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UK Government To Back Off Plans To Share Private Data 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the oh-that-bothers-you-sorry dept.
Richard Rothwell writes with news that Jack Straw, Britain's Justice Secretary, has made public plans to drop provisions from the Coroners and Justice Bill which would have allowed the government to take information gathered for one purpose and use it for any other purpose. "A spokesman for Mr Straw said the 'strength of feeling' against the plans had persuaded him to rethink. The proposals will be dropped entirely from the Coroners and Justice Bill, and a new attempt will be made to reach a consensus on introducing a scaled-back version at an unspecified stage in the future." After defending the government's intentions, Straw bowed to pressure from a variety of groups and individuals who presented objections to the bill.
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UK Government To Back Off Plans To Share Private Data

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  • Orwell's 1984 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Samschnooks (1415697)
    Out of curiosity, is Orwell's "1984" being used as a policy guide in the UK by her politicians?
    • Re:Orwell's 1984 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @01:25PM (#27113273) Journal

      Out of curiosity, is Orwell's "1984" being used as a policy guide in the UK by her politicians?

      No, of course not. It's decades behind the times...

    • Re:Orwell's 1984 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jeevesbond (1066726) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @02:06PM (#27113499) Homepage

      is Orwell's "1984" being used as a policy guide in the UK by her politicians?

      No, but Franz Kafka's The Trial is. :)

      The people comparing today's Britain to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four are not taking everything into account. For a start the government isn't trying to insert cameras in everyone's bedrooms, they're not that cynical. They actually believe what they're doing is for the benefit of the people.

      Also, many of these awful laws are driven by tabloid newspapers (Rupert Murdoch and The Sun). Part of Tony Blair's success was thanks to his schmoozing with Murdoch's and other tabloids, Brown has continued this trend. Now, despite crime rates decreasing, tabloids have been screeching about youth and 'knife-crime' for a while. Now the government are desperate to be seen to be doing something about it (since their popularity is at an all-time low).

      So the source of these laws is public hysteria over knife-crime (generated by The Sun et al), pressuring an unpopular government into doing something, anything so they will be seen to be trying to fix a problem that only exists to sell newspapers.

      The reason British tabloids have become so sensationalist is they're losing market share to Internet sites. The government are, as are the tabloids, stuck in a pre-Internet mindset where newspapers have more power than they actually do.

      This is not Orwellian. The British government have not set out to control the populace, that will just be a purely unintentional side-effect. What they are doing is creating Kafka-esque bureaucracies -- particularly at local level, see: local authorities using anti-terror laws to check whether kids actually live within the catchment area of their schools, for example -- with the power to decide a persons guilt without giving that person an opportunity to defend themselves. Indeed, without that person even realising they're being investigated, or that they're committing a crime. They may not be using The Trial as a reference when doing this, but they certainly seem to think government should be able to determine guilt without any interference from annoying things like defence lawyers and juries. :)

      There are many other dissimilarities with Nineteen Eighty Four, but that's the primary one.

      • by Macthorpe (960048)

        Thank you. You put that better than I ever have.

      • Re:Orwell's 1984 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by causality (777677) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @02:51PM (#27113727)

        The people comparing today's Britain to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four are not taking everything into account. For a start the government isn't trying to insert cameras in everyone's bedrooms, they're not that cynical. They actually believe what they're doing is for the benefit of the people.

        You really think so? So the politicians are just a bunch of bumbling golly-gee-how'd-THAT-happen idiots who somehow always manage to try to increase state power. Their intentions are great and all of this is just an accident hmm? Incompetence and malice can be hard to distinguish, not that the difference is very important, for the only difference that makes is in the timetable. Otherwise, they are both equally dangerous.

        This is not Orwellian. The British government have not set out to control the populace, that will just be a purely unintentional side-effect. What they are doing is creating Kafka-esque bureaucracies -- particularly at local level, see: local authorities using anti-terror laws to check whether kids actually live within the catchment area of their schools, for example -- with the power to decide a persons guilt without giving that person an opportunity to defend themselves. Indeed, without that person even realising they're being investigated, or that they're committing a crime. They may not be using The Trial as a reference when doing this, but they certainly seem to think government should be able to determine guilt without any interference from annoying things like defence lawyers and juries. :)

        Again you really believe that this doesn't quite naturally go together with a desire for increased state power and a desire for further control and subjugation of the people? Politicians are a bunch of good-hearted, good-natured people who really care about us, yet the world over they just accidentally coincidentally happen to always have this same effect? They're not professional students of statecraft with thousands of years of history of what worked and what didn't work who know how to tell us exactly what we want to hear? The people aren't just trying to live their lives and aren't largely ignorant of such things as propaganda techniques, thesis antithesis synthesis, bread-and-circus, and divide-and-conquer? This doesn't create a gross imbalance of the sophisticated and entrenched versus the naive and under-represented? Really?

