Maybe centralised databases are not as snoop-proof as politicians would like us to believe

12th August, 2009


Ever since the National Identity Scheme was first suggested by politicians, we’ve been told that “those who have nothing to hide have have nothing to fear”. Of course, anybody with even a passing acquaintance with human nature and the not-unconnected tendency amongst people to abuse positions of power could tell you that this was clearly rubbish. As has just been demonstrated.

Computer Weekly reported last week that nine council workers had been sacked for illegally accessing data held in the Customer Information System database which is operated by the Department of Work and Pensions. The sacked workers were found to be accessing the personal details of celebrities which, with the best will in the world, cannot really be seen to constitute vital local government work.

The nine, however, were not alone; altogether 34 people were found to have illegally dipped their snouts into the supposedly-secure data trough. They were, it is reported, variously reprimanded, sacked, or resigned. None were prosecuted, however, which rather puts the lie to the government’s claim that harsh penalties await anyone who betrays the trust of their access-enabled position.

Clearly, then, the notion that we, as a populace, have nothing to fear from a centralised government database of all our personal information unless we have committed a crime, is a puerile fiction. Similarly, the idea that our records will only be viewed by noble, honourable civil servants of the highest ethical standing, and then only in the pursuit of Freedom, Justice, and Good Government is, frankly, just so much arse. According to the same article over 200,000 government officials have access to the database. Apparently, far from being protected by the most stringent penalties, our data is up for grabs to anybody amongst them who feels bored on a slow Wednesday afternoon.

And if you appeared recently in Heat magazine, well, god help you.

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