Privacy in the UK
The concept of privacy — the importance of it, why we have it and need it — can sometimes be a tricky thing to grasp or explain.
Take compulsory National ID cards. I’m a Radical. I’m implacably opposed to compulsory ID on a visceral level. And that doesn’t come from belonging to an intersection of marginalised groups. It comes from the knowledge and understanding that there is no good reason for any state to hold a centralised record of every person under the power or mercy of that state. There’s no true benefit. But the risks are incredibly dangerous. The possibility of the misuse of power.
That’s easier to see at the moment, with a corrupt Westminster government in charge of the UK, about to have a new Prime Minister that was a Minister in that corrupt government. A Prime MInister that will continue to deliver more of the same abuses of power.
But it’s always important to remember that it doesn’t matter how benign a government may seem at any particular point in time, a centralised government database of citizens is a bad thing, rife with the possibility of abuse. History has taught us that lesson the hard way, in different countries and at different times.
In some ways disabled people have some small fortune in the failures of the UK. Our health records contain the most detailed information possible about our disabilities. Had Westminster governments been more capable and less corrupt in the past then right now we’d have a unified NHS IT system that would span the UK. Regardless of where you are medical professionals would have been to access all your health records, whether held by your GP, by hospitals, or by consultants. A GP in Wick would have instant access to the results of blood tests you had done in Truro.
But very luckily previous Westminster governments have been both corrupt and inept when it came down to trying to create a unified NHS IT system. Instead we have a mess of competing IT systems, most of which can’t communicate with each other, and an internal NHS communication system that even now still relies on fax machines to send data around, and burnt CDs and DVDs for larger amounts of data. Failures of previous and current governments have created accidental protections for the privacy of patients.
But that’s the NHS. It’s a very different matter when it comes to the Department for Work & Pensions.. If you’re disabled and receive any form of financial entitlement from the Westminster government and its departments, you’re now on a centralised government database and marked as being disabled. A chilling thought in a climate that still sees disabled people as ‘lesser’. Sees us as being incapable of making decisions for ourselves, regardless of our own ability to make informed choices. A climate that still sees rights for disabled people as luxuries to be bestowed or removed at the whim of the abled population, rather than fundamental human rights. An even more chilling thought when you look back at all the times disabled people have been held in institutions against our will. Sterilised against our will. Euthanised. Murdered.
And the same is true if you’re an Official Government Trans™. Or as it’s more generally known; you hold a Gender Recognition Certificate.
The day I got mine was one of the happiest days of my life. For many trans and non-binary people having or being able to obtain a GRC is important to us. But getting one means knowing that you’re being placed on a government centralised database as being Officially Trans™. That somewhere within a Westminster department somebody has access to frightening amounts of information about any GRC holder. We don’t even need to look back as far as 90 years to see why that’s so damned chilling. We can look to the now and to Hungary. It’s one of the reasons why campaigners have fought for so long to get the UK Gender Recognition Act reformed.
Of course, not having a GRC doesn’t exactly protect anyone. But it’s the GRC database where persecution can and will start. It’s an easy-to-access centralised source for any Westminster government that wants to crack down on the phantom “Tr***y Threat”. And once they’ve gotten away with it — because the numbers are relatively small at the moment — they’ll progress on to sus laws to target other trans and non — binary people. Because that’s how governments work. They don’t target an entire demographic to begin with. They target a relatively small subset within it. See what they can get away with.
And when they realise they can get away with a lot, they then target outwards. It’s a repeated pattern of abuse. And we’ve seen this enacted over and over for other marginalised groups that in turn led to abuses of power against everyone. Acts of terrorism used to justify the stripping away of privacy for one marginilised group, then expanded out to try and strip away levels of privacy for everyone. Government programs that are claimed to be used to target one very small subset of people whose information is being held somewhere on a centralised government database, but once it’s shown that it’s effective then gets expanded out to encapsulate other people in state-sponsored abuse.
Privacy is important although sometimes that can be hard to see.
But knowing how privacy is stripped away from groups of people is even more important.