UK Liberty

Same old tripe from the Government

Minister of State Michael Wills in the Guardian:

A new dialogue on data

We need a rational, respectful discourse if we are to properly consider the benefits and flaws of using databases. …

… the increasing sophistication of data management has sparked concern about data protection and civil liberties, most acutely over the measures government takes to protect its citizens. This tension is serious, complex and inescapable. In modern democracies it will always be hard to strike the right balance between protecting the public from the threat posed by crime and terrorism and the need to protect civil liberties.

Reconciling the goods of liberty and security and opportunity, which all speak different languages, is never easy. The only way that it can be done is through rational and mutually respectful discourse, wary of anyone, on any side of the debate, who claims a monopoly of wisdom.

But that’s what the Government does, isn’t it? Claims a monopoly of wisdom, I mean.

Unless people agree with the Government, in which case those people are wise too…

The basic principles for using personal data are that it should be proportionate and necessary. That goes for debate about it too.

Sadly, such a rational, respectful discourse, so essential to the creation of public policy on this crucial issue, has been largely absent in recent years.

Government must take its share of the blame. Too often, we have been overly defensive and dismissive of criticism.

Rather understating it, seeing as Government Ministers have smeared and traduced their critics and called them “intellectual pygmies“, among other things.

But equally, opponents have been too quick to assume the worst of government, without any evidence to support their assumptions, replacing argument with rhetoric.

The Rowntree report, Database State, exemplifies this flawed discourse. Riddled with factual errors and misunderstandings, it reached conclusions without setting out the evidential base for doing so. The government has now published its response.

Which itself is riddled with factual errors and misunderstandings and reaches conclusions without setting out the evidential basis for doing so.

… We can never be complacent about databases – the challenge in getting the balance right between seizing the opportunities they offer and avoiding the risks they pose is evolving as fast as the technologies themselves. Whenever changes need to be made, we will make them. But we can only do this on the basis of a rational dialogue between all concerned.

Government Ministers aren’t interested in dialogue, nor are they interested in supporting their assertions with evidence.

They continue to waste our time and our money on half-baked, unsupported, proposals, and post hoc insincere apologies and justifications.

This is not “rational and mutually respectful discourse”, this is treating the world as a write-only medium and our money as their largesse.

Beyond parody

But no laughing matter.

Daily Telegraph:

The Government has pledged that all 16 to 18 year olds will complete 50 hours of community work as part of its move to raise the school leaving age.

In the speech announcing the plan, which will be a Labour manifesto pledge, Gordon Brown specifically mentioned that teenagers would make a difference by “helping in an old people’s home or tutoring younger pupils”.

But under the Government’s strict new vetting regime, anyone over the age of 16 working with children or vulnerable adults will have to start registering with the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) from November next year. …

So the teenagers will have to be checked.

Also surely the elderly or vulnerable will have to be checked too, because they will be in contact with these teenagers.

The vetting scheme was initially designed to protect children against abuse. More than 11 million people are expected to be vetted by 2015. Checks cost £64 but are free to volunteers.

The scheme is only supposed to apply to those who work with children or vulnerable adults on a frequent or intensive basis but many organisations take a “better safe then sorry approach”.

Critics have condemned the application of vetting to an ever-growing number of law-abiding helpers.
Parents who ferry children to football matches, adults who sit in with their youngsters at Sunday school and parents who occasionally help out at Scouts have all fallen victim to the zealous imposition of the checks.

Mounting opposition has led Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary, to announce a review of the rules. Sir Roger Singleton, the chair of the ISA, will attempt to clarify who will be covered by the scheme. He will report next month.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, said: “We have asked Sir Roger to advise on this issue as part of his check on who should have to register with the vetting and barring scheme.”

But why on earth wasn’t it made clear already?  Critics of the scheme since its inception, even if they broadly supported it in principle, predicted there would be such consequences. I wrote over a year ago that,

Parents are not being allowed into Christmas discos.  A large proportion of adults are being put off volunteer work – with consequences for children (e.g. 50,000 girls excluded from joining Girl Guides because of a shortage of adult leaders).  Adults are put off from reassuring children.

It’s harming civil society.  Did our beloved leaders include these consequences in their cost-benefit analysis of the scheme?

Oh, now I read that (hat-tip Andrew Watson),

Parents who want to accompany their children to Christmas carol services and other festive activities are being officially vetted for criminal records in case they are paedophiles. …

Among those affected are parents at a village primary school who have been told they must be vetted before they can accompany pupils on a 10-minute walk to a morning carol service at the local church.

Other primaries have instituted vetting for parents attending Christmas discos on school premises. Some schools require checks on parents who volunteer to walk with children from the school to post letters to Father Christmas.

Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at Kent University and the author of a report on paranoia over child protection, said: “Once you institutionalise mistrust, you incite people to take these things further and further, finding new areas to implement criminal record checks.

It becomes a badge of responsibility and a symbolic ritual. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense.”

Quite.

Incidentally, from the first article I linked to above,

Some charities have criticised the plan and have said that its mandatory nature goes against the spirit of volunteering.

Er yes, because volunteering for something means you freely choose to do it.  By definition, you can’t be compelled to volunteer.  Jebus, it’s like ‘presumed consent’ for organ donation.

Thought for the day

Posted in abuse of English language, politicians on liberty, stupid by ukliberty on November 2, 2009

1.  A professor claims that Activity A is less risky than Activity B.

2.  Some people assert that this means the professor is claiming Activity A is risk-free.

3.  Those people are stupid and if they are in positions of responsibility they ought to resign or be fired.

Keep taking them pills!

P.S. http://www.google.com/search?q=dunning+kruger+effect

Polly Toynbee is quite mad

In the Guardian:

Meanwhile a second anti-state battleground had opened up, as libertarians of right and left attacked the government for Big Brother-like interference with the privacy and freedoms of the citizen. Labour’s plans to introduce identity cards, to allow police to hold terrorist suspects without trial for 42 days and the widespread use of CCTV cameras in public places were seen by conspiracy theorists as sinister encroachments on ancient civil liberties.

You’ll volunteer or else

Missed this one (hat-tip Longrider):

A police force is introducing a youth curfew to cut down on anti-social behaviour which will be the first to punish parents for letting their children out alone at night.

Operation Goodnight in Redruth, Cornwall, will see officers given the power to remove any youth under 16 seen on the streets after 9pm and any child under 10 after 8pm.

Officers in Redruth, Cornwall, say they have been forced into the extensive curfew in an attempt to make parents more responsible for their children.

The scheme encourages parents to voluntarily sign up to the lock-in and register their children.

Any child found outside after hours will then be checked on a register and if their parents have refused to take part in the voluntary scheme they face tough parenting orders.

The Times:

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said that most children would go home willingly if challenged. Others might have to be “escorted”. He said: “There are a belligerent few who will refuse to comply but officers are more than capable of persuading them to do so.”

I just bet they are.

So, three things here:

  1. abuse of the English language (you will volunteer or else);
  2. a purely executive decision, there appears to be no statutory basis for this curfew (ie no law), the police have taken it upon themselves to impose this;
  3. individuals are having their freedom of movement and association restricted even though they may not have broken any law.