UK Liberty

Well done to the Independent

Posted in freedom of information, law and order, relates to ordinary people by ukliberty on December 3, 2009

This story was on the front page of Thursday’s Independent:

Warning: Do not take this picture

[and a large photo of St Paul’s]

Police have been accused of misusing powers granted under anti-terror legislation after a series of incidents, ranging from the innocuous to the bizarre, in which photographers were questioned by officers for taking innocent pictures of tourist destinations, landmarks and even a fish and chip shop. …

I didn’t know this:

Every train station in the UK is covered by a Section 44 order.

I did know this:

But, due to the fear that the information could be used by terrorists to plan attacks, most of the the exact locations covered by Section 44 authorisations are kept secret, meaning members of the public have no idea if they are in one or not.

Which means any deterrent or reassurance must be near zero.

Funny old world.

And on Saturday another front page

Police forces across the country have been warned to stop using anti-terror laws to question and search innocent photographers after The Independent forced senior officers to admit that the controversial legislation is being widely misused.

The strongly worded warning was circulated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) last night. In an email sent to the chief constables of England and Wales’s 43 police forces, officers were advised that Section 44 powers should not be used unnecessarily against photographers. The message says: “Officers and community support officers are reminded that we should not be stopping and searching people for taking photos. Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether from the casual tourist or professional, is unacceptable.” …


Posted in database state, ID Cards, stupid by ukliberty on December 3, 2009

Angela Epstein, Manchester Evening News:

I’M so proud I could almost burst I haven’t felt this good about cradling something small and pink since my daughter Sophie was born.

All right, so I’m exaggerating a bit. But honestly, when you’re the first member of the public to be issued with a brand spanking new national identity card, it’s a seminal moment.

Well, it is for me, anyway. You may not agree. After all, in a city of two and a half million, only 1,386 have actually applied for these hotly-disputed ID cards. But more of that later.

The fact is that when the scheme, which is being trialled here in Manchester, opened for business on Monday morning, I was thrilled to be invited to be first in the queue (well, small queue) to apply for one.

And how did I manage to bag poll position? Thanks entirely to this column, which I’ve had the privilege to use as a platform from which to venture encouraging opinions on the introduction of voluntary ID cards.

Yep.  Not because of first come first served, which would be fair, but because Epstein shills for the Government.

Though taking this view has always triggered furious debate, I didn’t realise that I was such a minority voice. But the Home Office did.

Really?  They’ve been telling us even since the scheme’s inception that it was really popular…

Which is why they asked me if I wanted to lead from the front. Such is the power of this fine newspaper.

I won’t rehash all the arguments in favour of ID cards – that they are a small, convenient and portable way to prove identity. Nor will I try and convince opponents that they are not an infringement of English civil liberties. Everyone is entitled to their view.

Instead, let me tell you what I actually had to do to get one.

Actually it nearly didn’t happen. Thanks to a small burn on my index finger (roast potatoes can be lethal) the plaster I was wearing scuppered my prints, foxed the scanner and baffled the interviewing officer at Manchester’s Passport and Identity Service in Piccadilly. But we put our heads together and agreed that removing it (the plaster, not the finger) would resolve the situation.

Now we can all sleep soundly in our beds.

Incidentally, Epstein was interviewed by the BBC t’other day (skip to 42mins) and she implied something quite different about what happened as a result of her burned finger.

However before we got to this stage, I’d filled in a form, not dissimilar to a passport application, which was checked over and imputed into a computer by a charming but slightly nervous lady whose badge said Pauline – was that her ID, I wondered?

I think she means Pauline inputted, not imputed, which means something else.

I was then asked to choose five ‘password’ questions from a list of 20 which were unique to me and could subsequently prove who I was. They included name of first pet, favourite song and best subject at school. Cute but slightly bonkers, perhaps.

She also said in the BBC interview that one of the questions is “what is your favourite food?”

Thanks for sharing that with the Internet and increasing the risk of ID compromise.

After this I was taken to a curtained booth to have biometric particulars taken down: not as saucy as it sounds but simply my photo, prints and electronically recorded signature.

The card normally takes four to 10 working days, but because I was first and there’s no backlog I was told I’d get it the same day. Actually it wasn’t ready until the following morning as it had to come via, er, Chadderton, but I won’t split hairs.

So it was late.

When I went to pick it up a Roy Cropper wannabe complete with diagonally placed bag was eagerly awaiting his turn while a middle-aged man with a nice wax jacket did the crossword. No apparent need for crash barriers.

Even though only three people went through the process.

You may think the £4.7bn scheme is a waste of money and I would admit that the thinking has been flawed in parts. But that’s the beauty of a voluntary scheme and a democratic society.

What is?  That a government in power on the basis of votes from 22% of the electorate has wasted £4.7 bn on a scheme that won’t work as advertised but will infringe our liberties?

Yes, that’s the ‘beauty’ of democracy.

You can choose to have one or not.

We can’t choose to be on the database or not.

We will be forced to be on the database if Labour has their way.

The Tories have pledged to junk them if they win. And when I had a shmooze with home office minister Meg Hillier on Monday she wouldn’t say whether I’d get my 30 quid back if that happened.

But I genuinely felt proud and excited when I was finally handed my card. I loved seeing my name, face and the words British citizen on this tiny piece of plastic. That’s who I am, and why shouldn’t anyone know?

Don’t people already know who you are?  Your family, friends, the people who read your stupid articles?

As I’ve said before I understand why people have their reservations, but I personally can’t see what there is to lose if you’re a law abiding citizen with nothing to hide.

Of course.  I look forward to Epstein volunteering to have all her communications monitored, her home filled with CCTV cameras, and her medical records spread about the public sector.

And if it’s another weapon in the fight against identity fraud, illegal workers and terrorism, then that can only be for the good.

Really?  No consideration of necessity or proportionality?  If it is of some help it is absolutely the right thing to do?

Slipping it into my purse and slinking off into the gloom of an icy winter afternoon, I felt like I was pocketing a piece of history.

Thank god it will be history when the new government comes into power.

(Fingers crossed.)

Weirdly, in the same BBC piece, Home Surveillance Office Minister Meg Hillier claims ID cards can’t be revoked.  Erm.. what happens when they are compromised or stolen, Meg?