Sunday, 28 February 2010

Criticisms over new Blackburn ID card Centre

Anger over the launch of the controversial ID card scheme in Blackburn has sparked campaigners to form a local opposition group. The group will be part of the national NO2ID campaign which opposes ID cards and the Database State. A launch meeting which is open to the public will take place on Monday 15th March at 7.30pm at Blackburn Library. The group hopes concerned members of the public will be joined by opposition politicians, and asks anyone interested in further information to email

Despite opposing the scheme on principle Local politicians including Blackburn with Darwen Council leader and Conservative Mike Lee had cautiously welcomed the news that the cards would be processed in Blackburn, bringing jobs to the area. Campaigners have hit back at this jobs claim with new information obtained under the Freedom of Information act showing that no new jobs are being created here in Blackburn and existing resources are being used.

James Elsdon-Baker North of England coordinator for NO2ID said:

The claim ID cards will bring jobs is the latest wheeze in a string of excuses for why we need them, we have shown this to be misleading like many of the other claims surrounding ID cards. The reality is the cards are a gross waste of public funds. They will likely be scrapped after the election. Rather than becoming Guinea Pigs for this dangerous scheme, people would be better off saving their £30 or spending it locally here in Blackburn.

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) claims that ID cards are a
“convenient” form of proof of age and will therefore be particularly useful for teenagers. It is not so forthright about the fact that, once on the system, you have obligations for the rest of your life. You must look after the card and report if it is lost, stolen, or damaged, and you must keep your official record on the National Identity Register up to date for the rest of your life. There are penalties for not doing so.

Meg Hillier MP, the minister responsible, has confirmed that nothing will get you removed from the Register – not even death.

See links:

Blackburn Citizen.
full FOI request

For a full list of the fifty categories of information that may legally be held on the National Identity Register, read Schedule 1 of the Identity Cards Act 2006 here.

For more information contact-
Frankie the Blackburn NO2ID coordinator at (07539938399)
James Elsdon-Baker NO2ID North of England coordinator (07817605162)
Phil Booth (National Co-ordinator, (07974 230 839)
Guy Herbert (General Secretary, ( 07956 544 308)
Michael Parker (Press Officer, on (07773 376 166)

Saturday, 27 February 2010

NHS Spine

The Summary Care Record (SCR) scheme (the Spine) will make outlines of medical records available to hundreds of thousands of NHS staff in England. The idea is to provide doctors and nurses in England with easier access to information on patients registered with other doctors without having to call or fax their main medics, see here. The cost is over £12 billion.

Security is a problem. A Scottish doctor managed to look at the health records of both Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond, because he was 'curious' and was not prosecuted. (Scotland has a similar scheme.)

Roll-out of Summary Care Records is gathering pace. To date nearly 1.2 million Summary Care Records have been created and over 6 million patients have been written to as part of a Public Information Programme.

The system is fraught with privacy pitfalls while offering questionable clinical benefits, according to Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University.

The opt out rate remains below 1%. You could join this select number and, if you have a serious medical condition, if I were you I would wear a tag. Especially if you have a surname such as Smith or Jones.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Balancing risks or covering backs?

Paediatricians have to have a CRB check for every NHS trust they work in. This small group tend to move around the country more than other specialist doctors in order to perform operations or cover absences.

It can take two months for a check to arrive and, as a result sick children have to travel long distances to see a surgeon or have their operations delayed. The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has strongly criticised the "overzealous" interpretations of the rules by NHS trusts and long delays in returning results.

The RCS said medical staff with an enhanced CRB check should be allowed to work in any hospital, and pointed out the restrictions prevented trainee paediatricians from gaining experience in different areas. Some trainee surgeons went through more than 10 separate checks in two years, see the Nursing Times.

It could be pointed out that the risk from a paedophile could override the risks of a delayed operation. However, I doubt it would require a particularly skilled statistician to make an analysis. Has any paediatrician been charged or convicted of a sexual attack on a child between CRB checks? Or ever?

Meanwhile here is a map to show the instances of sexual abuse on children by those who have undergone a CRB check and have been given a clear record, see here. Hat tip - Big Brother Watch.

Personally I'd take the (statistically insignificant) risk and go for the operation.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

More publicity for NO2ID

A survey by the Daily Echo found 69 per cent of those polled in Hampshire agreed with the principle of the DNA database. Some 65 per cent said they would also be happy to have their DNA profiles placed on there indefinitely. The most common reason they said, was that they simply had nothing to hide. This contrasts with the 'State of the Nation' poll carried out for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust which found that 61% believe police should not be allowed to keep a person's DNA profile if they have not been charged with an offence.

There is an interesting discussion between Det Supt Jason Hogg and Dr. Ian Thomas, Southampton Co-ordinator for NO2ID in the Daily Echo, see here. Dr Thomas gives an excellent argument against the DNA retention of innocent people, he states that:

...only 1 in 5,000 prisoners are in prison thanks to the DNA database.

