Losing one’s way

Over the last few days, the Guardian has broken the story of the illegal use of personal data in the US 2016 general election. We are now waiting for the trail to come back to UK politics, in particular, the use of Cambridge Analytica (or one of its associates) by the alliance of Leave organisations. The data was stolen from Facebook, but it seems they knew for two years and there is some argument as to their corporate complicity. Their Chief Information Security Officer has been on the way out since the end of last year and some stories suggest it’s because he argued for greater openness in co-operating with the enquiries into Russian state sourced fake news.

Citizens, their representatives and law makers have been arguing that IT companies should have a duty to report security breaches to law enforcement and the EU is introducing such a law now; such Laws exist in California which is where Facebook is headquartered. We should also note that their duty to protect their users personal data is governed by the US privacy laws, the now defunct EU Safe Harbour agreement and its successor, the Privacy Shield.

It is a fact that many US business executives (and their employees) consider the European Data Protection laws as non-tariff import barriers, not that this should matter but I have no doubt that considerable time has been spent in determining where the line between legality and illegal activity stands.

There are several factors in the US political culture which often makes it hard for the US to obey foreign laws, one of them being, that they often have difficulty in legitimising their own laws and law enforcement.

This is, to me, summarised in the 10th Amendment, one of the Bill of Rights amendments to the US Constitution.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

There is a beauty to the sentiment and an economy to the words, but they are a fundamental challenge to the rule of law. (Is this a bit extreme?) Even if not, when taken in conjunction with the Citizen’s United ruling which upheld the citizen’s free speech rights for an association can be taken to mean that corporations have citizenship rights.

The US tradition of a people’s access to justice, showcased by the Judge Judy show is also admirable, if a bit bizarre to UK eyes but it is another dimension of the US commitment to rights and the rule of law; they’e just a bit weaker in understanding collective and inalienable rights, such as privacy (except from Government).

We have the growing dichotomy between companies Legal and Compliance teams, with Legal advising under the protection of client/attorney privilege in the best interests of their clients and Compliance having a duty to the public advising how not to break the Law.

One can see how US Companies might lose their way. It’s nothing to be proud of though, the UK route to corruption is just shorter as currently viewing the C4 news program on Cambridge Analytica will show.

Do politicians understand? They may not understand the details of the tech., but they do understand Human Rights law and the rule of law, although some of the House of Commons are to quote the shadow chancellor “Fucking Useless”, and the select committees could do with better advisors;  the purpose of the witnesses is to deliver this advice and knowledge, but you need to know the questions and understand the answers. You need a nose for a cover up and to know the 2nd question. …

What’s a (LP) conference delegate do?

What’s a (LP) conference delegate do?

You need to be in the conference room for the debates (and votes). It runs from Sunday through to Wednesday lunch and ends with the Leader’s speech. It is likely that Woman’s Conference will be on the preceding Saturday. The most important task is to represent your members by voting on motions, rule changes, reports from the NEC, Officers and the National Policy Forum and in elections because some elections are still conducted at conference. Since a delegation is responsible for representing the organisation that sent it, it is expected that the delegation should vote together …

The right to strike

The right to strike

Last November, my Union branch invited Gemma Short of the Right to Strike campaign to talk about the need to change the Trade Union Laws. I have reported the speech and discussion on the branch’s web site, and shall précis it here.

The Thatcher Government’s changed the law significantly and non of the Government’s since have repealed those changes. The key changes have been the mandatory need for individual balloting for strike decisions and the prohibition of solidarity action. The full details have been documented in a House of Commons Research Paper,

Labour’s 2017 Manifesto promised to repeal the 2016 Trade Union act, which further limited picketing, introduced turnout thresholds for ballots, gave employers the right to refuse to deduct union fees from the payroll and that,

A Labour government will ensure Britain abides by the global Labour standards of the ILO conventions.

This is more radical than it sounds since most of Thatcher’s laws are in breach of the ILO standards.

We concluded that the effective right to organise is the workers defence against discrimination and exploitation and today’s Laws have a chilling effect on that right to organise and to take effective action. …

Block Votes

On my way to the pub, after the local labour party General Committee, someone described weighted voting as “block votes”. In truth that’s all it is and was; a delegate or representative has a vote in proportion to their mandate.

I think we were talking about the Local Campaign Forum, where it seems that Deptford has more members than the other two participating CLPs combined. Perhaps we should have more delegates. …

Brexit’s Red Lines

Last month, was it really under 30 days ago, Michael Barnier produced a slide, showing the impact of the British Government’s self-imposed Red lines on the likely end-state of the UK’s relationship with the EU.

It shows that the only option is a bespoke trade deal on the lines of the Canadian/EU one, which famously took 7 years to negotiate.  It also shows that the only other option is a No Deal Brexit. …

Investigatory Powers revisited

Investigatory Powers revisited

In December, the CJEU stated that the British and Swedish investigatory powers laws were in contravention to the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. This was in the case of the UK partly based on the litigation started by Tom Watson MP, initially with David Davies MP. This was reported in the Register, here, and the Guardian here.  The Open Rights Group have asked for people to engage in the Home Office consultation; they propose to put a judicial warrant requirement on investigation requests for suspect internet data. This blog discusses my contribution. If you want to follow me, you’ll have to be quick the consultation closes tomorrow. …

On Plebiscites

On Plebiscites

I have been looking to see what there is to be said about Referendums and their role in democracies. Much has been said that Referendums or more accurately Plebiscites are the tools of dictators, but I have yet to see a compelling argument as to why! As I explored the issues, it became clear to me that I was pretty ignorant about the development of political theory and its application to the politics of government. I would be happy for any guidance from people more expert to me. …

A coach and horses through privacy rights

A coach and horses through privacy rights

I have just been approached by a Trade Union member who wanted to know how to complain about his employer’s record keeping. The short answer is to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office. It reminded me that the ORG are campaigning to change the current Data Protection Bill to allow non-profits to represent complainants; this reminds me that Trade Unions might also want to benefit from this legislative protection, but I was horrified by the Government’s proposed exemption of immigration data from the remit of the Data Protection law and thus the GDPR.  …