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Every British Citizen To Have a Personal Webpage

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the you-have-6-asbos-waiting-and-no-guns dept.

Government 313

Hugh Pickens writes "The Telegraph reports that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is about to announce that within a year everyone in Great Britain will be given a personalized webpage for accessing Government services as part of a plan to save billions of pounds by putting all public services online. The move could see the closure of job centers and physical offices dealing with tax, vehicle licensing, passports and housing benefits within 10 years as services are offered through a single digital gateway. [This] 'saves time for people and it saves money for the Government — the processing of a piece of paper and mailing it back costs many times more than it costs to process something electronically,' says Tim Berners-Lee, an advisor to the Prime Minister. However, the proposals are coming under fire from union leaders who complain that thousands of public sector workers would be made jobless and pointed to the Government's poor record of handling personal data. 'Cutting public services is not only bad for the public who use services but also the economy as we are pushing people who provide valuable services on the dole,' says one union leader."

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Surveillance. (5, Insightful)

daniel.waterfield (960460) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553066)

It also makes us nice and easy to keep an eye on. All our activity now leaves a nice little easy to follow trail. Much nicer for the government to follow than before.

Re:Surveillance. (4, Funny)

migla (1099771) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553254)

Yes, but on the other hand I'm thinking that this'll bring all the UK populace into the digital database age and people will be asking people for advice and the people with the most powerful memes will be the fuck-you-big-brother-type-geeks and it will lead to a united, informed people. Soon enough they will be lining the streets, chanting "El Pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!" and it will be known in the history books of the next century as the spark of the new enlightenment and actual democracy. Or did I dream it?

Re:Surveillance. (5, Funny)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553400)

people with the most powerful memes... lining the streets, chanting "El Pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!"

Nah, they'll be chanting "Yo puedo tiene cheezburger"*

*Amazingly, Google Translate understands it perfectly [google.com]

Re:Surveillance. (1)

aldo.gs (985038) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553600)

Heh, I wonder if "I can has cheezburguer" sounds to a native english speaker as funny as "yo puedo tiene hamburguesa" sounds to a native spanish speaker.

Re:Surveillance. (4, Insightful)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553422)

Yes. Go to this page to find out all the information you need to steal this persons identity.

Re:Surveillance. (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553278)

With suitably malicious design, it could be a very convenient tool for surveillance(a visited link scanner [gnucitizen.org] seeded with a list of URLs that the feds might be interested in your having visited, would be a trivial example, various sorts of cookie snooping, cross-site scripting, history inference, and so forth attacks could also be used, in addition to boring old IP geolocation and date/timestamping).

However, in absence of these sorts of fairly overt malicious features(which would fly right past the noobs; but would be hard to hide from security researchers for more than a few minutes), I'm not sure that a move from a paper 'n civil servants based frontend to a web based frontend actually makes all that much difference. In both cases, you are doing some nontrivial data dump/exchange with the state, either because some law obliges you to, or because you want the state to do something for you based on that information. That act of data transfer is the point of the exercise, and occurs in either case. Also, unless the British civil service is far behind the times, the data end up being dumped in a big database somewhere no matter which frontend you use. It isn't as though a people and paper frontend implies a people and paper backend, just a more expensive translation process.

With the exception of fairly visible malicious techniques, a web site doesn't provide all that much useful information in itself. Any attempt by the state to use such techniques should, of course, by resisted fiercely by both technological and political means; but fretting about cookies is largely a distraction from the serious area of data disclosure, which is whatever forms you are going to the website explicitly to fill out.

Re:Surveillance. (2, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553940)

should, of course, by resisted fiercely by both technological and political means

So paper-bound inefficiency and insecurity is a good thing?

"union leaders who complain that thousands of public sector workers would be made jobless" is absolutely absurd of course. If anything, cut those jobs and send the people their paycheck anyway with the money the government is saving, instead of having them do unnecessary work all day.

Re:Surveillance. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31554048)

By "such techniques", I meant the "fairly visible malicious techniques" that I had mentioned earlier in the sentence. Those I think ought to be resisted. When dealing with a potentially ambiguous phrase, local context counts.

The whole point of my post was that, barring a reasonably well defined and visible set of clearly evil techniques, the use of which would be totally unacceptable on a government web site, using web forms rather than paper ones is actually a pretty minimal privacy and security issue.

Re:Surveillance. (1, Offtopic)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553414)

Saying something sane like this, but being on Slashdot, does that mean you're actually FOR the democrat's "HealthCare" plan?

You'd be surprised how many people hate the government, and can point to it's faults, yet saddle up with the "we'll do it better than the private sector" crowd.

You CAN NOT count on a government...any government...to meet your needs, and in this example, to stay out of your business if they decide to go for more power.

It's the explicit *reason* the American Experiment has reigned supreme for it's people, and it's neighbors for so long now. As soon as it starts being another communist 'also-ran', the world will dim for us all.

This issue comes from the kind of socialism the Brits have embraced. It's not total yet, but it's fairly sad. They were once world-dominators; now they can't keep the Muslims from setting up Sharia law and people cutting off hands inside their borders. :(

I'm a big fan of the Brits, Aussies, even French and Russians...but the socialism *is* the problem. You won't get this kind of government intrusion with American Conservatism. I just hope the republican party permits itself to use it, again.

