Monday, 26 April 2010

Civil liberties mentioned!

At last we have a discussion on civil liberties, at the Scottish Leaders' Debate, see here. It's quite simplistic and repetitive, but does mention ID cards and the DNA database. However, at least the subject has been raised.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Ask your candidates

Two weeks from now Parliament will have changed. Whoever forms the next government, over a quarter of MPs will be new to the job. Many may not know how much the database state matters to their constituents, or how deeply it will affect them.

They need to be informed and you can help. Starting now.

Over the next fortnight make it a point to ask your local candidates one of NO2ID's seven questions for candidates at a hustings meeting or in a personal letter or e-mail. Listen carefully to what they say, and let them know you'll be following up. One of them will be your MP and needs to know you care.

NO2ID is looking for candidates to have their own opinions on these questions. We aren't seeking to punish people for giving 'wrong' answers or to antagonise them. What we are hoping is to get them outside party lines and looking at the issues for themselves. Even if they disagree with us now, a willingness to think about it will make them approachable in the next parliament.

See previous blog for seven questions you might like to choose from and here is an easy way to e-mail your candidate.

Friday, 23 April 2010

NO2ID Questions for Candidates: General Election 2010

1) The National Identity Scheme is not just about ID cards. It is built on a National Identity Register, a set of linked databases behind the cards holding an archive of personal information. The Identity Cards Act 2006 provides for lifelong control of personal identity by the state and data-sharing without the knowledge or consent of the individual. The Act permits any official document to be designated, compelling registration for anyone who needs that document. Though the UK is under no obligation to add fingerprints to the passport, the Home Office intends to make fingerprinting and joining the National Identity Register compulsory for anyone who applies for a passport from 2012.

If elected, would you vote to repeal the Identity Cards Act 2006? Would you also oppose moves to make a database of passport holders and their fingerprints a feature of the British passport?

2) Medical confidentiality is fundamental to public health. If people feel that what they say to their doctor will not remain private, they may fail to disclose vital information or avoid treatment, assisting the spread of disease. By seizing all medical records and making them centrally accessible to hundreds of thousands of people - in the NHS and outside - the electronic Care Records System destroys the assurance of confidentiality. The Department for Health is seeking now to upload from GP’s surgeries sensitive data, including chronic conditions and prescriptions. It is using a fraudulent definition of ‘consent’ in order to do it, with heavy promotion using public money, of claims about benefits that are not supported by evidence. Patients are made to jump through unnecessary hoops in order to exercise their right to opt out.

If elected, would you work to ensure that control of medical records remains with patients and their own doctors, and that they are shared only with properly informed consent?

3) The National DNA Database contains the profiles of almost one million people who have not been convicted of any crime. A few notorious cases are quoted to justify this, but detailed examination usually shows they could have been solved using proper police procedure and a database only of convicted criminals. Treating the innocent as criminal suspects corrodes relations between the police and the public, and undermines confidence in the quite proper use of DNA detection.

How should the DNA database be operated? If elected, would you vote to remove immediately and automatically all profiles of unconvicted people from the DNA database?

4) ContactPoint, an index of every child (and family) in England and Wales is now operating, despite technical and security faults. It identifies the most vulnerable by flagging those using sensitive services and is accessible to hundreds of thousands of people. It is too big ever to be secure. The existence of a "shielding" scheme, denied to most families, suggests that in fact ContactPoint itself is a potential danger to children. Putting record-keeping on a database can’t correct the failures of child protection to act, which is the cause of the most notorious tragedies.

Are the hundreds of millions spent on ContactPoint and related databases not better spent in other ways?

5) The creation of the Independent Safeguarding Authority means a massive expansion of police checking. The Authority can ban you from your career for accusations, or even for its own idea of 'risk factors' in your legal behaviour. Lifelong retention of arrest records by the police means ‘enhanced’ Criminal Records checks may treat you as a convicted criminal simply for being arrested – affecting your potential employment and volunteering, with no right of appeal. Mass checking feeds suspicion and undermines trust, but there is no evidence that it prevents any sort of crime.

If elected, what would you do to reform vetting and barring schemes?

6) Despite denying plans for a central database of communications data, the Home Office set up a new directorate just this January to push forward the £2 billion Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP). The intent is store details of everyone you call, text or e-mail and which websites you visit – providing a record of clues to your religious and political beliefs, your sexual interests and personal relationships, your financial and medical worries – ‘just in case’ they become of interest to the authorities. Phone tapping and opening mail is so sensitive that it is a power exercised only on the approval of the Home Secretary, and cannot even be mentioned in court. But collecting communications data, and building techniques for them to be arbitrarily investigated, makes much more available to be known about every one of us without any form of warrant or independent oversight.

