I have been examining the Election Manifestos for the benefit of Datonomites, admittedly in a rather nose-holding sort of way, but digging deep into the resilience formed by long familiarity with the DPA.
The Labour Party manifesto has a Neo-Maoist cartoon on the front page, with a Start-Rite nuclear family gazing anxiously into a sunlit Future Fair for All. Definitely not married then. Apparently the Party is proud of its record on Civil Liberties, presumably not its recent record. I believe there was a proposal in the Early Intervention and Crime Prevention section for a programme that spotted potential offenders the moment after conception, a capability based, I am reliably informed, on cross-over technology from the Large Hadron Collider. This, however, had to be dropped. But to be fair, there is a proposal, in the Public Services in the Digital Age section, to “explore how to give citizens direct access to the data held on them by public agencies, so that people can use and control their own personal data in their interaction with service providers and the wider community.”
The Conservative proposals of interest are tucked away in the Justice section, where we have reversing the surveillance state; reducing the number of powers under which authority can enter ones home (suspicion of having a dancing bear without a licence is an example); scrapping the ID card, and introducing new protection for the use of personal data. But I was surprised by the proposal to allow people to reclaim their DNA. Now I always thought that it was the information profile extracted from the DNA that was retained, but maybe I was wrong about that. Maybe the police have a large fridge next to the big DNA database, for all those mouth swabs, and other messy crime scene materials. I would welcome illumination on that point. But frankly, now that Dave has come last on the talent show, I’d say there must be some pretty serious re-thinking going on, which does not bode well for seriousness. Still, he could relate the Big Society theme to privacy issues.
Which leaves us with the resurgent Lib Dems, who are strong on the Civil Liberties front, and plausibly so. Their proposals are worth a look, although they seem to have got into a muddle in the section on FoI, when immediately after the proposal to make the exemption test rest on substantial harm rather than mere prejudice to the public interest, they say “the current situation allows those who hoard our personal data far too much room for manoeuvre”, a sentiment I would agree with, but not in an FoI context. I like the idea of data hoarding though; also data hogging. S17 of their draft Freedom Bill has the important proposals for FoI and Data Protection.
Anyhow, can Datonomites keep alert for privacy and information issues which get a public mention in the campaign, and report back?