Posted by: secretperson | October 29, 2008

Information Commissioner Speaks Out on Databases

Not for the first time, Information Commissioner Richard Thomas will speak out on the dangers of giant centrally held databases.

And no doubt the government and Jacqui ‘big sister is watching you’ Smith in particular will ignore any warnings and talk about terrorism.

There is a debate to be had about where to draw the line between liberty and security. Personally I veer much more toward the side of liberty than our current representatives (though they may see themselves as rulers).

But ideological issues aside, there is also the competence issue. This government, and its various departments have a terrible track record when dealing with data, most notably losing 25 million people’s details from child benefit records. That is half the population of England, and it is only by luck it hasn’t fallen into the wrong hands. The more data held, the more in one place, and the more it as accepted as the gold standard in ID, lacking checks and balances, the more dangerous any ID database will be.

Even for those who don’t buy the 1984 or V For Vendetta nightmare scenarios in a surveillance state, surely the risk of sheer incompetence in handling data and computer systems should be enough to frighten you.



  1. Huge databases actually make counterterrorism harder, I’d’ve thought – all those records of phone conversations between witless teenagers on buses, spam emails, etc.

  2. Yeah you’d think so Charlie.

    I assume rather than generic scanning the idea is that they will, when they become interested in an individual, look back at their email records or web visits and see if they’ve been on or the like.

    It doesn’t seem to me it’d be very useful, so I am curious as to why they are making such a big deal. I thought 42 days was about Brown looking like a tough politician. ID cards again seem like Labour being stubborn.

    I guess I just can’t put myself into Jacquiiiii Smith’s mindset, and I’m glad!

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