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]

Random Stop and Search on the Tube?

Following last week’s atrocity in Madrid, the media are reporting London Underground’s plans to increase security. These plans include more plain clothes police patrolling the network and encouraging passengers to be vigilant.

There’s another aspect to the plans not mentioned in most reports. According to the BBC:

British Transport Police have also said more people using the Tube will be randomly stopped and searched

Increased security is definitely welcome, however random stop and search is worrying. It is vital that any such moves be clearly seen as a limited response to a specific threat and not allowed to become standard operating procedure.

Do we really want to live in a country where being randomly stopped and searched is considered an acceptable part of everyday life?

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

House of Fraser to Attach RFID Tags to Clothes

Logistics company Excel has announced an RFID trial with the UK retailer House of Fraser. RFID tags will be “attached directly to garments providing the scope to track shipment movements at item level”.

No comment is made as to whether the tags will be disabled and/or removed at point of sale.

Press release available here.

Cross-posted from the shiny new RFID Scanner

Beyond Reasonable Doubt

Amongst the announcement of the new Serious Organised Crime Agency one comment seems to have been largely overlooked. Tony Blair said, concerning serious crime:

My impression sometimes is that the system is struggling against a presumption that you treat these crimes like every other type of crime, and that you build up cases beyond reasonable doubt. I think we have got to look at this.

On the balance of probabilities, Blair supports Big Blunkett’s latest attacks on our basic liberties.

Intrusive Application Forms

Government invasion of privacy – for example via Identity Cards – is high profile. Arguably a greater danger is when society itself ceases to respect privacy and believes it OK to breach it as a matter of course.

I’ve recently learned via the Liberty discussion board and handbag.com about an organisation called Millenium AuPairs.

I must stress that as far as I know this organisation is entirely reasonable and above board. Unfortunately their application form is not. See here:

Millenum AuPairs registration form

Now, the question about weight might be non-PC, but that’s not the issue. Scroll down and you see that they are asking prospective nannies if they have “ever been a victim of sexual, emotional or physical abuse?”. And “If you have answered yes to any of the above, please give details”. Details!

This is outrageous. Why ask? Are they assuming that victims of abuse are more likely to be abusers? I don’t know. What I do know is that this question is an invasion of privacy.

As chocalatedrop put it on handbag.com:

can you imagine someone asking if you’d ever been raped on an application form in as many words, because this is what is being asked.

OK, this probably doesn’t affect you today. But imagine if this sort of intrusive question becomes accepted practice on any application form…

Big Blunkett Wants Yet More Powers

The BBC reports that Big Blunkett is proposing to introduce yet more draconian powers to lock up suspected terrorists without a fair trial.

The new proposals are an extension of the current anti-terrorism laws rushed into being after September 11th. Those have already been condemned as creating “Guantanamo Bay in our own back yard”.

The new proposals would see British citizens tried partly in secret and denied access to the evidence against them. They would also reduce the burden of proof from “beyond reasonable doubt” to “on the balance of probabilities”.

Speaking on the Today programme, Senior lawyer Baroness Kennedy described the proposals as “a disgrace”. She went on to say:

“It is as if David Blunkett takes his lessons on jurisprudence from Robert Mugabe”

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

Satellite Tracking of All Cars: “When Not If”

The Government has been considering congestion charging based on road use. Under the scheme every car would have a tracking device attached. Satellite technology would then be used to track every car journey made. This personal information would be recorded centrally and drivers billed for their road use.

The privacy implications are obvious and frightening.

It seems that in the wake of Big Blunkett’s ID Card announcement privacy concerns are now irrelevant. Transport Secretary Alistair Darling is to push ahead with the plan. Darling has appointed Professor David Begg to head a committee to consider the practicalities.

Begg said:

“It is now a matter of when, not if. Six months ago it was on the shelf, but Mr Darling is now very serious about it.”

BBC Report here

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

Home Office Officials Refuse to Answer ID Cost Questions

The Home Affairs Select Committee met last night to consider Big Blunkett’s plan to impose compulsory National Identity Cards on innocent British citizens. They interviewed some of the Home Office officials who have accepted responsibility for disassembling our civil liberties by implementing the cards.

Of particular interest to the Committee was the cost of the scheme. Despite being asked no less than seven times, the Home Office officials repeatedly refused to answer the question saying only that it would be between 1.3 thousand million and 3.1 thousand million pounds. As Committee Chair John Denham pointed out, a range of 2 thousand million pounds is unacceptably broad. And that’s assuming that the project remains on budget!

This unwillingness to talk openly about cost suggests a possible weak point within the Government. It is probably worth pressing this when contacting your MP or the media.

It’s especially ironic that the reason given for refusing to answer was “commercial confidentiality”. It seems that civil servants expect to have their privacy protected whilst they invade ours.

Full story in The Guardian

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

Peers Nobble Blunkett

Despite Michael Howard’s reported U-turn, peers have once again thrown out Big Blunkett’s discredited Criminal “Justice” Bill. They were particularly concerned by Blunkett’s plans to restrict the right to trial by jury, to allow people to be tried twice for the same crime and to allow evidence of “bad character” (i.e. gossip) to be used in trials.

Today is the last day of the parliamentary session, so if the Lords continue to stand up for civil liberties the whole Bill could be lost. The only way for it now to pass would appear to be significant concessions by the Government, a move that would further undermine Blunkett’s position.

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

Public Losing Faith in ID Cards

The Independent reports that despite Big Blunkett’s posturing the public is losing patience with his plans to force compulsory National Identity Cards on innocent British citizens.

A new MORI poll suggests 19% of people believe wrongly that ID Cards are the best way to cut crime. That figure is depressingly high but still a lot lower than the 29% who gave the same answer two years ago.

Blunkett has said that compulsion will not be introduced unless there is “clear public acceptance” of the principle. Polls like this suggest that we are slowly turning the tide of public opinion.

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

Tories to Back Down Over Blunkett’s Bill

The Times reports that the Tories are to drop their opposition to Big Blunkett’s plans to limit trial by jury.

As a result the discredited Criminal “Justice” Bill is expected to pass through both Houses next week.

The reason given for this change of heart is that new Tory leader Michael Howard apparently sees “liberal” policies as electorally damaging. Any hope that the Tories might be the party to stand up for civil liberties seems to have disappeared

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

Labour MPs Suspicious of Identity Cards

Research by the BBC indicates that Big Blunkett doesn’t have much support within his own party for his plans to force compulsory National Identity cards on innocent British citizens.

Of the 101 Labour MPs who responded to the poll, over half wanted more investigation before any such plan is introduced. A third of them were opposed to the scheme.

Do you know where your MP stands on the issue? More importantly, do they know where you stand?

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

ID Cards Face Scottish Revolt

Big Blunkett’s scheme to force compulsory national Identity Cards on innocent British citizens is facing problems from Scotland.

Blunkett has stated that one of the keys to his plan is that the cards will be necessary to access local services such as health and education. However since devolution the Scottish Executive has responsibility for these in Scotland.

Today’s papers report that the Scottish Executive will not require ID Cards for access to services they control.

Scotland’s First Minister Jack McConnell is reported as saying that he was

…opposed to the use of compulsory identity cards for services that come under devolved responsibilities in Scotland

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe