Friday, July 11, 2008

David Davis win 'a farce' says Labour

David Davis has won the bi-election he forced in the constituency of Haltemprice & Howden [Sky News]. But his intention of bringing issues of civil liberties to the fore and raise public awareness of an ever increasing surveillance society has largely failed. Shortly after he stood down as Shadow Home Secretary in early June there was a frenzy of media coverage [BBC]. But shortly afterwards the interest dwindled to nothing.
Only on Thursday afternoon was attention drawn to the fact that polls would soon be closing in the constituency of Haltemprice. Of course, with no real competition, it was a certainty that David Davis would regain his seat. Neither of the two main parties stood, with Labour seeing the whole exercise as a publicity stunt, while the Lib Dems withdrew primarily because they agreed with the issue on which Davis was basing his campaign. But there was no shortage of competition, though the candidates were from the fringes of politics. There were 13 ‘Independent’ candidates amongst the total of 26 standing. Amongst the more bizarre candidates were David Icke and the Mad Cow-Girl of the Monster Raving Loony Party. But Davis sailed through taking 71% of vote. The Green Party came second but took only 1,758 votes compared to the 17,113 taken by the Conservative candidate [results] and 23 candidates lost their deposits. One Labour minister has called the bi-election a farce and a waste of £80,000 in tax payers’ money.
David Davis’ win comes on a day that a report called for new rules on the sharing of information and data protection, an issue that had been raised by Davis himself. The government-commissioned report said the selling of electoral information needed to be tightened and that private bodies should also be taken to task over how they treat personal information. Under the spotlight were so-called social networking websites such as Facebook and Bebo. Dr Walport said, "Many individuals are posting more and more personal information on the web and of course web technology means that it can be aggregated in a very powerful way." The report says organisations should publish privacy policies explaining how and why they used people's personal information.

It also suggested that internet sites which collected people's details from electoral rolls, company registers, telephone directories and websites were a "worrying threat to privacy". The review, headed up by Information Commissioner Richard Thomas and Wellcome Trust director Dr Mark Walport, was commissioned a week before HM Revenue and Customs lost two discs containing personal details of 25 million people [BBC].
Today there were more privacy concerns raised after it was revealed the internet giant Google was planning a UK version of StreetView/. The 360 degree panoramic views are already available in most major US cities, but now Google is capturing everyone and everything on the streets of London. The black car equipped with cameras has already been spotted in parts of the capital and some people have slammed the plan as an invasion of privacy and a ‘burglar’s charter’. While the car spotted in France is emblazoned with a Google logo, the vehicle seen in the UK is anonymous except for the the large pole attached to the roof festooned with an array of cameras [Daily Mail / Scotsman / PA / Londonist].

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