The power of the state


by Rumbold
20th September, 2008 at 9:38 pm    

Donna-Lee Camacho left her physically-abusive husband two years ago. Since then, she, along with her two children, has had to move home four times in order to avoid him:

“Miss Camacho said the physical abuse started early on in her previous relationship, usually when her former husband had had a drink, and in 2006 she left him. She and her children were forced to leave the family home in Preston to escape his constant harassment.

“He would follow me or even my friends home,” she said. “He would threaten to kill me, and even shoved a carving knife through our letterbox. He would yell he was going to burn the house down.”

One of the places she went to was a woman’s refuge; less then a year later she was forced to move after her ex-husband tracked her down with the help of his new girlfriend, Sarah Gillett. Gillett worked in the Child Tax Credit office and so was able to get information on the current location of Donna-Lee Camacho. Happily, Sarah Gillett has been jailed for eighteen months.

This case had a good ending. Plenty of others don’t. What this case should do though is to serve as a reminder about just how many people can access critical information about us. Stories involving state-held data usually only make the headlines when such data is lost. In this case, as in many others, the data was accessed perfectly legally. We have reached the point where a woman in fear of physical abuse cannot even begin a new life because a single official (who doesn’t appear to have been a high ranking one) can destroy her place of safety. The state casts far too great a shadow over our lives.


              Post to del.icio.us


Filed in: Current affairs,Sex equality






42 Comments below   |  

Reactions: Twitter, blogs


  1. Roger — on 20th September, 2008 at 9:48 pm  

    The data asn’t accessed legally- that’s why Ms Gillett was gaoled. Ms Camacho relied on the state for child tax credit, the refuge she went to probably received financial assistance from the state, it was the police- an arm of the state- which arrested and charged Ms Gillet and protected Ms camacho from her ex-husband. You could argue that the state should concern itself with none of these things, but that would be a rather different matter. In this case it was the ease with which Ms Gillett could get hold of information she did not need for her job that is the problrm, but that is just as much of a problem with privately-held information too, as cases involving banks have shown.

  2. Rumbold — on 20th September, 2008 at 9:56 pm  

    Roger:

    From the Telegraph article:

    “She was able to access the information because she worked for the Child Tax Credit department.”

    She was jailed for wrongful disclosure. As far as I can tell, her accessing of the information was perfectly legal. It was who she passed it on to which was the criminal act.

  3. Amrit — on 20th September, 2008 at 9:56 pm  

    Even in my semi-alert state ;-) , I must second what Roger says (kinda).

    Regardless of who has the information, once it gets into the wrong hands, it gets into the wrong hands… I think that maybe the title is a little bit over-the-top? At least the state is generally made accountable to some extent through public outcry and shaming, whereas privately-held data gets lost and it only gets out if it’s via well-known companies like the high street banks…

  4. douglas clark — on 20th September, 2008 at 9:58 pm  

    Contrarywise to Roger, it isn’t the legality that is wrong here, it is the potental that is utterly wrong. It is wrong for anyone to hold this kind of information, whatsoever. Public, private, whomsoever.

    I can feel a Libertarian flush coming on. Oh, thank fuck, I just remembered they are idiots. But not necessarily wrong on everything…..

  5. Amrit — on 20th September, 2008 at 10:00 pm  

    douglas clark:

    ‘I can feel a Libertarian flush coming on.’

    You’re not the only one.

    Wait, did I just type that ‘out loud’?

  6. douglas clark — on 20th September, 2008 at 10:15 pm  

    Amrit,

    Oh, shit. Well we’ll have to beat Devil’s Kitchen into a pulp before we join, won’t we? Global warming deniers are why there are only two members of the Libertarian Party. The daft devil and Rumbold.

    Did I just say that out loud too?

    Cue Rumbold to tell us the current membership. Guess he won’t, out of embarrassment.

  7. Amrit — on 20th September, 2008 at 10:29 pm  

    Ahh Douglas, I don’t quite mean in the way that you do. I agree with you that DK is a wazzock of the first order (have you SEEN his modelling pics on his website? *snicker*)

    Although a certain somebody has been trying to inspire me to join those dirty Libs… and not altogether without success.

    *clears throat* Well, that’s enough from me for now.

  8. Leon — on 20th September, 2008 at 10:42 pm  

    The state casts far too great a shadow over our lives.

    So does the ‘free’ market.

  9. Andy Gilmour — on 20th September, 2008 at 10:44 pm  

    Douglas,

    “It is wrong for anyone to hold this kind of information, whatsoever. Public, private, whomsoever.”

    Ummm, bit sweeping, surely? I know, knee-jerk libertarianism can be cathartic (I have a friend who refers to his local council as “robber barons”, even though he knows it’s a grotesque over-exaggeration, and leaves him open to the charge of ‘aligning himself with numpties’…), but seriously…

    Those of us who are sponging, work-shy, social leeches (aka single parents) kinda rely on the (admittedly crap – thanks, Mr. B!) tax credits system having our information…and if some damn woman who works with that information takes a notion to use it illegally to help out her b@st@rd of a boyfriend, that’s not her employer’s fault – unless it can be demonstrated she’d put “easily manipulated, doesn’t care about the consequences of her actions, and shouldn’t be trusted further than you could spit her” on her job application…

    :-)

  10. Amrit — on 20th September, 2008 at 10:45 pm  

    *reads Leon’s comment and nods in emphatic agreement*

    *reads Andy’s comment and bursts into applause*

  11. Andy Gilmour — on 20th September, 2008 at 10:51 pm  

    Amrit,

    *blush* aww, shucks…it weren’t nuttin’..

    :-) )

  12. douglas clark — on 20th September, 2008 at 10:52 pm  

    Amrit,

    You what, you what, you thought?

    I agree with you that DK is a wazzock of the first order (have you SEEN his modelling pics on his website? *snicker*)

    No, thank g!d.

    But I am not a bit astonished. What I am a bit astonished at is the ‘lurve’ that Rumbold applies to, and I quote:

    wazzock of the first order

    Quite how an allegedly sane human being, such as Rumbold, could be taken in by a lunatic is beyond comprehension.

  13. Amrit — on 20th September, 2008 at 11:07 pm  

    @ Andy.

    Er… well… given how I am utterly unable to do anything other than make stupid and sometimes downright childish comments at the mo’, humorous common-sense is always a pleasure. :-D

    @ douglas:

    I don’t think he’s as taken in as you might think. And I really don’t think any ‘lurve’ is being applied to DK, of all the people… ! :D

  14. Andy Gilmour — on 20th September, 2008 at 11:12 pm  

    “stupid and sometimes downright childish comments”

    Sounds like the way I come across over at Butterflies & Wheels… :-) )

    And anyway, I just had a wee gander at yer blog, and yer clearly just in ‘coasting’ mode here!

    :-)

  15. Amrit — on 20th September, 2008 at 11:18 pm  

    @ Andy:

    Y’what? Is that a compliment I smell, sir?

    We’ll be having none of those round these parts! :-D

    I would like to post on my blog… but my brain is broken!

  16. Andy Gilmour — on 20th September, 2008 at 11:25 pm  

    Amrit,

    Heh! (again)

    Beware – I even left a comment…

    I only do a blog thingy once a week or so, but then they’re usually much longer than the ideas/gags in them deserve. Plus that way, my brain can recover from the unusual amount of neural activity required, and crumble slowly back into “childcare” mode…

    :-) )

  17. Amrit — on 20th September, 2008 at 11:37 pm  

    Like Zorro, I have made my mark (oo-er, that sounds a bit off) upon your blog, so as to stop utterly derailing this thread, before somebody comes and scolds me for not respecting blog etiquette or somesuch.

    My brain, which is currently toddling like a child in a full nappy, is about to wibble and fall over, so I’ll hot-foot it back to my blog and complete my attempt-at-a-post now.

    *bows head* Sorry for my off-topicking!

  18. douglas clark — on 21st September, 2008 at 12:17 am  

    Well Amrit and Andy, quite franky neither of you add much to this site.

    Amrit:

    Like Zorro, I have made my mark (oo-er, that sounds a bit off) upon your blog, so as to stop utterly derailing this thread, before somebody comes and scolds me for not respecting blog etiquette or somesuch.

    My brain, which is currently toddling like a child in a full nappy, is about to wibble and fall over, so I’ll hot-foot it back to my blog and complete my attempt-at-a-post now.

    *bows head* Sorry for my off-topicking!

    Well, you said it.

    And Andy, hears what you had to say:

    “It is wrong for anyone to hold this kind of information, whatsoever. Public, private, whomsoever.”

    Ummm, bit sweeping, surely? I know, knee-jerk libertarianism can be cathartic (I have a friend who refers to his local council as “robber barons”, even though he knows it’s a grotesque over-exaggeration, and leaves him open to the charge of ‘aligning himself with numpties’…), but seriously…

    Those of us who are sponging, work-shy, social leeches (aka single parents) kinda rely on the (admittedly crap – thanks, Mr. B!) tax credits system having our information…and if some damn woman who works with that information takes a notion to use it illegally to help out her b@st@rd of a boyfriend, that’s not her employer’s fault – unless it can be demonstrated she’d put “easily manipulated, doesn’t care about the consequences of her actions, and shouldn’t be trusted further than you could spit her” on her job application…

    Charming, and fundamentally wrong.

    Still and all, the fact that you’ll never come back, fills me with optomism. This is a sensible web site, I tend to think. It is not given over to nut jobs.

  19. sonia — on 21st September, 2008 at 12:44 am  

    can’t see what libertarianism there is in this piece frankly. its complete rubbish (sorry rumbold) – information should be frankly free to everyone – that is the point more like actually than this obsession with privacy. open free societies etc. etc.

    Control of information, in case some of you hadn’t noticed, is where power arises from (state or non-state)

    that’s the whole bloody point. that’s where real liberty lies – the freedom for all of us to access information – not just the powerful few.

  20. sonia — on 21st September, 2008 at 12:48 am  

    obsession with privacy sound more like being conservative than libertarian. its the old keep yourself to yourself kind of thinking. intellectual property and that sort of thinking.

    and also Rumbold you don’t seem to realise (perhaps because you take the advantages of State that you find appealing – law justice, no doubt for granted because everything is relative and you focus on the state powers you are not so fond of) that without the State the culprit could not even have been brought to justice. try living in Bangladesh to get my point. so indeed the state does cast a shadow over our lives – i bet that’s what the culprit was thinking when she got jailed!

  21. sonia — on 21st September, 2008 at 12:55 am  

    the fundamental assumptions we hold about ‘information’ and ‘ownership’ of information, is what i think determine people’s differing reactions to data privacy.

    i’ve been coming across this a lot in my work on a mapping project. idiotically, it seems to be i have to get every singe shop owners permission before i can list them on my map(though i dont believe this!) because apparently otherwise we’d be contravening the data protection act. as far as i can see, these are all people listed in the yellow pages. if you’re setting up shop, and i say on my map, there is a shop here that sells bananas and give the name – why is that contravening the shop owner’s privacy? if you walked past the bloody shop you’d know wouldn’t you?

    so why is it that in the non-physical representation of what you would see if you walked physically in that area – somehow that ‘representation’ i.e. the pure factual information – belongs then to the owner of the shop? you wouldn’t say you have to ask the shop owner before you verbally told someone else about the shop – so why is the textual representation electronically any different?

    these are the kinds of things we need to be thinking about – people’s understanding of information, who owns it, what do we mean by ownership etc. if something is publicly known (e.g the name and address of the shop because its out there in the real world) then who should control that information spreading if at all? shouldn’t that information be thought of differently to something that isn’t publicly shared, e.g. if you have a transaction between you and another party, and you both want to keep that between you, that’s your business.

  22. Leon — on 21st September, 2008 at 1:26 am  

    Well Amrit and Andy, quite franky neither of you add much to this site.

    Mate, that was uncalled for. And decidedly untrue.

  23. Amrit — on 21st September, 2008 at 1:46 am  

    Sonia, before I head off to bed, I will just say thank you for your comments (as usual), that is a really interesting way of putting it. I kind of agreed with you in my first comment, I think.

    @ Leon:

    Thank you. I think douglas is just hating on Andy & I because libertarians get him worked up – and because he’s not getting a rise out of Rumbold :-D . Sadly for him, I don’t TRY to add much to the site, other than a sense of humour and proper spelling (for once)! ;P

  24. douglas clark — on 21st September, 2008 at 3:03 am  

    Leon @ 22,

    Well, what do either of them have to add? Amrit has, at least, indiirectly addressed what I have had to say:

    Thank you. I think douglas is just hating on Andy & I because libertarians get him worked up – and because he’s not getting a rise out of Rumbold :-D . Sadly for him, I don’t TRY to add much to the site, other than a sense of humour and proper spelling (for once)! ;P

    Perhaps. Though I have never seen Rumbold as an enemy. More of a misguided friend.

