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Every British Citizen To Have a Personal Webpage 313

Posted by timothy
from the you-have-6-asbos-waiting-and-no-guns dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Telegraph reports that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is about to announce that within a year everyone in Great Britain will be given a personalized webpage for accessing Government services as part of a plan to save billions of pounds by putting all public services online. The move could see the closure of job centers and physical offices dealing with tax, vehicle licensing, passports and housing benefits within 10 years as services are offered through a single digital gateway. [This] 'saves time for people and it saves money for the Government — the processing of a piece of paper and mailing it back costs many times more than it costs to process something electronically,' says Tim Berners-Lee, an advisor to the Prime Minister. However, the proposals are coming under fire from union leaders who complain that thousands of public sector workers would be made jobless and pointed to the Government's poor record of handling personal data. 'Cutting public services is not only bad for the public who use services but also the economy as we are pushing people who provide valuable services on the dole,' says one union leader."
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Every British Citizen To Have a Personal Webpage

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  • Surveillance. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daniel.waterfield (960460) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:03PM (#31553066) Homepage Journal
    It also makes us nice and easy to keep an eye on. All our activity now leaves a nice little easy to follow trail. Much nicer for the government to follow than before.
    • by migla (1099771) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:20PM (#31553254)

      Yes, but on the other hand I'm thinking that this'll bring all the UK populace into the digital database age and people will be asking people for advice and the people with the most powerful memes will be the fuck-you-big-brother-type-geeks and it will lead to a united, informed people. Soon enough they will be lining the streets, chanting "El Pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!" and it will be known in the history books of the next century as the spark of the new enlightenment and actual democracy. Or did I dream it?

      • by selven (1556643) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:42PM (#31553400)

        people with the most powerful memes... lining the streets, chanting "El Pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!"

        Nah, they'll be chanting "Yo puedo tiene cheezburger"*

        *Amazingly, Google Translate understands it perfectly [google.com]

      • Re:Surveillance. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by davester666 (731373) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:44PM (#31553422) Journal

        Yes. Go to this page to find out all the information you need to steal this persons identity.

        • Re:Surveillance. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @04:39AM (#31556140) Homepage

          Technically you never steal a person's indentity, you use other peoples information to fraudulently pay for products and services> Those people that you have duped, then fraudulently attempt to recover that money from an innocent third party. That third party is fully entitled to seek criminal charges against the company that sought to charge them for services and products that they did not provide to them.

          At the moment credit card companies are playing, well to be blunt, fuck the end user games by claiming identity theft, that's a big lie, it is the legal responsibility of the person who accepts credentials provided are valid and they should be liable for the full costs of targeted innocent third parties with fraudulently charges. However this puts the whole credit card system under threat, technically proprietors who accept false credentials should be charged until they can provide evidence that leads to the arrest of the guilty party, really who would want to take that risk, so the credit card companies play marketing games and shift the focus to innocent third parties who must now prove their innocence.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DaveGod (703167)

            In the UK if you dispute items on your credit card bill they are cancelled and reversed against the retailer. My credit card was used fraudulently (for a second time) the other week and the card issuer simply went through the list of recent transactions with me and without question cancelled every item I said was not mine. It certainly does not put the credit card system under any threat, actually it's about the only good reason for having them at all.

            I agree with the general principle of your argument at l

    • Re:Surveillance. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:25PM (#31553278) Journal
      With suitably malicious design, it could be a very convenient tool for surveillance(a visited link scanner [gnucitizen.org] seeded with a list of URLs that the feds might be interested in your having visited, would be a trivial example, various sorts of cookie snooping, cross-site scripting, history inference, and so forth attacks could also be used, in addition to boring old IP geolocation and date/timestamping).

      However, in absence of these sorts of fairly overt malicious features(which would fly right past the noobs; but would be hard to hide from security researchers for more than a few minutes), I'm not sure that a move from a paper 'n civil servants based frontend to a web based frontend actually makes all that much difference. In both cases, you are doing some nontrivial data dump/exchange with the state, either because some law obliges you to, or because you want the state to do something for you based on that information. That act of data transfer is the point of the exercise, and occurs in either case. Also, unless the British civil service is far behind the times, the data end up being dumped in a big database somewhere no matter which frontend you use. It isn't as though a people and paper frontend implies a people and paper backend, just a more expensive translation process.

      With the exception of fairly visible malicious techniques, a web site doesn't provide all that much useful information in itself. Any attempt by the state to use such techniques should, of course, by resisted fiercely by both technological and political means; but fretting about cookies is largely a distraction from the serious area of data disclosure, which is whatever forms you are going to the website explicitly to fill out.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Brian Gordon (987471)

        should, of course, by resisted fiercely by both technological and political means

        So paper-bound inefficiency and insecurity is a good thing?

        "union leaders who complain that thousands of public sector workers would be made jobless" is absolutely absurd of course. If anything, cut those jobs and send the people their paycheck anyway with the money the government is saving, instead of having them do unnecessary work all day.

        • By "such techniques", I meant the "fairly visible malicious techniques" that I had mentioned earlier in the sentence. Those I think ought to be resisted. When dealing with a potentially ambiguous phrase, local context counts.

          The whole point of my post was that, barring a reasonably well defined and visible set of clearly evil techniques, the use of which would be totally unacceptable on a government web site, using web forms rather than paper ones is actually a pretty minimal privacy and security issue.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:48PM (#31553452)

      Yes, how dare the government track things such as applying for a passport and paying taxes

    • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:50PM (#31553468) Journal

      ...after all, we're talking about access to stuff which was traditionally handled with paper. The only difference is that an electronic trail is easier to follow than a paper trail -- but here, "easier" only means "less time-consuming," or, alternatively, "cheaper."

      Here in the US, we have the option of filing our taxes online, or mailing in a paper form. Either way is going to include our social security number, along with a bunch of other personally identifying information. Either way might lead to our personal information being leaked or abused. The only real difference is that the online version is faster and potentially more secure -- properly done, I'll trust cryptography long before I'll trust the postal service.

      Same with vehicle licensing, passports, housing, everything else they mention -- again, which of these is something you used to be able to do anonymously? In what way does merely putting these in a web browser make it easier to keep an eye on you?

      Even if you find some marginal benefit to paper -- and it will be marginal -- is it worth the cost, the increased amount of fuel burned transporting it, the paper, the increased amount of fuel used to harvest the wood, make the paper, and recycle/destroy/bury it once used? How about the increased cost to the state of employing all those people to deal with the paper -- the same people who are currently whining about losing their jobs -- how much would it be worth to have them doing something actually productive instead of something a webserver could do for them?

      • by mmarlett (520340) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @07:30PM (#31553744)

        Yeah, who cares about the jobs lost? Those jobs are shit jobs. I mean, who wants to preserve a job that is retyping something that someone else wrote? Screw that. Free people up. Let them actually think about things. I bump into this all the time. I just had a conversation with a friend of mine in IT and we were standing on the street corner shouting this same thing into the air. If the computer can do it, then it's repetitive and boring. Stupid, stupid work. There are hard things that people do well that actually is worth something. People just do not think when they worry about protecting this sort of job.

        • by Tassach (137772) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @08:13PM (#31554032)

          Sadly, there are a lot of people who are simply incapable of performing any job that requires original or creative thought. Call me an elitist if you will, but you know it's true. There are only so many burgers that need to be flipped, floors that need to be mopped, etc.

          Put someone into a job that's beyond their capacity they'll do it poorly, be miserable while doing it, and make everyone everyone miserable in the process.

          A casual acquaintance from high school has been working for the last 25 years cleaning up roadkill for the county, and he's as happy as a pig in slop doing what most people here would consider a shit job. He'd consider any job that involved more math than tallying up how many critters he scraped off the pavement to be the "shit job".

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            There are only so many burgers that need to be flipped, floors that need to be mopped, etc.

            Not true. Put another way, if this really becomes an issue, think about the army of servants that a wealthy family might've had in the late 19th century. The challenge is creating a demand for that, but frankly, I would much rather have more tax dollars with which to hire, say, a housekeeper, than have my tax dollars go to a paper pusher, given the choice.

            Put someone into a job that's beyond their capacity they'll do it poorly, be miserable while doing it, and make everyone everyone miserable in the process.

            Do that in school, instead. Not beyond their capacity, either -- one of the largest factors in the success of a given student body is the teacher involved

          • by Dalambertian (963810) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @01:14AM (#31555508)

            Sadly, there are a lot of people who are simply incapable of performing any job that requires original or creative thought. Call me an elitist if you will, but you know it's true. There are only so many burgers that need to be flipped, floors that need to be mopped, etc.

            Put someone into a job that's beyond their capacity they'll do it poorly, be miserable while doing it, and make everyone everyone miserable in the process.

            The majority of people who work shit jobs do not them because that is the job they are best suited for. People are much more capable than what the current system allows them to be. I started doing physics not because I thought I was smarter than other kids (I wasn't), and I've come to find that most scientists aren't either. They simply took the classes, did the things they were supposed to, and stayed the course. I say let the boring jobs disappear. We will adapt.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Gordonjcp (186804)

            A casual acquaintance from high school has been working for the last 25 years cleaning up roadkill for the county, and he's as happy as a pig in slop doing what most people here would consider a shit job. He'd consider any job that involved more math than tallying up how many critters he scraped off the pavement to be the "shit job".

            That sounds like a great job. You get a van, you get a brush, you get a shovel and you get some plastic bags. Then you get some of your favourite CDs and a flask of coffee an

        • by williamhb (758070) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @12:35AM (#31555356) Journal

          Yeah, who cares about the jobs lost? Those jobs are shit jobs. I mean, who wants to preserve a job that is retyping something that someone else wrote? Screw that. Free people up. Let them actually think about things.

          It is the last part that is an issue. Where pencil and paper, and where telephones are concerned, the person at the other end in the UK still has some leeway to use their own common sense. For example, there are many tax issues to which the solution is "write a letter explaining the situation to your local tax office" (or phone them up and talk to someone). Where web forms are concerned, the fixed Java code at the other end doesn't really care a toss about any letters you write. You might moan about "inflexible bureaucrats", but automatic processing is even less flexible than that. Welcome to the world of "computer says no".

          There is also always an overestimation of the amount of money saved. Not only because governments are bad at estimates (though they are) but because the government is the only employer that gets about a third of whatever it pays straight back in tax (more if you count the flow-on effects that they also tax everyone you buy anything from, so get a fair whack of your "after tax" income too).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arkhan_jg (618674)

        The issue is not the transition from paper to online interactions; in an ideal world, you're entirely correct that the savings are worthwhile and it's not like doing it on a web form directly is much different than visiting a local office to fill in a paper form, that the first thing you then see the clerk do is tap into a computer.

        There are however issues with this plan. First, this government has screwed up IT plan after IT plan, at huge cost with marginal or no functional end product - the current plan t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by moosesocks (264553)

      Err, what?

      As far as I can tell, no new information is being collected. They're simply moving from paper to bits -- the sort of thing that most Slashdotters would have encouraged before we were invaded by the Ayn Rand disciples. It makes the government more accessible, convenient, and efficient.

      • Automation, yes. Consolidation of data, not so much. This isn't a new concern in Britain. Episode 4 of Yes Minister, broadcast in 1980, was about opposition to a central government database. Currently, there are a number of legal safeguards that prevent data collected for one purpose from being used for another. Schemes like this, and the ID card system, aim to consolidated the data into a single location, making it very easy for departments that should not have access to some of it to accidentally see

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by clarkkent09 (1104833) *
        Hmm, what exactly are you talking about? Ayn Rand "disciples" are not exactly the first people to come to mind when it comes to concerns about privacy which is what GP was talking about. Not that they are not concerned with privacy, just that somebody like ACLU in the USA at least would come to mind first. And if you are right that this will not cause any expansion of government power, plus the fact that unions are bitching about loss of government jobs that this will entail, if anything Ayn Rand people wou
      • Ah, it's always a good day to rip the piss out of libertarians. Goddamn anti-government morons with their old fashioned ideas about "liberty" and "individual freedom"! Bunch of retards, eh? What do they know?

        But I think you've called it wrong. I'm inclined in that direction, and I'm pleased about every government non-job that disappears due to improvements in the efficiency of the public sector. The UK public sector bureaucracies spend huge amounts of tax money just on admin and anything that reduces that e

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Once made redundant, bureaucrats could get proper jobs doing something productive, and contribute to the economy instead of feeding off it.

          If they could get proper jobs, then why did they become bureaucrats in the first place?

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      It's not going to happen though. The government can't even get their payroll taxes computer to talk to their income tax computer, so we will each have our own personal flying pig before this will happen.

    • Are you serious? This is GOVERNMENT PAPERWORK we're talking about. Whether you fill it out in person or online there's ALWAYS a trail. Of course the government is keeping track of who is licensing their cars, pets, and so forth. That's the ENTIRE POINT OF A BLOODY LICENSE!
  • It's myspace all over again!
  • by RockMFR (1022315) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:04PM (#31553094)
    firpanopticone? Is that an alternate spelling for "fire"?
  • by EEBaum (520514) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:05PM (#31553098) Homepage
    Bet that'll be fun when the system goes down for whatever reason. It's enough of a fustercluck when ONE major government system goes on the fritz... here, they'd all go down together!
  • What? (Score:5, Funny)

    by AnonGCB (1398517) <7spams AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:05PM (#31553106)
    Did anyone else think this was talking about the British Government reinstating a nationalized Geocities?
    • After Brown was devastated when he found out his DBZ and Sailor Moon SVGA wallpapers site with 2482 hits was closed down by the whims of the private sector after a good 14 year run, he decided that only the public sector could be trusted with running such a critical service.
    • by magarity (164372)

      Government reinstating a nationalized Geocities
       
      Sweet - I'll move to the UK if I can get my official government webpage customized in the 'OMG Ponies' theme.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Will they also be providing a computer for everyone will no longer be able to go to a local government office?

    • by Manip (656104) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:17PM (#31553226)

      Actually yes. They already are. If you are on low income you can apply for a grant to buy both a laptop AND internet connection.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:40PM (#31553380)

        Actually yes. They already are. If you are on low income you can apply for a grant to buy both a laptop AND internet connection.

        Of course, you'll have to visit your personal webpage to apply for this, as the physical offices will be closing.

      • Unfortunately, since the guy down the road cracked the cheap, insecure system they gave you within about two minutes and used your broadband to download content illegally, your connection is now being revoked and you can't access any government system any more. Thanks for playing, and congratulations on now being unable to meet your statutory tax obligations due to legal restrictions on Internet access.

        It is quite remarkable that no-one in government seems to have noticed the obvious conflict between the dr

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Unless the public library system in the UK is markedly worse than that of the US, it would probably be cheaper just to make sure that local libraries have some computers, assuming they don't already, and somebody on staff with a clue about the site(which will be more or less automatic, since librarians would also be users of it, and tend to be nonidiots in general) and just have people go there.
    • Possibly at a local government office known by the colloquial term "library".

    • I say, if you are not smart enough to request public assistance, then weed thee out of the gene pool, forthwith!
  • by Manip (656104) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:13PM (#31553184)

    Good news the UK government is getting involved in another large IT project... So we can assure ourself of two things, first off this will be hugely overbudget, and secondly it will never remotely do what they had originally intended. How is that NHS system coming? That nationwide police database? That system to monitor people entering and leaving the country? ...

    The UK government has a bad track record of IT. They do stuff by committee and hire tons of "consultants" who only seem to exist to get themselves more consultant work. Instead of just written an ironclad contract and giving the work to a third party they instead give it out to dozens of third parties with a big government organisation in the middle and then wonder why it won't fit together at the end.

    The sad truth is that nobody ever asks IT guys who to complete IT projects. Can you imagine if nobody asked doctors how to cure sick people? Or asked the military how to win a war? Sigh, now I'm pressed. I need a drink.

    • by mikael (484)

      IT project go over budget because the committees keep changing the specifications as they go along. Then the consultants aren't the people doing the actual coding, they're the ones writing specifications and handing them over to the backroom code-monkeys in India or wherever.

      In order to implement the ID card system, it will be necessary for every individual to keep their details up to date. This includes whenever the individual changes nationality, employer or address. Failure to do so within three weeks wi

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:46PM (#31553434) Journal
      I'm not sure that your examples of doctors, and military are actually as distinct from the IT experience as one might like.

      When some system has gone casters-up, users screaming, immediate crisis, people are happy to talk to(and typically blame) IT. Similarly, when somebody staggers into the ER, they usually obey the doctor, whether actively or de-facto because they aren't conscious enough to do anything else. When a shooting war erupts, the military commonly acquires substantial clout, and control over operations.

      However, far fewer people are interested in listening to IT people give long boring talks about all the money and time they will need to build a system that actually functions. They are, in fact, almost exactly as willing to do that as they are to listen to, and follow, their doctor's advice on boring stuff like diet and exercise(and god help the poor epidemiologist who gives politically unpalatable advice like "Y'know, a food system based on subsidizing corn-syrup is turning us into lardasses" or "No, we shouldn't squander valuable antibiotics in order to make meat incrementally cheaper" or "Guess how many excess deaths the pollution from $FAVORED_LOCAL_INDUSTRY causes every year?"). On the military side, armies are commonly handled conflicts created and defined by outside political conditions, equipped with whatever hardware had the most persuasive vendor, and expected to achieve a politically satisfactory objective.

      The details vary, of course, from situation to situation; but I'd say that all of those areas suffer from the common problem of having high short-term clout(once the shit has hit the fan, people generally cling to the experts who might save their sorry asses as though they were drowning babies); but far too little systemic clout to head off the problems that they can easily see coming(nobody wants to hear IT whine about vulnerabilities that might be exploited, they want to act surprised when they do get exploited. Nobody wants to reform their diet and exercise because of some doctor's mumbo-jumbo about cholesterol counts; but they are surprisingly willing to let the same doctor chop them open and do emergency maintenance when they keel over. During wartime, you can get excoriated for not supporting the troops hard enough; but that doesn't mean that you have to listen to their assesments of the situation on the ground, or even bother to order the hardware that they say they need.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by williamhb (758070)

      Good news the UK government is getting involved in another large IT project... So we can assure ourself of two things, first off this will be hugely overbudget, and secondly it will never remotely do what they had originally intended. How is that NHS system coming? That nationwide police database? That system to monitor people entering and leaving the country? ...

      The UK government has a bad track record of IT. They do stuff by committee and hire tons of "consultants" who only seem to exist to get themselves more consultant work. Instead of just written an ironclad contract and giving the work to a third party they instead give it out to dozens of third parties with a big government organisation in the middle and then wonder why it won't fit together at the end.

      The sad truth is that nobody ever asks IT guys who to complete IT projects. Can you imagine if nobody asked doctors how to cure sick people? Or asked the military how to win a war? Sigh, now I'm pressed. I need a drink.

      You might want to rethink your examples. "Medical error" is one of the leading causes of death (far more than breast cancer or road accidents -- in the US equivalent to a major plane crash every second day); meanwhile the military's last two wars haven't been pinnacles of success either.

      People "expect" IT projects to be straightforward -- it's just 1s and 0s, right? -- but neglect that when you introduce new IT you are changing effectively changing the work practices of everybody in the organisation. And

  • What about ex-pats (Score:2, Informative)

    by walkoff (1562019)
    It seems to be using the wrong list. i'm a British citizen but not currently on any voting lists because i've been living out of country for years, if he really wants to number us all they should be using our national insurance numbers.
  • by rubycodez (864176) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:13PM (#31553188)

    so there are thousands of government workers that could easily be replaced by a small pile of silicon chips and a bit of electricity, and they are said to provide "valuable service"? I have an idea, let them go work and provide something of actual value, or let them starve to death. win / win either way.

    • Evil conservative (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      let them go work and provide something of actual value, or let them starve to death. win / win either way.

      A little harsh, but not a troll. Why should the government be exempt from good stewardship with tax revenue?

      I've heard it said that schools exist so the teachers have jobs. Toll booths remain open, even though they only support the employees and bring in no further revenue.

      There is no reason the government should be allowed to waste money just so someone has a job. Might as well pay one person to dig

    • by Burnhard (1031106) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:50PM (#31553474)
      Who or whom marked this guy as a troll? He's absolutely spot on. The Unions see the public services as job creation schemes, rather than providers of useful facilities for citizens. This tells you all you need to know about why public services are so bloated and give poor value for money.
    • by dcollins (135727)

      "so there are thousands of government workers that could easily be replaced by a small pile of silicon chips and a bit of electricity, and they are said to provide 'valuable service'?"

      You show a surprising amount of gullibility in whatever the government is telling you today. The UK government has a track record of absolutely not being able to deliver on promises like these.

      Tell you what, $50 US says the UK government will NOT be able to replace any one of the mentioned functions with a "small pile of silic

  • by bcmm (768152) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:30PM (#31553306)
    So, how does this fit in with the plans to disconnect the families of people who are accused of copyright infringement? I guess media companies are going to be able to get anyone they don't like prosecuted for tax evasion too?
    • by esme (17526)

      I see you're not very familiar with the British tax system. My understanding is that unless you're self-employed, you don't file a tax return. Your employer takes the taxes, and you don't get them back, no matter what. You do the equivalent (registering family changes that would affect your tax due) with your employer, and they adjust the withholding accordingly.

      I lived in England (while telecommuting to a job in the US) for a couple of years. And it took me 18 months to figure out that I didn't have to

      • I see you're not very familiar with the British tax system.

        Actually, you are clearly not familiar with the British tax system. There are many reasons you may be required to file a tax return, and even if you aren't, you can file one voluntarily (and it may be in your interests to do so).

        The rest of your post is so completely wrong that there is no point going through it.

        • by esme (17526)

          First of all, I never said I had anything more than a passing familiarity with the British tax system -- but my general point was that the vast majority of British people don't have to file tax returns (I've seen it estimated that only 10% do). So the notion of getting people in trouble for not filing tax returns makes much less sense when most people don't have to file tax returns in the first place.

          Second, the rest of my post isn't "wrong" -- and you couldn't possibly know anything about it, anyway.

          -Esme

  • It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Katatsumuri (1137173) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:32PM (#31553322)

    The amount of paperwork and legwork to get anything government-related done is untolerable in this day and age. We should have been enjoying electronic government for at least 15 years by now. Finally someone up there is getting it.

    Now half of the posts here will be about the stupid "personal webpage" phrasing that has nothing to do with the actual idea, and the other half will be about an Orwellian apocalypse. Which may be well-grounded, as British government earned some bad reputation in regards to privacy.

    However, I would still argue that this is a step in the right direction, and it is inevitable in the long run. We as a technical community should suggest ways to protect privacy with proper modern protocols, not with the obscurity of 18th century style paperwork.

    I also hope that the governments in other countries will follow the example.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're a youngster aren't you.

      You have no idea what a government might do given the technology. You think fascism is just something you read about in the history books. You don't even seem to realise that parts of Orwell's prediction have already come true. You are a frog in a pot and you don't even realise its on the gas.

      Just take a walk through central London and see the machine guns and CCTV following you around everywhere you go. Are you old enough to drive? Take a drive through London. You number plate

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        I was rather amused when my Belgian couchsurfer confided in me that they might be ticketed before they return home because they "may have exceeded the speed limit at some point". They calmed down when I explained we don't have speed cameras on our highways here in the US, but still didn't completely believe me.

      • Just take a walk through central London and see the machine guns and CCTV following you around everywhere you go.

        Seriously? Okay, I've not been to London since last month, but I'm fairly sure I'd have noticed machine guns. CCTV, yes. London does have a lot, but then it needs to because it also has a lot of known criminals [parliament.uk] that it needs to keep track of. Machine guns? Not so much.

      • That may all be true (though a lot of it is hyperbole).

        The interesting question is, since you can't stop the march of technology and there are genuine advantages to be had, wouldn't it be better to start thinking about similarly advanced ways of safeguarding privacy in an age of databases and global communications?

        Both the theory and the physical hardware exist to do things like properly encrypting all digital communications. We know how to store data such that only those with proper authority can access it

    • ...obscurity of 18th century style paperwork.

      Oh, this aspect won't go away. You'll still have to jump through hoops and feel like bashing your head on your desk trying to comprehend legalese.

      • Wrong. Now you can automate it with a script.
        Of course that’s only an obvious thought if you are used to really using a computer.
        Instead of just playing with point-and-click appliance systems.

  • Well, this doesn't sound so great to me. I'm a tech savvy UK citizen and I do lots of things online. But certain aspects of our nation require specialist advice to navigate. If you're job seeking it is probably worth having someone who can give you sensible advice on the law etc without you having to trawl through pages and pages of documentation to (possibly) find the information you're interested in. Ditto the tax system - the guys at the local tax office will see people without an appointment and can

    • Ditto the tax system - the guys at the local tax office will see people without an appointment and can quickly explain what needs doing in a given circumstance

      Rather than a big IT project, maybe they could eliminate these jobs by removing some of the insane levels of complexity from the tax system so that it's actually comprehensible by someone who hasn't read the few hundred thousand pages of relevant laws.

      • I'm not sure our tax system needs to be as baroque and unintelligible as it is in order to deliver results. Most of the things the Inland Revenue do seem downright pointless to anyone with an engineering mindset although I expect many of them had some sane motivation originally.

        The bonus of your strategy is that it would also cut down on overheads for individuals, sole traders, small businesses, etc across the country by reducing the amount of admin needed! So it ought to be quite attractive. I doubt any

  • by pydev (1683904) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:48PM (#31553450)

    'Cutting public services is not only bad for the public who use services but also the economy as we are pushing people who provide valuable services on the dole,' says one union leader

    Hey, let's engineer a couple of oil-spills, too! Jobs for thousands of people, and those people will be performing valuable services!

  • by Jezral (449476) <mail@tinodidriksen.com> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:51PM (#31553488) Homepage

    Denmark already has a similar thing. We can perform most actions dealing with the government online, and we even get a gratis certificate for digital signing and encryption of emails. I haven't had to go to a government or city office in years.

    • You can already do most things that you need to with the central government in the UK online too. I've never been into a government office. Some local government things may need to be done in person, depending on your local authority (for example, applying for a license to sell alcohol), but most people don't need to do them. The issue is whether the government should be consolidating all of these into a single system.

      On the digital certificate issue, this was proposed in Parliament back in 2000, and I

  • What a wonderful way to have EVERYBODY's personal information in one easy-to-hack location.

  • by hyfe (641811) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @07:04PM (#31553572)

    We have a single website for this in Norway already (norge.no), it's bloody usefull. Everything you need from the government is either there, or linked to from it. They even run free phone/sms/e-mail support.

    There's nothing sinister about it, it certainly hasn't magically removed the bourecrazy, but it is another of the many small reasons I'm slightly smug to be norwegian; The land where stuff for the most part just works (which still doesn't stop people from whining though).

  • ... to stand in the way of progress. Unions have a long history of holding milking their employers with little regard to the overall health of the business (who cares if GM is going down the toilet, so long as the retired union guys gets their pension) . Here is yet another case where they are holding their own pocketbooks as more important than all else. As a tax payer, I'd rather see the govt get rid of agencies that are manually processing paperwork (inconsistently at that) and automate as much as po

    • by timmarhy (659436)
      unions are a bunch as big a bunch of crooks as i've ever seen. some rep's aren't too bad, most don't get the basic concept of "if the business fails, then were will your people work". they always think that management are hiding profits in some secret bank account. some rep's who were blooded in the 80's are just fucking retarded. they think everyone needs to pay union dues or they shouldn't work, and that they have the right to run the country.
      • by emj (15659)
        Everyone I know that runs companies tries as hard as they can to keep their money, from their employees or the gov. I think it's ok that the union tries to get as much respect and money as they can as well. There are almost no crooks in management nor in the union, but it's easy to think that if you have need to polarize issues.
      • they always think that management are hiding profits in some secret bank account.

        Are you seriously claiming they're wrong about this?

    • by jrumney (197329)
      And then to mention data leaks as if it were the computers in the server room responsible leaking information, and not the unionized employees carelessly leaving laptops on trains, containing all the case files they have ever personally dealt with or might deal with in future.
  • However, the proposals are coming under fire from union leaders who complain that thousands of public sector workers would be made jobless and pointed to the Government's poor record of handling personal data.

    Like this is a surprise to anyone? If the unions had their way we'd all still be riding horses as long as the horse industry protected union jobs. How long before people - even union people - realize that more unions == lower productivity and a lower standard of living?

  • For every ease of use that a computer can give a person, the government will increase the complication in order to make up the difference.

    This is why taxes need to be done with computers now.

God may be subtle, but he isn't plain mean. -- Albert Einstein

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