139 posts • joined 2 Aug 2007
"Or ideally, even better, the government could set up a recruitment panel for these jobs that's actually filled by some of our brightest and best businessmen to ensure the staff that go into these positions, whatever they're paid, are fit for the job, and not just someone some minister happened to go to Eton or Oxford with with no real regard for their competence to actually do the job."
- Er, no. We'd get better results if it did actually work by ministers' mates. The reason we have a consistent culture in government is because there are extremely elaborate 'fair' selection procedures calculated to reproduce highly qualified and trained.... quangocrats and senior civil servants. Every one of them is highly adapted to the jungles of Whitehall, and has enormous competence in doing what senior civil servants do.
@AC 20th May 2011 09:10 GMT
I'm afraid that's about the size of it. Well described.
But if they start with pensions and social security as it appears the aim is, then the chances of generating some kind of mob are quite high - even if it is of PCS and UNISON members who've been assaulted after suggesting to clients that they have to get online identity verification through a bank before they can be assisted.
"It's ID Cards all over again."
It's conceivably ID cards without the cards (which has been a worry from the off, hence "... and the database state"), and conceivably not.
I've no doubt the intentions are good. But that does not mean the outcome will be.
It appears to be way more complicated than that...
I've seen some documents - presented at a terrifically high level of abstraction - and had one personal meeting with some senior Cabinet Office people. Thsoe documents certainly contain some words which *could* describe a scheme that might not be entirly destructive of privacy and civil liberties.
I've expressed NO2ID's doubts on a similarly abstract level: viz - we don't want a nice-sounding scheme, with the appearance of a distributed trust network, to become a means in practice for departments to hoover up even more personal details of citizens, control identities, and/or to slosh the silos together; and for that reason we want a clear view of the legal framework first, because that, in government is a clearer guide to what can happen than any number of pretty diagrams.
Gov appears to expect to rope in banks in a big way, to create a magic market of various service providers (identity providers, and a shadowy group called "attribute providers", and to start with this as the armature for the massive redesign of the social security system - and therefore to address as its first user base the hugest reservoirs of the non-digital citizenry. Quite how it is supposed to be going to be doing all that inside about 18 months, I do wonder.
It will be interesting to watch. But will we "contribute" as some reports have it? Not if it is used to suggest we endorse the scheme beforehand.
General Secretary, NO2ID
And there is no connection whatsoever ....
Between this fatuous press release and the reports of the Home Office's attempts retrospectively to legalise e-Borders in European law by plugging a travel data retention directive?
But the problem is often with regulation that is overbroad, trivially easy to break, and unduly easy to prosecute.
"New York Academy of Sciences" publication.
The AC who posted about Yablokov, Nesterenko and Nesterenko attributing 938,000 deaths to Chernobyl omitted to reference this statement:
Which is the politest total disavowal of any paper I've read.
Yes; If you have more than £1,000 on you they can seize it until you prove it wasn't 'proceeds of crime'. It is quite a general power, and the reason for the inverted commas is that proceeds of crme can mean anyone's crime of any type.
Almost any business at all could find its principals arrested on suspicion of *facilitating*, have cash funds seized and the business effectively shut down, because facilitation of serious crime contrary to the Serious Crime Act 2007 does not require any crime actually to have been committed anywhere or any actual intention to assist it - merely the possibility that someone could use you for something anywhere in the world that might be a crime if it were to happen in Britain and that appears on a very long list in a schedule to the Act as amended from time to time (i.e. an entirely arbitrary definition of 'serious crime'). It's real police-state stuff.
re: a single Commissioner??
AC writes: "At least with an eco-system of Commissioner there's a sporting chance (on a good day) of getting individuals that are experts in their field, provide oversight of each other and gives some level of separation of concerns in the subject."
But that is not in fact how the various commissioners operate. Far from looking at each other's work, each is confined to a very narrow brief (precisely as HMG points out), usually to oversight of process rather than substance, and their tendency is to view it as narrowly as possible. This is a feature, not a bug from Whitehall's point of view because it creates the impression of a horde of independent officials protecting the interests of the public without in the least impeding the operation of public bodies. There are lots of gaps.
The single commission imagined by privacy advocates would not have 'powers over personal information', but over bodies public and private handling personal information. It would be charged with protecting privacy in the application of the various powers or rights that exist over personal information, and report to parliament, not a ministry. All parties were happy to establish a very powerful and independent unified Equality & Human Rights Commission in the last parliament; so why the immediate squirming at the suggestion of a Privacy Commission?