    And, as for Andy, well, this was what he had to say:

    Those of us who are sponging, work-shy, social leeches (aka single parents) kinda rely on the (admittedly crap – thanks, Mr. B!) tax credits system having our information…and if some damn woman who works with that information takes a notion to use it illegally to help out her b@st@rd of a boyfriend, that’s not her employer’s fault – unless it can be demonstrated she’d put “easily manipulated, doesn’t care about the consequences of her actions, and shouldn’t be trusted further than you could spit her” on her job application…

    Do you agree with that? From what I know about you, I wouldn’t have expected you to support that statement. I’d have thought that Libertarians have a point here, that freedom of information can be taken a step too far. But, there you go.

  25. Leon — on 21st September, 2008 at 3:30 am  

    Well, what do either of them have to add?

    What’s your criteria for valued contribution? Also, what right do you have to judge?

    I don’t remember seeing Andy around that much but Amrit does chime in with comments I’ve found interesting (if you doubt her I’d suggest reading her excellent blog). Not everyone likes to post in entirely the same manner, hell there are weeks where I only add a ‘well said’ or ‘that’s bollox’ to the proceedings. Should I be considering whether I should post here still??

    The point isn’t whether I agree with Andy either, saying things like ‘Well Amrit and Andy, quite frankly neither of you add much to this site.’ because you don’t agree with them is uncalled for. If someone said your SNP supporting comments didn’t add anything to the site I’d take the same line of defence over your right to post them.

    Anyway, play the ball not the man/woman. If you want to take this line of discussion further I’m all for it but not at the expense of a good thread.

    Stick around I’ve just the post for it coming up in the next day or so. ;)

  26. douglas clark — on 21st September, 2008 at 4:08 am  

    Leon,

    What’s your criteria for valued contribution? Also, what right do you have to judge?

    I have no idea.

    I just judge posters against my own standards, or something.

    Which you do too. You see me as stepping out of line, perhaps, which is frankly unfair.

    I’ll call stupidity where I see it. And expect to get taken to task when I’m wrong.

    I look forward to your future post…

    Hopefully, it will address these issues.

    As far as I know, there are not seperate rules for you and I. Neither should their be.

  27. halima — on 21st September, 2008 at 5:38 am  

    What’s your criteria for valued contribution? Also, what right do you have to judge?

    Hope one of them is not that you have to be a PP regular! And worse, have to agree with a PP regular!

    What makes this site interesting for me, isn’t the regulars, though that’s great for site continuity, but the drive-thru commentators… adds to the richness of debate ..

    I’m sure some of my posts have been deleted before, but not being small minded, I am assuming they were boring and and not because someone in PP disagreed with me, I’ve never been one for high school popularity contests .. ;

  28. Andy Gilmour — on 21st September, 2008 at 11:16 am  

    Dear Douglas,

    This is not really to do with “freedom of information”, it’s about someone using that information – which is, sorry to say, *vital* for the state to hold in order for various systems to function, and they had legitimate access to as part of their job, in an illegal manner.

    I’m so *terribly* sorry you didn’t like the way I put it, but I think you’ll find that I did, directly, address the issue, quoting your absolutistic (and yes, that’s the right word) statement:

    “It is wrong for anyone to hold this kind of information, whatsoever. Public, private, whomsoever.”

    (Just thought I’d repeat it to remind you of how sweeping and nonsensical it was).

    So which bit of my argument didn’t you like, huh?

    I *am* a single parent on tax credits.

    Tax credits *are* a screwed-up, inefficient, error-strewn system.

    The woman *did* break the law by using the information illegally.

    Employers *should* be liable if they can be proved to be negligent in their recruiting practices.

    And yet that’s “stupidity”, and “missing the point”?

    “Still and all, the fact that you’ll never come back, fills me with optomism. This is a sensible web site, I tend to think. It is not given over to nut jobs.”

    Interesting. I like facts and try to stick to evidence-based reasoning. You appear to be an ad hom merchant. But I’m, apparently, the stupid one.

    Weird that we’re both SNP supporters (although I’ve got big problems with Salmond’s pandering to supernaturalists).

    Judging me by your own standards? Hmmm…

  29. Rumbold — on 21st September, 2008 at 11:50 am  

    Douglas:

    “Oh, shit. Well we’ll have to beat Devil’s Kitchen into a pulp before we join, won’t we? Global warming deniers are why there are only two members of the Libertarian Party. The daft devil and Rumbold.

    Did I just say that out loud too?

    Cue Rumbold to tell us the current membership. Guess he won’t, out of embarrassment.”

