Brian Barder highlights more political commentators failing to challenge the attack on civil liberties. Reading some of these articles has begun to make me think that advocates of civil liberties perhaps need a more positive campaign? Mostly we just complain that liberties X, Y and Z are being taken away, that this is bad because blah blah blah. What we never seem to do is outline what a state would be like which took civil liberties and issues like privacy seriously. I don’t think this should be beyond our powers, and it might make a considerable difference.
For example, Anna Coote argues that perhaps the plans to digitise medical records could be an opportunity to push a civil libertarian agenda rather than something we should just oppose. Actually, I think it’s a little naive to think that we can do this on this issue, because the people implementing it are going to be people who don’t give a hoot about civil liberties, so pragmatically our best bet is to do everything we can to oppose it. But, that isn’t to say we shouldn’t outline an alternative vision which encompasses the good bits about digitising medical records but which doesn’t have the bad bits. It won’t actually happen, but it associates our point of view with real alternatives.
In the case of medical databases (and perhaps more widely), we could maybe draw on the expertise of people like Ross Anderson of the Cambridge computing laboratory.
Like most blog entries, I don’t really propose anything specific here, but I think this is potentially a very important thing that we should be doing. I intend to think about this and hopefully I’ll write some entries with some more specific ideas. For the moment though, has anyone else come across examples of positive proposals of this sort? Anyone else interested in this prospect?