Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Tory plan to allow police and civil servants unrestricted access to your "confidential" medical records

If you've ever come across my work before you'll know my views on the Tory party and their disgusting crony capitalist agenda. 

The Conservative party is absolutely stuffed with odious individuals, but some are cleaarly worse than others. There are some truly awful specimens like Iain Duncan Smith, David Cameron, Jeremy Hunt and Grant Shapps who have no redeeming features at all. These guys are shockingly deceitful, malicious and driven by pure self-interest, even judged by the low standards of their lazy, expenses scamming parliamentary peers. There are however others like the former leadership candidate David Davis (not to be confused with David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth in Wales, who is a "tool" to put it politely) who almost seems as if he has wandered into the wrong party by mistake. 

It is not as if David Davis is a great MP by any stretch of the imagination, he voted in favour of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and strongly against gay equality. He's has used his parliamentary votes to support all kinds of harsh welfare reforms and dodgy privatisation scams, but about ten percent of the time he rebels against the Tory party, mainly on libertarian issues, especially the subjects of privacy, data protection and state interference in people's lives.

His track record on these issues is quite consistent, meaning that he either has some genuine libertarian principles, or he's been doing a reasonably convincing impression of someone that has. In opposition, like most of his tribalist Tory peers, he opposed New Labour's proposed National Identity database and most of their other overtly draconian legislation. However, since the coalition came to power Davis hasn't completely changed his tune to support all manner of brazenly illiberal things under instruction from David Cameron as the overwhelming majority of the Tory party have.

One of his most notable rebellions against the Tory whip was over Secret Courts which were passed in March 2013 despite his numerous public protestations and his support for the safeguard amendments that were all stripped out and cast aside by his Tory and Lib-Dem peers, under instruction from David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Thanks to his party colleagues, and the collusion of the so-called Liberal Democrats, people can now have their fates decided in courtrooms that they are not allowed to enter, on charges they are not allowed to know, based on evidence that they are not allowed to see. Seriously though, this is actually the system we have now, not some kind of Kafkaesque fantasy.

In November 2013 Davis spoke out against an extraordinary case in which the Metropolitan Police have been trying to confiscate the notes of a journalist in exactly the kind of secret court proceeding he had argued and voted against earlier in the year. He described this case as "an astonishing threat to press freedom" and argued that issues involving state interference with the press should be "decided in open court".

His track record of speaking out against illiberal measures is consistent, which means that if there is such a thing as a half-decent Tory, it is probably David Davis.

Davis' most recent warning concerns access to the centralised NHS database that you really should have heard of and opted out of by now. Nobody in their right mind would want access to their barely anonymised medical data to be bought and sold without their explicit consent, but medical insurance companies, drugs companies and private health companies will be allowed to buy access to your confidential medical data unless you contact your GP to opt out.

The fact that your confidential medical data is soon going to become a commodity to be traded on the health market unless you specifically opt out isn't even the alarming attack on our right to privacy that Davis is warning about. His revelation is that the police and countless government departments will be allowed unrestricted access to your confidential medical records without even having to obtain any kind of warrant or court judgement at all. Additionally it won't matter a jot if you've opted out of letting the NHS sell your medical data on the health market or not, the police and various government departments will have open access to your medical records regardless.

Only the mindless apologist for fascism or the fool with an absolute and undying faith in the essential goodness of the state could consider this development a good thing, perhaps under the tiny-minded delusion that the only people to be negatively affected by this would be criminals.

