The following article published in Computer
Weekly gives highlights of Phillip Webb’s views on the Database society
that this Government seems intent on building, and if John Reid gets his way,
using against us.
Mr Webb’s views are almost
simplistic, taken in, hook line and sinker by the Government’s propaganda
He believes, I think naively for a
man who held the position that he did, that all this equipment and legislation,
way, way beyond proportionality in technology terms and cost is just to catch
views are in italics.
Potential security breaches by
police insiders risk undermining public confidence in law-enforcement
surveillance technologies, such as the number plate
recognition system and fingerprint database,
the former head of police IT has warned.
Phillip Webb, who stepped down as chief executive of the Police IT
Organisation (PITO) in March, said that the potential for insiders or
others to misuse information held on police databases could undermine public
support for the technology and the laws that allow its use.
So far, so good, the weakest link is
always the one assumed to be the most trusted.
Speaking on the growth of electronic surveillance at the Government IT Summit,
Webb said that technologies such as automatic number plate recognition systems
and electronic fingerprint records were “marvellous tools” that could
protect society from dangerous people.
What he fails to mention is that these
tools are also the electronic equivalent of paper records, which history has
taught us that when collected in such vast amounts by regimes in the past, they
have only ever been used to suppress the people.
But he said it was essential that information is “applied
correctly, is used correctly and is not misused”.
Good sentiment. Unfortunately, it will
not be the Police who decides how this information is to be applied and used.
It will be politicians, and if our current government is anything to go by, as
Blair has already stated this week, civil liberties are not top of the list.
Webb said he was concerned, in particular, that insiders and others
could misuse the automatic number plate recognition system, which is the
largest Oracle database in Europe. He said, for example,
that it could be used to track the movements of celebrities or politicians.
We the people don’t care about
celebrities and politicians getting preferential treatment, we want guarantees
that NO-ONE will be subject to arbitrary tracking.
The database is able to track a single vehicle's movement over several
months, whether or not the driver is a criminal, he said.
In Policing, the only concern
should be to track down criminals, everyone else should be able to travel and
move freely, without let or hindrance, without police or governmental
interference, the alternative Mr Webb, is a Police State.
Webb also said that the police “would not say no” if given a
chance to cross-check 1.2 million unidentified fingerprints taken by police,
which are stored electronically, with fingerprints that may be collected by the
state as part of the ID cards
scheme. But he said a debate needed to be held over “legally whether
or not we should”.
I bet they wouldn’t say no. There is
no debate on this point to be had, the answer is NO. Trawling is not about
legalities, it is both immoral and repugnant.
I will remind Mr Webb of the words of J. Edgar Hoover on this point who
said: The minute the FBI begins making
recommendations on what should be done with its information, it becomes a
About 20% of males and 12% of females are on the UK's
fingerprint database, including some who do not have criminal records.
Once the ID card scheme is underway
that will increase to 100%. The Government will assume that if you are not on
the database you don’t exist, and if you don’t exist you are a non person. From
there on we are into pure Orwell country.. lets start rounding them up, tramps,
gypsies, hermits etc etc….
The other thing to remember here of course is that those fingerprints belong to me, as does my DNA, my body, shape, form whatever, it all belongs to me. Where is the moral right, the authority, for you to take ownership of what is mine.
There is strong public support for legislation that, for example,
allows police to collect and retain data on individuals to an extent that other
countries do not allow. However, Webb warned that this support might be lost if
this information was misused.
statement is pure Cuckoo Land. There
is not strong public support, we have never been asked. (and Tony Blair's carefully selected Citizens Panels most definitely do not count as being representative).
This entire programme is being imposed
by Government, any dissent is put down as being conspiratorial, and any criticism
or attempt to debate is ignored. There is strong public support for the
view that people are innocent until proven guilty, and at worst only the guilty
should be on any databases.
There had been a lack of enthusiasm from the public for engaging in a
debate over the expanding use of surveillance technologies, he said.
How dare you. The Government
propaganda machine has ensured that the public have effectively been kept in the dark, and withheld
the knowledge and extent of these systems from the public. We want and
crave the debate, but our calls for such debates are refused and ignored. 2 million people signed a No.10 Petition to say they did not want road charging and car surveillance. That can hardly be called a lack of enthusiasm for public engagement, its just been ignored.
See the NO2ID
website, and an overwhelming mass of media and blog articles to see just how passionately those
calls have been made, how we are looking for the debate, but are flatly ignored.
“They probably will engage when something dreadful goes wrong,
but that is probably going to be too late. If we lose the trust of the public,
getting that trust back will be extremely difficult.
Its already gone wrong, and its
getting worse by the day. The trust has already gone. There is NO trust in
Government, no trust in ministers, and no trust any more in the senior echelons
of the Police service.
We have seen over the past 10 years the creep that this technology has had in society. Introduce a little, wait for public tolerance, then add a little more, and the creep goes on. The hope of course is that the public wont engage until its too late.
“We must be confident in the legislation which actually sets up
the use of that information and the controls in place to prevent its being
misused,” Webb said.
created by this Government to date is repugnant. On a daily basis we see
safeguards being watered down, attempts to remove our right to know, duck out
of the Human Rights Act, impose more and more authoritarian and draconian laws,
even when senior policement say they don’t want any more laws. There is no
confidence, and the controls are disappearing every day.
I don’t know which planet Phillip Webb has been
sitting on for the past 10 years, but it doesn't appear to be the same one that most of us are sitting on anyway.
I wonder if Mr Webb can think back in time, reminisce, and remember his childhood, then growing up as a teenager, the games they played, the stunts he and his chums pulled, the high jinks and tomfoolery.
What kind of person would he think he would be today if those growth years had been taken away and stifled, where virtually everything he did was potentially a criminal act, from playing tag in the playground, hopscotch on the pavement, to accidentally dropping a packet of Smiths crisps while he tried to get the salt out of the blue bag under a camera with speakers, would he have grown up with the same views and enthusiasm for these databases.
Unless Policing is done by consent, with understanding, common sense and compassion, the alternatives don't bear thinking about. Technology can be good, too much technology is not. To use limited technology responsibly to catch crooks can be good, but blanket coverage is a seriously dangerous thing.
Without the clear checks and balances, the most stringent of safeguards and a very stable moderate government, to the man in the street, all these 'toys' become very dangerous weapons in the hands of the state. We don't feel protected, we feel threatened.
I hope Mr Webb can sleep soundly knowing that he has been partly responsible for the creation of a monster that will change the people of this nation forever, a change that his own children and grandchildren will also have to live with.
Keep an eye on those crisps.
NuLab – Destroying Britain
from the inside out.