Barcode Nation

Keeping two eyes on the database state


Reasons For ID Cards Not Made Clear

The identity minister Meg Hillier has admitted that the government did not make its reasons for identity cards “clear enough”.

In a Westminster Hall debate, the Labour MP Mark Todd accused the government of not making a “promising start” and said the public’s trust must be won for identity cards to work.

He said: “The intellect workshops that were held two years ago when the genesis of the project was established made it absolutely clear that, for the project to work, clear uses and benefits must be explained to the public and a high level of trust won.

“As I said, we have not made a desperately promising start. Tentative attempts to sell the idea have provoked ridicule in some cases. The brief appearance of the website, which was aimed at young people, became a predictable target for opponents.” He added that selling the project to its potential customers would be “tough and expensive”.

Passport Service hires Alan Gilmour to market ID cards

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has appointed former Lloyds TSB marketer Alan Gilmour to the new position of director of marketing and customer insight. He will head a high-profile drive backing its identity card scheme.

Held As A Terrorist: Man Accused Of Photographing A Sewer Cover!

Not a joke.

Hat-tip to Home Office Watch from the Liberal Democrats.

Convention On Modern Liberty – The Reaction – Part 2

Black Mental Health UK focuses on the human rights concerns over new community treatment orders.

Former shadow health minister, Tim Lawton slammed CTO’s as psychiatric asbo’s, which will make thousands of people prisoners in their own homes. Health experts working in the community fear that in a risk-adverse climate the danger that clinicians will use the powers too readily present the very real risk of sweeping people into compulsion and restriction when it is neither useful nor appropriate.

While this new law is now over five months old, there are many who are not aware of the changes or what the consequences will be for their lives.

Tom Griffin writes on OpenDemocracy about the afternoon session entitled Liberty, Sovereignty and Republicanism: Can the Leveller Tradition Be Revived In The 21st Century?

The audience were not to be disappointed, with what proved to be a lively and rigorous debate about Britain’s republican past and its relevance today.

There were shades of David Davis as historian Quentin Skinner explained the role of Magna Carta in seventeenth century debates about liberty.

Martin Bright of The Spectator couldn’t make it along, but had this to say:

I think this is an important development on the political landscape and I salute the organisers. I have been impressed by the energy of Henry Porter in getting this onto the agenda and the coalition is an interesting one.

“But I am equally interested in the sceptical voices. An early note of caution was sounded by Paul Evans on the Liberal Conspiracy website. Paul argued that ” we need to collectively hold our noses and get involved in local political parties again instead of lifestyle politics and single-issue pressure groups that sit on soft end of the direct-democracy continuum.”

“The worry is that this could turn out to be a massive act of masochism. One almighty, self-satisfied, complacent and ultimately fruitless national moan.”

Firm Sold Workers’ Confidential Data

A Worcestershire firm has been shut down by the Information Commission after investigations revealed they sold workers’ confidential data to over 40 firms.

The data, including workers’ political affiliations, trade union activities and employment history, was mostly bought by construction companies such as Taylor Woodrow, Laing O’Rourke and Balfour Beatty, according to BBC News.

This shocking revelation is totally unlawful and has the potential to lead to bad safety practices, by preventing those with a previous record for challenging health & safety from obtaining new employment. On a construction site, this could have grave consequences.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of building workers union Ucatt, said: “Take one of the issues that we have in the construction industry: we have just under two people killed every week through bad health and safety practices and if a whistleblower then raises these issues, then obviously he has found his name on this list.

“He has never had the chance to challenge it.

“He has never been able to turn around and say, ‘You are classing me as lazy. How can that be?’”

Yet again our data has been shared without our consent, bought and sold like tins of beans on a supermarket shelf. Barcode Nation challenges the government to commission an immediate far-reaching investigation to see just how far this practice goes. Is it as commonplace in other industries?

CIA Destroyed Terror Interrogation Tapes

News has emerged that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has destroyed 92 tapes of interviews conducted with terror suspects. This despite previously claiming that only 2 tapes had been destroyed.

According to BBC News, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has launched a lawsuit against the CIA to seek details of the interrogations of terror suspects. Techniques involved are understood to have included water-boarding, which the Obama administration says is torture.

