Friday, 6 April 2012

What's the matter with our leaders, that they can imagine we welcome mass surveillance? A blogger suggests the answer


To the Cabinet Office, it is quite unremarkable to suggest that we should all apply to private sector companies for an electronic ID so that we can transact with the government, see for example this post by ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken – Establishing trust in digital services. Given that there are 60 million of us here in the UK, those private sector companies would have to be pretty big to manage the volumes. As big as Facebook, for example, who already have 30 million active users in the UK. Or Google, the company that "walked Francis Maude through the identity ecosystem". At least that's what ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken says in Thoughts on my recent trip to the West Coast with Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office.

To ordinary human beings, the idea is utterly inept.

To the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, it is quite unremarkable to suggest that we should all collect together our personal data in a file and give it to suppliers so that they know what we want to buy from them, please see for example Ed Davey, problem-solver – midata. Only a mooncalf could possibly agree (The case for midata – the answer is a mooncalf).

To ordinary human beings, the idea is utterly inept.

To the civil service all across Whitehall, it is quite unremarkable to suggest that all the personal data about us held by the government should be stored on computers operated by the likes of Google and Amazon. Whereas the suggestion is of course actually bonkers – Cloud computing is bonkers or, as HMG put it, a "no-brainer".

To ordinary human beings, the idea is utterly inept.

To the Home Office, it is quite unremarkable to suggest that all our phone calls, emails, web browsing etc ... should be monitored by GCHQ.

To ordinary human beings, the idea is utterly inept.

Whitehall and the senior politicians put in to bat for Whitehall clearly have a very odd idea of human nature. It's worth trying to work out what's odd about it. It doesn't help simply to keep saying that it's odd. We need to make a bit of progress. And in that endeavour the blogger Scott Grønmark has taken the first important step.

Mr Grønmark says that in 2005 it occurred to him that the government has many of the symptoms of autism – Talk to the hand! - why all organisations turn autistic – and that he is thinking of writing a book about it. He has returned to the subject about 10 times over the years (according to Google). Let's hope that he does finally write that book.

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