    The door is always open for you Douglas. I have no idea what the current membership level is, being only a member. It is a small, recently formed party which has received little publicity in the mainstream media. I wouldn’t expect the numbers to be huge. We care about quality, not quantity. Given that Labour membership is basically obligatory for anyone in a union, Conservative membership is given away free if you join the W.I., and being a Lib Dem is a rite of passage for anyone who has tried to smoke their sandals, it is no wonder that these parties have relatively large (albeit declining) memberships. LPUK is one of the few parties that can claim to have seen membership figures increase by 1000%+ in the last year.

    “But I am not a bit astonished. What I am a bit astonished at is the ‘lurve’ that Rumbold applies to.”

    For all our sakes, just ask DK out. Then hopefully this jealousy will disappear.

    “Well Amrit and Andy, quite franky neither of you add much to this site.”

    This is really harsh Douglas. Amrit and Andy are good commentators, and everyone goes off on fun-filled interludes now and then.

    “This is a sensible web site, I tend to think. It is not given over to nut jobs.”

    Then why are we here? Heh.

    “Perhaps. Though I have never seen Rumbold as an enemy. More of a misguided friend.”

    Ditto. Hopefully one day you will discard the chains of socialism and join us.

  30. Rumbold — on 21st September, 2008 at 12:12 pm  

    Amrit:

    ” Although a certain somebody has been trying to inspire me to join those dirty Libs… and not altogether without success.”

    Heh. One day, one day.

    ”I don’t think he’s as taken in as you might think.”

    Douglas won’t listen to anyone when you mention Devil’s Kitchen. It is better to let him tire himself out, then approach him when he is calmer.

    ”Sadly for him, I don’t TRY to add much to the site, other than a sense of humour and proper spelling (for once)! ;P.”

    You do contribute a lot to this site. It is just that Douglas is in DK mode. He will feel better after snacking on some square sausages.

    Andy Gilmour:

    ” Those of us who are sponging, work-shy, social leeches (aka single parents) kinda rely on the (admittedly crap – thanks, Mr. B!) tax credits system having our information…and if some damn woman who works with that information takes a notion to use it illegally to help out her b@st@rd of a boyfriend, that’s not her employer’s fault.”

    But she should not have access to this information unless this woman was specifically assigned to her. My point is that the information was accessed perfectly legally, but by someone who in a proper system should not have been able to access it without a good reason.

    Robber barons- sums them up really.

    Sonia:

    “Can’t see what libertarianism there is in this piece frankly. its complete rubbish (sorry rumbold) – information should be frankly free to everyone.”

    That is a baffling response. This woman was placed in danger because it was so easy to access confidential information about her. I agree that we should have access to more information about the workinsg of the state, but why on earth is it any of yours, or my, business which particular women are at which particular shelters? How does society benefit from having that information in the public domain?

    “Obsession with privacy sound more like being conservative than libertarian. its the old keep yourself to yourself kind of thinking. intellectual property and that sort of thinking.”

    I consider privacy for the individual an integral part of libertarianism: why should people be able to hold large amounts of information about you without your consent?

    “And also Rumbold you don’t seem to realise (perhaps because you take the advantages of State that you find appealing – law justice, no doubt for granted because everything is relative and you focus on the state powers you are not so fond of) that without the State the culprit could not even have been brought to justice.”

    Credit to the police and CPS for bringing her to justice. I don’t think that implies though that Sarah Gillett should have been able to access information so easily in the first place.

    “I’ve been coming across this a lot in my work on a mapping project. idiotically, it seems to be i have to get every singe shop owners permission before i can list them on my map(though i dont believe this!) because apparently otherwise we’d be contravening the data protection act.”

    That does seem like overkill, as the shop owners have chosen to put their information out in the public domain.

  31. Amrit — on 21st September, 2008 at 12:20 pm  

    Rumbold:

    Hah. Nice responses. ‘Fun-filled interludes’, eh? Glad someone other than Andy and I enjoyed them!

    I must warn you once again, I will NEVER be a libertarian. All manner of entreaties, caresses and general alluring behaviour will not turn this woman’s head ;-D. I’m a feminist, remember? The very agitative nature of that doesn’t sit too well with libertarianism, I think.

    I thank all ye who have defended me against Douglas. Unfortunately, he misses the irony in his giving someone who only a few people on the Internet care about (DK) more credence than they deserve otherwise.

  32. David — on 21st September, 2008 at 12:40 pm  

    Hyperbole alert.

    This a breach of confidentiality that had potentialy dangerous consequences, nothing more.

    I’m not entirely sure why the low status of Gillets job is important here, low level civil servants have access to my personal information each time I sign on. This is not about the power of the state, unless harassing Miss Camacho is state policy.

