Thursday, 17 January 2013

GDS, data-sharing, privacy and dignity

In February 2007 a man called Chris Lightfoot committed suicide. Many people paid tribute to him including Phil Booth, the National Coordinator of NO2ID, who wrote in memoriam Chris Lightfoot, 1978 – 2007:
Chris, more than most, understood how important it is that we should all have the choice of what about ourselves we share with others. His intellectual honesty and keen appreciation of human dignity informed all that he did ...
Now another man has committed suicide, Aaron Swartz, and again there are many tributes including one from Sir Tim Berners-Lee ...


... and one from ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken, executive director of the Government Digital Service (GDS) and senior responsible officer owner for the UK's pan-government Identity Assurance Programme (IDAP), please see Standing on the shoulders of giants:
We are shocked and saddened by the death of Aaron Swartz. Some of us at GDS were fortunate to have met him ...

Here in the UK, it inevitably brings back the pain six years ago of losing Chris Lightfoot ...

We should also mourn as citizens, because Aaron and Chris embodied an unbridled eagerness to apply the toolkit of the internet age in the service of civil society ...

Much of the work we do, and the way we do it, drew inspiration from the work of Aaron and Chris ...

>> About this post:
Many people contributed to this short post. We are in their debt. I wasn’t entirely sure that this was an appropriate post for our blog, so I’ve also published this at mikebracken.com. I understand this may seem the wrong place for these sentiments but we also believe in openness and we think that government departments should behave as though there are humans in them. This is from our human side. I apologise in advance if anyone thinks I made the wrong call. That decision was all mine.
It is Sir Isaac Newton who described himself as standing on the shoulders of giants.

Sir Tim believes that the web can know more about us than we do.

GDS with their IDAP hat on want us all to use personal data stores (PDSs). They want those PDSs to be maintained on the web, in the cloud. And they want the existing laws prohibiting data-sharing between government departments to be repealed or ignored, using as an excuse individual electoral registration, the national census and putative cuts in public administration costs.

This looks like the opposite of Chris Lightfoot's appeal to human dignity.

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