Monday, June 25, 2007

How is govt accessing private FIPR e-mail?

For the second time in a month, we have seen Labour politicians reading out in Parliament private e-mail between the advisory council of the Foundation for Information Policy Research. Former health minister Lord Warner told the Lords on 21 June:

An energetic presence in this network is a Cambridge professor called Ross Anderson. Some interesting e-mails of his have found their way to me. One e-mail of 27 November 2006 says:
"The Big Opt Out org will be a separate campaign (which many of us help). The principal organiser is Helen Wilkinson"—

who I believe is a Conservative councillor. Another e-mail, of 13 February, talks about,
"how we might put the IC on the spot".

The IC is of course the Information Commissioner. Another e-mail, of 8 March, after Professor Anderson had been asked to be an adviser to the Health Select Committee, says:
"Well I said yes on the grounds that I can probably do more on the inside than on the outside".

Another e-mail which I particularly like is of 24 May 2007, sent after a lunch with Conservative front-bench spokesman Damien Green MP, who is quoted as saying,
"the Tories had taken an uncharacteristically principled line on the ID card and now felt exposed".

Ross was asked to provide some other arguments—a little less principled, I assume. Finally, in a quote from an e-mail of 20 December 2006, we have something a little closer to home:
"After speaking to Andrew Lansley, Tim Loughton, Malcolm Harbour and Lord Lucas I'm maybe starting to get the message across".

I have insufficient time to entertain the House with more extracts. I am willing to let them be seen on a private basis by my honourable friend in the other place who chairs the Health Select Committee.

This follows a pronouncement from Andrew Miller MP to the Commons on 6 June:

The Foundation for Information Policy Research, which was referred to earlier, recently received an e-mail from Ross Anderson saying:
"I've been asked, much to my surprise, to be one of the Health Select Committee's special advisors for their enquiry into the Electronic Patient Record. I pointed out to them that I have 'form'".

Well, he has. He continues:
"I'm a member of the Gang of 23",

along with Professor Sampson who Conservative Members seem never to have heard of. Professor Anderson continued:
"I support TheBigOptOut."

In response to a subsequent exchange, he says:
"I hope that Archrights will write to the committee"—

the Health Committee—
"expressing its view on the ethics, legality and operational desirability of having all English children's medical records sitting on half a dozen big server farms, linked in to all sorts of interesting database apps for everything from cancer research (sob sob) to the prediction of antisocial behaviour (identify Tory voters at birth and ASBO them)"

This follows the earlier leak of a FIPR briefing document to the Conservatives on health policy. Public Health Minister Caroline Flint MP told the Commons on 24 April:
We are delivering connecting for health on time and on budget—but perhaps the hon. Gentleman's question was written by Professor Ross Anderson, who is an independent adviser on IT to the Select Committee on Health. Among a number of suggestions for Conservative party policy, he proposed a fresh look at IT policy, suggesting that in each civil service department there should be a chief information officer at grade 1 and that
"the top 50 per cent. performers should expect a knighthood"

based on their IT advice. If that is the best advice that the Opposition can obtain for operating a modern Government using the modern technology necessary for our public services, so help them.

Answers on a postcard please!


Medical privacy said...

Ether they have someone on the inside passing on emails or the gov fiew them as posing a threat to their big brother society, sorry 'national securit' and have therefor decided to start tapping their email.

With the way this goverment have been acting for the last few years, I would say ether was a possibility and I would not be supprised by ether

David Corney said...

I'm just (half-)surprised by their brazenness. Saying "some interesting e-mails of his have found their way to me..." sounds like O’Brien talking to Winston Smith.