  33. Rumbold — on 21st September, 2008 at 6:34 pm  

    Amrit:

    “Hah. Nice responses. ‘Fun-filled interludes’, eh? Glad someone other than Andy and I enjoyed them!”

    You know me- Mr. Relaxed.

    “I must warn you once again, I will NEVER be a libertarian. All manner of entreaties, caresses and general alluring behaviour will not turn this woman’s head ;-D. I’m a feminist, remember? The very agitative nature of that doesn’t sit too well with libertarianism, I think.”

    We will see about that. Anyway, if feminism is simply about women being equal in the eyes of society and the law, then that is a key component of libertarianism.

    David:

    “This a breach of confidentiality that had potentialy dangerous consequences, nothing more.

    I’m not entirely sure why the low status of Gillets job is important here, low level civil servants have access to my personal information each time I sign on. This is not about the power of the state, unless harassing Miss Camacho is state policy.”

    It is not official state policy to harrass Miss Camacho, but I feel that the title is still valid, because the post is about how much power an employee of the state can have. The reason I brought up her status was to show that even relatively low-ranked employees can access very sensitive information on us legally.

  34. David — on 21st September, 2008 at 6:59 pm  

    “It is not official state policy to harrass Miss Camacho, but I feel that the title is still valid, because the post is about how much power an employee of the state can have. The reason I brought up her status was to show that even relatively low-ranked employees can access very sensitive information on us legally.”

    It’s hardly airstrip one, it is a data protection issue and a confidentiality issue. The state investigated this particular incident and then took the necessary action; in this instance dismissing Gillet.

    We should be concerned about the collection of data by the state and private companies, but the real issue is how they use this data.

  35. MaidMarian — on 21st September, 2008 at 7:07 pm  

    Rumbold –

    ‘I consider privacy for the individual an integral part of libertarianism: why should people be able to hold large amounts of information about you without your consent?’

    What happens to the e-mail addresses we have to put on here to contribute?

    With apologies Rumbold for that slightly facetious thought, but I think you are rather stretching the point here a very long way. Do you object to the eixstance of things like 192.com? What about FoI disclosures? Apparently public bodies have found themselves compelled to give out private addresses?

    What you are demanding here is a copper bottomed guarantee against people acting illegally and using anything short of that standard as a stalking horse for a political attack. Sorry, you are demanding the impossible.

    What this wonam did was illegal and she has been penalised, what more do you want, blood?

    And this is before we get to the entirely legitimate question about whether the names of people in hostels should be available under the spirit of the nutcases charter – sorry the FoI Act. Under FoI of course it would appear that pruvate addresses can be given out.

  36. MaidMarian — on 21st September, 2008 at 7:35 pm  

    Sonia – ‘that’s the whole bloody point. that’s where real liberty lies – the freedom for all of us to access information – not just the powerful few.’

    Absolutely, and this is exactly why the current moves to the FoI Act are total cobblers. Currently, FoI seems to work on the assumption that the reasons why information is sought is irrelevant. Arrant nonsense, of course. The request could be frivolous, it could be to cause annoyance, it could be in good faith – it does not matter to the FoI zealots.

    But more than that you never hear any interest in information held in the private sector. What advice have senior figures at Tesco had about food production? What about banks lending strategies – no, in the gospel according to FoI zealots these are less in the public interest than taxi fares run up by junior civil servants.

    Of course, the FoI zealots are mostly hacks who see the act as nothing more than a way to cheap and easy headlines. The public interest does not bother those loathsome hacks. FoI is one big political stalking horse at yours and mine expense.

    Indeed, isn’t interesting that Rumbold seems to want to blame everyone except for Ms Gillett?

  37. Rumbold — on 21st September, 2008 at 9:49 pm  

    David:

    “It’s hardly airstrip one, it is a data protection issue and a confidentiality issue. The state investigated this particular incident and then took the necessary action; in this instance dismissing Gillet.

    We should be concerned about the collection of data by the state and private companies, but the real issue is how they use this data.”

    My problem was that she was legally able to get the information. I am not criticising the state’s response, but rather the system and principle. I agree that companies carry too much information about us as well. What you, and many others, fail to appreciate is that with such a large volume of information available to so many people there is going to be significant abuse of the system.

    MaidMarian:

    “What happens to the e-mail addresses we have to put on here to contribute?”

    Nothing. Nor is there really a parallel, as you don’t have to comment on Pickled Politics, so handing over your e-mail is voluntary. If you are really worried about putting your e-mail in, then simply enter one that you don’t use very often.

