Personal data and a digital manifesto

Back in 2006, I blogged saying that I am in favour of better use of data by government, provided that there is a shift of control of personal data back to the individual. Here is what I said then:

A national identity register of unique personal identifiers could make a significant contribution to improving government services.  We could introduce such a register without allowing the establishment of a surveillance state. The following five conditions would help to protect our liberties:

  • government data should be stored in decentralized databases, not in shared data warehouses;
  • citizens should have access to all data held about them by government
  • citizens should be able to see a log of all government access to their data
  • an independent information security ombudsman should police the systems
  • there should be no identity cards and no collection of biometric data

If all these protections were put in place, I would welcome a national identity register. If the Government will not implement any of them, I should like to know why not.

Roll on four years, and the Labour manifesto published yesterday says:

We will 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

The Conservative manifesto published today says:

Wherever possible, we believe that personal data should be controlled by individual citizens themselves.

Just sayin’, they should listen to us geeks and we wouldn’t have wasted the few years arguing about an identity card database.  (h/t

While we are on the subject, Tom Watson seems really to understand the internet.  He says he wants to “stand on a platform that is avowedly supportive of the generation that seek to use the Internet to make the world a better place”, and he has drafted a digital manifesto for comments:

  1. I will support and campaign for more transparency in the public and private sector.
  2. I will oppose measures that unjustly deny people’s access to the Internet.
  3. Whilst noting the acknowledged limitations, I believe people have the right to free speech on the Internet.
  4. I will support all measures that allow people access to their personal data held by others. I further support restoration of control over how personal data is gathered, managed and shared to the individual.
  5. I will use my role as an MP to support international free expression movements.
  6. The Internet shall be built and operated openly and without discrimination.
  7. I will support all measures to bring non-personal public data into the public domain.
  8. I will support all proposals that lead to greater numbers joining the digital world and oppose measures that reduce it.
  9. I believe that copyright and software patent laws should be reformed to reflect the needs of citizens in the Internet age.

1 thought on “Personal data and a digital manifesto”

  1. Owen – it’s true. Interesting that the penny dropped at front-bench level, and at the time each party was focussed on a competitive election. Democracy works in peculiar ways….

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