        I'm sure their intentions are pure *cough*. The only thing worse than abuses of power are the apologists and useful idiots who defend and promote them. If not for them, the power grabs would easily be recognized for what they are and swiftly dealt with, probably in the form of public pressure. I think that happened here only because of the UK's record of the protection of private data, certainly they handle this much better than the USA does. The people of the UK who opposed this measure have enjoyed something like real privacy during a time when it's become more important than ever and they now appreciate it and don't want to have it taken away. They have an advantage also, in that "data privacy" is more of an intellectual debate that doesn't have the sort of thought-killing fear-mongering that surrounds other issues.

        What it seems you are not handling better than the USA is the "terrorism threat" and the realization that your reaction to it can be much worse than the initial threat. If the Western nations lose their traditions of individual liberty because a few evil men blow up a few buildings, then we are only showing those evil men that we are better at causing our destruction than they are. That's an odd way to win a contest against them.

      • Re:Orwell's 1984 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by zrq (794138) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:20PM (#27116097) Journal

        The British government have not set out to control the populace, that will just be a purely unintentional side-effect.

        They don't seem to realize what this many mean 5 or 10 years from now. The current government might not be planning to (mis)use these powers, but a future one might.

        Another terrorist attack could get a fanatical nutter elected into government, and we are handing them a ready made police state. All the tools for complete control of the population installed and ready for (mis)use, all they would need to do is find an appropriate justification ... and once you start (mis)using it, it is very hard to stop.

  • Cattle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Our impulses are being redirected
    We are living in an artificially induced
    state of consciousness that resembles sleep.

    The poor and the underclass are growing
    Racial justice and human rights are non-existant
    They have created a repressive society
    and we are their unwitting accomplices.

    Their intention to rule
    rests with the annihilation of consciousness.

    We have been lulled into a trance.
    They have made us indifferent, to each other,
    We are focused only on our own gain.
    Please understand,
    they are safe

    • by causality (777677)

      Our impulses are being redirected We are living in an artificially induced state of consciousness that resembles sleep.

      The poor and the underclass are growing Racial justice and human rights are non-existant They have created a repressive society and we are their unwitting accomplices.

      Their intention to rule rests with the annihilation of consciousness.

      We have been lulled into a trance. They have made us indifferent, to each other, We are focused only on our own gain. Please understand, they are safe as long as they are not discovered, that is their primary method of survival, To keep us asleep, to keep us selfish, to keep us sedated.

      They are dismantling the sleeping middle class. More and more people are becoming poor. We are their cattle. We are being bred for slavery.

      I can easily enough find reasons why you were modded down, in fact it seems like classic shoot-the-messenger to me. Your message here isn't the easist thing to handle especially for people who are just starting to realize that all is not what it appears. It does not help that the more petty people will judge the truth of a thing according to how palatable it is and whether it fits in with their current worldview, rather than questioning their reliance on palatability and being willing to abandon any world

      • It seems obvious to me that this has been a long-term plan enacted by people who did not care whether their goal would ever occur during their own lifetimes

        why?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          It seems obvious to me that this has been a long-term plan enacted by people who did not care whether their goal would ever occur during their own lifetimes

          why?

          Because families like the Bush family, the Clinton family, the Kennedy family, and so on are in this for the long haul. They increase their wealth and power in their own lifetime, but then they also look at the "long term investment" for their family and their class of people. This is how monarchs retained their power throughout the centuries.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by Hognoxious (631665)
      Why isn't there a "-1 doesn't rhyme" mod?
  • Good for them (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rog-Mahal (1164607) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @01:33PM (#27113317)
    Glad to hear it. The bill sounds like government data mining, and the earlier /. article made it clear that the data could make it to the public sector. Nice to know that public outcry can still make a difference.
    • Re:Good for them (Score:4, Interesting)

      by icebike (68054) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @02:39PM (#27113659)

      Don't bee so quick to breath that sigh of relief.

      This measure was merely to legitimize what is already taking place.

      It's demise raises no impediment.

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @01:33PM (#27113319) Journal

    pressure is building... did they just say that British Justice is a straw man?

    This explains a lot.

  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @01:37PM (#27113347)

    ...who finds it slightly depressing to read about a representative government choosing to "bow to pressure from [their constituents]"?

    It reminds me of an XKCD punchline: "Strictly speaking, it's better than the alternative—But someone is clearly doing their job horribly wrong."

    • by Bovius (1243040)

      Indeed. I also like how he claims he's backing off because of a "strength of feeling", as if that were somehow different than people really not wanting this law.

