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UK = Database State – but you have nothing to fear… (providing it’s not Friday afternoon, and we want to go home early..)


Western democracies are now fully fledged “Surveillance Societies”, to use the words of a recent report for the UK’s Information Commissioner, a description endorsed by 79% of British Adults in a poll of November 2006.

O’Hara et al (2008) defines “surveillance” as … “attention to information about people that is purposeful, routine, systematic, and focused, and in surveillance societies is used for Control, Entitlement, Management, Influence and Protection.”

What are the risks?

Information can be misused, and governments can make mistakes, (oh, surely not), I hear you cry.  The government has been even known to lose the odd laptop or two, or CD containing a database of  25 million UK citizens, but what’s not to love about such ineptitude and adorable incompetence.

As the Authors state:

Attempts to complain about… intrusion are standardly met by the stunningly false reply that “if you keep within the law, you have nothing to fear”.

A response that would be correct, but somewhat less persuasive, would be:

“If you keep within the law, and the Government keeps within the law, and it’s employees keep within the law, and the computer holding the database doesn’t screw up, and the system is carefully designed according to well understood software engineering principles and maintained properly, and the government doesn’t scrimp on the outlay, and all the data are entered carefully, and the police are adequately trained to use the system, and the system isn’t hacked, and your identify isn’t stolen, and the local hardware functions well, you have nothing to fear.”

ps can we add… and if the govt doesn’t send the CD through the internal mail, without encryption, and the internal mail system fails to deliver the entire database of 25 million records, including address, childrens names and bank accounts, on a Friday, because it’s faster than sending it by Royal Mail, and I get to go home an hour early.

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