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Has the coalition government adopted the database state?
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"Up to now NO2ID has had reason to be pleased with the new government. It may not have moved as certainly or as far as we would like on mass surveillance projects, but it has shown willing, quickly cutting back the ID scheme and cancelling ContactPoint. But this week’s pre-announcement of the idea of using credit-reference agencies to detect benefit fraud is a sign that the ideas of “Transformational Government” have not vanished from Whitehall alongside the terminology.

No-one wants to promote fraud. But that does not mean anything claimed to be an anti-fraud measure is worth its other consequences. The details of the scheme are very sketchy so far, but NO2ID will be taking a very close interest in the costs to privacy as well as the cost-effectiveness of any mass data-sharing that it involves. Fishing expeditions to turn up suspects are a very different matter from targeted investigations. ‘Computer says no,’ would be a weird way to run a welfare system.

We need to be alert to how information about individuals is used. It must be limited to one purpose, not passed on in detail to government departments where there will be a temptation to find other uses. Nor must the contractors be rewarded without responsibility. They should be subject to the same data-protection spot-checks as would DWP doing the same work for itself. And if they are to be paid a bounty for catching fraudsters, then we should also ask about compensation for intrusions and erroneous accusations against honest people.

Turning to databases and information-sharing as a magic answer to intractable old problems was a bad habit of the previous administration. If the Cameron government takes up that habit, then NO2ID will fight it every step of the way."

Source: NO2ID Supporters’ Newsletter No. 155 – 12th August 2010

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