Privacy in the Computer Age

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Your right to privacy has already been severely eroded. Use of smart cards and fingerprint recognition in libraries and proposals for microchipped car registration plates both suggest it may soon be further compromised. Use of Identity Cards and 'smart cards' is expanding. Proposals in the USA to introduce TIAS have led to a storm of protest from many bodies including the American Library Association. Links are given to ALA and several other websites that discuss TIAS. A rash of cartoons critical of 'snooping' has appeared in the USA, many produced by librarians. A few are shown here.

Privacy, freedom of expression, freedom from persecution and secure e-mail have been debating points on the Internet for many years. The re-introduction of a revised Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIP) Act in the UK will substantially erode privacy. This website adds only a fraction to what is available. However, part of it is centred on libraries and public access computers in the UK which are not much discussed elsewhere.

The first page summarises a few of the 70 or more campaign groups active in this field. Links are also given to sites that explain the use of secure e-mail and 'anonymous' remailing services, the popularity of which is growing probably as a consequence of concern about government snooping. There is of course a 'downside' to secure e-mail and remail - its use by organised crime. The UK has a long history of 'secret snooping' using computer systems and more is currently permitted than in other European countries.

The page internet_privacy_help.htm within another section of this website seeks help from computer users world-wide in addressing privacy for computer users in libraries. My interest began in June 2002 when I published letters in The Independent and in the Western Morning News. Copies can be viewed within the Library Dispute section. An article was published in the CILIP journal (UK) in December 2002. I have since become aware of the extent to which many of the problems experienced in the USA and UK with library computer systems result from a concern over filtering systems for pornography, and in particular making sure that it cannot be viewed by children (or in the USA, that it can be!). This is briefly discussed and links are given to major 'filtering' papers.

I had noted the ease with which personal data could be removed from library computers in the UK. Changes to the electoral register system to help ensure greater privacy were watered down by the government. Devon County Council refused to give an adequate reply to letters. These and other events led to the creation of this website in its present form. The position of the UK Information Commissioner is discussed. Copies of correspondence are included and you may draw your own conclusions about the real degree of government commitment to privacy and data protection in the UK.

Tinhat is a useful website containing concise summaries of many 'internet privacy and security' topics.

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Index for this section

Internet Privacy and Freedom organisations around the world

Filtering pornography from library computers - the worldwide debate

Out-take of data from Library Computer System - the shambles in Devon

Letter to Data Protection Commissioner concerning library computers

Further letter to Information Commissioner 21 October 

Article published in CILIP "Update" magazine Dec 2002

Total Information Awareness System - Big Brother in the USA 

Why you may wish to opt out of being on the full electoral register 

An example of how data-sharing can compromise privacy

Why dates of birth should be kept out of the hands of local officials

Redesign of credit cards - why your name should be omitted

Identity Cards and Identity Theft

A useful 2006 summary of the arguments against ID cards

Smart card and rfid surveillance and microchipped car number plates

Response from Information Commissioner

CCTV cameras in the UK - surveillance and the loss of privacy.

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