Which is sort of the point of the question/thought experiment. It suggests what's being prosecuted here is thoughtcrime: not the act but the imputed motive. Or/and perhaps the social status of the accused.
An exercise for the reader
Do you think the same man would have got off the charge if he had downloaded from the internet exactly the same images that appeared in the books concerned?
It isn't ordinary accounting and bookkeeping packages that HMRC is happily noting as iXBRL-compliant, and there aren't (AFAIK) add-ins for Excel and Word (which are the means for producing final accounts for a handful of tiny companies I do returns for).
What we are talking about are the specialist accounts-production packages that are used by medium and large sized accountancy firms. Good luck with this new regime of you are a one-man band accountant who typically produces accounts manually - or uses one of the simpler specialist products out there, or a WP and a spreadsheet - or one of the many thousand small firms below the audit limits or semi-dormant who do not even use an accountant at the moment.
Tax compliance just got considerably more taxing, because you have to get an accountant if you didn't need one, and your accounant has to go to one of the big boys licensed by HMRC (with no real guarantee that their products will work or he can learn how to use them in time).
"So NO2ID and Big Brother Watch would like the government to join up all their existing databases..."
Maybe Dan Hamilton mis-spoke, but I'm sure he didn't mean what he appeared to say. NO2ID is certainly not advocating more data-sharing. That is our principal objection to the current census - that it has dropped its previous firm silo rule and thanks to a sneaky piece of Blair legislation, s39 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 is now potentially given up to all sorts of notionally good excuses from bits of government to see the raw data.
There is a broader point that the expansion of the questionnaire just shows official truffling for information *because it might be there* and our privacy be damned. But one might argue that that is part of the culture that gave use such joys as the SRSA.
The information just *isn't needed*. It isn't that they don't need a census because they can get the same data by joining up databases. It isn't needed at all. You might like it. Officials do like it. But the pretext given is tripe.
The aggregate figures and distributions needed, purportedly, for planning purposes can be abstracted from other sources to the degree of accuracy actually required - probably better than that provided by a monstrous headcount. certainly quicker and cheaper - without any individual's personal information being looked at by human eye. Only government would think of doing it by creating a massive new database and hoovering up anything else they thought they could get away with at the same time.
We've been here before, on a miniature scale, with the HMRC Child Benefit records - sample needed, entire database provided... or sent, at least.
@AC [Non-Compliance Detection]:
Theoretically there's a £1000 penalty. If you refuse. However the 2001 census is reckoned to have missed around 800,000-900,000 men under 40 (really, really accurate and useful, then) with the ONS rather pathetically pleading at one point that they all must have been on holiday. I believe 38 people were fined for outright refusal.
And if this is a vital survey telling the department things it couldn't know otherwise *and* will be keeping completely confidential, then I await with interest the ONS's policy on prosecution for false declarations.
That there is still a significant amount of ID scheme kit still in use, in the chunks of the scheme that were protected from cancellation by disguising them as something else sufficiently that ministers in a hurry wouldn't have time to unwind them.
Thus we have biomentric residence permits backed by a fingerprint database, 'enhanced' passport application procedures, and little booths with video-links in Post Offices, none of which will need to be reinvented when next Whitehall finds a sucker.
I think shredding ALL official documents right now is the way to go.
<<As I understand it the idea is to get the ISP to hold all the data going through for a specified period so (theoretically) a court order can be generated later to "disclose" a specific chunk of it for "security purposes" >>
Er, no. No court order required. RIPA requests for comms data are self-authorised by the agency concerned - even a single police officer claiming 'emergency' and no designated authorising superior available.
Interception of communications content comes under Part 1 of RIPA and is a matter for the Home Secretary's warrant. Home Secretaries spend a lot of time - several hours a week - just signing authorisations for a variety of things, and anyone who thinks this amounts to a safeguard is deluded.
However, as some people have noted above, the difference between comms content and comms data is not something you would necesarily agree with govt about. And comms data without content is a pretty dangerous thing for a suspect anyway, since it is hard to rebut conclusions drawn from it. One interesting question is, does DPI equipment count as interception at all until a person reads the mail? Compare the use of sniffer dogs and knife arches - where the police can force people to undergo remote sensing to decide whether or not to search them. The remote sensing does not count as a search.
In classical times...
