Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 29 November 2007

What we think

Mass scrutiny needed to protect our rights and privacy

"A MASS movement is needed to tackle the state's snoopers" read a headline in the Observer newspaper. The author was talking about a movement like the Countryside Alliance, but nevertheless, the sense of alarm in this headline is necessary. It was prompted by the disclosure of two lost discs holding the personal information of 25 million child benefit recipients. They were being sent from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Tyne and Wear to the National Audit Office (NAO) in London, using private couriers.

Unbelievably the discs were not even sent using recorded or registered delivery. It was also revealed from leaked emails that in order to save money, information that had not been asked for, such as bank account details, was not filtered out. The personal information of 25 million people is still missing and meek words from the government that no-one need worry because they believe 'the discs are still on government property' are no consolation.

This fiasco has exposed the effect of civil service cuts. The government tried to blame an individual worker, but this security breach was due to cuts (see article below) and government disregard for the privacy of ordinary people. No HMRC worker should be scapegoated.

This scandal has also raised the lid on how New Labour is obsessed with holding as much personal detail on people as possible and controlling that information through centralised database systems. They are unable to reassure people on how information is gathered, who is responsible for the databases, who has access to them and how they are secured.

The government claims it is more cost-effective to hold data in this way and that it frees staff working in public services to concentrate on the front line.

This is the so-called rationale behind the national NHS database which has cost millions of pounds so far and will eventually contain the personal details of 50 million people. Currently there are 300,000 people who are eligible to access it! GPs in Bolton, where the first use of the database is in operation, are up in arms and two thirds of them have said they do not want all hospital staff to have the full details of their patients.

Confidentiality at risk

This largescale access to, and less secure way of storing personal health details could be very serious if computers are hacked into or information is leaked, particularly because of the discrimination in our society for those with mental health problems, HIV and other illnesses. Lives could be wrecked if confidentiality is breached.

Losing the child benefit discs has rightly raised a furore about ID cards. The scheme will cost anything between 5.6 billion and 12 billion to implement. By 2010 all UK passport applicants will be issued with biometric ID cards, at an estimated cost of 300 per applicant! The government tells us they will help in the fight against terrorism. But ID cards in Spain did not prevent the Madrid bombings. In Northern Ireland there were checkpoints and security ID checks for 30 years yet these measures did not stop the IRA's campaign; they only further alienated the catholic population.

And questions are now being raised about who will control and secure the database that will support the ID card scheme. It appears that a private company will be used, which effectively means this government will be privatising our privacy. Who will hold the private business to account, control how the data is used and who sees it?

It is not just left organisations that are ringing alarm bells. Dame Shirley Williams has called for a revolt on the issue of ID cards and said people are "entitled to refuse their co-operation, using non-violent means".

However, our personal details being centrally collected and stored by an inefficient cost-cutting and privatising government that cannot be trusted is an essential issue for the trade unions and working-class movement.

Issues of identity fraud, stealing from bank accounts and privacy affect us all. There have been 14 lapses in major government IT projects in the last two years.

Under capitalism, these centralised IT database systems are mainly about saving money and they give the state more power to control us and interfere in our private lives. We are already the most monitored population in western Europe, through the use of CCTV and other surveillance. In the New Year the home office will by statutory instrument, ie not through parliament, make a new law that will give the police and security services access to all details of travel within the UK (Observer 25.11.07).

There is also the issue of snooping on trade union and socialist activists. Past surveillance of the left has been well documented. ID cards and other information about people can be used by the state against those they deem a threat or nuisance due to trade union or campaigning activity.

A mass campaign against attacks on our democratic rights is necessary, led by trade unions and working-class communities. New Labour's plan for ID cards and their entire onslaught on democratic rights and civil liberties must be stopped. The government and its big business allies cannot be trusted with our personal data. Mass scrutiny is needed of their database procedures.

Through trade unions, community organisations, civil rights campaigns and other grassroots bodies, ordinary people need democratic control over the workings of the state, to safeguard the interests of us all.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 29 November 2007:

Northern Rock scandal: Nationalise the banks!

Environment and socialism

Stop the ruin of our planet

What we think

Mass scrutiny needed to protect our rights and privacy

Data loss - no surprise to HMRC staff

Socialist Party NHS campaign

NHS - new 'surplus' but problems continue

Demo shows support for victimised nurse

Socialist Party news and analysis

QinetiQ sell-off

In brief: Who safeguards safety?

Socialist Students

Fight to save the NUS!

Students protest at Griffin and Irving

Exeter students gain anti-fascist victory

Kick the BNP out of Northumbria

Nigerian students detained

Defend students from victimisation

Che Guevara meetings

International socialist news and analysis

Brazil: An explosive brew in land of contrasts

Australia: Howard disappears under a Labor party landslide

France: Transport strikes suspended

Scotland: Solidarity conference

Marxist analysis: history

Preparing a revolution and its party

Workplace news and analysis

Communication Workers Union ballot

Teachers need a fighting union leadership

Construction bosses found guilty

In brief


Home   |   The Socialist 29 November 2007   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


trianglePrying Conservatives demand yet more powers to invade our privacy

triangleHuddersfield and Halifax Socialist Party: Privacy and the surveillance state

triangleCon-Dems and Labour fast-track 'snoopers charter'

triangleCrackdown on democratic rights


triangleCoordinated action needed to break pay restraint

HM Revenue and Customs:

triangleArgos fails to pay staff minimum wage - taxman cuts fine in half!

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



The end of the Tories?



Nasty party out the Tories


Black history

The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against capitalist austerity



Housing crisis: Corbyn's positive measures blanked by Labour's right


Universal Credit

Major attacks 'Universal Credit', half a million more face poverty


Them & Us

Them & Us



NHS meltdown - fight the Tory cuts



IMF helps cause inequality it slams



Tories wreck our NHS



Monarch abdicates responsibility to workers



Capitalism and human progress



Bending the knee v Trump



The Tories must be driven out



Labour Party conference: Action against establishment sabotage still needed



Anti-austerity opposition needed to seize on Tories' weakness

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle17 Oct London: TUC lobby & rally; and London march

triangle18 Oct Warrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

triangle18 Oct Hackney Socialist Party: 100 years ago - the Bolshevik-led revolution

triangle18 Oct Tower Hamlets Socialist Party: Capitalism in Crisis - is Corbyn the answer?

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice