Reminder about modern liberty

The button that linked from here to ModernLiberty.Net somehow broke so we had to remove it. But, this is a reminder that there are Convention on Modern Liberty events all round the UK on Saturday 28th.

The London event is sold out but you can watch it on their site. That seems to be what will happen anyway in the regional events – but on a big screen – although these will also have discussion groups.

New MHWiBPsMT award

A strong bid for the title of “Most-Hated Woman in British Politics since Margaret Thatcher” from Jacqui* Smith.

(You might think there’s limited competition. You haven’t thought about the repellent Anne Widdecombe, then. Or even, how about the likes of Harriet Harman who seem to have happily betrayed everything they ever once represented, just to be in government? And that’s without even counting some of female political commentators that the Mail can bring out.)

The House of Lords did the noble thing (well, the clue should be in the name) when its Constitution Committee came out with some forceful opposition to the database state:

“Electronic surveillance and collection of personal data are “pervasive” in British society and threaten to undermine democracy, peers have warned. (from the BBC website)

(There are quite a few pieces in the Guardian about this.)

What did Jacqui have to say:

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has rejected claims of a surveillance society and called for “common sense” guidelines on CCTV and DNA.

And where is this sudden upsurge of common sense going to come from? Who’s responsible for setting guidelines on CCTV and DNA. Blimey, it turns out to be you. So how can you be calling for other mythical common sense-exuding person or ministry to do the decent thing?

Forget the Lords, the European Court of Human Rights gave you some “common sense” guidelines on DNA…(hint, stop collecting it from innocent people, as a bare minimum)…

The Home Office “said CCTV and DNA were essential crime-fighting tools and that it was already reviewing the retention of DNA samples and consulting on the use of RIPA. The European Court of Human Rights told the Home Office in December that the retention of innocent people’s DNA was illegal.” (from the Register)

… and you haven’t even rushed to implement European law.

In fact, in the time since that ruling, rather than concentrate on dismantling the procedures that got the UK in trouble, you’ve been busy sneaking in new intrusions, like the innocuous-sounding Coroners and Justice Bil* which no2id is getting rather annoyed about.

Hidden in the new Coroners and Justice Bill is one clause (cl.152) amending the Data Protection Act. It would allow ministers to make ‘Information Sharing Orders’, that can alter any Act of Parliament and cancel all rules of confidentiality in order to use information obtained for one purpose to be used for another.

This single clause is as grave a threat to privacy as the entire ID Scheme. Combine it with the index to your life formed by the planned National Identity Register and everything recorded about you anywhere could be accessible to any official body.

Let me just refresh your memory about the safety of “anything recorded about you anywhere” In November 2008, IT Pro wrote about a year of data losses, starting with a Revenue and Customs loss of data on 20 million people and going upwards from there.

Which reminds me…. What happened to all those people hassling Jacqui for the chance to get an ID card back, also in November 2008? Have they got one yet, Jacqueline**.

* Do I have to use they Orwellian word again? It’s getting to be a cliche.
** Can I call you Jacqueline? It just seems so much more authentic. Or at least more predictably spellable. Jacqui sets my teeth on edge. Jackie would be fine, but it’s obviously not pretentious enough.

UK Liberty coalition – not before time

The forthcoming Convention on Modern Liberty gathering on 28 February will be a …. call to arms, to all parties, to resist the government’s attack on our liberties, rights and privacy. “(from Henry Porter in the Guardian)

Supported by the Guardian, Rowntree Trust,Liberty and Open democracy, a host of people, including well-known lawyers, writers and MPs from all parties, will discuss the way that

the patterns we see in the Coroners and Justice Bill, ID card laws and the Communications Data Bill (which will allow the government to seize and store every text message, email, phone call and internet connection) tell us that our democracy is under serious threat.

Woohoo. At last. Almost brings a tear to my eye to see a disparate range of people coming together to challenge the encroaching authoritarianism of our country.

There are events throughout the UK. Details on modernlibertynet It isn’t cheap to attend these but you can access news on a blog, facebook, twitter, and so on.

Blood and spit

What is it with this desire to store the bodily fluids of the entire UK population. Some of us have seen enough sci-fi and Hammer horror films to know when there’s something shady going on. It’s got to be an evil insect overlord or an attempt to create a patchwork new life-form. I am going with the latter. I am almost sure I spotted an Igor outside Scotland Yard.

The “new DNA spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers” clearly thinks the parameters of his job are a bit on the narrow side. Having a huge swathe of the adult UK population’s DNA (almost ten per cent) isn’t enough to satisfy this chap’s crazed thirst for human genetic material.

Gather the pitchforks and burning torches, fellow peasant villagers. Now, they’re baying for the blood of innocents.

Last week it emerged that the number of 10 to 18-year-olds placed on the DNA database after being arrested will have reached around 1.5 million this time next year. Since 2004 police have had the power to take DNA samples from anyone over the age of 10 who is arrested, regardless of whether they are later charged, convicted, or found to be innocent.”

Not enough for the Baron, sadly. Under-ten year-olds are escaping. What, how dare they?

Primary school children should be eligible for the DNA database if they exhibit behaviour indicating they may become criminals in later life, according to Britain’s most senior police forensics expert.

Hmm, profiling? So, kids below the age at which they can actually be held criminally responsible are criminalised. Not being formally accused – they’re junior school kids, remember -they are without access to the normal set of checks and balances that exist to protect adults from unfair accusation – access to a solicitor, and so on.

I agree that there are some truly damaged feral-style kids. Would this do anything to help them or the people they might victimise? No. Would it classify a whole collection of kids as potential criminals? Obviously, yes. And this is a good thing, because?

Obviously Baron Frankenpugh isn’t going to get his wish granted immediately. No, this report is just going to add to a general culture of Stasification. One more insane bit of background noise contributing to what passes for “thought processes” in the mass of fools who say “It’s inevitable” “If you haven’t got anything to hide, you have nothing to fear” and so on.