If elected, would you vote to ensure that access to any form of personal communications is only permitted to formal investigations under warrant?

7) Tens of millions of law-abiding citizens are being routinely monitored as they travel, on the roads by Automatic Number Plate Recognition – without any legal basis – and in the air or by sea when detailed passenger records are passed to the Home Office’s e-Borders data centre even as you leave the country. Vast quantities of information, including your financial details from ticketing, and pictures of who you are travelling with, are being kept. For five years in the case of road data, and ten years at least for e-Borders. It is passed around government agencies, and even sent abroad. Such records are used to match records with ‘intelligence’ (which usually means guesses) from other sources – exposing unsuspecting citizens to suspicion, arbitrary penalties, and worse.

What limits would you place on the database surveillance of those travelling abroad and within the UK?

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Ask Nick.

I think most people would agree that, of all the parties, the Liberal-Democrat manifesto promises on civil liberties are the best. However, these are domestic policies and we need to know their views on proposed EU legislation. Liberal Democrat MEPs voted for the fast track European Arrest Warrant, under which Britons have been sent abroad to face trial, sometimes for fairly trivial offences. The Tories voted against this.

The European Union has put forward a proposal, the extended European Evidence Warrant, which would be an EU-wide search warrant that could be issued in any state, and which would be binding on all police forces. Warrants could also be issued which would force police to intercept phone calls, set up CCTV surveillance, monitor bank accounts, and even demand body samples such as fingerprints or DNA. See here.

This European Commission Green Paper proposes going much further than the European Arrest Warrant and is in essence, an expansion of Ripa powers to every state in the EU.

Naturally our old friend, Home Affairs Minister, Meg Hillier says:

We would in principle support a new and comprehensive instrument based on mutual recognition that covers all types of evidence.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow justice minister, said that a Conservative government would ensure that Britain did not opt into the scheme:

Civil liberties campaigners are right to be concerned about this extension of state power across national boundaries.

We need to ask Nick his views on this subject.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Email your parliamentary candidates.

Thanks to Police state we have a list of many of the grassroots campaigns attempting to give some power and influence to us, the voters.

Write To Them is an excellent tool. Send all of the candidates in your area an email to see where they stand on a particular issue.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

An unhealthy approach to data?

Whilst you are, hopefully, busily writing letters to the press and PPCs please note that a local patient record system is under development called the Interim Electronic Patient Record (iEPR), see here. At least it is news to me and I find that you can download an opt out letter. We are told that:

The Heart of Birmingham iEPR is an electronic patient record that contains information extracted from your GP and Hospital records and makes them available to clinical staff wherever they are treating you locally.

We are also told that:

The Heart of Birmingham (iEPR) and the National Care Record Summary (NCRS) share some similarities, such as the ability to share clinical information and robust controls over access to this data. However; the iEPR is not part of the NCRS project and does not provide information to the national system. The HoB iEPR is a local system, only available to patients registered with a Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Practice.

Presumably other trusts have a similar system. If you don't want to participate then fill in the form. Naturally there is logic in such a system BUT we should be told about it, asked whether we wish to participate and not merely given the facility to opt out when we haven't even been told the system exists and find out about it by chance!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

That's it folks.

The Green Party's 50 page manifesto gives detailed policies in a variety of areas but makes little mention of civil liberties: they would:

Oppose ID cards as they will not reduce or prevent crime. We also have grave concerns over the development of a national dataset, including detailed biometric data, which has potential for the infringement of civil liberties.

UKIP make no mention of civil liberties or the database state and the BNP don't even have a manifesto! Update- The BNP rejects ID cards as an undesirable manifestation of the surveillance society.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Tory versus Lib Dem manifestos

The Tories have pledged to: scale back the database state and protect the privacy of the public's information. However, they are short on detail and some pledges are somewhat ambiguous.

They say they will scrap the National Identity Register, ID cards and ContactPoint, good, no change here.

They state that the indefinite retention of innocent people's DNA is unacceptable, yet DNA data provides a useful tool for solving crimes - cryptic or what? They will also reform the criminal records system so it protects children without destroying trust, but don't say how.

The Lib Dems have pledged to scrap the National Identity Register, ID cards, ContactPoint and the DNA retention of innocent people. Good.

They would also regulate CCTV (somehow) and stop children being fingerprinted at school without parental permission.

They would end plans to store e-mail and internet records without good cause.

They also state that they would scrap new passports with additional biometric data. No fingerprints in passports then? Excellent.

So, why not ask your Lib Dem canvasser whether they will definitely change government policy as regards passports and annoy the EU and what they would do about the 'vetting and barring' database?