    “Do you object to the eixstance of things like 192.com? What about FoI disclosures? Apparently public bodies have found themselves compelled to give out private addresses?”

    FOI are fine apart when it concerns the details of individuals. I don’t believe that there is a public interest reason why such information should be handed over. People are free to hand over their details to whomever they want.

    “What you are demanding here is a copper bottomed guarantee against people acting illegally and using anything short of that standard as a stalking horse for a political attack. Sorry, you are demanding the impossible.”

    No system is perfect. I know that. But the best way to reduce the number of abuses is to reduce the amount of information available, and limit the access to those who only really need to know. That won’t solve all the problems, but it will lessen them.

    “What this wonam did was illegal and she has been penalised, what more do you want, blood?”

    Or reform and safeguards, as I like to call it.

    “But more than that you never hear any interest in information held in the private sector. What advice have senior figures at Tesco had about food production? What about banks lending strategies – no, in the gospel according to FoI zealots these are less in the public interest than taxi fares run up by junior civil servants.”

    Taxpayers fund civil servants, therefore they have a right to know what the money is being spent on. If companies are receiving state aid, then again the taxpayers have a right to know. If they are not, then only the shareholders do.

    “Indeed, isn’t interesting that Rumbold seems to want to blame everyone except for Ms Gillett?”

    I said that I was happy that she had gone to jail. My real concern is how to reduce the risk of this sort of thing happening again.

  38. Andy Gilmour — on 21st September, 2008 at 11:43 pm  

    Rumbold,

    I agree that a review of their data management procedures should occur – but let’s not forget, this is still a case of someone abrogating their personal responsibilities to both their employer and their clients.

    I used to work in the sports centre of a large academic institution, where a lot of we ‘relatively menial’ staff had access to a wealth of personal data about students, staff, and members of the general public – including addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, credit card details, etc. If that information had been restricted more heavily, then we wouldn’t have been able to provide a decent service to our members across the various staff shifts throughout our (roughly) 12/7 opening hours.

    Ok, they gave over the information voluntarily (although we also had access to the full Uni Registry student & staff databases, to cross-check information, so we could get a great deal more data on anyone we were required to), but it’s still the case that the responsibility for their security lay with our employer (to make sure they didn’t hire dubious numpties – no cracks about “how come they took you on then?”, and complied with the DPA, etc), and with us doing our jobs.

    There are many reasons why restricting employee access to data can damage service (make it harder to correct database errors, take longer to cross-check records to prevent duplicate/fraudulent claims, prevent data sharing between departments which reduces the amount of time clients have to spend on form-filling, etc), and balancing this against the potential risk of individuals acting in an illegal manner is always going to be tricky…

  39. MaidMarian — on 21st September, 2008 at 11:54 pm  

    Rumbold – Out of interest, is your name on the published voter register?

    ‘you don’t have to comment on Pickled Politics, so handing over your e-mail is voluntary.’ I readily accept that the parallel is not a clean one, but how far do you want to take this? Claiming benefit or indeed using state services is not per se something one has to do.

    ‘FOI are fine apart when it concerns the details of individuals. I don’t believe that there is a public interest reason why such information should be handed over. People are free to hand over their details to whomever they want.’

    FoI is purpose blind, it doesn’t matter one little bit what you think or do not think is in the public interest. So – do you think that 192.com should be closed down? Yes or no? Of course, under FoI right now it would appear that private addresses are public information. Quite who’se interest that situation is in I will let you dwell on. Either way, it is not down to the individual whether it is passed on.

    ‘But the best way to reduce the number of abuses is to reduce the amount of information available, and limit the access to those who only really need to know.’

    Well…how about some sort of indvidualised card that can only be securely read when an individual approaches the state for a service. Reading facilities could be easily restricted by that route. But then I have a suspicion you wouldn’t be too keen on those reforms and safeguards.

    ‘Taxpayers fund civil servants, therefore they have a right to know what the money is being spent on. If companies are receiving state aid, then again the taxpayers have a right to know. If they are not, then only the shareholders do.’

    Cobblers! Are you seriously telling me that the public only has a interest where state aid is involved? So the examples I provided are not in the public interest? Indeed, if the hacks spent more time doing some real journalism rather than relying vexatious use of the FoI act we might have had some scrutiny of the banks pre credit crunch. I have far more interest in how Sainsbury’s gets advice on food production than I do in most of the public sector’s business.

