Something to hide – privacy

By Charlotte Hofton

Published on Friday, December 14, 2012 - 11:14


Something to hide – privacy

Cllr Deborah Gardiner, who has warned about Big Brother tactics.

THE VIEW FROM HERE I FULLY support the IW Labour Party in voicing serious concerns over the recent police-led "ring of steel operation", targeting illegal vehicles, drivers and benefit fraudsters.

Apart from the fact that it’s nice to see the Labour Party doing something worthwhile for a change (yes, Ed Miliband, I’m talking to you, you and your fatuous "one nation" fixation and banging on about your comprehensive school) I hope other people will take note of what IW party chairman Deborah Gardiner has to say.

"The police seem to have issued an entirely inappropriate invitation to the agencies who deal with this fraud to join in a motoring operation and interrogate people about their private lives," she observes.

"It certainly smacks of Big Brother and I particularly find the participation of the IW Council disgraceful."

Spot on, Deborah. She will, of course, be challenged by the "nothing to fear if you’ve got nothing to hide" brigade but they miss the point entirely.

Those who advocate identity cards use this argument, yet people may be entirely innocent of fraud, or any other crime, and still have "something to hide". And that something is their private lives, a right to personal reticence, which should be a cherished tenet in a free society but which is increasingly difficult to maintain.

Order so much as a woolly jumper online and you’re quizzed about your age, your shopping habits and mobile number.

If you have a supermarket loyalty card, they’ll be scouring your purchases in order to discover how you live ("Oh, just send her a money-off voucher for cheap wine and Pot Noodles next time she spends 50 quid with us") and God help you if you’re not prepared to yield up your mother’s maiden name or where you first went to school as credit-card security protection procedures.

So when the police start pulling motorists over and demanding to know their National Insurance numbers, their employers and who they live with, we should be extremely perturbed.

The degree to which we already have to provide personal information would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. Go on like this and in another 20 years, the knock on the door at midnight may also be part of our lives.

Fanciful? I don’t think so.

Council leader David Pugh would probably dismiss the notion but his words on the current dispute are scary enough. "Island Conservatives fully support the crackdown to identify potential fraud cases … all hard-working, honest, Island taxpayers should have nothing to fear from such operations."

It’s the "hard-working" I find particularly creepy.

What about the people who can’t work hard because they can’t find jobs? Or is Cllr Pugh issuing a warning to all those who aren’t beavering away like automatons?

What would he have thought of Winston Churchill’s routine of cigars, champagne, whisky, long lunches and dinners, two relaxing baths a day and an invariable two-hour nap in the afternoon?

He still managed to beat Hitler, though.

The Fuhrer was famously keen on hard work, of course. I’m not suggesting for one moment Cllr Pugh believes "Arbeit Macht Frei" (the Nazi expression, "Labour Makes You Free") but he might like to reflect on the somewhat menacing bossiness of his words.

Benefit fraud is bad. Very bad.

But I have a feeling that if benefit staff stopped flaffing about with all those vast and convoluted forms for people to fill in, asking a whole lot of daft bureaucratic questions and tippety-tapping for hours at their computers, they could concentrate on the nitty-gritty and then perhaps catch the fraudsters before the police start in on us.

What’s in a name? Rather a lot it seems, if you’re a 15-year-old schoolboy

FOURTH-form humour abounds in the story of a number of schools in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province whose names have been deemed unsuitable.

The names, derived from the Zulu language, include Mathangetshitshi (meaning "thighs of a virgin"), Esinqueni ("at the buttocks"), Mkhuthuzeni ("pickpocket") and Phuza ("drink").

In an overhaul of the province’s education system, the authorities have decided enough is enough and it is quite inappropriate for children to be studying at an establishment called Thighs of a Virgin.

"These are not educationally sound," says education executive Senzo Mchunu of the unusual appellations. "Such names are not inspiring."

It rather depends what you mean by inspiring, of course.

If you’re a 15-year schoolboy, Mathangetshitshi might be positively intoxicating. Still, we know what Mr Mchunu means.

We almost fell into a similar pitfall on the Island a few years ago, when the new faith school was established in Newport. At first, they thought College Of Christ the King would be a good name.

That was before they realised the acronym for this would be — well, work it out for yourselves.

So now it’s Christ the King College.

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