Why not ask your Tory canvasser to explain why so little detail is included in their civil liberties' policy, despite excellent rhetoric?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Child safety or guesswork?

A FOI request by the Sun has revealed that 15,000 innocent people have been labelled criminals in the past six years. This equates to seven mistakes a day by the Criminal Records Bureau.

The victims discovered they had been branded sex offenders, violent thugs or fraudsters when they had a CRB check before a new job. Many went through lengthy appeals to clear their names.Most of the bungles involved CRB checks being mixed up, or incorrect details being given out by staff.Others involved police releasing information which was recorded wrongly when an offence was committed.

The Conservative manifesto states that the ISA's 'vetting and barring' regime would be scaled back to a 'common sense level but would retain the CRB check for those working with children. This rather depends on one's definition of 'common sense'.

Over 21,000 alleged sex crimes involving children under 16 were reported to police between 2008 - 2009, however we do not know whether sexual assaults by those working with children have increased or decreased since CRB checks were introduced, as central Home Office statistics are not collated. How many such attacks have been perpetrated by adults who have had a clear CRB check? Surely it would be easy and sensible to begin to compile such statistics and then these figures could be compared to the numbers of adults who have had lives and careers ruined by mistakes, false allegations and rumour. Not to mention the creation of mistrust and suspicion between adults and children.

It sounds silly but, surely the logical conclusion is that someone who has failed the enhanced CRB check should not be allowed to look after their own children?

Monday, 12 April 2010

Lucky veterans?

Whatever one's view of Labour's wars, one of the ostensible reasons for our forces fighting, and being maimed and killed, in foreign lands was the creation of democracy and freedom. In Labour's manifesto we find the curious pledge to introduce a free identity card to access benefits for service people leaving the armed forces, see here. Presumably the party thinks it would be doing veterans a favour.

Another pledge is the right for people to petition local authorities for more cameras (but not to take them down).

Friday, 9 April 2010

I'm still in the dark

I recently reported that the Birmingham City Council's free (taxpayer funded) magazine called Forward was delivered to my house and that, on page 13, I was informed about the council's scheme to ostensibly improve services to customers.

I am told that I am to have a single customer record - name, address, date of birth, gender, together with unspecified information which can be used to confirm my identity. The single customer record will act as an index to other customer information about me. My data will be perfectly safe - all in one place.

Also on page 13, I am told that I have the right to request that Birmingham City Council stops using my information in relation to any council service, including the single customer record.

I did this and duly contacted - They replied immediately asking for my DOB, yet ...... since then ..........

despite four requests asking for confirmation that my request had been complied with and, nearly a month later, I am still waiting....... next time I'll cc the council leader, Nick Whitby.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

They Work For You - occasionally.

We find that, despite more than 20,000 constituents contacting their MPs prior to the debate on the Digital Economy Bill, only 40 of our honourable members could be bothered to attend and this number at one point fell to 15, see here. Only 236 MPs voted on the bill, giving a quorum of just more than one-third of MPs for some of the most contentious legislation the government has introduced in 13 years in power.

TalkTalk director Andrew Heany said in a blog post, "If we are instructed to disconnect an account due to alleged copyright infringement we will refuse to do so and tell the rights holders we will see them in court." See here.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Election 2010

The BBC has a summary of the election pledges regarding civil liberties of the three main parties. There are, however, quite a few omissions, such as: the intercept modernisation programme, NHS 'spine', ANPR, the ISA's vetting and barring register, ContactPoint etc etc. Make sure you ask canvassers about some of these points if you live in a constituency where politicians can be bothered to call round.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Motorist of good character sought.

The Automatic Number Plate Recognition ANPR database is busily amassing 14 million images daily. The records not only include details of car registrations, but often photographs of drivers and front-seat passengers. The records are held for at least two years without drivers’ knowledge or permission, see here.

Liberty is seeking a motorist of good character who objects to having their daily movements stored on the ANPR database to bring a test case. Shami Chakrabarti said:

It’s bad enough that images and movements of millions of innocent motorists are being stored for years on end, that the police are doing this with no legislative basis shows a contempt for parliament, personal privacy and the law.

The ANPR network is now linked to more than 10,000 CCTV cameras and eventually the system will allow police to track the movements of all the vehicles in the UK at any time.

Guess who started all this - yes our old friend ACPO Ltd.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Write to your MP

The Open Rights Group has teamed up with 38 degrees to produce a site whereby you can write to your MP to protest against the rushing through of the Digital Economy Bill before the election without proper debate, see here. The government will be able to disconnect you from the internet, without a warrant, if a member of your family continues to download films and music which are deemed illicit. Thereafter, by mission creep, what else might be considered illicit and copyright?