Wednesday, 21 January 2009

More databases, more sharing = less freedom

We all know that there have been more than 3000 new criminal offences created since 1997 - now what happened that year, hmmm..?

Here we go again with more shock doctrine tactics in the latest announcement from the DoT's Jim Fitzpatrick MP, no doubt backed by Jacqui Smith. As if the police aren't busy enough already:
Police to match records for new motor offence
21 January 2009

Police are likely to be given extra powers in using the Motor Insurance Database to detect
vehicles that have not been insured

The move is part of a package of new powers proposed for the police to crack down on people who do not take out motor insurance. It will support new legislation enabling them to prosecute owners who keep an uninsured vehicle without necessarily taking it onto the road.
There are more than 33.3 million registered vehicles on UK roads [source Transport Statistics Great Britain, 2007 edition - DoT]. The DoT claim that there are some 2 million uninsured vehicles on the road, and that the cars are often untaxed, that a significant number of them are involved in other criminality (that's pretty easy these days given the choice of offences) and more likely to be involved in accidents - although sometimes it's 1.2 million rather than 2 million - how exactly would you count the number of people 'not doing something'? Do I see the scaremongering hand of the commercial insurance lobby and the taxman behind these widely ranging numbers, or am I paranoid?

We have been hearing the same claims for years varying from '1 in 5' to '1 in 20' of vehicles on the road being uninsured. Powers of seizure were covered comprehensively in the 'Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill - Final Regulatory Impact Assessment, Seizure of Uninsured Vehicles' published in 2004. The extensive deployment of ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) cameras throughout the UK road network was a direct response to this - you know the funny little cameras that you pass, look a bit like a regular CCTV camera and are sometimes set-up alongside a traffic van.

But despite the ANPR network being deployed for 3 years or so we still are no further forward it seems, (despite Mr Fitzpatrick's claims that 400 uninsured vehicles a day are seized currently). He would now like access to a commercial database to address this problem, but is it a problem? Tell me - are we succeeding or are we failing? I'm confused because it appears that you are crushing an awful lot of cars already, and pretty much guessing at the number of offenders you haven't caught. Now armed with a justification that nobody can argue with; that uninsured drivers are bad, the Government are going to mandate and regularise access to a commercial database system - the 'Motor Insurance Database'.

I have some issues with this, first of all it is a commercial database and it isn't always correct; of my last two cars, one did not exist and the other was wrongly identified. Secondly it is a realistic fundamental expectation that personal information collected for one purpose should not be used for another, but in this case commercial organisations (the insurers), the tax man (Vehicle Excise Duty) and the police are all accessing and sharing information about us. How long will it be before the few safeguards in place are eroded by a faceless civil servant wielding the repugnant "if you have nothing to hide" justification to allow access to your information by any publicly funded do gooder with half an excuse?

The already over burdened police force backed by "wannabes in uniform" (PCSOs) are now empowered to come into the private parking around my flat, seize my incorrectly identified car, for not having something I disagree with (legally mandated commercial insurance - I do buy it, but it's wrong), even if it is off the road. They will then inform my insurer, and probably everybody else involved, and of course that won't prejudice me in the future at all, will it?

Leave me alone give me some privacy, I've done nothing wrong. I do not trust anybody with my information - and neither should you...


  1. Clara good article and well said.

    The Gov is hell bent on collecting data on all of us, WHY?. Soon if you sneeze in public they will take your snot (sorry) away and put it in some DNA record.

    I dont trust anyone with my data and i have never been on the wrong side of the law. I have been stopped by the police twice when i was out jogging late at night and on both accounts i had enough ID on me to prove who i was, not that i had to.

    So that alone for me is proof we dont need ID cards. All this sharing of data is worring, the gov is going to have some big data base on everone and if that info falls into the wrong hands, then what next ?

  2. Insurance companies hold a lot of info, guess no one would be dumb enough to leave a laptop unattended or lose a USB disk - they are professionals after all..

    George Orwell's 1984 springs to mind, a surveillance society reassured by the 'well if you're not doing anything wrong you've got nothing to worry about'.

  3. They have this in New Zealand

    If you dont have a NZ licence they pull you over and over and over again to tell you to get a NZ licence so that they can track you

    it drove me nuts so I came back I lasted four months in Nazi New Zealand