Monday, 15 September 2008

The Database State – hell on earth

You might think that NO2ID is against ID cards—and we are—but there is a lot more to it than that. I am of course talking about databases. One thing I have noticed in the UK is that people are starting to act and talk like machines, i.e. they are behaving unintelligently. Databases are concentrations of identifiable data, and they are useful in lots of ways, but our increasing over reliance on them for making real world decisions is very troubling to put it mildly.

I’m grateful to Ross, a NO2ID colleague, for sharing the following personal story which I think is a very good illustrative example of the database state at work.

My wife is American. She came to England in the mid-80s, and was issued a temporary NI number, but never told it was 'temporary'. After about 14 years of living and working in the UK, a new employer pointed out that she was still on a temporary number, and needed (and now long since married to a Brit, was entitled to) a permanent one.

Applications ensued, with me STRESSING that we needed to make sure her contributions up to that point would be transferred to the new number. Were assured they would be.

Soon after, I applied for a projected pension estimate for each of us, to double check. Sure enough, she was deemed to have only just started working in the UK. Phone calls, letters followed. Final result, and here's the punch line, they say 'We have no record of you working in the UK prior to receiving your permanent NI number. IT'S UP TO YOU TO CONTACT YOUR PREVIOUS EMPLOYERS AND PROVIDE US WITH PROOF'.
And that's how the bureaucrat/ database state operates - THEY lose your date, YOU take the blame and suffer the consequences.

BTW, After much effort, we've managed to get some evidence together - not easy as firms previously worked for merge, go bust, lose your records etc, but there are still about 6 years missing - 6 years of NI contributions she'll get no credit or pension for. They even had the nerve to say that she should have kept all her payslips for the previous 14 + years.

What a nightmare! You see if you’re not on the database for some reason you have to start proving that what you say is true: no one will take you at face value. In Thanet last year I produced a birth certificate and passport as proof of identity and was then told by a prospective employer: “but we don’t know who you are.”

Databases: information, information, information, but no ability to judge and assess according to a human set of values—which is fine if you don’t rely on them to make your decisions for you, or rely on them to keep you secure etc. But the ID database that the government is in the process of setting up is a monstrosity, and you are going to be held to account for the accuracy of the information on it, not the government! We say NO to the Database State, which means NO to the ludicrous ID card scheme, NO to more unnecessary databases and NO to the linking up of personal information.

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