Privacy and information sharing

Some good stuff on Comment is Free today. First up, A.C.Grayling on government information-sharing plans:

The Blair vision …is a vision of an obedient, orderly, quiet, submissive, tidy, untroublesome Britain, its little unit-clones of citizens lined up in queues, modestly glowing with solid bourgeois virtue, their height, weight, bank details, medical records, daily calorie intake, bowel movements, salary, TV viewing habits, voting record, sexual proclivities, parents’ names, holiday destinations and shoe sizes all stored on a big, gleaming, throbbing computer in the basement of 10 Downing Street, with wires running to police HQ, MI5, every government ministry, the Inland Revenue, and the equally big, gleaming, throbbing but not-quite-working NHS computer, all stored and packaged ready to pop up at the press of a button as a citizen is tracked across town by thousands of CCTV cameras.

It’s a shame that the plans to do exactly the same things to children weren’t greeted with the same outrage when they were outlined more than 3 years ago. Although, we were all less knowledgeable then and perhaps the struggles over children’s databases – and ID Cards – have played their part in raising public awareness of the implications of government intrusion into private life. Grayling says:

Is it worth reminding the government of the point of privacy, and why its protection is so eminently worth the price of non-joined-up government record-keeping? It might be an instructive exercise for Mr Blair to be asked these questions: can he explain why every human rights convention specifies a right to privacy as fundamental?

Again, it’s worth remembering that under the ECHR, children have exactly the same right to privacy as anyone else. Just to underline the point, Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it clear that this means children too.

There’s been plenty of banal drivel about ‘rights and responsibilities’ over the past few years, missing the point entirely that being the subject of human rights places upon everyone who wants to claim them the duty to ensure that everyone else can do so, too. Otherwise the concept is meaningless.

Very soon now, the Government will put regulations before Parliament to enable the establishment of the children’s Information-Sharing Index. Let’s hope that the anger about plans to share adults’ data is put to use in defence of children’s privacy as well.


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