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Living the Nightmare

Posted by on November 20, 2016.

This is the stuff of nightmares. It is a nightmare set in a shadowy world of total government surveillance, where government can spy on anyone pretty much unhindered (IP Bill), and where citizens’ personal data can be given by government to pretty much anyone (Digital Economy Bill).

In this shadowy world there is a government department disguised as a commercial company: HS2 Ltd. Its purpose is to develop the new High Speed Two rail link that will connect London, Birmingham, the East Midlands, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester at a cost (currently, but it will escalate) of £56 billion of taxpayer money. But HS2 Ltd is still government. Its website resides on the government website. As part of government it will almost certainly be granted access to whatever citizen data is stolen under the IP Bill or taken under the Digital Economy Bill.

As is required, HS2 Ltd has (or rather, had) a privacy notice on its website. It was removed as soon as the Sunday Express published details of it today. What remains at the URL is this:

nightmare privacy noticehttps://www.gov.uk/government/publications/high-speed-two-ltd-privacy-notice

All we have left is the Sunday Express description:

An extraordinary document was published by HS2 detailing how they would access and “process personal data” including details of individuals’ sexual orientation, trade union affiliation, criminal record as well as information about their physical and mental health.

As part of the company’s Privacy Notice, HS2 said it could collect this information on a number of people, including staff and suppliers but also complainants and litigants, which would include those claiming compensation or objecting to the scheme.

The information could be volunteered freely but it could also be gleaned from doctors, the taxman, lawyers, the courts, security companies and credit agencies.

It would be retained as long as required and could be passed on to third parties.

This sounds unbelievable today. But all that has happened is that HS2 has jumped the gun. Once the IP Bill and the Digital Economy Bill become law, doing all of this will be simple – and not just for HS2. That is the nightmare reality of privacy in the UK today.


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Submitted in: Expert Views, Kevin Townsend's opinions, News, News_politics, News_privacy, News_surveillance | Tags: ,