A Coalition for Consent?

At some point in the next few hours, we’re likely to find out the shape of the next government. I deliberately avoided commenting on my political preferences in the run-up to the election, preferring to remain neutral. However, now that the votes are in, from a privacy, identity and consent perspective I’m hoping hard to see a Con-Lib alliance.

Purely taking these issues into account, the Liberal Democrats have a very attractive manifesto indeed. Whilst similar to the Conservatives in these areas, they have promised to go so far as scrapping biometric passports, which is an area on which the Tories have been mute. The two parties can coalesce around many sensible policies that include scrapping the National Identity Register and Contactpoint, enhancing or replacing current privacy and libel laws, protecting freedom of speech, and putting an end to the past 13 years’ relentless and ruthless accumulation of personal information.

Not that ending these projects will be the end of the issues: anyone who thinks that the UK can live without some form of population-scale authentication system – ideally not one provided by the State – is ignoring the realities of the Internet age. I fervently hope that a Con-Lib government would bring common sense coupled with a degree of humility and introspection, qualities that can only help to enhance the government’s attitudes towards privacy and consent.

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Hi, I read this, and must comment. I suspect you know very little about ContactPoint, as if you did, you would realise that it is purely 'common sense' to enable people who work to protect children being able to contact each other quickly. Social workers can spend months trying to get information on an abused child, as they tend to be in families that skip between boroughs. I work on ContactPoint and with Social workers. Not one social worker has thought that ContactPoint is anything other than a highly useful tool. It can save hours, days, weeks or even months of work. No case notes are held, so it is purely a glorified telephone directory. If you would like information on ContactPoint, then talk to someone who actually uses it, or talk to me. I run it for my authority! The argument that it holds children who are not in care is moot. It has less information on these children then a gym membership. Who regulates those databases, especially the national gym networks? It is pure propaganda, and scrapping it will continue to put childrens lives at risk, and no amount of ill informed personal opinion is worth that. You, along with many other people, hear 'National Database' and imediately assume it is a bad thing. While the national identity register is open for debate - I am not sure that I agree with that - a tool for protecting children, that is proven to work, should not be scrapped because someone wants to keep their life behind closed doors. With respect, do you not think many abusers are quite eager to keep their details private? Scrapping ContactPoint will help them to do that. It is used only by people who need it to do their job, and highly vulnerable children are 'shielded' on it. Add to that it is monitored permanently, and misuse is heavily penalised. I doubt you are a social worker, or someone who deals with at risk children. The people who use it are positive about it.
Martin, contrary to your assertion I do actually know something about Contact Point, and I totally agree with the principle of allowing child protection workers to communicate easily. That's what came out of Bichard. But doing it through a massive, centralised, disproportionate system that has hundreds of thousands of highly distributed and relatively unregulated users, and then filling that database with the details of every child, is a ridiculous concept that embodies the control-centric idiocy of New Labour's attitudes towards civil liberties. Treating every child as a potential victim of abuse is not the way to do it. Furthermore, the 'think of the children' approach to justifying the nanny state is tired, weak and futile. It's time that local authorities grow up a little and recognise that the desired outcome of child protection - which we all share - can be achieved without building databases. We need a distributed, federated approach to interconnectivity that obeys the laws of identity and retains no more information about any child than is necessary. If a child has not come to the attention of the authorities, then they shouldn't exist in that database at all. If ContactPoint is simply a glorified telephone directory, please could you post your home phone number up here for us all to see? Or would you prefer not to? Because a database with that many users might just as well be opened up for public view. You claim I know little about ContactPoint? Please tell us all how much you know about information security.