Sunday, January 22, 2006

Byte by byte, our identity is being stolen

Interesting that criticism of privacy-invasive technologies is now becoming mainstream. Google's refusal to hand over search terms to the US Department of Justice, and UK GPs' vote last week to require explicit consent from patients before transferring their records to a national database, are attracting praise all over the place. From Minette Marrin in the Sunday Times, for example:

IT is one of the most powerful tools and at the same time one of the most serious problems for public services today. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service, for instance, have had serious problems with IT interface and as for the NHS computer system, one can only call it an expensive disaster. The much vaunted electronic booking system is a year behind schedule and the entire £6.2 billion NHS computer system is in danger of collapsing, according to a recent leak from a civil servant. Would you seriously trust such a system with details about a mental illness or an abortion?

Henry Porter is a little more full-on in The Observer:

We do not yet live in a police state, but we are certainly building a society where free speech, the right to protest and conduct our lives without scrutiny by a central authority could be seriously threatened. There is no government in the Western alliance, not even America, which has taken such a bewildering lurch to the authoritarian right since 11 September and met with such little opposition, either in the media or in parliament.

FIPR has a letter that allows you to opt-out of NHS data-sharing to the fullest extent legally possible. I am still waiting to hear back from the Department of Health after sending them this letter in December.

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