... it is the police in this case who would have been prosecuted, and possibly even executed, for sacrilege. Hermae stood on every street corner and were associated with luck and protection from evil. Children were often given phallic amulets for the same reasons.
Let us hope Cambridge survives.
Average of one?
Maybe it is just me, but is anyone else puzzled by the reference to the average salary of a single official? Does it mean they had one or more pay increases (I cannot believe any public sector salaries have been cut except ministers') in the year, so that these figures do not in fact answer the naive question "How much is X paid?" but in fact hint that they are currently paid a bit more than that? Would that be inclusive of bonuses?
~What of the restriction?
The s19 power can only be exercised when the officer has reasonable grounds for believing in relation to such the 'evidence', "that it is necessary to seize it in order to prevent the evidence being concealed, lost, altered or destroyed." Curious that Sussex police, though careful to make use of s23 (and constructing it rather too broadly) to justify themselves as far as "premises" are concerned, seem not to have been interested in justification against the "necessary" criterion. Necessary is quite a strong word.
Which of concealed, lost, altered or destroyed did the officer believe was going to happen? He had to have some reasonable grounds for believing at least one of them.
Typically cunning PR ...
for the DVD release of FOUR LIONS?
"No, I'll take faceless bureaucrats and self-serving politicians over Joe Public any day."
A pity then that we have self-serving bureaucrats and faceless politicians.
Re: Just as a historical aside...
While it might be true that no-one would believe a word Flying Squad officers said in court in the 70s, the source is a bit dubious, since the Crown Prosecution Service didn't start operating till 1986.
Who was in the last rush? - A conspiracy theory
Perhaps all those Labour activists and MPs now making it their business to complain about the lack of compensation from the wicked Tories who are taking away (in real life, just invalidating) their beloved ((c) Denis MacShane MP) ID cards.
Er no, you've been sucked into the well of solipsism that is Home Office reasoning.
They refused 8 people passports. In the world beyond Marsham Street that doesn't prove EITHER that those 8 were trying to deceive the bureaucrats (they just failed to staisfy them) OR that any people actually trying to do deceive the Home Office failed.
Revoke = block?
The Great Firewall of Europe, they hope.
@ Jon Wilson
That's not the false positive rate. That's the rate at which the victims of a traducement by database discovered the fact, felt motivated and able to pursue the matter, and did so to the point where the CRB bureaucracy admitted it was wrong and paid compensation. A figure certainly less than any actual false positive rate, and probably hugely less. (Do you perhaps also suppose that occaisions on which compensation paid by banks to their customers is the level of bank errors, or a officers disciplined after complaints are upheld shows the full extent of police misbehaviour?)
Maybe the RN...
Anticipates that its main enemy in future will be Somali pirates, er... freelance drug importers, and naughty Spanish trawlers. Nothing like a long-term plan to prepare for the present.
@ John Tserkezis
I think they are there before you... "ID Card" -> "iD". It's got a little i in front of it. It'll sell millions as a fashion item.
@ Jason Bloomberg
"...they could have easily conned many people into thinking it was a good idea and mop up the rest when momentum had taken over."
- Believe it or not, that is the plan. That *is* what they think they are doing now. Unfortunately for them they have been lying to everyone else for so long, they have ended up deceiving themselves.
Won't stop them trying for ever, though.
That's Buttle. With a B.
I think you underestimate the effects of the Vagrancy Act. Sus was an actual charge - "frequenting or loitering in a public place with an intent to commit an arrestable offence, being a suspected person or reputed thief." It could not be used to stop and search without arrest, but was used as an arbitrary power of arrest.
_Pace_ <g> Robert Long 1, the police historically had very little power (though no less temptation to abuse what they had), but police powers have in fact accrued very rapidly in recent years. I see the Public Order Act 1986 as the watershed. To replace Sus we got the very nearly as readily abused Disorderly Conduct, plus the legalisation of all sorts of police tactics that the courts had discovered to be unlawful because of litigation arising out of incidents during the miner's strike.
@ Jonathan 13:11
I suspect you may be imputing too much common sense and "customer care" to the institutions involved.
The reason originally adduced (see the Strategy issued end 2006) for using three (or two-and-a-half) existing databases rather than Mr Blunkett's single clean one, was cost-saving, not security. It is unlikely security (of your data) has ever been a consideration. The Whitehall rationale for the scheme in the first place was to enable massive data-sharing. And before it was disbanded/downgraded, the Independent Experts Group appeared to be saying in coded language that the IPS was utterly clueless about security.
