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David Blunkett Attacks Surveillance!

February 24, 2009

I know. Pause. Take a deep breath…

You read it right. The former UK Home Secretary, with a reputation as one of the most authoritarian of recent years (though it is hard to chose in that regard), will condemn the growth of surveillance in a speech at the University of Essex today. He will also, according to Tom Young at VUnet, call for the ID card scheme (which he introduced!) to be scrapped, and for the information-sharing powers that were hidden in the new Coroners and Justice Bill, to be reduced. He also argues that the latter will happen as he knows the Justice Minister, Jack Straw, recognises the problem.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Certainly it is fantastic when a prominent figure like this changes their mind and is prepared to admit that they were wrong, I just wish that sometimes they listened to the arguments against what they were doing when they were in office. In addition, of course Blunkett spent several years after leaving office writing very strong pro-surveillance, pro-ID card pieces for the populist, right-wing tabloid newspaper, The Sun, and is (or was) according to the Register of House of Commons Members Interests, paid £25-30,000 ($35-40,000 US) as the Chair of the International Advisory Committee of Entrust Inc., a company that works on digital certification and Internet surveillance, and which was involved in consortia for the ID card contract. Perhaps they have had enough of him.

But let’s hope he really has had a genuine change of heart.

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