Feeds

The 'mob' to advise PM on gov data sharing

String 'em up!

High performance access to file storage

The Prime Minister is to set up focus groups to ask the British public whether the government should be allowed to keep tabs on them with a 'super database'.

The public consultation will be managed by Ipsos MORI and conclude in a public debate at Number 10 in March.

This will all be over and done just before the publication in April of a joint review by the Cabinet Office and the Department of Constitutional Affairs of the laws presently restricting the government from building a "super database" or, more specifically, restricting government departments from sharing their data as liberally as they would like.

The Data Protection Act protects people's privacy and liberty by ensuring government departments treat the information they have very guardedly, not sharing with anyone else unless under strict controls.

The line of questioning being proposed for the focus groups will make people consider how much state intrusion they would stomach if it meant they got better public services - to get them thinking about their "rights and responsibilities".

This, according to MORI, would be considered with such questions as, "What areas should automatically be a state responsibility - Defence? And where is there joint responsibility - Health?," which rang an off-key harmony with the government's pressure on smokers and the overweight because it believes they use more than their fair share of public services.

When the Cabinet Office and DCA announced their review of the legal restrictions on data sharing in September, rights and responsibilities were also a theme. The government believed that with shared data it might better finger the parents of "at-risk children".

The Information Commissioner, the UK's data protection guardian, gave an idea of how such ideas might widen the gaps between the haves and the have-nots on the publication of the report with which it warned Britain was sleep walking into a surveillance society.

Since the government started broadcasting the rabble-rousing slogan, "if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear", and opposition politicians started scoring points against the Home Office over its inability to know the every movement of ex-offenders after they had served their time, it has become easier to imagine how a rights and responsibilities focus group might work.

The Home Office has, accordingly, already joined the clarion call for people to accept a new social contract in which the state pokes its nose into people's business for their own safety.

But not everyone is convinced. Shami Chakrabarti, director of campaign group Liberty, told the The Independent: "When absolute rules like the prohibition on torture are compromised by our political rulers, how much harder to defend more subtle and qualified rights like the presumption of privacy from the chilling slogan politics of 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear'."

Register readers have their own characteristic take on this delicate question of whether there is anyone alive who has nothing to hide: "Well, how much do you earn then?" and, "Do you have curtains?".

Those charged in this country with protecting our freedoms are deeply suspicious of the government's plans for a super database that knows what you might rather hide.

In September, assistant commissioner Jonathan Bamford told a hall of government and industry database statespeople that they should show restraint as they build more powerful databases.

"We are very concerned there is a proper approach to information sharing," he said. "Simply having the increased ability to share information shouldn't be the rationale for more information sharing - data protection safeguards should be seen as an objective, not a barrier."

A barrier, however, was exactly what the Prime Minister's office said the Data Protection Act was when it opened its review earlier that same month. It and the DCA wanted to relax the law so it could better aim the wagging finger of the nanny-state, to paraphrase them loosely.

Liberal Democrat Leader Menzies Campbell said: “There is no part of people's lives which is free from snooping. State intervention and control expands every day. It is time we put a halt to this.”

While the Conservative's said it would be a waste of money.®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.