30 August, 2010

The State and your private life

CIS is the Customer Information System of the Department for Work and Pensions. Notice how we are customers now. They used to be civil servants.

CIS is the largest database in Europe, with 90 million records (snooping is one of the few things we’re really good at). It has details on every man, woman and child in the UK.

Now Computer Weekly Magazine reports that ‘Some 225 government staff are now known to have abused their right to access CIS in their job. Workers at numerous local authorities and courts have been disciplined for looking up the personal details of people - usually celebrities or acquaintances - when they had no business justification for doing so.’

Of course, if 225 people have been caught, it will be a lot more than that who are guilty of a bit of private snooping.

Notwithstanding the fact that the system is full of holes and that they have failed in their duty of care to safeguard the public’s right to privacy, the Department is going to inject this data into a new scheme called Employee Authentication Services, to make it available to lots of other snoopers, professional and amateur.

The British State cannot be trusted with personal data and we are going to have to find a way of stopping them keeping it on file.

If you are a footballer, by contrast, life is easier. Three superinjunctions have been issued to protect details of their private lives emerging in the press, even though these people are public figures, earning money for endorsing products and letting 'Hello!' magazine photograph their summer holidays. I say three but it might be more than that since with a superinjunction you are not even supposed to know that it is in existence, much less whom it refers to.

The superinjunction was invented by Mr Justice Eady who might have been better employed ensuring that there isn't one law for the rich and one for the poor.

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