Accommodation and Services' makes it quite clear the Home Office doesn't have the capacity to handle mass registration:

We have considered using IPS (which is part of the Home Office anyway) to provide these services... but they provide scant geographical coverage,and have limited space for processing the additional footfall of enrolment applications."

So much for the value of the interrogation centre network, expensively set up in the past few years, and now being quietly wound down again.

The official documents have been mysteriously - and inconsistently- blotted out in places. Most references to costs are excised; the planned timetables are shown, but what logically should be references to how much has been done, where, are all black. Confident? In different versions of the same documents the same bits are not redacted. Competent?

Will it actually work, if it is available on time? They don't seem to think so. One Post Office presentation refers bizarrely to people whom the system can't even record:

The system can allow up to three attempts, before offering to accept and forward the last photograph if the Customer agrees, on the basis that not all people are ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organisation] conformant.

As David Blunkett put it in another context, "impossible, not nearly impossible, impossible".

Thanks to NO2ID newsletter 140.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Public private partnership, not?

Companies that fall foul of the data breach laws now risk a maximum fine of £500,000. It is not clear at this time whether the same principle applies to Government departments that lose sensitive data! See here.
Thanks to the Daily Mail for the chart. NB This is from November 2007 and now the DNA database holds 5.5 million profiles.

Monday, 11 January 2010

ID database will track NI numbers

The Home Secretary has admitted in a Parliamentary answer, see here, that the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) is collecting National Insurance numbers from every person who applies for an ID card, and storing them on the National Identity Register - the ID card database.

As from next year it will be compulsory to apply for entry on the National Identity Register in order to receive a passport, this means that all passport applicants will also have their NI number collected and stored for life.

Mr Johnson's answer failed to mention other categories of information, in addition to what is currently recorded on the passport database, that are to be held on the National Identity Register.

Phil Booth, NO2ID's National Coordinator, said:

The National Identity Scheme has never been about a card - it's about tracking you throughout your life, linking your details by the numbers.

This admission confirms the Home Office's intentions for the scheme. It wants to track you through every government and private database it can - and your NI number's just the start.

It is also worth mentioning that the Electoral Commission tells us that: from 2011 onwards, we will report annually to Parliament on the progress of the voluntary collection of personal identifiers - National Insurance number, signature and date of birth - from electors, to make sure that the conditions are appropriate before any move to compulsory provision of identifiers.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Just say NO.

A parent rants about being asked to provide reams of personal information to her child's Sure Start nursery. She just said "no". How refreshing, see here.

No, thank you, I do not want or need support.

I do not want my children's details being passed onto any of the incompetent people with whom I have had the misfortune to work.

I do not want other agencies in government meddling with the lives of my children and getting it wrong, again.

I do not give my consent for their details to be added to ContactPoint. In it I see only danger to children. No, thank you.

Bravo renegade parent.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

IPS spends more on bad spin

The Register alerts us to an attempt at ID card propaganda that would make even Joseph Goebbels squirm. See here.

Friday, 8 January 2010

ID card scheme expands early

The Home Office has now begun to require Tier 2 foreign nationals to register for ID cards when renewing their visas – three months earlier than it had originally planned.

Tier 2 includes skilled workers, ministers of religion, sportsmen and women, representatives of overseas businesses and dependants. Guy Herbert of No2ID said that the government already had plenty of information on the identity of Tier 2 immigrants and the scheme was superfluous and wasteful.

Alan Johnson has confirmed that the National Identity Register contains National Insurance numbers. This means that the register could be used to cross-reference with other government databases, including tax and benefits.
See here and here.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

STOP PRESS - NDNAD solves 0.67% of crimes!

The Home Affairs select committee has been told that, of the nearly 5 million offences reported to the police last year, 33,000 were solved thanks to a direct match with a stored DNA profile, see here.

Britain's national DNA database (NDNAD) with more than 5.5million individuals registered, solves one in every 150 crimes and it's the largest in the world.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Conservative campaigns

The Conservatives have started electioneering and have two campaigns of interest to us. One is to reclaim your DNA and the other is to stop ID cards. To give them their due they have been criticising the surveillance state and national databases for some time, even if this is a general election ploy. We hope that they also intend that innocent people who have their DNA removed from the DNAD will have their personal information removed from the police national computer. Regarding ID cards they say:

Brown says he's scrapping compulsory ID cards: he either doesn't not know what he’s talking about, or he's deliberately pulling the wool over people’s eyes. Anyone who makes an application for a ‘designated document’ such as a passport has to enter personal information - including fingerprints and other biometric details - on the National Identity Register. This is compulsion by stealth. We don't want or need all our private information on a vast state database, with potential for another data loss disaster.

Now what is Conservative policy on fingerprints in new biometric passports? Also, we just hope that these promises are better than other cast-iron guarantees given by Mr Cameron!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Safe in their hands?

There is a postcode lottery relating to the removal of the records of innocent people from the DNA database.

South Yorkshire police force does best, complying with 83% of requests for deletion, see here. Other forces including Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire have refused to remove any profiles. Essex, Greater Manchester and Thames Valley — wouldn't even provide any information on the grounds that it would be too costly.

We also discover via FOI requests that more than 400 officers and support staff have been sacked or given warnings after being caught looking at inappropriate material online and some officers have also been dismissed for using police databases to check out people’s backgrounds for personal reasons. See here.

The information provided by 47 police forces showed that on average nine members of staff have been punished for flouting IT rules in every force. In this respect, South Yorkshire was the force with the worst record, with 53 members of staff caught on inappropriate sites.

Also, remember that since 2005 if you have had your DNA taken, you will also have a record on the Police National Computer, see here, and evidently there are no plans to delete this accompanying identity data on the Police National Computer.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Data collection, terrorism and confusion.

After the recent plane bombing attempt, expect more 'reasons' for the collection, storage and investigation of your personal data. Here is an interesting fact-

After Sept. 11, we Americans indulged our faith in the god of technocracy. We expanded the country’s information-gathering capacities so that the National Security Agency alone now gathers four times more data each day than is contained in the Library of Congress. See the NYT.

As the UK government increases the amount of personal data it keeps on its citizens exponentially, so it makes it more difficult to protect said citizens. Trying to put the personal information of everyone on registers entails huge amounts of time and manpower. And the effect of all this? Well, if you want to find a needle in a haystack, don't increase the size of the haystack.