Ministers have been asked repeatedly in parliamentary questions to reveal the number of crimes that have been detected or solved as a result of the retention of innocent people on the database and on each occasion they have replied that this data is not available.

Examination of the statistics show that the Home Office is either deliberately misleading the public or fails to understand its own figures.

And then, when the figures don’t stand up they resort to emotive individual cases.

Det Supt Jason Hogg's argument for DNA retention consists largely of such 'emotive individual cases'.

Dithering for Britain?

A couple of months before the election and three months after the first ID cards were issued, the Identity and Passport Service(IPS) has discovered that it must redesign the National Identity Register from scratch, see here. This is the register that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have pledged to scrap.

Despite many warnings it has just discovered that using the Department for Works and Pensions' database to store the biographical details of ID card holders is problematical. The IPS said:

"No decision has been made on the solution for the biographical store for the National Identity Register."

Monday, 22 February 2010

ContactPoint problems.

Thankfully, both the Lib-Dems and the Conservatives have pledged to abolish the ContactPoint database. We find that there have been five security breaches in the pilot phase of the system, see here. There have also been 51,000 requests for information to be shielded, however there are strict rules as to when this is permitted.

An example of an internal emails from Surrey County Council illustrates the concern that has been privately expressed by officials about the database.

The process is not user friendly. Data is an issue locally, a lot of it doesn’t match up, especially addresses. There are also issues around what needs recording for each agency to get consistency.

A DCSF spokesman said:

The bottom line is that ContactPoint is up and running and being used successfully by authorised front line workers’ in their day-to-day work.

Hence a system which was launched in order to protect children, to save social workers' time and to have a 'joined-up' process would appear to be going the way of many government IT projects: creating more work, costing a great deal and not improving the problem it was established to solve. Or, it is a great success!

See also here.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Protest against body scanning.

There is a facebook campaign against airport body scanning, see here. So far there are - 10,000 members and climbing.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Uni Nanny

The escalation in fraudulent applications as a result of the ill-considered points- based student visa system has had the usual result of penalising genuine students, see here. Academics and university staff are now being required by law to act as government informants and draconian surveillance systems are being imposed. One such system is called Uni Nanny and, no, this is not a joke. Here it is in action and, scarily, the students seem perfectly happy about it all.

Shockingly, Network75 Ltd is a spin-out company of the University of Glamorgan. One business focus is an electronic web-based student monitoring system that can improve retention of university students. The university owns the trademark name Uni-Nanny. See here.

Friday, 12 February 2010

NO2ID and the EU dimension.

NO2ID, with some financial backing from Microsoft, has won admission to the industry working group of Project STORK, the EU programme for devising interoperability standards for electronic ID systems across Europe.

"We know that IPS is one of those around the table, and is using the interoperability of passports as an excuse to drive fingerprints on chips..... If developing European standards start to present a threat to privacy and civil liberties, then we are now in a much better position to know about it and lobby against it." Phil Booth of NO2ID.

Let us just say that it is better late than never. Schengen members already have fingerprint biometrics in passports, many have compulsory ID and EU ID interoperability systems are already very advanced. See IDABC and a cheerful video giving you all the advantages is here.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A fingerprint is for life.

Government seems to have done a good job in softening up our youth for a Big Brother society. Children have been encouraged to use fingerprints to obtain meals or take out library books in school and fingerprint cartoons have been used as propaganda. Here is a rather chilling result.

BBC news reports that Mr Parker, the owner of an outdoor in Bridlington has installed a DIY ID card reader system. Who can really blame him as the government, which has cheerfully permitted 24 hour opening and cheap alcohol, imposes draconian fines and on those found guilty of selling to underage drinkers and smokers.

Mr Parker said: "We get a lot of young people coming in and trying to buy cans of lager or cigarettes. The scanner is an excellent solution."

His shop is near a large college and in the first week since the equipment was installed, 70 young people have signed up to use it. Customers are asked to provide a driving licence or passport as proof of identity and their details are entered on the scanner. Their fingerprint is then entered into the system and linked to the proof of identity.

"Once that's done all they need to do each time they come in is put their thumb or fingerprint on to the system and we will then let them have the goods," said Mr Parker.

Eighteen-year-old Brett seems cheerfully casual about it: "If I forget, I don't need to use my ID any more. It's better really because I don't have to keep showing my ID."

He seems to forget that fingerprints are for life and, once stolen, cannot be changed.

LTKA provides lots of information regarding the fingerprinting of children.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Proposed reforms to the database state

Here are a couple of links if you have an hour or so spare. The Conservative proposals and the Liberal Democrats' Freedom Bill.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Privacy in the EU

Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, has promised tough new laws to curb privacy-breaching technology and said there needed to be clarity as to how key principles like consent and transparency work in practice and to ensure that data was safe no matter where the data controller was located. She said there should be promotion of 'privacy by design', see here.

