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back to article Gov slams critical database report as opaque, flawed, inaccurate

The Government has slammed as opaque, inadequate and riddled with factual errors a think tank report that claimed that a quarter of Government databases were operating illegally. The Government has said the report was methodologically flawed. In March independent political reform body the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust published ' …

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Big Brother

So let me get this right...

As I understand it, the Gubmint isn't claiming that this report is wrong, and that these databases are operating legally. Instead, they are using some smoke-and-mirrors bullshit to claim that because the authors of the report didn't include some information that is not necessarily relevant tot eh conclusions, then they can put their fingers in their ears and chant 'la-la-la'?

That said, I've not actually read either the original report or the official response, so I may have got entirely the wrong end of the stick. Given the track record of our current administration, however, I doubt it.

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Anonymous Coward

Pot, kettle.

Haven't read the report so have no idea whether the allegations are true. At this point I hardly care, though: The government itself likes to do all that it alleges and more, up to and including making things up and vehemently denying all allegations except those it cannot believably deny, like when it has been shown to repeatedly "accidentally lose" large amounts of unsecured sensitive information. Transparency? Accountability? Competence? They've heard of it. Carry on government.

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WTF?

As much as I hate to admit it

The government has a point on this one. I can say the sky is green, doesnt mean its so.

*If* the rowntree foundation is unable to back up its allegations it has no right to make them.

If you could slander the Govt this would be a case of it.

*Of course I have not read the Rowntree report.

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Big Brother

I'm with the Govt

For once I'm with the government - if the report lacks openly stated methodology and testable assertions. Actually, it sounds rather like an IPCC or CRU climate report that the govt relies on so much :-)

Help. I'm being manipulated!

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Methinks Guv doth protest too much

Although I must say find their response flawed and inaccurate

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Boffin

A rebuttal for the wonks, an insult to us

This rebuttal is not written by or for clever people; it's a wonks internal justification for their wonky behaviour. It's 'audience' is a bunch of Mandy's and other sociopaths who will now consider the matter 'closed' and will continue just as before.

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FAIL

So....

Dear The Register,

I read your article with great interest, but due to a typo in it, I'm not going to take it seriously.

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Big Brother

Sir Humphrey Appleby

I'm reminded of "Yes, Minister" and how to deal with unwelcome reports:

"Stage Two: Discredit the evidence you are not publishing, saying

1. It leaves important questions unanswered.

2. Much of the evidence is inconclusive.

3. The figures are open to other interpretations.

4. Certain findings are contradictory.

5. Some of the main conclusions have been questioned. (If they haven't, question them yourself; then they have)."

Textbook stuff.

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FAIL

In other news...

Water wet, fire hot, glue sticky.

Roll on Election day.

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Big Brother

As usual, they don't want to see their own actions are wrong...

Their arrogant inability to see themselves as wrong, (no matter what is said against them), is a typical behavior found in organizations run by Narcissists.

As for this ... "There is no information on how the databases were identified, screened and selected for inclusion in the report; where the majority of the information about the databases came from"

What hope in hell would we have of just asking the government for the truth and I mean the clean raw unedited truth about 46 government databases. What like asking the government about their expenses. That took over 5 years of fighting to get at the truth, including repeated freedom of information requests that were repeatedly blocked and ignored by the government, until in the end, the only solution to get at the truth, was to steal the data from the government. Then we the voters finally got at the shocking truth. The pack of lying two faced manipulators who run government *have proved* they will not give us the truth, thereby totally destroying their credibility. Their arrogant contempt for us is proved by their own actions. We vote them in to represent us, not to lie and dictate to us. So how the hell are we suppose to trust them, when they arrogantly act like our lying ruling elite masters, with ever more examples of their abuses of their anti-terror laws and yet, even worse we have to suffer their relentless need for ever more intrusive laws and outright Police State tactics.

As for this comment ... "Where legal judgements have been made about compatibility with legislation, no legal arguments are produced to support them. It is not possible to assess whether the methodology is robust and appropriate,"

The government makes and controls the law. They therefore choose what they want to consider legal and illegal. Therefore they will not define their own behavior as illegal, so the government will still continue to justify its own actions, regardless of how morally intrusive or exploitative they make their databases.

They have proved their own words are meaningless. We therefore cannot trust them regardless of what they say and regardless of which party is in power. Their own lying manipulative actions has resulted in permanently destroying their credibility. We can no longer trust a word they say and so to prove their accountability, we need access to their data. They want Big Brother, so its time to give them what they want and turn technology against them to monitor them for accountability.

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Grenade

Pre-election manoevring?

It reads more like a party-political positioning document issued by the Tories than an actual report by an interested party. There's a lot of vagueness and statements which mean very little once you scratch the surface of their sensationalism. The recommendations themselves are pretty lame, and in most cases pretty meaningless too.

Government bashers do my head in, to be honest - and i mean the proper bashers, not just the eternal cynics. I personally like a little cynicism - it's healthier than blindly trusting everything everybody tells you... No, those bashers need to get out a little more, read a book or two on something other than conspiracy stories, meet a girl, get a life. Either that or crawl off to some corner of the world and keep their stupid-ass opinions to themselves.

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Happy

Why bother to bullsh*t?

I don't understand the problem. Every government database operates legally. All that needs be said is that the responsible government minister and permanent secretary endorse that on pain of losing their pension.

