UK Liberty

Papiere bitte

Posted in control freakery, database state, politicians on liberty, surveillance society by ukliberty on March 14, 2009

The Telegraph:

The travel plans and personal details of every holidaymaker, business traveller and day-tripper who leaves Britain are to be tracked by the Government, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Anyone departing the UK by land, sea or air will have their trip recorded and stored on a database for a decade.

That’s anyone – whether they travel by private boat, ferry, train, plane, or… swimming.

Even swimmers attempting to cross the Channel and their support teams will be subject to the rules which will require the provision of travellers’ personal information such as passport and credit card details, home and email addresses and exact travel plans. …

Yachtsmen, leisure boaters, trawlermen and private pilots will be given until 2014 to comply with the programme.

They will be expected to use the internet to send their details each time they leave the country and would face a fine of up to £5,000 should they fail to do so.

Similar penalties will be enforced on airlines, train and ship operators if they fail to provide details of every passenger to the UK Border Agency.

In most cases the information will be expected to be provided 24 hours ahead of travel and will then be stored on a Government database for around ten years.

The changes are being brought in as the Government tries to tighten border controls and increase protection against the threat of international terrorism. …

Gwyn Prosser, Labour MP for Dover and a member of the all-party Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “I think e-borders are absolutely necessary,” he said. “Governments of all complexions have always been criticised for not knowing who is in the country. This is a very sophisticated way of counting people in and out.”

It’s rather more than counting, isn’t it?

Ferry firms and Eurostar – who, unlike airlines, do not gather such detailed passenger information – have also raised concerns about the impact on passengers and warned the plans may not even be legal under EU law.

The scheme was condemned by Chris Grayling, the Tories’ home affairs spokesman.

“Of course we need to keep a proper record of people as they come in and leave the country.

Why?  What is the ‘legitimate aim’?  What is ‘necessary’ or ‘proportionate’ about this?

A UK Border Agency spokesman defended the e-borders scheme. “It allows us to secure the UK’s Borders by screening people as they travel in and out of the UK.

“The e-Borders scheme has already screened over 82m passengers travelling to Britain, leading to more than 2,900 arrests, for crimes including murder, drug dealing and sex offences. e-borders helps the police catch criminals attempt to escape justice.”

Yes, well done – £1.2bn so far.  Percentage of travellers arrested: 0.0035%.  Cost per arrest (just in terms of eBorders): £413,793. No information on charges or convictions. Absent any information on this from government, why not look at the figures for terrorism: less than half of those arrested are charged; less than a fifth are convicted. If eBorders is similar, the cost per conviction (just in terms of eBorders) would be £2,068,965.  

7 Responses

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  1. James Hammerton said, on March 15, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Ah, you’ve answered my question from a comment on the 0.0035% article here.

    I wonder how much delay or other hassle they caused to the millions of people they didn’t arrest. I.e. that £413,793 figure is only the cost to the government of this scheme. It does not include the cost to the travellers subjected to the surveillance. I grant an estimate of that might be difficult to work out.

  2. shadowfirebird said, on March 16, 2009 at 11:53 am

    I agree that the government should be up front about this. Also, it does scare me somewhat, in the way that any uncontrolled system collecting information about me would. But allow me to play devil’s advocate for a minute.

    The only way to get really accurate statistics about the number of people who are in the UK permanently or semi permanently, is to collect statistics about people leaving and entering the UK. Collecting stats about people who say that they are staying/leaving for some other reason than a couple of weeks holiday may just not be accurate enough.

    If we actually had these statistics (and if, admittedly, they were published in such a way as to allow reasonable people to trust them), then we might have evidence against (or for: either way would be nice) a number of other threats to privacy.

    For a start, it seems to me that it would be a much better way of tracking terrorists than a ID card. The same goes for asylum seekers. And some proper figures on *that* subject might, I suspect, turn out to be ammunition for those arguing the case that these people should be treated fairly. And so on.

    I’d love to hear counter-arguments, should anyone be interested in making them…

  3. ukliberty said, on March 16, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    shadowfirebird, OK, presuming it is a good idea to count people in and out (I have no idea), why do we need a database with all these details? Why not just record iris or fingerprints, no other information, and count them when someone goes through a border? And expire them when the same iris or fingerprint goes through the border the other way?

    They don’t need all this info just to count people.

  4. shadowfirebird said, on March 16, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    I confess that I can concoct no reasonable devils-advocate scenario for requiring travel plans or credit card details, either.

    Like so many things, this isn’t simple. I suspect that there is a case for gathering details of people going into and out of the country. On the face of it it seems quite reasonable. But this e-borders thing does look extremely dodgy.

  5. ukliberty said, on March 16, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    James, I’ve no idea how to start working that out.

    In banking they have an ‘insult rate’ – the number of people wrongly turned away (or in the case of eBorders, it would be arrested). This would be an interesting figure to know.


    arrested or otherwise inconvenienced.

  6. ukliberty said, on March 16, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I’m sorry but I don’t understand why “On the face of it it seems quite reasonable”, as I can’t conceive of how it is necessary and proportionate…

    Counting, fine – just counting. But pervasive mass surveillance = a Bad Thing.

  7. shadowfirebird said, on March 16, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    The basic idea may be quite reasonable. The execution looks very dodgy.

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