July 11, 2005

Privacy or Security? Your choice…

Writing about web page http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050710/ap_on_hi_te/terror_database

Why is this such a bad thing!?!

Surely it is a good thing that police can access information quickly and efficiently from a central location? This is all information that is in the public domain anyway (for all those people who neglect to tick those little opt out boxes in particular) or at least if it isn't in the public arena the police can certainly access it. Why make their job more difficult and make it harder to track down criminals?

Privacy advocates can go and sit in their house and never leave and do anything ever again if they're so worried about what Big Brother might find out about them. I couldn't give a flying f**k if the police know everything about me down to what time I go to the loo each day! I'm not doing anything wrong so what does it matter that they know what I'm doing? My only complaint in that area would be if they were spending money to track me (and everyone else) rather than just collating all the data already available on me and performing the same processing that is done every time you apply for a credit card.

Government is there to do just that, govern and protect us. By voting for them (lets not get into the fact that the majority of people didn't vote for our current Government!) you imply that you trust them to protect you and do what is in your best interests. If they are denied the ability to know what is going on in the country then how are they to do this?!
The same is true with the proposals for ID cards, I think it is an excellent idea if only for the fact I won't have to carry a drivers license, a passport (eventually), an NI card etc etc They can use the information I give them for whatever they like! My only problem with that is again the cost of the system. Compulsory ID cards would only work if they were just that, compulsory. You must have the thing with you otherwise what is the point? Mr Terrorist would just say to the nice policeman "I'll bring it into the station tomorrow" and then bye bye Mr Terrorist never to be seen again.
These cards would be a proof of ID, proof of address, proof of entitlement to benefits and NHS care, proof of residency and the list goes on. If they were sufficiently difficult to forge then it would help reduce the ridiculous immigration system, benefit fraud and so on.

But yet again another good scheme has been ruined by whingy privacy advocates. The only (and I stress only) points that these people have are the costs that could be involved and ensuring that the information is only available to the required people and is not going to be sold on to some call centre in India who're gonna pester me day in and day out to buy some double glazing!

Ahem, rant over… for now! Sure this will come up again; what with all the things going on at the minute the debate over ID cards and the rights for police to arrest and search people and suchlike will no doubt be resurrected.

- 7 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Leaving aside the fact that the probability of the sort of computer systems necessary for such a thing working properly is probably vanishingly small, even Charles Clarke (Mr. anti-charisma) has admitted that ID cards won't stop terrorist attacks of the sort that happened last week, and nor will attempts to keep information on who's 'phoning/e-mailing whom for 12 months. On the other hand, it will make it a hell of a lot easier for the government to check up on its political opponants, should it desire to, or for some nosy civil servant to pry into the medical history or other information of anyone they choose. And I think your idea about what the government is for is misleading; it is there to protect us, yes, but among its responsibilities is to protect us from itself and to act as an agency of the people rather than as some sort of separate entity. That's what democracy is, not some sort of top-down managerial oligarchy staffed by idiot aparatchiks who have forgotten what it's like to be a real person (if they ever knew).

    11 Jul 2005, 19:22

  2. Hehe, nice to see there are people as pessimistic as I am :-) I agree 110% with everything you say, I can see the fiasco that would result from the Government trying to implement the computer system would be highly amusing if it wasn't for the fact that it was our money they'd be pouring down the drain!
    Your points about the flip-sides of having such a vast repository of data available are valid concerns as well, there would have to be some form of publically accountable auditing system implemented whereby each time the database is accessed it must be justified (as credit searches now must be). The specifics of this are beyond me but I can definitely see the down sides and possible abuse it could be subjected to, not to mention the critical matter of ensuring the system is secure from hackers who'd probably quite like to have a mine of information to use for identity theft etc.

    There is a flip side to EVERYTHING unfortunately, there is never a clear cut decision that can be made. It is always a case of weighing it up and hoping for the best. I realise I only argued one side of the argument in that blog entry, but part of the reason for that is the name of the blog! I'll be writing everything tongue in cheek… While I believe everything I say, I'm not stupid (though some may argue ;) – I can see the other side of the coin. I just quite like a debate and I've found kicking the wasps nest is quite a good way of getting that!

    11 Jul 2005, 19:34

  3. Anthony, the problem is that a.) I don't trust the government to legislate proper safeguards, b.) I don't trust the government to implement proper safeguards, c.) I don't trust them to ensure that all safeguards are observed all the time, and d.) I don't think that safeguards will be enough, as if the information and the means of using it is there, it will always be a temptation.

    11 Jul 2005, 19:37

  4. a.) I agree
    b.) I agree
    c.) I agree
    d.) I agree


    I wouldn't trust the Government as far as I could throw the entire cabinet! As I said, I'm not really qualified to put forward ideas as to how the system should be securely and safely implemented, I just think that it'd be a useful tool if used properly and responsibly. Definitely plus and minus points.

    11 Jul 2005, 19:53

  5. By the way, you've expanded my vocabulary today! Now I know what "apparatchiks" are :-P Thanks!!

    11 Jul 2005, 20:02

  6. Anthony, on the off chance that it worked, it would doubtless be a very useful tool for some things (although I doubt that those things would be the sort of thing we would really want the government to be up to), but I don't think that the government has the capacity or the inclination to use it properly or responsibly.

    11 Jul 2005, 20:03

  7. Zhou Fang

    "By voting for them (lets not get into the fact that the majority of people didn't vote for our current Government!) you imply that you trust them to protect you and do what is in your best interests."

    I dunno. Why not get into that?

    What we are doing here is allowing the possibility of a slim majority, or even a minority, voting in a government which is hostile to the values of the 'losing' population, and then giving them huge centralised powers without strong limits and controls. Does this not sound somewhat iffy to you?

    12 Jul 2005, 10:11

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