Liverpool To Resist ID Cards?

Following Saturday’s call to arms that was the Convention on Modern Liberty, the question has been asked, “What next?”

Well in Liverpool, a Lib Dem Councillor has taken matters into his own hands. Tonight Cllr Colin Eldridge is putting a motion to the full Council meeting outlining opposition to the scheme.

“Liverpool City Council reiterates its opposition to ID cards for Liverpool residents and reasserts its opinion that the investment in ID cards should instead be invested in more police on the beat,” states the motion.

We’ll let you know whether the motion is carried.

Convention on Modern Liberty – The Reaction – Part 1

The Register made it along to the more tech-focused Cambridge event:

If the panel sessions were largely about people agreeing strenuously with one another, the afternoon debate (in Cambridge), between Government Minister Bill Rammell, MP and David Howarth, MP summarised in one short exchange what the real issue is. Both speakers agreed that the other side “just don’t get it”.

At the end of the day, did all the sound and fury signify anything much? From the Lib Dems, it elicited a commitment to a wide-ranging repeal Bill: it helped bind the Tories into what is a growing backlash against ten years of New Labour, increasing the likelihood that they, too, may end up repealing large chunks of what Labour have enacted.

But for the government, it probably made very little difference. After all, these were just white middle-class people speaking a language they no longer understand.

Daily Mail columnist Suzanne Moore has an interesting take on the increasing awareness of liberty:

It’s the little things, always the little things, that get you in the end. For me, it was having to be police checked to take my child on a school trip to our local High Street. Sure, I realise that for quite some time the usual suspects have been banging away about erosion of our civil liberties, but it’s easy to turn a blind eye when you are not being actually arrested.

This weekend, all over the country, The Convention on Modern Liberty organised a series of events to discuss these issues. Have we left it too late? I think not. Now is the right time to put our feet down. Why, for instance, must I be made to think of myself as a potential paedophile, rather than a parent?

Liberty does not belong to any particular party. The Convention on Modern Liberty brings together Left and Right in a powerful coalition. Something that has been fairly abstract in people’s minds is being made real. And part of that is surely connected to the economic downturn.

Every day it becomes more clear that where this Government, and indeed the one before it, should have regulated our monstrous financial institutions, they didn’t.

They gave them freedom. The free market, remember, would save our souls and supposedly our public services. Now it all looks crazy because instead they over-regulated everywhere else. We cannot know the data kept on our own children. Surveillance is hard-wired into every aspect of our lives.

All this is done because we need protecting, not only from terrorists and criminals, but from ourselves. The truth is, though, no one feels more secure, they just feel their liberties shut down bit by bit. As Joni Mitchell sang all those years ago: ‘Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’

The Secrets Under The Streets Of London

Ever get that feeling you’re being watched?

Well if you live in, work in or pass through central London, you probably are. The Tube is not the only thing lurking underneath our capital’s streets, as this Guardian article and video reveals.

Westminster’s CCTV control room contains 48 screens with feeds from 160 fixed cameras and numerous more mobile units. Operators also receive alerts from police and “red cap” street guides allowing them to tune in to specific incidents.

On separate screens a mother walked a pushchair in Belgravia, a chef emerged from a Chinatown basement clutching bin liners and a cyclist tapped the window of a Burger King restaurant.

What’s also interesting is the centre is seen as a world best practice, with over 6,000 officials from over 30 countries visiting the £1.25m centre since its opening seven years ago.

Britain truly is a barcode nation.


Did you think it was just humans that had to worry about DNA evidence? Now thanks to one start-up from across the pond, your dogs might be getting nervous too.

BioPet, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, is marketing a range of pet-related products which use DNA technology, led by their PooPrints system. The system collects saliva swabs from every dog in a participating area and registers the DNA in a central database. Sound familiar?

When residents find dog droppings, they mail them to BioPet. Technicians then match the DNA to reveal the offending owner. BioPet make $30 for every pet enrolled and $50 for every test.

Quite how this system will be policed by the apartment owners and town administrators that it’s being aimed at is an interesting question!

Other products in the BioPet line-up include a proof of parentage test; a genetic ID kit, which lets owners register a pet DNA sample for proof of ownership; and a breed identification test that reveals every single breed in your mutt’s family tree.