Wednesday 11 February 2009

The Job Interview of the Future . . .

How could I have missed this? Thank heavens for sensible family who save things. Following the Coroners and Justice Bill, which will authorise widespread data sharing powers, heading to the committee stage, Simon Carr has written the most frightening sketch I've seen in a long time.

A man goes for a job interview and he looks the likeliest for the position. Questions about his abilities and aptitude? Forget that. Just pop your ID card in. Now let's investigate your mother, your partner, her daughter from a previous relationship, and all your and their medical information and past real and imagined offences. This is all possible not least because supermarkets are happy to share with anybody what you buy, and your ISP tells your job interviewer what websites you visit. The job interviewer is permitted to predict when your mother will die, pass judgment over "your anger management issues" and request letters from your partner and your counsellor over private matters in the home.

The most frightening thing is that the data is clearly already known by hundreds of "agencies", but, on the strength of a five-minute job interview, it is the job interviewer who decides the fate of the man's partner's child. Over the top? Unlikely? I hope so. But watch the way it's writing. The computer's doing sums and ticking boxes. That's the way it works, isn't it? Now, I've nothing against whistle-blowing when it's needed. Those soldiers who physically and sexually abused the Iraqui citizens who had had the temerity to turn up to collect routine food supplies were found out because the woman developing their photographs called the police. That was thought. The sketch demonstrates the computer doing the thinking and the human taking part in the battle over whose backside (excuse me) is covered at the expense of who else's. Think China under Mao, Iran under the Islamic Revolution.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When your every penny spent is counted and must be accounted for, people will turn to bartering. When abortion was illegal, many women died as a result of backstreet abortions. I mentioned this to my local MP, Stephen Crabb, two years ago in an e-mail around the time I joined NO2ID. He sent me a fantastic response, and two months ago he kindly gave me permission to publish our correspondence here - my thanks for this. I've been waiting for the right moment and this seems to be it.

Dear Ms Sheppard,
Thank you very much for your email of 7th November regarding the Government’s plans to introduce identity cards. I share your concerns and I am committed to opposing this legislation.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that the introduction of ID cards will not help tackle terrorism and fraud. Similar schemes have not stopped terrorist incidents taking place in the countries where they were introduced. Past examples show that identity fraud and benefit fraud cannot be prevented by this new system.

Moreover, I am worried about the erosion of civil liberties that ID cards could involve. I regard the introduction of ID cards as a dangerous infringement on the individual’s privacy and liberty.

The ‘two-tier society’ that you mention in your email is indeed likely to occur, and its negative impact would, I am sure, outweigh any benefits that the scheme might be thought to have. In fact, I remain unconvinced that ID cards would have any positive impact on our society.

I will, therefore, continue to oppose this legislation.
Thank you once again for making me aware of your views on this important matter.
Kind regards,

Writing to your MP is a good idea. Besides making your views known as a citizen of our country, it's wonderfully encouraging to get a letter like this. I encourage you all to do it, whether it's on ID cards or anything else. I keep going on about how astronomy and citizen science is democratic. I wonder whether that'll lead to the politicians' inboxes filling up a bit more?

No comments: