Privacy is Now a Thing of the Past

It’s the Biggest Brother instrusion into privacy in history. From tomorrow across the European Union every email will be stored, details of every website visited by every person will be stored, even information about every internet phone call will be stored, initially for a year.   But then all it takes is another directive to extend the storage indefinitely. These will be available to the Government, police and security services, as well as hundred of local government agencies and even what we call “quangos” in this country – quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations – of which there are no end.

Just like the anti-terrorism laws that have now allowed local councils to stalk people and invade their privacy in many different ways on suspicion of having the wrong rubbish bins or living across the street from a local school catchment area, the same jobsworths with now be able to know everything about you while they go on fishing expeditions to find anything else you might be doing wrong.

Britain has not be an unwilling participant in all of this. It has, in fact, led the way. It makes the Home Office’s Intercept Modernisation Programme much easier to implement. Under the European directive, internet service providers will have to store the information. Under the Home Office plan, the Government itself will have one giant database of their own, through which everything will be monitored and which will gather far more information.

Of course the Home Office won’t reveal the full extent of its plans, just like the European Union would not reveal what it was doing until it was in place. We certainly have no guarantee that either Brussells or Whitehall have told us anything near what they have actually done or what they actually intend to do with it. That what they have told us is so disturbing makes it all the more worrying.

As we have seen over and over and over, every bit of private information the Government has collected manages to go missing, whether it is the bank details of every family with children or top secret military data on laptops or the confidential details of every prisoner in the UK and of 5,000 employees of the justice system, and the list goes on and on.

All this electronic surveillance is on top of every bit of information held by any part of central or local government, and with socialised medicine this includes all medical records, being available to any bureaucrat at any level. Even I called that the end of privacy. That was in January and it was only the beginning of the end.

Only a few years ago, this would have been the stuff of science fiction – a paranoid all-controlling state actively engaged in monitoring every move, every conversation, every communication instantly and at every level. This would have been the fantasy of communist police states, but only realised in what for some silly reason we call the free world.

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The End of Privacy

Once again, just when you think the British Government could not get more intrusive, they prove you wrong.

I have often discussed the ever-increasing Big Brother approach of the Labour Government as each new plan is revealed. Now we learn that any bottom-rung local bureaucrat will be able to access every piece of information on any individual held by any Government or local department, agency, or council.

When you consider that this will include all medical records, every email and phone call made, and all of the biometric data to be stored for the mandatory ID cards, think about local council workers making £12,000 a year. Certainly most of them are completely honest (even if honesty is not a particular plentiful commodity in this country), but think of the profit that can be made from identity fraud. We are assured by the Ministry of Justice that anyone misusing the data could get a prison sentence of up to two years. Two years = one year with good behaviour. Prisons bursting at the seams mean very few people can be sent away for first, second or third offenses. Seems like a pretty light risk for very big gain.

Or to put it more bluntly, it is handing over the data to people who will do terribly things with it. Then after the bureaucrats are done, the criminals will get it.

Oops, They Did It Again

Clearly the Government chooses its contractors on the basis of the cheapest bid, without any regard for little things like competence. Many of the security and information breaches over the last couple of years have been by EDS. This time it is by Atos Origin.

A memory stick containing all the confidential pass codes to the tax websites was found in a pub car park. As a result the Government had to shut down access to driving licence applications, VAT returns, pension entitlements and child benefit.

The Prime Minister has now even admitted the government cannot promise the safety of personal data entrusted by the public. He has not changed his plans for ID cards for everyone, which security experts have said will be hacked almost as soon as they are issued. So the Prime Minister is saying that even though the data will be completely insecure and unreliable, and will be used illegally to the detriment of an incalculable number of citizens in terms of financial loss and identity theft on top of the usual invasion of privacy, the Government must have it to control terrorism and immigration.

Running Out of Things to Lose

It was only a few days ago that I commented on British Government losing all of the confidential data on every prisoner in the UK. Now it has been revealed that they have lost the details on 5,000 employees of the justice system. This information was on a hard drive.

How do you lose just a hard drive? The Ministry of Justice isn’t exactly sure. They know the details were lost by their completely incompetent contractors EDS. They also know that it happened in July of last year, though the Justice Secretary only found out after somebody told The News of the World. It’s pretty bad when the Government has to find out from a Sunday tabloid newspaper that it’s employees are at risk.

As usual, this is going to be an expensive blunder.

The Prison Officers’ Association said the loss, which it had not been informed about, could end up costing the taxpayer millions of pounds.

National chairman Colin Moses said: “We are extremely concerned that not only has this data been lost, but that the Prison Service appear to have tried to conceal this serious breach in security.

“It is a breach that we believe could ultimately cost the taxpayer millions and millions of pounds, because, if the information lost is personal and sensitive, it may well mean staff having to move prisons, move homes and relocate their families.”

Losing Everything

I keep thinking that it is impossible for the British Government and it’s bureaucracy to screw things up worse than they already have. It’s the one thing about which I am always wrong. They just can’t stop losing things.

First, they lost the bank details of everyone receiving child benefit – that is, every family with children in the UK, including mine – 25 million in all. We got a nice impersonal apology letter for that one. Then they lost the details of three million learner drivers.

Then the Ministry of Defence lost a laptop with the details of 600,000  people who had expressed an interest in joining the armed forces. At least they know when and where they lost that one (it was left overnight in a car in Birmingham), even if they never got it back. At the time they didn’t even know they had lost hundreds of Ministry of Defense laptops and memory sticks with classified information on them and still don’t know where those are.

All the while they keep insisting that we hand over more and more data for them to keep on us.

Now the Home Office has lost all the data – including all the confidential information – on every prisoner in the UK. This is includes release dates and other information that could compromise their safety.  The Government is looking at millions and millions of pounds in compensation or in damages from the inevitable lawsuits.

I honestly don’t know what new higher levels of incompetence the Government will demonstrate before the next General Election. I don’t know how much of the country will be left for them to turn over to the Tories. The mind boggles.