God Given v. State Dictated Information Governance

In ancient Sumeria, birthplace of writing and coinage, all property belonged to God and commercial transactions were determined by laws which applied to rulers as well as their subjects, to whom they were accountable. Ancient Egypt was different, as is modern Britain.

In ancient Egypt everything and everyone belonged to the living God: the Pharoah. The post Armstrong Civil Service has similarly reinvented the previously dormant and dying concepts of Crown Immunity and the Royal Prerogative and we have a proliferation of statutory, self- and co- regulators whose accountability is as transparent as that of a medieval guild.

In my blog on “Death by Data Protection” I traced the routines used by the private sector for secure on-line transactions back to the Knights Templar. Over Christmas a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Scrivenors, which quietly controls the heart of the Occidental “trust” market, pointed out that the core routines go back 5,000 years, not 1,000.

Those routines have developed and grown in spite of the state, not because of it: with the periodic destruction of those over-mighty rulers (from the Kings of Accadia to the Dukes of Burgundy) who licensed their servants to butcher and pillage the wealth creators and traders on whom their wealth depended.

Over the past twenty years those routines have transitioned to the digital world, as have those of the equally venerable “trust” routines of India and Asia – despite attempts by governments around the world, and most especially in the west, to “regulate” the process. Indeed it could be said that all that the Western Governments have achieved is to drive business to those markets where it is regulated by the laws more akin to those given by God to our ancestors (including Protestant Common Law and Islamic Sharia) than those dictated by Caesar, Napoleon or the bureaucrat of the day.

What triggered this rant?

I have just been told of yet another attempt by Brussels to interfere in the processes of global trust management in order to supposedly preserve privacy in the face of attempts by US and UK government agencies to electronically monitor anything that moves. In fact I have more faith in the governance processes of some of those agencies that most of their civilian counterparts.

We must move away from the current dialogues of the blind and deaf, which benefit only terrorists, criminals, compliance officers and technology salesmen. We need to bring together those who really do want to preserve a wealth creating, democratically accountable and socially inclusive Information Society and reset the agenda – so as to better identify and reward those who have earned our trust and punish those who have abused it.

Last week the Ethical and Spiritual panel of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists held its 50th meeting. I have probably attended about half. I believe we have a moral as well as a professional duty to our skills to harness five thousand years of experience in fighting oppression, incompetence, corruption and crime, at the same time as tackling the “terrorist/fundamentalist” threats of the day: tribal, nationalist, religious, political or personality cult.

We should also remember that over the past decade the financial services players based in the City of London have lost more dead and injured civilians to terrorist activity than the rest of the UK. Like the Corporate Head of Security, who thought and planned ahead for that which his Government said was unthinkable, and then got all his company’s staff out on 9/11 before dying while doing a last check, we should have little or no patience with those who are still playing tick box and blame avoidance games.