Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hoisted by his pitard but has he learned his lesson?

U.K. television presenter Jeremy Clarkson wanted to prove a point. And strictly speaking he did -- just not the one he intended.

In recent months England has been shocked by the systematic lose of personal data on millions of people. Inept bureaucrats now handling mountains of data on individuals as part of their fake “war on terror” -- fake because they aren’t engaging in surveillance on terrorists but on millions of innocent people.

Well, data disks with records on people seem to disappear right and left inside the Labour government. No one apparently knows who has what or where it is.

Clarkson thought the fury over these lost records was a tempest in a teacup and he set out to prove how harmless it is to have personal information in the hands of just about anyone. Poor Jeremy decided the way to prove his point was publish details about himself in a major newspaper. So he published his bank account details including his account number and sort code. And for good measure he even told people how to track down his home address.

He bragged: “All you will be able to do with them is put money into my account. Not take it out. Honestly, I’ve never known such a palaver about nothing.”

Clarkson wasn’t so smug when he got his next bank statement. A sum of just over $1000, £500 to be exact, had been extricated from his account and donated, on his behalf, to the charity Diabetes UK.

Of course in the world of surveillance the laws on privacy only apply to the private sector not to the State -- where they are needed the most. So when Clarkson attempted to find out who had taken the money from his account he was told that the Data Protection Act didn’t allow the bank to tell him. And they told they can’t prevent it from happening againg.

Clarkson admitted: “I was wrong and I have been punished for my mistake.” He wrote: “Contrary to what I said at the time, we must go after the idiots who lost the discs and stick coctail sticks in their eyes until they beg for mercy.”

Close, Mr. Clarkson, but no cigar.

The problem isn’t just with the loss of the data. The problem is with the very collection of it.

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