If the police have easy warrantless access to people's confidential medical records, why wouldn't they poke around in the medical records of witnesses, especially of those whom they wish to discredit? The idea that the police don't try to discredit inconvenient witnesses is hopelessly naive. There is an absolute mountain of evidence of countless forces doing just that. The family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence was surveilled and infiltrated by the police, hundreds of Hillsborough witnesses were deliberately intimidated and hundreds of others had their statements completely fabricated by the police, under cover agent provocateurs have left women pregnant and disappeared without trace, nor the slightest hint of paternity payment (the poor victims have been essentially been raped by the police and left holding the baby). Then there's the long history of huge miscarriages of justice built upon fabricated evidence and suppressed witness statements. The only people that can't see that the state is not always a perfectly benevolent force for good are those that are deliberately blind.
  • Do you really want other people poking around in your private medical history simply because you were a witness to a crime, or inadvertently associated with a criminal (bought their second hand car, fixed their computer, taught their kids languages or music, bought an item from them on eBay, chatted with them in a pub, whatever ...)?
  • Do you want some police person or other employee of the state fishing through your intimate medical history, your mental health notes, your history of pregnancies, STDs, even whether you've been raped or had an abortion?
  • Do you want people to be able to sift through this stuff without your permission, and without even the permission of a judge or your doctor?
  • Do you want the possibility that some unscrupulous ex-copper or civil servant might try to blackmail you because yours happens to be amongst the batch of confidential records that they've pillaged?
  • Do you want the possibility that bent coppers or dodgy civil servants could sell your (not even slightly anonymised) private medical data to whoever might be prepared to pay for it?
One particularly interesting aspect to this is that allowing unwarranted access to our confidential medical records would appear to be in direct contravention of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which protects our right to privacy. There is even a ECHR judgement providing the precedent that warrantless fishing of people's private medical records is a breech of their right to privacy (Szuluk vs the United Kingdom -2009).

As much as the Tories love to dress up their desire to revoke our ECHR rights as an effort to deport a few more Islamist fanatics, the real reason seems to be so that the police, civil servants and local government agents can trawl through your confidential medical records with impunity.

The issue that David Davis has raised is hugely important. It is a fundamental breech of the doctor patient relationship and a grotesque violation of our right to privacy.

Some of the most interesting questions about this issue relate to David Davis himself.
  • Why Davis he remain in the Tory party that is enacting all of this draconian, invasive and disgustingly illiberal legislation, that he speaks out about?
  • How can he tolerate seeing his party colleagues enacting absurdly illiberal legislation that wouldn't have seemed out of place had Stalinism lasted into the digital age?
  • Why does he remain part of a blatantly totalitarian government when his words say that he is a libertarian?

Perhaps he remains a Tory because he sees the old right-left distinction as more important than the authoritarian-libertarian distinction?

Perhaps he's just so enthusiastic about the privatisation agenda that he allows this mania to sell of the assets of the state to totally override his revulsion at the grotesquely illiberal assaults on the justice system his party have been conducting?

Perhaps it is just inertia, born of the fact that defecting from the Tories might well leave him a tiny isolated minority of one - the only genuinely libertarian right-winger in the House of Commons?

Part of me wishes that he would take a stand and leave the Tory party, even though his right wing politics disgust me. My thinking is that just as the left-wing libertarians like myself (and a large proportion of my readership) should have much more representation in parliament, so should the right wing-ones too. 

I'm increasingly of the opinion that the old left-right distinctions that defined the 19th and 20th Centuries are set to be dwarfed by a much bigger political distinction, the distinction between free societies and militarised authoritarian regimes.

It is clear that the countries that don't descend the path towards authoritarian dystopia will be the ones with the most vocal champions of liberty. It is impossible for me to say that David Davis has a moral obligation to leave the Tories in order to more strongly oppose the constant and ever more invasive encroachment of the state into our lives. His only moral duty is to himself and whatever he believes is right. However, I know what I would try to do if I were a man in his position though - even though I never could be because I'm not a Tory and I've never been particularly interested in amassing power and personal wealth, which seem to be the driving forces behind the overwhelming majority of the political class these days (if not always).

The 21st Century looks set to be defined by which countries battle to retain the rule of law and a fair justice system and which of them embrace brutal and invasive state totalitarianism as their preferred socio-economic model. The question is this: Who do we have in the UK to fight for liberty and stand in the way of the all invasive Big Brother state controlled by a corrupt crony-capitalist corporatocracy?

In my view it is extraordinarily unlikely that David Davis would pull his snout from the trough of right-wing politics to become the champion of liberty that this country so desperately needs, which means that a much better bet actually seems to be Caroline Lucas of the Green party who also has a much stronger voting record than David Davis from a libertarian perspective.

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