UK Liberty

Nothing to hide

Posted in database state, privacy by ukliberty on March 19, 2008

Tony Collins at Computer Weekly:

Details have emerged of an incident last year in which the electronic medical records of former England football manager Sir Bobby Robson were viewed illicitly by NHS staff when he went into hospital.

He needed surgery in August 2006 for a brain tumour. He was treated by Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

An internal hospital memo, leaked to the Chronicle newspaper in Newcastle, said:

“Over the last few weeks the ongoing security reports relating to the access by staff to the PAS (patient administration system) system and to the Casenote Tracker module has identified inappropriate access which has resulted in a formal disciplinary investigation and written warnings being issued to a number of trust staff who have accessed patients’ information for no other reason than personal curiosity.”

Again, let’s not pretend that staff will never abuse their access.


National Security Strategy

Posted in detention without charge, law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on March 19, 2008

Oh joy:

New powers to tackle terrorism and secure successful prosecutions, including control orders, extended stop and search powers, new offences of acts preparatory, encouraging and glorifying terrorism, and training for terrorism; extended pre-charge detention; and extended proscription of terrorist organisations.

On the other hand:

we are also determined to maintain the balance of security and liberty, and above all to maintain normal life, whether at airports, on the train or underground networks, or in our communities.

There’s that word ‘balance’ again:

Our approach to national security is clearly grounded in a set of core values. They include human rights, the rule of law, legitimate and accountable government, justice, freedom, tolerance, and opportunity for all. Those values define who we are and what we do. They form the basis of our security, as well as our well-being and our prosperity. We will protect and respect them at home, and we will promote them consistently in our foreign policy. At home, our belief in liberty means that new laws to deal with the changing terrorist threat will be balanced with the protection of civil liberties and strong parliamentary and judicial oversight.

And what are we supposed to do about threat levels?

Since August 2006 we have published the terrorist threat level, based on a new and more transparent assessment system. The threat has remained at the second-highest level, ‘severe’, except for two short periods during August 2006 and June and July 2007, when it was raised to the highest level, ‘critical’.


I’m trying to understand that first quote:

New powers to tackle terrorism and secure successful prosecutions, including control orders, extended stop and search powers, new offences of acts preparatory, encouraging and glorifying terrorism, and training for terrorism; extended pre-charge detention; and extended proscription of terrorist organisations.

We already have control order legislation, in the form of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 – I can’t tell from the Strategy document what will be added to that.

We already have offences of acts preparatory to, and encouraging and glorifying terrorism, and training for terrorism, in the Terrorism Act 2006 – again I can’t tell what will be added.

Incidentally, the Terrorism Bill 2006 (as it was) resulted in the first defeat for Tony Blair’s Government on the floor of the Commons, and apparently “the worst such defeat for any government since 1978”, when the House divided on the matter of extending detention without charge (see Public Whip).

So, it was the Terrorism Act 2006 that extended the pre-charge detention to 28 days, after an apparent ‘Dutch Auction’ where the 90 day clause had to be defeated first, with the 28 day amendment sadly being passed (60 days was waiting in the wings), but many moons ago it was the Terrorism Act 2000 that increased the period one could be held without charge to 7 – yes, seven days. We had tons more terrorism then, didn’t we?

I’ve discussed extending detention without charge (I dislike “pre-charge detention”, it looks a bit like UnSpeak) in other articles – outside the Government there is a consensus on it, and happily the consensus is that the Government is wrong.

I hope that there won’t be any extension of the period – but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was. I suspect Tony Blair’s Government wasn’t displeased with the result, as they looked weally weally tough on terror (and made all opponents look like they supported suicide bombings) and I suspect Gordon’s Government will be equally satisfied, say with 35 days, even though they claim to want 42 days.

And next session we’ll do it all over again!

Finally, regarding the proscription of terrorist organisations, again, what new powers are needed?

The Home Secretary may, under part II of the Terrorism Act 2000, as amended by part II of the Terrorism Act 2006, proscribe an organisation (eg) if it is “concerned in terrorism”.

Oh, did I mention that the strategy involves ID cards?


See also SpyBlog: National Security Strategy – bias, omissions, and weasel words.

Lords voting debate

Posted in voting by ukliberty on March 19, 2008

As I wrote in an earlier post, recently there was a debate in the Lords on the subject of Voting Systems.

I think it’s well worth a read – there are some shocking statistics in there.

The importance of language

Posted in state-citizen relationship by ukliberty on March 19, 2008

Recently William Heath has spoken about the importance of language and how it affects debate:

We’ve been asked to talk about “channels”. Already I’m uneasy. Channels are what broadcasters beam at viewers. The channel is what IT vendors exploit, in one memorable phrase, to “kill the competition and hoover up their footprint”. My specific unease about the language of directive marketing mirrors a broader unease about Transformational Government.

It’s upside down.

It purports to be citizen-centric, but is based on the principle that we the government own the data, and we the government will join it all up, the better to do things to you.

Of course we need to transform government, but my fear is that the underlying motivation behind Transformational Government is not yet right.

Let’s also move on from the language of manipulative centralised marketing. IPS ponders “various forms of coercion” for its ID system. TG talks of sharing of intelligence, driving take-up, exploiting technologies. It’s all focus, target, segment, execute. This is the discriminatory and coercive language of those who cancel 161,00 Egg credit cards, not the respectful, empathetic language of whose who place human dignity at the heart of their plans for public services.

I think he’s right.  The words people use are indicative of motivation – in this context, how the citizen is perceived by the government and its suppliers.

No wonder things seem topsy turvy – no wonder we seem to be serving the government, rather than the government serving us.

How databases work

Posted in database state, state-citizen relationship by ukliberty on March 19, 2008


A Clevedon woman has been told to retake her driving test – because the DVLA has lost its record of issuing her a licence.

The agency agrees that Dawn Wood passed her test nine years ago and even has her original licence but is refusing to return it.

The 37-year-old’s problems started when she moved house last November.

She and her husband Damon, 41, sent off their licences at the same time so their new address in Coleridge Vale Road South could be added.

Her husband’s licence was returned but after several weeks there was no sign of Mrs Wood’s.

When she called the agency to check what was happening, staff told her although they had a record of her passing her driving test in March 1999, they had no record of ever issuing her a licence.

They told her the only way to get a new licence was for her to re-take her driving test and apply for a new one – at her own expense.