Posts Tagged data protection

Thank you for sharing

NHS cervical cancer screening is one of those rights I’m keen women should have, less keen to exercise myself.

But when my latest reminder arrived, I phoned within minutes and had my checkup within the week. Why? Well partly because of Jade Goody. Her openness about her terminal illness showed better than any public health campaign that cervical cancer is real and can kill if you don’t get checked regularly.

Choosing to share information about your health can help others: but sharing people’s health information without their permission can do the opposite. A new report from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust has found that women are not seeking help for post-natal depression from their GPs, because they are afraid the information will be shared with social services and they will be labelled bad mothers.

Talking of labelling, I’m now apparently a terrorist suspect because as a non-meat eater, I order vegetarian meals when I fly. (Vegetarian not vegan: I had one particularly grim airline breakfast of a rice cracker and some nauseating soya milk, while Richard tucked into egg, bacon and yoghurt next to me). Doubly-suspicious if you are born abroad, which makes Joanna Lumley public enemy number 1.

If you agree with me that this is barmy, there’s a Facebook group you can join here.


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Stop Clause 152

I’ve received this message from Phil Booth of the NO2ID campaign:

“Please join the Stop Clause 152! facebook group and act NOW to preserve privacy, confidentiality and trust.

“I know some of you have already written to your MP on this issue – thank you! – but it’s vital we keep the pressure up, and that *every* MP is getting the same clear message from lots and lots of their constituents: WE REFUSE TO CONSENT.

“We’re still only in the early stages, and already Jack Straw is nervous. We may need to take the battle to the Lords and beyond – so keep an eye on the Stop Clause 152! group, sign up for NO2ID’s newsletter if you don’t get it already and tell everyone that you know.

“Together, we can stop this.”

For more on the notorious Clause 152, see Phil Booth’s article, and my previous blogpost.

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Tomorrow is decision day on database state

Thanks to Charlotte Gore for linking to my piece on Clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill.

This part of the Bill is due for debate tomorrow. If you’ve not already contacted your MP, it’s not too late!

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Dangerous database state comes a step nearer

You get rid of one bad law, and they come back with worse.

This week we saw off Labour plans to hide MPs expenses. Now they want to expose our personal information to most organisations you can name and more you may never have heard of. No permission needed – you give your details to one and they give it to all. And they will be able to collect data on you from a range of private companies too.

This is all part of the Coroners and Justice Bill, which already had controversial plans to hold some inquests in secret.

The NO2ID campaign explains:

“The government is trying to remove all limits on the use of our private information by officials. This means taking your information from anywhere and passing it anywhere they like – including medical records, financial records, communications data, ID information.

“The Database State is now a direct threat, not a theory.

“Clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill, due for its first debate in the Commons on Monday 26th January, would convert the Data Protection Act into its exact opposite. 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 allow 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.

“Quite apart from the powers in the Identity Cards Act, if Information Sharing Orders come to pass, they could (for example) immediately be used to suck up material such as tax records or electoral registers to build an early version of the National Identity Register.

“But the powers would apply to any information, not just official information. They would permit data trafficking between government agencies and private companies – and even with foreign governments.”

Government gets outraged when individuals ‘leak’ government information, by sharing it without permission: but they want to be able to do exactly the same to us.

No doubt Labour will claim that the innocent have nothing to fear. But innocent people are entitled to privacy (what about women avoiding abusive ex-partners?). And even well-intentioned organisations make mistakes with data, as we’ve all learned in recent years. It will make us all less safe.

This is a really dangerous law that will let hundreds of organisations chuck about your most personal data without even asking you. It’s shameful of the Government to try and sneak this legislation through. I’m writing to my Labour MP asking her to oppose this part of the Bill. Lib Dems oppose it. Shame on any MPs who support it.

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Big brother comes in the back door

The Coroners and Justice Bill may not be the most exciting sounding bit of legislation in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech. But it could be one of the most far-reaching.

There’d been plans for a major Communications Bill that would allow the Government to track all your webuse, emails, phone calls, texts etc. That was highly controversial and has thankfullly been dropped – for now.

And the Government has had a rebuff on keeping DNA details of people who’ve never been charged nor convicted of any crime. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that keeping DNA of innocent people on file “failed to strike a fair balance between the competing public and private interests“.

But now they are at it again. Coming in under the Coroners and Justice Bill is another move towards a super-database state: remove barriers to effective data sharing to support improved public services and the fight against crime and terrorism. It may sound harmless, but it isn’t.

As the Independent reports today, that means ‘thousands of unaccountable civil servants given access to our most intimate personal information‘. Now I’ve nothing against civil servants. I used to be one. Some of my best friends still are. But as we’ve all learned over recent years, the more personal data is out there freely, the more at risk we all are of it being lost.

There’s a tradeoff between convenience and safety, in data acccess just as in a factory. We expect the Government to protect our safety, not undermine it.

Bits of the Bill are good – like abolishing the partial defence of provocation, and stopping villains selling their stories. But the data sharing bit is bad. I’m glad that Lib Dem MPs have already spoken up against this aspect of the Bill. Labour will try and rush it through, but if other opposition MPs and decent Labour backbenchers vote together with the Lib Dems, we still have a chance to stop it.

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More data disasters

Yet more data disasters in the news, and these two both affect people in Islington.

The Whittington Hospital has lost details of 18,000 health workers in the post.

And a former Barclays bank worker has been jailed for stealing £500,000 from Islington residents, using stolen account details.

One cockup, one conspiracy; one public sector, one private. It all goes to show that whoever is looking after your data, it’s not 100% safe.

The Government still thinks it’s a good idea to keep all our essential data in one giant national ID database. It’s an insane and insanely expensive scheme.

Just yesterday Lib Dems here in Bournemouth voted to scrap the ID card scheme and use the billions saved to cut income tax for low earners instead. The sooner the General Election comes and we can put an end to the ID card nonsense, the better.

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Chaplin for Home Secretary

Missing: 2 CDs with details of migrant workers; 1 laptop with confidential data; oh and those other CDs of child benefit claimants.

Then there was the secret file left on the train: perhaps it’ll turn up here.

And now details of the entire prison population.

Home Office Watch has an update on the latest data disaster from our gifted Government:

Another day, another large-scale data loss by the Government, this time featuring the Home Office and its contract PA Consulting. A memory stick was loaded up with the following, and then lost:
• Information on around 10,000 prolific offenders
• Information on 30,000 people from the Police National Computer
• Information on all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales
The prolific offenders information (and possibly the others) was also unencrypted.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg’s view? “Charlie Chaplin could do a better job running the Home Office than this Labour Government.”

Actually that’s not such a bad idea. After all Charlie Chaplin started out at Collins Music Hall on Islington Green, so he wouldn’t be scared of the place.

On the downside, he is dead. But at least he wouldn’t go round losing other people’s data.

PA Consulting, the contractors involved, have been paid a reported £2million a month by the Passport Service for work on ID cards. Laugh? I thought I’d never start.

Chaplin himself once said “I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.” Certainly a funnier clown than those currently in charge.

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