We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A date for your diary

London and the Database State

A mayoral hustings organised by NO2ID

Londoners are among the most watched people on earth. As well as housing Whitehall, Parliament and the other self-protecting security apparatus, London has many information and identity management systems of its own. How do candidates feel about the civil liberties and privacy implications of, among other things, the Oyster Card, congestion charging, telephone parking? Would they support or oppose national ID schemes as mayor? What is their attitude to the database state?

Invitations have been issued to every party with London representation at Westminster, in Strasbourg or in the GLA. Gerrard Batten (UKIP), Sian Berry (Green), Lindsay German (Respect/Left List), Boris Johnson (Conservative), and Brian Paddick (LibDem) are currently expected to participate, and written responses from other invitees will be read from the chair.

Chaired by Christina Zaba, journalist and NO2ID’s Union Liason Officer.

Time: 7pm Tuesday 8th April 2008
Place: Friends House, 173 Euston Road NW1 2BJ
Free and open to all.

[I'd like to take this opportunity to remind EU and commonwealth citizens resident in London, they have a vote in this too.]

4 comments to A date for your diary

  • John Louis Swaine

    In Hong Kong, the Oyster Card infrastructure is used for the Octopus card system (has been since 1998 if I recall correctly, I still carry mine in my wallet).

    The Octopus card is an anonymous cash card which you can top up at any ATM or Octopus Card Machine. It can be used to pay not only for any privately-operated public transport system (by choice of the operator because it’s so convenient for their customers) but also for shopping in supermarkets, 7-11s and pretty much anywhere you’re making a purchase under HKD$500.

    When ‘Oyster’ was released I was incredulous. Why did Transport for London NEED my personal details? Hong Kong has a public transport system that is the envy of the world, it trounces London’s transport system soundly. No delays, underground trains every 1-3 minutes without failure on all the major lines, fantastic integration with privately operated buses and the Kowloon Canton Railway.

    Yet in London, where the Tube is a byword for failure and incompetence apparently someone needs all my personal details. As a result, Oyster cards are not nearly as ubiquitous as they ought to be and no private company has been granted the ability to accept them as a means of payment for their services.

    Oyster cards are quite simply a perfect indicator of what’s wrong with Transport for London.

    An unnecessarily intrusive technology, which, because it is implemented without the aim of liberating or empowering its user, has been hamstrung and made a farcical shadow of its structurally identical sibling.

    If you use technology to empower, the results are spectacular (The Macintosh and through it the personal computer, The Octopus Card, Personal Renewable Energy), if you use it to control, the results are oppressive and depressing (CCTV, The Oyster Card, Iris Scanners).

    Orwell wrote 1984 out of fear that technology would be used for the latter purpose. How many times does it need to be demonstrated that the option to empower always provides superior results?

    If I were Boris, right now my star policy would be moving Oyster to the Octopus model.

  • Midwesterner

    I am confused on ‘telephone parking’. It is justified because of theft from the parking meters. But there can’t be any theft from the parking meters because that sort of thing is why the CCTV surveillance was justified.

    Hhmmm …

  • guy herbert

    Justified by reference to theft from meters. Motivated by desire to: (1) decrease cash-handling costs, and (2) weaken the appeals process, and mulct the motorist more severely.

    A new batch of regulations comes into force today which does (2) very effectively.

    Leaving aside issues of natural justice and the constitutional propriety of punishment without trial, there are very serious drawbacks to the subject of a parking system that connects together records of your mobile phone, your credit card, your car and its physical location for certain periods, and remits the information for storage/management to a foreign company which may then (according to the terms and conditions buried very deeply int its website) share the information with unspecified third parties for purposes of security and law enforcement or to enforce any contract.

    The telephone parking system works by logging who and where everyone is in the relevant West End zones who is attempting to park legally. (Alternatives are not, in fact, much available.) A conventional parking meter is a flag to identify only those parking improperly. On grounds of privacy and security for the individual, clearly the latter has an advantage. But privacy and security of the individual are not considerations that weigh much.

  • RRS

    There is on the CATO website (cato.org) a daily report about resistance from the State of South Carolina to the “Real ID” push by the Feds here in the U.S.

    You are not alone!