Scrambling for Safety

I’m reading a quote from Ernest Hemingway. “I love to write. But is has never gotten any easier to do and you can’t expect it to if you keep trying for something better than you can do”.

I wonder what Hemingway would have thought of Weblogs? Possibly not a great deal, as most of them are written by teenage girls and are dropped, like boyfriends, once the interest fades.

Yesterday's ‘Scrambling for Safety’ meeting at The London School of Economics went well. My thanks to Simon Davies of the LSE and Privacy International, for inviting me to perform in a cage of hungry lions. I was going to wear a Che Guevara t-shirt but finally settled on a shirt and tie.

Mr Simon Watkin (Home Office) & The Earl of Northesk

It became an epic and rather technical debate between the Home Office on the one side, who believe that interception of data is in the public interest and the privacy lobby, who believe, with some justification that it breaches the European Convention on Human Rights and possibly our own laws as well.

The debate could have lasted longer as both sides believe strongly that their argument is the correct one and it left me, as chair, to sum up to an audience which included peers and MPs.

Personally, while I believe we need appropriate legislation, there is a stark difference between a ‘Blanket’ data retention policy and a ‘Blunkett’ data retention policy. The question I asked was “Is bad legislation justified in pursuit of a sensible purpose”. I believe not. The governments attempts to push through the legislation are not justified in respect of effectiveness, necessity, proportionality or consequence and the Lords would do well to throw it out once it comes in front of them. We need something better and not legislation that risks being overtaken by technology before it appears on the statute books.

See account in PC Pro Magazine and STAND detailed report of the debate.


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