Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Shadow immigration minister on identity, technology: scrap National Identity Register etc

The Police Professional site says that UK shadow immigration minister Damian Green will deliver a keynote speech tonight to the Centre for Policy Studies, where he is expected to remark that:

““police chiefs can be much more dangerous to British democracy than demagogues and extremist politicians.”

He will say that the National Identity Register and the Contact Point children’s database should be scrapped, and more “intrusive” databases reformed e.g. removing the innocent from the DNA database (see also a judge's comments on this issue - Police retention of DNA etc - forensic science & human rights.

According to the news report Mr Green will also say that the “Identity Management” programme (with others) are “three streams of state control which flow together to form a river whish [sic] is toxic to our basic freedoms.”

The news item says he’ll talk about 5 principles for the relationship between citizen and state, and 3 tests to apply to technological developments in delivering public services.

The 5 principles:

  1. The citizen must have control over his own identity
  2. The whole population must not be treated as potential suspects
  3. The delivery of public services should not be determined by technology alone
  4. Policing needs should be only one of the competing needs in a free society
  5. The risk of failure in a Government system should not be borne by the citizen.

I think most citizens would agree with principle 1, and indeed 2!

As for principle 3, it’ll be obvious from my post Crowd behaviour - it’s people not technology, stupid that I feel it should be a given, people matter more than the technology especially in e-government.

The devil is of course in the detail – I’d like to know how exactly they intend to put these laudable principles into practice.

I’ve not been able to find the full text of the speech elsewhere – I’d also like to see what the three tests for delivering government services via technology are going to be.

Added 17 July: The text of the speech is now available (PDF). The three tests for policy proposals on delivering government services via technology are said to be control, choice, and consent:

[control] the citizen should be able to hold his own identity information. This is perfectly possible, as shown by security freeze laws passed in 47 US states. This allows the citizen to control his personal data through the right to freeze, or lock access, to their credit file against anyone trying to open up a new account or to get new credit in their name...
Every audit trail of information should be known to the citizen, and only the citizen should decide who has access to the audit trail. Only a properly warranted security officer with a specific purpose should be able to intrude...

[choice] The law must in some cases dictate the transaction between the citizen and state: whether we pay taxes or are entitled to a particular benefit. But apart from these transactions the test of choice would mean that the basic choice, of whether to engage or not in a particular transaction with the state, would be the citizen’s. In transactions such as the claiming of benefits, when clearly an identity needs to be proved, it will be for the citizen to assert his identity in a suitable way...

"[consent] The test of consent would ensure that you have explicitly approved of what is being done with your private information. The notion of “implied consent” (such as is being used in NHS databases) which means that unless you explicitly withdraw from a system it is assumed that you agree to your information being available to all is a dangerous nonsense. Private companies have to make you agree explicitly to them using your information. It is if anything more important that the state should have to go through similar hurdles before using it. Google or the Nectar card companies may know lots about you, but at least they can’t arrest you on the basis of what you may have told them. If something goes wrong, then there must be a powerful system of redress, perhaps in the form of greatly enhanced powers for the Information Commissioner..."

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