Friday, 15 August 2008

Freedom, security

UK consultation on keeping location data (i.e. everywhere you've been over the past year) so that local council officers can find out if you've been overfilling your wheelie bins. This has been in the headlines lately.

Read it, wade through the hideous Eurojargon, write them a letter telling them to reconsider. Or don't. You're probably one of the Germans from my office in Essex, thinking "ha ha! Those crazy eccentric Brits with their privacy obsession! I voluntarily write to my local council every two weeks, detailing my religious beliefs and current favourite sexual position, because in Germany, we have high social capital!" Yes I do mean you, Nils & Steffen. Anyway, here's mine.

Dear Mr Knight

I am a UK citizen. I picked up on the Home Office consultation document on “Transposition of Directive 2006/24/EC” and felt the need to respond.

As I understand it, if the current plan goes ahead, ISPs, phone companies etc. will be required by law to keep data about my communications for a year, including for example mobile phone data that shows where I have been. Up till now there have been only voluntary guidelines about this.

I believe this is a bad idea. I am sure that the police would often find this data useful, as your examples suggest. But it also allows the government – including local councils – too easy access to information about my private life. I think the balance here has gone too far towards centralized storage of our personal data. I do not want local councils to know where I have been. I want to give up some security in exchange for some freedom.

Re: competition. Although the proposals to reimburse ISPs for the cost of keeping location and traffic data may help sustain a competitive market, this is trivial compared to the more serious problem that they turn ISPs into paid government informants, giving them a vested interest in the proposed system.

For these reasons, I support the “Do Nothing” option. It is the least worst.

Yours sincerely,

David Hugh-Jones