Thursday, May 13, 2010

Deleting the database state

The agreement for coalition government between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties includes the following:
  • The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.

  • Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.

  • Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.

  • Further regulation of CCTV.

  • Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.

Glad to see so many suggestions have been taken up from our Database State report. There is nothing detailed in the agreement on the NHS, but I expect the two parties will also scrap the National Programme for IT for the cost savings alone.

"Ending" the storage of Internet and e-mail records will not be possible given the Data Retention Directive that the previous government pushed through in Brussels. However, the Directive is currently being reviewed, so I do hope the UK will be demanding that it be scrapped. Until then, the government could use secondary legislation to reduce the length of time data is stored to six months; stop the "voluntary" storage by ISPs of lists of websites visited by their customers; and seriously reduce the number of government agencies with access to this data. My chapter on regulation of converged communications surveillance contains a number of further suggestions.

I spoke at a College of Law event on Monday on surveillance, alongside an extremely senior police officer with responsibility for CCTV. In his opinion, the £500m+ of public money spent on cameras in the UK since the early 1990s has given a very poor return. Politically, however, it would be difficult to remove existing systems. My suggestion is that all cameras should be subject to a regular value-for-money test. Those not having a significant impact on crime should be automatically removed.


chris said...

Hurrah! Now will the coalition tell the spooks such as Pauline Neville-Jones that they will have to do some old-fashioned snooping instead of trusting GCHQ and the NSA to use their latest toys? Human intelligence would be nice, and ending torture.

Anonymous said...


there is a special place in heaven for yourself, Ross Anderson, Douwe Korff et al for the work you have done on all this. Thank you so much.

I do remain amazed that this issue didn't receive a MUCH higher profile during the election campaign than it did as:
1) it seemed to be an area in which Labour were almost uniquely vulnerable
2) I suspect many people would have been incensed had they been made aware of the full extent and implications of what Labour had been up to, and
3) it offered a way for the Tories to turn the 'nasty party' label right back at Labour in a manner that, given the clear track record of the last 13 years, would have been very difficult to rebut.


P.S. Off-topic but perhaps useful for you in helping to defang some of the copyright/internet surveillance etc. efforts of the BPI/RIAA et al...
'Mick Jagger: sixties record labels didn't pay anyone'