10 April, 2004: Various

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Not a lot to say right now, but I think I should draw your attention to an excellent comment by Chris Williams on my previous ID cards piece:

Here's the killer argument against ID cards - the Vienna 1938 one. Pass it on:

In 1938 the Gestapo were presented with a glittering prize. The Anschluss- the unity of hitherto democratic Austria and Nazi Germany - put them in charge of the Vienna headquarters of the ICPC, the forerunner to Interpol. Thus, they had access to thousands of files on convicted or suspected criminals and their associates. Since many of the files on suspects dealt with politically-motivated crime, they were a godsend to an organisation that was about to take over most of Europe. ICPC knowledge helped them compile arrest lists. Even more useful for repression, deportation and terror were the captured police files of the conquered governments.

Why is this historical fact important? Because its a warning about the dangers that lurk in the scheme now being proposed by the government to create a national database and an ID card system. This might solve some crimes: it will certainly hand a weapon to any future ill-intentioned regime. Rather than being a move to increase safety and get rid of risk, it is a huge gamble. To adopt it would be to bet that nothing as nasty as Nazism will ever get close to state power again. Its also to bet that nothing as nasty as Al Quaida or pIRA never gets its hands on a copy of the database. Forever is a long time....

Read the whole thing -- and do pass it on.

To tidy up a loose end, I'll describe the response I got a few weeks ago after I complained to the Information Commissioner about spam from a UK company.

About three weeks after sending my complaint, I received an email reply from the Information Commissioner asking me for permission to give the spammers, UK Software House, my email address so that they could remove it from their mailing list. So I consented:

Thank you for your email of 24th February requesting permission to pass on my email address to the spammers, UK Software House. Obviously I am not happy about this, but as you say it is necessary for further processing of my complaint, I hereby consent to you passing on that information to the spammers.

I rather swiftly received another reply in which the Information Commissioner said,

I have written to UK Software House requesting them to suppress your email address. I would expect this to take a maximum of 28 days and should you receive any further emails from them I would be grateful if you could let me know. I have also reminded the company of their obligations under the Privacy and Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

So, another small victory for bureaucracy and legalism. I'm very unlikely to see any other emails from UK Software House, since my spam filter will now have learned that anything they send is to be dropped on the floor, so the chances of the Information Commissioner getting a chance to visit their boundless wrath on the talentless spamming wankers are pretty small. And, sad to say, the Information Commissioner felt it necessary to remind me that,

You should be aware that a breach of the Regulations does not constitute a criminal offence and complaints will be dealt with on an individual basis. The Information Commissioner aims to ensure that organisations comply with the Regulations by providing advice and guidance on their responsibilities Further action will only be taken against organisations who persistently fail to meet their obligations under the Regulations.

I'm not sure what the `further action' would take, but I'm rather afraid that it's likely to consist of providing further advice and guidance, rather than, for instance, a sharply-delivered kick up the backside followed by confiscation of assets and exile to Daily Mail Island. Oh well.

(Note that I'm not going to link to the UK Software House site -- you can probably figure out its URL -- because I have no interest in driving traffic to them. But if you get any spam from them -- it's likely to be advertising a product for, err, sending EVEN MORE SPAM -- please do send off a copy of the over-long complaint form. Hopefully enough complaints will result in some real boundless wrath being visited upon them.)

Copyright (c) 2004 Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License.