The idea that retrofitting three vast, used, civil service databases is cost-saving is clearly nonsense. My guess would be a combination of empire-building (the IPS gets its tentacles directly into other agencies, and is therefore much more difficult to uproot), and cost-*hiding*.
I am reliably informed...
re: "Shouldn't her comments go through a spin doctor or some PR guru?"
... that a Home Office offiicial now goes around afterwards clearing up, er... misunderstandings among the audience.
That some more credulous media than El Reg will print any old rubbish a minister happens to announce, as a product of ideologically convenient misunderstandings of her own or the IPS's own economy of expression, is no doubt unfortunate, and in no way a feature of the government's PR strategy.
@ AC: 14:03
"Unless you want a driving license, you have to get one of these ID cards if you want to have a beer in a pub if you've just turned 18."
Nonsense. You can get any of the PASS scheme cards for a tenner, you can stop using it whenever you like and they will not fingerprint you, pass out your personal details to other people or impose penalties on you.
@ AC 14:03 - misinformed
"Unless you want a driving license, you have to get one of these ID cards if you want to have a beer in a pub if you've just turned 18."
Nonsense. You can get any of the PASS scheme cards for a tenner. You can stop using it whenever you like, and they will not fingerprint you, pass out your personal details to other organisations, or impose penalties on you.
We already know how they propose to do it.
The plans haven't changed in the slightest. By designating first passports (now from 2012? having been quietly slipped again), then some other documents, you will be in effect forced to have an ID card to carry out perfectly ordinary civil functions - such as fleeing to seek political asylum in another country - but it will still be *called* "voluntary".
In fact primary legislation would have to be amended in order for them *not* to issue you with an ID card with your passport once it is designated. For card fetishists, it is worth pointing out that at that point having a passport would in any case be equivalent for all purposes to having an ID card, so at that point the card would start to have relative benefits. If you are on the database for life *anyway*, then it is merely a difference in format and an ID card might be handier to carry.
Value for money?
So we have a "self-financing" scheme all paid for by fees, according to the Home Office. No saving to be made by cancelling it. Yet the first 4,000 cards have been issued at an external marketing cost alone of about £1.9 million.
Let us ignore background tecnonolgy costs, and administrative overhead, for a moment. (A standard Home Office technique: ignore the really embarrassing facts and focus on something of marginal relevance.) Are another 630,000 or so cards going to be issued with no further marketing effort? That's approximately what's needed for it to the campaign described to pay for itself.
@ Shig 14:01
Well, some of us - even losers without proper degrees - are old enough to have done 'S-levels'. Good thing we are getting so old that early-onset Alzheimers is wiping the fact they existed from living memory, or we would have the fatuous Ed Balls (who is just too young for his traditional public school to have pushed him through them on the way to Oxford) popping up on TV to tell us that A* is both fully equivalent to the old Special Papers and 'accessible' to small dogs and household plants.
@ Irish Donkey
"But you may say there are fines for not keeping you passport up to date." - There aren't.
If something happens to you to cause a major change of appearance, you are advised to renew it. If you lose it, you should report it lost. And that's it.
A passport is still a certificate of nationality and a handy place to keep visas. The Home Office and assorted Whitehall warriors may wish to make it into "proof of identity", whatever the hell that is, but they haven't yet.
Lewis Page review, please
Since the movie is about bomb disposal, we had better know the worst.
And of course it is entirely coincidental that...
The Tories have proclaimed they will not pursue centralisation via the SCR/spine and the DoH is currently driving a massive mail-out to millions patients in England giving them a one-time opportunity to decline to have their records transferred to the spine, accompanied by propaganda about why they shouldn't but no actual opt-out form - which has to be obtained separately.
For the record...
Sir Joseph wrote to NO2ID but has provided no particularly good reason why it is worth our while meeting him. Because he is trying to consult people and make his office look of value is not really sufficient.
His report puts our correspondence in a misleading context. Our response to his first letter was:
<blockquote>Dear Sir Joseph,
Thank you for your letter, which just arrived. NO2ID is, of course, aware of your recent appointment as Identity Commissioner.
Given the tightly circumscribed nature of your statutory role and the clear intention of the Identity and Passport Service to proceed with its roll-out of ID cards and a National Identity Register along the lines laid out well before your appointment, it is unclear to us what, if anything, remains open to debate or consultation, or how you are able to influence the development
of the scheme.
I would certainly be willing to speak with you, if there were any prospect that our meeting could lead to a restriction or abandonment of the Home Office's scheme. Otherwise my time is better spent in further promoting the widespread public opposition to it. For now I am somewhat perplexed as to what the basis of our discussion might be. I would be grateful if you could
explain how you see your office could act as any constraint at all on the activities of the Identity and Passport Service.
No explanation has been so far forthcoming.
General Secretary, NO2ID
@ wibble 5
That'll be "data subjects" not citizens.
What strikes me as odd is...
(Leave aside that they have less screened internet access in prison than most lawyers do at work.)
They'd taken more than a million apiece, yet seemingly failed to sponsor any actual terrorism. Terrorism is cheap. 9/11 was estimated to have cost about $250,000 all-in.
Perhaps they were posturing shysters preying on the slavering jihadi community for aid and support and credibility, in somewhat the same way Bernie Madoff used the super rich Jewish charity circuit - only just a bit down-market.
No breaches detected....
Is not the same as all breaches prevented.
In any case, government's new obsession with information security is rather beside the point.
Why is the DCSF collecting this information about individuals in the first place? And how is it using it, notionally legitimately? Who does it share it with without breaches of procedure?
Those are things we should be worrying about, not accepting the misdirection in its request for a pat on the back for not losing records it shouldn't have in the first place. I'm sure the Stasi never allowed anyone unauthorised to look at its files before 1989.
And possibly vice versa...
Good luck when your "date of death" field gets filled in by accident.
"... only where it is consistent..."
Classic Home Office boilerplate designed to suggest that there is somehow a legal limitation. The statutory purposes are so broadly drawn, however, as to include ANYTHING any future administration might want to do with the information:
"s1 [...] (3) The statutory purposes are to facilitate, by the maintenance of a secure and reliable record of registrable facts about individuals in the United Kingdom— [...]
(b) the provision of a secure and reliable method for registrable facts about such individuals to be ascertained or verified wherever that is necessary in the public interest.
(4) For the purposes of this Act something is necessary in the public interest if, and only if, it is—
(a) in the interests of national security;
(b) for the purposes of the prevention or detection of crime;
(c) for the purposes of the enforcement of immigration controls;
(d) for the purposes of the enforcement of prohibitions on unauthorised working or employment; or
(e) for the purpose of securing the efficient and effective provision of public services."
Doncha just love that simultaneous redefinition of necessity and public interest as identical with official expediency?
@ Elmer Phud
You seem to have spotted the typically nuanced Home Office announcement, but missed the fact that UKIP and the BNP have both been opposed to the ID scheme from the start.
I don't think the TPA has any position on immigration per se at all (any more than NO2ID has). But they were among the spendidly motley collection of signatories objecting to "ID cards for foreigners":
1. "Is it not still the case that evidence illegally procured is inadmissible in court?" Er, no. You've been watching too many American movies.
There's no such rule of law in England and Wales. The old "judges rules" used to punish manifest police misbehaviour in that way, but that was a matter of the practice of the courts. Since PACE, statute seems to be clear that illegally obtained evidence is admissible unless the court makes a specific decision to exclude it. Under s78(1) of PACE, "In any proceedings the court may refuse to allow evidence on which the prosecution proposes to rely to be given if it appears to the court that, having regard to all the circumstances, including the circumstances in which the evidence was obtained, the admission of the evidence would have such an adverse effect on the fairness of the proceedings that the court ought not to admit it."
2. I think the premise of the original article is wrong. The relevant section doesn't give police exemption when they are following orders. It is broader and narrower than that. It is when they are following their own interpretation of statute. Which might be worse.
Parliament will have passed that section to try and protect public authorities making honest mistakes about the scope of the law. The Home Office wants it to do something else, which is to permit officials to carry on misinterpreting it when the interpretation has been made clear. That might be OK if you believe in the unequivocal supremacy of the crown in parliament and you only want to ignore Strasbourg. What is more worrying is there's nothing in the HO line that restricts such official impunity to ignoring Strasbourg. They are in effect telling officers they can safely ignore judgements of the domestic courts as well, where they confict with police practice. And that's the rule of a police-state, not of common law.
3. My favourite name for a solicitors' firm: Wright Hassall (of Leamington Spa).
Of course games give "the illusion of impunity"...
If you want the reality of impunity you need a real war.