    • Yes. This battle is won but the war continues and the fact that this battle got to this point is a serious concern. Governments tend to grow and a government that can propose this sort of thing with a straight face.. Well it should be frightening.

      It really should not have been a matter of 'bowing to pressure' it should have been laughed off the floor upon introduction.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @04:59PM (#27114477) Homepage

      Well, in some sense, the 'republican' form of a democratic republic (don't confuse it with the Republican party, mind you, though they do share some of the sentiment sometimes)... in this form of government the People elect representatives, ideally men of Principle, and then the representatives will do what they think is best for the country. Meanwhile, in the "democratic" form of the democratic republic, people are elected to office to implement The Will Of The People. (This fits more neatly with the US Democrat party's philosophy, and is closer to the purest "democracy" where everyone votes on everything).

      So, there is some room in political philosophies for politicians to say "No, I don't care what the opinion polls say this week, we're doing this because it's what we should do". For example, if you will recall the 2004 US presidential election, you might recall talk of how John Kerry was a big "flip-flop".

      Finally, one might worry that this democratic-esque angle of a democratic republic is prone to a variety of weaknesses, such as inviting undue manipulation of public opinion through propaganda and lies, or by rewarding people who are excessively Pragmatic and have no Principles.

      This particular case, however, is not likely to be evidence of any positive traits of the "republican" aspect of a democratic republic.

    • It's because it's a nominally a government of representatives, not as some would have it, a government of delegates.

      The difference is that representatives are elected to represent their constituents, but they are not expected to embody the views of their constituents. No, they are to present their own views according to their own consciences, with the constituents having elected which person will do that based on their manifestos.

      A delegate's job, on the other hand, is to constantly consult with their cons

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 08, 2009 @01:40PM (#27113369)

    Although the threat from terrorism is diminishing, there is still the threat from non-carbon neutral paedophiles.

  • by Blue Stone (582566) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @01:48PM (#27113409) Homepage Journal

    The UK Labour party may have backed off this appaling legislation, but they've made it more than clear from this and other legislation - explicit even - that it is their INTENTION to increase the power of the State over ordinary citizens and to conduct pervasive surveillance upon those citizens wherever and whenever thay are able to.

    It is their game plan for the UK.

    All the while, they hide themselves from any light that is shone on their own activities, meetings and discussions - crying 'state security' or 'commercial sensitivity' (where their corporate freinds are complicit) as they scurry back into the darkness.

    These bills and laws make explicit their aims. The citizenry of the UK seems uninterested, held perhaps in the grip of a belief that the State generally means well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      The justification for these measures always seems to be administrative convenience.

      The worrying thing is, I'm think they're genuinely being honest.

      Of course, evil people don't consider themselves to be evil. They all have some motivation that they believe justifies their actions. Japanese internment in WW2 was a pretty reputable act but those responsible thought they were doing it for the common good. Serial killers will usually come up with some rationalisation. The Labour Party want a police s
    • by davolfman (1245316) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @02:32PM (#27113613)
      Perhaps it's time for people to refuse to call them anything but Ingsoc as a form of protest.
    • by Aceticon (140883)

      The citizenry of the UK are mostly mindless uneducated sheep held in thrall by celeb news.

      The News around here for the last 2 weeks have been all about a reality TV "celebrity" which is sick with cancer - very little has been said about this proposed law.

      If it wasn't for the 5% or such of people that actually use their brains to think this place would be a dictatorship already: as it is, we're already half-way to a Police State.

      Fortunately, Labor is on is way out - they're pretty much incompetent at everyth

  • ..since the 60's. He was a nasty manipulative self-centered Trotskyite nutjob then, and the only thing that has changed since is that more people see through him, thank god - largely because he is actually incompetent.
    • Yes, he was a nasty manipulative self centred Trotskyite then, but no more of a nutjob than the other Trots we were saddled with in our student union. Their view can be summarised thus: one of them said to me "you can't just allow anyone to vote in a democracy because they might vote the wrong way". And now they run the country.

      However, to be fair to Straw (through gritted teeth) I-like-fucking-rich-Yanks Blunkett, I-just-like-fucking-rich-people Mandelson, the utterly appalling John Reid (who now works lob

  • by mormop (415983) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @05:27PM (#27114689)

    "A spokesman for Mr Straw said the 'strength of feeling' against the plans had persuaded him to rethink"

    Means:

    Oh shit. Only one year to the election deadline...

    Nuff said really

  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:03PM (#27115929) Homepage Journal

    Introduce something awful
    Withdraw it
    Re-introduce watered down version

    See Poll-Tax -> Council Tax

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