“People fix society, if you let them”

Please read this. Weep at its simplicity and common sense. Then join me in carrying its writer Becky Hogge aloft down Whitehall.

From the New Statesman:

You cannot fix society with computers. People fix society, if you let them. That means freeing nurses, teachers, social workers – and their clients – from the relentless tyranny of Whitehall’s cravings for ever more information. A benevolent state must have a human face, not an unblinking screen. Technology can help, but only if it is despatched by those at the front line. It is a perverse truth that in an age where the bottom-up, decentralised, so-called “network of ends” that is the internet has demonstrated its primacy, the state continues to deploy digital technology from the top down.

The Liberal Democrats, in setting up their Commission on Privacy and in speaking out about police action during the recent G20 protests, have become the go-to party for action on the continued erosion of civil liberties of which the database state is one part. The Tories, with their promise to scrap the ID card and the controversial children’s database, ContactPoint, will attract many younger voters in the metropolitan liberal belts come the next general election. Labour must shed its fear that the personal data issue is toxic, must wrest control of the debate from Whitehall and must act now. Social justice must not be cast aside in our flight from the tyranny of the machine state.

You can read the whole article here.

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3 Comments

  • Helen Duffett 3rd May '09 - 3:34pm

    I agree, Costigan, decades of Labour thinking have ignored the head-smackingly obvious. And when their flawed systems haven’t worked, they’ve tried to make them even tighter.

    As a parent, I wouldn’t dream of treating my kids like this and object to being treated this way by the State.

    It’s become the default, so we have to keep stating the obvious.

    The other week, my eldest son brought home a letter from his secondary school about their canteen’s new cashless payment method. They propose to scan students’ fingerprints instead of taking cash – in the name of convenience, efficiency and “dietary control.”

    I’m supposed to monitor his account online, for crying out loud! Not comfy with this at all, at an age when he should be growing more separate and independent.

    To my knowledge, I’m the only parent who’s even questioned any of this with the Governors. Surveillance and data hoarding have become second nature in so many places.

  • Helen, I’ve spoken to a fair few parents who’ve spoken to their respective schools, but there’s not really a critical mass yet. Perhaps more publicity is needed for the Leave Them Kids Alone campaign, which could act as a clearing-house and rallying point for concerned parents?

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