Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The systemic impacts of data centralisation along with command and control thinking!

This Observer article makes a powerful case - worthy of citing here in full:

"Ministers will quickly lose their shame over the missing 25 million files and continue to stockpile our most personal secrets. There's no time to crow over the government's loss of 25 million people's details; no time to rejoice at the obvious mortification of Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, his sidekick, Andy Burnham, Jacqui Smith and Harriet Harman. These people will not be deterred by the calamity of last week. They are shameless. In a month or two they will bounce back. The ID card scheme will be relaunched and Jacqui Smith will continue with her plans to demand 53 pieces of information from people before they travel abroad. The Children's Index, the Children's Assessment Framework, the National Health database, the ever-expanding police DNA database will all continue to scoop up information. Why? Because the control of the masses is coded in the deepest part of Labour's being.

So let me just say it now: the politicians we saw ranged before us on the front bench last Tuesday, like defendants in a mass trial, are dangerous, misguided and incompetent; and they are still in a position to cause havoc. Under a plan known by the reassuringly dull title of Transformational Government, a huge process of centralisation has taken place, creating countless opportunities for security breaches, as well as abuse by the state. At the time, the government defined it as 'transforming public services as citizens receive them and demonstrating how technology can improve the corporate services of government so more resources can be released to deliver "front line" services'. Anyone emerging from this phrase with a clear meaning in their mind deserves an award, but it has resulted in the demonstration of an almost mathematical truth. The larger the database and the more people who have access to it, the greater the lack of security.

Professor Ross Anderson, the leading British expert on this kind of engineering, believes it is impossible to go for scale, security and functionality without one suffering. . . Some 300,000 people will have access to the NHS database. There are already stories about the records of a well-known patient being viewed for entertainment by 50 hospital staff in the North East. 'Imagine a doctor or professor leaving a laptop on a plane that includes the entire nation's health records,' said Anderson. 'It's not impossible.' Indeed, at the last count there had been 14 lapses in major government IT projects in the last two years. It's not just about patient privacy or the outrageous decision by Whitehall to override the need to gain people's consent before their records were uploaded; a failure of the internet or large-scale power cuts could leave hospitals without access to x-rays or medical records. . . Each of us should understand that personal information is exactly that - personal - and that the government has only limited rights to demand and retain it. The scale of its operations and the innate weakness of the systems is a very grave concern to us all. What is needed - and here I hope someone is listening - is a mass movement on the lines of the Countryside Alliance, which goes across all parties and absorbs the skills and expertise of countless activists. Now is the moment to create a movement in defence of our privacy, security and freedom."

No comments: