01 November 2006

'Protecting' some, as an excuse to persecute others

According to an article in today's Times, the Department for Constitutional Affairs has been reviewing a document entitled Increasing Penalties for Deliberate and Wilful Misuse of Personal Data, the result of a report to Parliament by the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas (ironically, the man appointed by Labour to ensure freedom of information). The document proposes

that anyone who obtains, holds or discloses “personal data” without the consent of the “data controller” should be sent to prison for up to two years rather than face an unlimited fine, as at present. The report suggests that “personal data” includes who people are, where they live, who their friends and families are and even their phone numbers. This is the very essence of journalism — but Mr Thomas wants to go still farther. He believes that not only journalists, but solicitors, insurance companies, banks and local authorities should be deterred from obtaining personal data about council tax defaulters, debtors and conmen.
Labour's double standards on privacy demonstrate that the real objective here is to find yet another reason to persecute individuals in the private sector by creating yet another new crime. On the one hand, we have a proposal for a ludicrously vague law which potentially criminalises trivial actions such as writing down someone’s phone number. On the other, we have a state apparatus which advocates increasing communication between different departments, promotes increasing surveillance and data recording, and hurriedly abolishes principles such as not revealing a defendant’s previous convictions.

Selling oppressive measures to the citizenship under a phoney pro-individual banner is a classic symptom of mediocracy.