The Four Horsemen of our rights Apocalypse

The worst excesses of care.data’s mandate to collect and exploit your medical records are coming back, and the scheme’s descendants are planning to expand into new areas of your life.

Says David Cameron: “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach.”

The three main protections in the health arena are medical ethics, Data Protection, and the Human Rights Act. The first two may have slowed care.data down last time, but the committee responsible for ethics got abolished while everyone was distracted by the election. And now your rights are under greater threat.

Going far beyond health data, there are discussions within Whitehall and Westminster about ‘data sharing’, with lobbying from those who’d like to exploit the rest of data held by Government. Long-term plans to ‘share’ data for any purposes will almost certainly come back. The last attempt, the Cabinet Office Data Sharing process, ended in a “civil service success” (i.e. failure), as DWP expertly defended its desire to play whatever political games it wanted with its population-scale databases. (Though unsurprisingly, health was seen as too “toxic” to touch.)

You thought ATOS was a problem? With government data sharing, they can do much more. Automatically. Are you entirely sure that nothing in your history might be misconstrued by an underpaid contractor with targets to hit (or through error, or just to boost profits)?

What happens when a future Government tries to “sneak past the most data they can sell without anybody noticing”, as care.data tried? And consider carefully what the next Government could have been, only a month ago…

Broader data sharing could recycle the original vision for ID cards and a “single source of truth” Database, with the canny marketing flourish that this time you’re free to pick your card design, because Government will match “your” data behind the scenes anyway.

The Home Office ID scheme was an 80s disciplinary design which made usage explicit; a ‘linked identifier’ scheme based on data matching will be disproportionate, wrong and discriminatory. And the risks just increase as the genomics and control technologies are added to the coercion and profit incentives of the last century.

When the Snooper’s Charter comes back with a vengeance, if you think you can rely on all of Government not accessing anything? “I have to say I take a different view”, says Theresa May (q78). Do you want decisions affecting you or your family to be made based on events or thinking from the past?

Will any new proposals re-enact the worst of the old ID scheme, “Clause 152” and care.data: you can use any card you like, but it won’t make a difference, as they’ll share until you match?

HRA repeal, care.data, ‘data sharing’ and the Snoopers Charter: the four horsemen of our rights Apocalypse driven by instincts that are Secretive, Invasive and Nasty.

A canary in the coal mine for the new Government’s intended use of data is likely to be how it resolves the Universal Credit IT debacle. Old way or new way? It’s not just about the headlines, nor a shiny new interface, but where your data will go.

Will they choose to be Secretive, Invasive and Nasty? If they do, how will you know?

posted: 22 May 2015

The LibDem digital manifesto

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 21.17.07The Libdems have published a “digital manifesto” which has 13 thought out proposals in it. It’s a very Libdem approach. Some relate to the internet, some related to data, and it’s the data ones I’m looking at here.

Read more…

posted: 12 Apr 2015