Friday, May 14, 2010

Message from No2ID

Before we get all weepy about the Labour defeat it's worth remembering that not everything they got up to was bona fide. No, there was the odd occasion when solid lefties were apprehensive about their behaviour. A murder here, a child detention there - you know the sort of thing.

Earlier today I received a message from the campaign group No2ID which rightly celebrates the culmination of years of campaigning on their part.

Dear supporter,

After six hard years of campaigning, the publication of the Conservative &
Liberal Democrats coalition agreement [1] is a moment to pause and celebrate
what we have achieved so far. NO2ID's success is a tribute to each and every
person who has fought to change the hearts and minds of their friends,
family and colleagues, local and national media, politicians, parties and
government - and to everyone who has given so generously in money to allow
us to run an office, send mailings, and produce briefings and leaflets.

Guy Herbert, our General Secretary, and I would like to express our deepest
gratitude for everyone's continued support and hard work, particularly the
dozens who have volunteered in some way to keep all the invisible parts of a
national campaign running. But I'm afraid we cannot afford to be complacent:
NO2ID's work is far from done.

The database state has insinuated itself into far too many aspects of our
everyday lives for it to simply wither and die, even were some of its more
visible tendrils to be lopped off or pruned back. Even during the election,
despite the parties now in government being skeptical about it, Connecting
for Health was pushing forward with its vast plan [2] to nationalise and
centralise all medical records in England.

The new government's commitment to "a full programme of measures to reverse
the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and
roll back state intrusion" is reason to be cautiously optimistic. But the
promised repeals and reforms MUST be worked out in detail, if they are to
have the necessary effect. Pressure MUST be maintained for them to be
enacted... and properly enforced.

Don't imagine for a moment that Whitehall will give up its pet projects,
empires or agendas without a fight - battles for which we know it has been
preparing for years. Nor should we expect the political, commercial and
media proponents of database state initiatives to stand quietly by. The
official obsession with identity and information-sharing, the very idea that
"personal information is the lifeblood of government" still remains.

Stopping the database state is not just a matter of scrapping a few
high-profile databases - as welcome as this will be. It means changing the
culture of showing "ID" at every turn [3], embedding proper protections in
law, in institutions and technology, and achieving real control over our own
information. The nature of the campaign, too, may change, as it becomes even
more a matter of education and forming public policy and less of organising
direct resistance.

The new government says it will take the first steps towards protecting our
privacy and autonomy, and needs to be held to that. Rolling back the
database state will involve further long and difficult battles, but what we
have proved is that - working together - this is a war that very definitely
CAN be won.

Phil Booth, National Coordinator, NO2ID

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