Last week Damian Green MP (left), the shadow Immigration Minister, gave a speech at the right leaning Centre for Policy Studies, and a good deal of it was in areas of interest to Datonomy – policing and surveillance, transformational government and the role of IT; and the Database State. As it seems quite likely that this time next year Mr Green will be sitting in the Home Office, it is worth having a look at it. The speech is on the CPS website.
I will not comment at any length, apart from on one point. He adopts a basically neo-liberal approach to the big state (not much sign of a more traditional conservatism), so the idea is to have a smaller state and to free up individuals. Along these lines, he equates big databases with the big state, and assumes that the end of one is the end of the other. While that might be party policy, there is no necessary connection between this analysis of the big state and the rejection of the database state.
There is, in effect, a failure to make a proper distinction between the privacy interests involved in the databases, and the more general account of freedom according to which the role of the state should be reduced. Why shouldn’t you, after all, have a small state and some big databases adapted to the policies of the small state? That is what we may get unless there is a separate privacy assessment of the large database which doesn’t depend on a neo-liberal version of freedom applied to the state.