Monday, October 03, 2005

If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear

It is sometimes claimed, by proponents of such schemes as the Identity Cards Bill, that "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear".

Even honest and law-abiding citizens have something to be concerned about because there will always be system failures, dishonest individuals, and dishonest authorities. When a bill such as the Identity Cards Bill is discussed, it is vital not only that we look at how it will benefit the individual and the state, but also how it will fail the individual and the state and the consequences of failure.

Here are a few examples of abuses of personal data by dishonest employees of the state working for personal gain and those in authority who abuse their powers, perhaps with the best of intentions but abuse nonetheless:

'Failing to collect, retain and pass on material to others to protect children and other vulnerable people is a misconduct issue as much as the misuse of PNC data which has been a consistent problem during the last 20 years - and still poses a challenge today for the new IPCC. The types of cases in which abuse occur include using the PNC to gain evidence for civil proceedings, to find evidence about a partner's estranged husband, or to check out a daughter's latest boyfriend. There is also the perennial problem of data being sold to private detectives'


'A police officer has been jailed for two-and-a-half years for accepting money to pass on information to a Saudi Arabian intelligence officer. '


'Staff at the Inland Revenue are breaching the Data Protection Act by gaining unauthorised access to the computer records of taxpayers, including celebrities, and in some cases selling information. '


'A major security alert began at an east London police station when two workers used its criminal database to check up on their boyfriends, a court heard. '


'Jack and Zena ended up in Grimsby, where someone at the DSS leaked their whereabouts; three men turned up at the office claiming to be Zena's brothers and demanding to know her address.'


'Two private investigators, John Boyall and Stephen Whittamore, civilian police worker Paul Marshall, and retired police officer Alan King, were involved in a conspiracy to sell details relating to actor Ricky Tomlinson, London Mayor Ken Livingstone and EastEnders actress Jessie Wallace. 'According to reports, on 19 occasions, Marshall, who worked at Wandsworth Police Station, carried out unauthorised Police National Computer searches and passed the information on through intermediaries King and sometimes Boyall, to Whittamore, who peddled the data to the newspapers.'


Sections 6.2 and 6.3 (starts on page 4) of a Dr Gladman's thoughts on the UK's proposals may also be of interest:



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