Daily Archives: 2010-06-04

A very rapid betrayal

The coalition Government plans to keep the Summary Care Record, despite pre-election pledges by both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to rip up the system – which is not compliant with the I v Finland judgement of the European Court of Human Rights.

Last year colleagues and I wrote Database State, a report for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, which studied 46 systems that keep information on all of us, or at least a significant minority of us. We concluded that eleven of them were almost certainly illegal under human-rights law, and most of the rest had problems. Our report was well received by both Conservatives and Lib Dems; many of its recommendations were adopted as policy.

Old-timers may recall that back in 1996-7, many of us geeks supported New Labour enthusiastically, as Blair promised not to introduce key escrow. It took him almost a year to renege on that promise; it has taken the coalition less than a month.

Blair’s U-turn on key escrow in 1998 led to the establishment of FIPR, and a two-year fight against what became the RIP Act (where at least we limited escrow to the powers in part 3). What’s the appropriate response now to Cameron and Clegg?

It’s inconceivable that assurances given to farmers, or to soldiers, or to teachers would be tossed aside so casually. Yet half a million of us earn our living in IT in Britain – there’s a lot more of us than of any of them! And many people in other jobs care about privacy, copyright, and other digital issues. So do those of us who care about digital policy have to become more militant? Or do we have to raise money and bribe the ruling parties? Or, now that all three major parties are compromised, should we downgrade our hopes for parliament and operate through the courts and through Europe instead?