    Your argument essentially is that we must assume that the public sector always and everywhere acts in bad faith and is engaging in a massive plot to enslave us all isn’t it? It actually gets tragic when that argument gets so blinkered it can not accept that there is a public interest outside of ‘state aid’ (whatever that means) issues.

    I have no legitimate interest in Sainsbury’s taxi bill – that somehow does not mean that I have no interest in the rest of their busines does it?

    ‘My real concern is how to reduce the risk of this sort of thing happening again.’

    Really? The article comes over as if your first and foremost concern is the scroing of cheap political points.

    Sorry.

  40. Rumbold — on 22nd September, 2008 at 11:24 am  

    Andy Gilmour:

    “I used to work in the sports centre of a large academic institution, where a lot of we ‘relatively menial’ staff had access to a wealth of personal data about students, staff, and members of the general public – including addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, credit card details, etc. If that information had been restricted more heavily, then we wouldn’t have been able to provide a decent service to our members across the various staff shifts throughout our (roughly) 12/7 opening hours.”

    I suspect that more of you had access to more information then you needed to. However, once you have access to the information, the work environment shifts and you can’t do without it. The same applies to laws. Most new laws aren’t really needed, but if you ever try to get one repealed then there will always be a group that opposes it, because they have become use to it.

    MaidMarian:

    “Out of interest, is your name on the published voter register?”

    I am not sure. How do I check? I am ex-directory though.

    I doubt that so many of you needed access to so much information. Of course once you have access to so much information you think that you cannot function without it. That is how society works (try calling for a law to be repealed and you will encounter the same problem).

    “So – do you think that 192.com should be closed down? Yes or no? Of course, under FoI right now it would appear that private addresses are public information. Quite who’se interest that situation is in I will let you dwell on. Either way, it is not down to the individual whether it is passed on.”

    If 192.com is publishing the details (such as addresses, date of birth, etc.) without the consent of the ‘owner’, then yes. But I don’t know enough about the site to have formed a definitive opinion on it.

    “Well…how about some sort of indvidualised card that can only be securely read when an individual approaches the state for a service. Reading facilities could be easily restricted by that route. But then I have a suspicion you wouldn’t be too keen on those reforms and safeguards.”

    Actually, that sounds like a really good idea, providiing that it was actually secure and that such information was restricted to only the people directly involved in it.

    “Are you seriously telling me that the public only has a interest where state aid is involved? So the examples I provided are not in the public interest?”

    Providing companies obey the law, and don’t get any money from taxpayers, how they conduct their affairs is none of my business (unless I am a shareholder). To me the state is like a firm you have hired to do a job for you. You have a right to ensure that your money is being spent properly on what you want.

    “Your argument essentially is that we must assume that the public sector always and everywhere acts in bad faith and is engaging in a massive plot to enslave us all isn’t it?”

    No, but we should have the right to check that money is being spent properly. There are plently of good, honest civil servants. I know that it is hard for some people to grasp, but it is not their money that they are spending. We have entrusted it to them.

    “Really? The article comes over as if your first and foremost concern is the scroing of cheap political points.”

    I have made my dislike for big government pretty clear in the past, so if I say my main concern is reform I mean it.

    “Sorry.”

    Please, don’t apologise. We are having a civilised debate.

  41. Andy Gilmour — on 22nd September, 2008 at 11:16 pm  

    “I suspect that more of you had access to more information then you needed to. However, once you have access to the information, the work environment shifts and you can’t do without it.”

    Sorry, but you’ve got the way the system developed back-to-front.

    Originally, data access was very tight…which completely screwed-up our service, and most disgruntled were the customers. :-)

    Difficulty with removing laws isn’t *necessarily* that people are “used” to them – in most instances I’d argue you’ll find that some group (however small it may be) is benefiting from them, and that they’re the ones who’ll actually bother to campaign in the local press, write to their mp, picket the council meetings, etc.

    Whereas a more typical mentality towards legislation might be that of my “robber barons” friend – who’s finally decided to stop using the expression, because he doesn’t want to be associated with the ‘Guido tendency’ :-) . He was bemoaning the fact that making a small change in/removing a piece of legislation took far more time & effort than he, personally, was willing to put in…and even if he did succeed, it’d leave “tens of thousands” of other bits unchallenged…

    Which approach is more likely to be effective? :-)

  42. Rumbold — on 23rd September, 2008 at 2:56 pm  

    Andy Gilmour:

    We really need a bonfire of the laws, and then work out which ones we should bring back.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
With the help of PHP and Wordpress.