Snoring in a surveillance society

December 31, 2007

Well, at least one of our national newspapers is awake:

Britain, the country with the world’s biggest network of surveillance cameras, has the worst record in Europe for the protection of privacy, according to a report from a London-based international watchdog.

The UK is billed as “an endemic surveillance society” alongside Russia, the US, Singapore and China in the survey of 47 countries by Privacy International (PI).

The full report is well worth reading.

NB: NHS Spine

December 31, 2007

If you haven’t already done it, today’s Times has a reminder about opting out of having NHS records uploaded to the ‘spine’:

SENIOR doctors are encouraging a mass revolt against the government’s £12 billion national health database by supporting a campaign to urge patients to opt out.

Activists in the British Medical Association (BMA) have produced a pro forma letter that people can send to their GP to stop their records going onto the database.

Parents can opt out on behalf of children aged under 16. However, we have seen guidance from one Primary Care Trust that tells GPs to interview older children if parents should opt out on their behalf, and overrule the parents’ wishes if the child is assessed as ‘Frazer competent’ (sic).

The usual expression is ‘Gillick competent’ and it is used to describe a situation where a child requires medical treatment without the knowledge of his/her parents. In the House of Lords judgment in the case of Gillick, Lord Fraser (with an ‘s’) laid down strict guidelines around the circumstances in which a medical practitioner might obtain consent to treatment directly from a child.

These guidelines required a practitioner to attempt to persuade the child to involve his/her parents, and they also presupposed that the child would receive expert medical advice from the practitioner. We do not believe that a GP has such expertise in data protection and information security, nor do we believe that the ability to assess a child’s competence to consent to medical treatment equips a GP to assess his/her competence to consent to data storage and sharing.

Finally, Lord Fraser warned that the Gillick judgment should not be taken as a licence to disregard parents’ wishes whenever it was convenient to do so, and that any practitioner who behaved in such a fashion should be subject to disciplinary proceedings.

**If anyone opting out of the NHS spine on behalf of their child experiences problems, we should like to know about them. Please circulate this information as widely as possible.**

One that got away

December 29, 2007

This item only made it as far as the Guardian’s News in Brief:

A survey of almost 1,000 primary schools found that 49% were backing up pupil data on to discs, memory sticks or tapes which were taken off the school premises, exposing the material to loss or theft. IT experts RM School Management Solutions, which carried out the survey, said that only 1% of respondents encrypted the data. A further 4% of schools were leaving sensitive and unprotected data at unsecured locations on the school premises.

For spine-chilling effect, one only has to look at this to get an idea of the depth of data collected on school pupils, and remember that there are around 350 school break-ins in each police area every year.

Burying bad news

December 22, 2007

While we were all busy trying to get the Christmas tree lights to work:

Nine NHS trusts have admitted losing patients’ information in the aftermath of the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) data loss scandal, it has emerged.

Hundreds of thousands of people are thought to have been affected by the breaches of strict data protection rules by the health service.

Wonder what they’re saving for Christmas Eve?

Some good news

December 20, 2007

At last:

Two restraint techniques used on children in custody have been suspended by ministers after medical concern. The so-called nose distraction, involving a painful upward chop against the septum, and the “double basket”, whereby the arms are crossed and held behind the back, are banned while their safety is checked.

Kudos to the Children’s Rights Alliance who have fought a flat-out campaign following the deaths of several children in custody. During the inquests that followed their deaths, it became clear that ‘restraint’ was too often just another word for punishment

So far this week…

December 19, 2007


The details of three million candidates for the driving theory test have gone missing, Ruth Kelly has told MPs.


The personal details of 6,500 customers belonging to a pension firm have been lost at an office of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Cardiff.

When interviewed on Newsnight, Ruth Kelly even managed to mention Victoria Climbie. It’s becoming rather like a contemptible version of Fainites.

Breach revelation du jour

December 14, 2007

Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust, come on down:

The details of up to 3,000 NHS patients could have been on a computer stolen from a doctors’ surgery.

The laptop belonging to the Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Service (DRSS) contained patients’ names, addresses, dates of birth and phone numbers.

…The trust said the computer did not contain any national insurance numbers or medical information, but a link to a picture of patients’ retinas was stored on it.