I'm listening!

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*eh* ?

" Government is happy to change policy in response to well founded criticism "

Really ?

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Anonymous Coward

Read the report - it is interesting

Databases in their that I haven't heard/though about. Of course the big red ones are those that regularly appear on the register.

As to methodology the authors say this:

"There will inevitably be omissions and errors in our report; government does not always go out of its way to provide accessible information on systems. "

Most every sentence in the report describing the individual databases has references and most of those references are from the database projects, government departments or Hansard.

So if the report isn't accurate, is it the government not giving out the right information in the first place? That tought alone suggests that what the gov tells us and what it thinks are not the same thing.

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Happy

Slammed?

It reads more like a petulant, hissy fit to me.

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Boffin

Literature reviews don't need detailed methodologies

The Rowntree Reform Trust report is a literature review, with 222 references. The relevant methodologies are those reported in the cited articles. The report simply brings together in one place conclusions from many independent resources.

Having said that, some of the references are only short news articles, some are law reports, and some are peer-reviewed published articles. So the evidence for and against different databases is not the same.

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Ru
Black Helicopters

Bit of a contradiction in there

Firstly, the government says that it is not the intention of the databases to gather data about everyone and everything and keep it forever.

Then they say that erasing data after 6 years is quite impractical.

Neat trick that: "We don't really want to keep information about you forever, but uh, actually we can't delete it. Sorry."

Labour are pretty keen on the whole 'it is not the intention...' thing.

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Anonymous Coward

Openness

Methodology? Surely the method is to examine the purpose of the database, what benefit that gives to the public, what data is stored the database, how that data is used,what the retention policies are of said data and compare that to what is required of the Data Protection Act?

And this really needs to be documented?So it's not valid because the above paragraph isn't included in the report.

Seems to me when the report says it's the government policy to keep all data forever, seem to me they're right! Look at theDNA database. ContactPoint doesn't keep everything for ever but I suspect that's more the exception than the rule.

The government talks about open government, about transparency, they've implemented all manner of databases behind closed doors and now people want to verify that they are actually being properly run, that the government is not abusing our personal data and abusing us, its citizens, so they give us that openness but then criticise it heavily when it reveals the wrong doing they are carrying out.

It stinks.

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Anonymous Coward

The Report

I'm in the process of reading the report now, from just a few pages so far I'll make the recommendation to read it. It's fascinating.

No joined up thinking (I hate that phrase), seems to be at least two national databases holding information on all children - which could have been combined into a single database which would have probably saved billions in infrastructure, hardware and development costs.

Then lets look at again, two entirely separate databases: The NHS detail care record and the NHS Summary care record which keeps records of what allergies people have and what their current drugs prescriptions are.

Couldn't these two functions exist as additional fields in one database: the detail db?

Totally f***ng pointless, totally.What a waste of money.

Time to write to my MP again, but alas, he's one of the biggest culprits of the Expenses scandal, he's been very helpful before, but is he able to help now. We'll see.

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Anonymous Coward

The Authors

Look at the authors of the report, their credentials, their academic and professional qualifications. Seems to me they're suitably qualified to carry out the investigation!

I'd trust their expertise way over and above the government any day.

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RW
Flame

NuLabour: Idiots

When I read the text of the gov's rebuttal and hit the word "methodology" I recognized a characteristic of NuLabour's propaganda arm: an inexplicable infatuation with high falutin' terms they, in fact, haven't a clue about, viz.

"Technology".

"Methodology".

"Transparency".

"Accountability".

"Database".

"Safety".

"Security".

etc.

These terms, which one and all have genuine meaning, are, in NuLabour's hands, about as meaningful as the use of "new and improved", "all natural", "organic", and "green" on boxes of breakfast cereal.

The objections to the methodology of the Rowntree report indirectly outline what NuLabour's flunkies think methodology is: a rigid, inflexible, box-ticking system that substitutes a mechanical approach for genuine analysis. This kind of thinking is about what you'd expect from a 15 year old less well versed in the nature of human society than the average 15 year old.

And then there's this report: 'minister of state at the Ministry of Justice Michael Wills [said] "In such a fast changing environment, the Government is happy to change policy in response to well founded criticism"'.

Huh?

If anything, NuLabour, particularly Mr. Broon and Lord Mendacious, has demonstrated total inflexibility of opinion. They've made up their minds and NO criticism of their position is well founded as a result.

NuLabour: when they're not pathetic, they're disgusting. And when they're neither they demonstrate a pettiness and greediness perhaps unprecedented in public life outside the more corrupt dictatorships.

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Anonymous Coward

Nothing to hide EVERYTHING to FEAR

Both parties from the article don't seem to be saying much.

At the core of it all, is the holding of data on people, it is a very dangerous thing to do, and it gives too much power to the data holder over the person that data is held on, and that is all that is really needed to be known.

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Unhappy

GroupThink

One could almost imagine that there are now offiocial government or civil service posts with titles like "MindGuard" whose job it is to undermine and cast doubt on any report critical of them. They probably have a point about the reports failing in this case, but the manner in which the rebuttals have been phrased suggests that the same kind of "MindGuard"-like language would have been used, albeit with different arguments, if undermining a better argued report was required. How about the government being more open to criticism and just more open for a change? No chance of it, and not much chance of any other government being any different, it seems to me.

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