Monday, March 23, 2009

It's All In The Billion Pounds Dodgy Databases

More than £100 billion is set to be wasted on scary dodgy databases over the next five years, with a quarter of them illegal, while the government admits it hasn't a clue just how many are 'all in the database'. 

In a stark warning of minister's obsession with a surveillance society, a scathing report claims a quarter of all the databases are illegal and should be scrapped. 

Dissing the report and burying his head in the sands of smug arrogance, justice minister, Michael Wills, rejected the report, saying although it will be examined, it is a headline with no argument behind it. "What the report doesn’t do is show the advantages of these databases," he added.

And therein lies the problem for those concerned about this Big Brother intrusion from both big government and big organisations. Over the last decade the government has spawned a devil's child of databases to control our lives. 

Calls to scrap those databases only scratch the surface. The databases are an end result. What needs to change is the cultural obsession with collecting and collating information about people. 

Massive IT projects are big business. In an effort to  control our lives, a massive magic bullet of Big Brother databases sprang up without any checks or any nod to privacy, just waiting to be lost or stolen

Now the UK has become the "most invasive surveillance state and the worst at protecting privacy, of any Western democracy", according to the report from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.  

As officials "struggle to control billions of records of our most personal details', more than £16 billion a year is spent on public sector IT and another £105 billion will be spent over the next five years but less than a third of such projects ever succeed.

It's said there are thousands of databases operating and the government does not even know the precise number. 

At the heart is an ominous warning about the relationship between the individual and the state over the last decade with a government hell bent on control. 

A decade of arrogance of an elected government which believes it is the state rather than just a wheel in its cog. 

Taxpayers' vote in a government which then forces people to stump up billion of pounds on big government databases which are used - to spy on the very taxpayers and families who forked out the cash in the first place. 

The study reviewed 46 flagship databases and gave just a handful the green light. 

Singled out for stinging criticism are 11 particularly bad eggs,  including the DNA database, the National Identity Register which will store personal information linked to ID cards, the children's ContactPoint national index of all children in England and the NHS Detailed Care Record.

Another 29 databases were on dodgy dubious grounds, meaning they have "significant problems and may be unlawful".

And the report warns personal data is readily shared between public bodies or to help snoop on the public with virtually no control.

Phil Booth, National Coordinator of NO2ID campaign puts it well: "Government now sees collecting and collating information about the people as a primary function: snooping is the first resort. To stop the database state, the surveillance reflex must be changed."

BBC News is not alone in flagging up the report and appalling obsession with government databases. But that's the same BBC which scares the pants off everyone, with a series of chilling licence adverts warning "It's all in the database".

Nothing will change until ministers wake up and realise distasteful databases demolish what little trust there is left in government and the public becomes increasingly fed up and angry at the way databases are harnessed by government to snoop on people and stigmatise them.

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