As the same time we learn that large amounts of confidential personal information held about British citizens on a giant computer network spanning the European Union could be accessed by more than 500,000 terminals, as reported by the Observer.

The figure was revealed in a Council of the European Union document examining proposals to establish a new agency, based in France, that would manage much of the 27 EU member states' shared data. But the sheer number of access points to the Schengen Information System (SIS) – which holds information regarding immigration status, arrest ­warrants, entries on the police national ­computer and a multitude of personal details – has triggered concerns about the security of the data.

Statewatch, said it was aware of a case in Belgium where personal information extracted from the system by an official was sold to an organised criminal gang.

Although the UK and Eire are not signed up to Schengen, a lot of their personal data is.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Open Rights Group campaign

The Open Rights Group have a campaign against the Intercept Modernisation Programme. I reproduce a 'model' letter that they suggest you can use to write to your MP. It sums up the issues neatly.

I am writing to express my concern at the proposed Intercept Modernisation Programme. I understand this may contain plans to collect details of who I send emails to and the people I contact via Facebook and other social networking sites.

I understand that there are also discussions around centralising all internet traffic data in a series of databases accessible by the government, thereby gaining permanent easy access to the data being held by Internet Service Providers.

I believe this is likely to be an expensive waste of time, and a gross invasion of citizens’ privacy. There will be serious risks if a large number of civil servants can access extremely personal information, such as who someone contacts by email or Facebook message. Although I presume there would continue to be legal barriers, in practice we all know that it is possible, once information is made accessible, for information to be wrongly accessed, distributed or lost.

I am also convinced that any serious criminal or terrorist will not use normal email or social networking sites to plan and communicate about their activities. Collection of information will, however, make it much more routine to use anonymisation and encryption technologies to hide their activities. This will mean the proposals will make it harder, not easier, to get evidence.

At the same time, It is possible that legitimate protesters and campaigners will use normal electronic communications, which puts these people carrying out legal activities at risk of abuse.

I am also concerned about the possibility that such information will be analysed for suspicious patterns, in processes called ‘data mining’. This would put many innocent people under scrutiny. As Bruce Schneier, the renowned security expert says:

“Terrorist plots are different … attacks are very rare. This means that even very accurate systems will be so flooded with false alarms that they will be useless: millions of false alarms for every one real attack, even assuming unrealistically accurate systems.”See here.

Fundamentally, ‘traffic data’ is an integral and private part of any communication, as the European Court of Human Rights has already agreed. Collecting it, storing it and analysing it must be done only to address very serious concerns of public safety, targeted at individuals, not in order to carry out mass surveillance.

I urge you to bring these concerns to the light of the Home Secretary.

Smart Alec

Geneticist Sir Alec Jeffreys, the developer of DNA fingerprinting and profiling told
the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that he was "astonished, perplexed and deeply worried" about the existing management policy of the National DNA Database. See Kable.
Sir Alec added that innocent people should be taken off the database and that he would object profoundly if his own DNA was put onto the system.

"DNA is intimately different to fingerprinting, it carries incredibly intimate information about who you are, where you're from and your family," said Jeffreys. He made reference to a recorded suicide due to an innocent person's shame at being on the database and pointed out that the likelihood of a false match "was not zero".

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Not seeing the police for the acronyms?

The Register reports that the police now have more than 10,000 ANPR cameras and and are passing up to 14m reads per day from automatic numberplate recognition cameras to a national database which is run by the National Policing Improvement Agency quango (NPIA) on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO Ltd).

Confused? Not to worry, the NPIA organises lots of training schemes at a competitive rate. It's even helped train hundreds of police across the world including Saudi Arabia!! The mind boggles. However, policing is a commercial enterprise and wages, at present running at over £100 million annually for the NPIA alone, must be paid.

The NPIA costs (you) £566 million a year and, of this, IT and consultants cost over £300 million. The NPIA charges police forces for its services eg £33 million for access to INDENT1 - the fingerprint database, in order to pay its way.

The Police National Computer now holds over 9 million people records, 52 million driver records and 55 million vehicle records.

Yet, despite the high tech, many people are becoming victims of car cloning, where stolen vehicles are given false number plates and identity papers before being sold. Up to 130,000 blank logbooks, stolen in 2006, are still missing. Not to worry because, if you fail to display your car tax the ANPR is sure to spot this and send you a fine in the post, this will help fund the NPIA. Additionally if your number plates are cloned you may well get the fraudster's speeding tickets.

PS Quangos tend to grow like Topsy, for example -Secured By Design is managed by ACPO Crime Prevention Initiatives Limited (ACPO CPI) a "not for profit" company wholly owned by ACPO.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Pirate Party on the Digital Economy Bill

Andrew Robinson, leader of the Pirate Party UK briefly explains some of the perils relating to the Digital Economy Bill slowly wending its way through Parliament.