The government that rules best, rules least. --Ronald Regan

Re:Surveillance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553528)

Wait, what? I'm a Brit IN Britain and I think you've been getting your news from slightly dubious places.
1) Yes, Labour are historically socialist but the current breed are either further right than the Tories or have socialist ideas that do NOT go down well at all with the public. We've embraced socialism about as much as we've embraced beach volleyball as a national sport.
2) Muslims do not cut off peoples hands here. If that were to happen there are a good few xenophobic tabloids that would be screaming bloody murder and calling for all immigrants to be deported immediately. There are cases of "honour killings" but they get treated just like any other murder. Sharia law is not tolerated here.

Please stop pretending to know anything about the world, just in case some poor sod believes you.

Re:Surveillance. (2, Insightful)

OrwellianLurker (1739950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553618)

Please stop pretending to know anything about the world, just in case some poor sod believes you.

It's hard for us to know what's really going on as you guys are across the ocean and our media is not to be trusted.

Re:Surveillance. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553452)

Yes, how dare the government track things such as applying for a passport and paying taxes

I don't see the issue... (4, Informative)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553468)

...after all, we're talking about access to stuff which was traditionally handled with paper. The only difference is that an electronic trail is easier to follow than a paper trail -- but here, "easier" only means "less time-consuming," or, alternatively, "cheaper."

Here in the US, we have the option of filing our taxes online, or mailing in a paper form. Either way is going to include our social security number, along with a bunch of other personally identifying information. Either way might lead to our personal information being leaked or abused. The only real difference is that the online version is faster and potentially more secure -- properly done, I'll trust cryptography long before I'll trust the postal service.

Same with vehicle licensing, passports, housing, everything else they mention -- again, which of these is something you used to be able to do anonymously? In what way does merely putting these in a web browser make it easier to keep an eye on you?

Even if you find some marginal benefit to paper -- and it will be marginal -- is it worth the cost, the increased amount of fuel burned transporting it, the paper, the increased amount of fuel used to harvest the wood, make the paper, and recycle/destroy/bury it once used? How about the increased cost to the state of employing all those people to deal with the paper -- the same people who are currently whining about losing their jobs -- how much would it be worth to have them doing something actually productive instead of something a webserver could do for them?

Re:I don't see the issue... (3, Insightful)

mmarlett (520340) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553744)

Yeah, who cares about the jobs lost? Those jobs are shit jobs. I mean, who wants to preserve a job that is retyping something that someone else wrote? Screw that. Free people up. Let them actually think about things. I bump into this all the time. I just had a conversation with a friend of mine in IT and we were standing on the street corner shouting this same thing into the air. If the computer can do it, then it's repetitive and boring. Stupid, stupid work. There are hard things that people do well that actually is worth something. People just do not think when they worry about protecting this sort of job.

Re:I don't see the issue... (3, Insightful)

Tassach (137772) | more than 4 years ago | (#31554032)

Sadly, there are a lot of people who are simply incapable of performing any job that requires original or creative thought. Call me an elitist if you will, but you know it's true. There are only so many burgers that need to be flipped, floors that need to be mopped, etc.

Put someone into a job that's beyond their capacity they'll do it poorly, be miserable while doing it, and make everyone everyone miserable in the process.

A casual acquaintance from high school has been working for the last 25 years cleaning up roadkill for the county, and he's as happy as a pig in slop doing what most people here would consider a shit job. He'd consider any job that involved more math than tallying up how many critters he scraped off the pavement to be the "shit job".

Re:Surveillance. (3, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553532)

Err, what?

As far as I can tell, no new information is being collected. They're simply moving from paper to bits -- the sort of thing that most Slashdotters would have encouraged before we were invaded by the Ayn Rand disciples. It makes the government more accessible, convenient, and efficient.

Re:Surveillance. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553990)

Automation, yes. Consolidation of data, not so much. This isn't a new concern in Britain. Episode 4 of Yes Minister, broadcast in 1980, was about opposition to a central government database. Currently, there are a number of legal safeguards that prevent data collected for one purpose from being used for another. Schemes like this, and the ID card system, aim to consolidated the data into a single location, making it very easy for departments that should not have access to some of it to accidentally see everything.

I probably have an even lower opinion of the Ayn Rand bots than you, but that doesn't mean that I agree with granting power to civil servants and members of the government that are easy to abuse. Government departments should not have more information about citizens than they need in order to function. Fortunately, they will probably contract EDS to get the system built, meaning it won't be finished in my lifetime.

Re:Surveillance. (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553696)

It's not going to happen though. The government can't even get their payroll taxes computer to talk to their income tax computer, so we will each have our own personal flying pig before this will happen.

Re:Surveillance. (-1, Troll)

Tassach (137772) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553952)

I was going to say, "Cool, one stop identity theft".

I'm not even sure I want to even visit the UK anymore. Shame, as the Tower of London has the best collection of medieval arms and armor in the world, and I was looking forward to seeing it one day.

Anyway, Brits, enjoy your police state. Let us know how it works out for you.

Oh god (1)

Karganeth (1017580) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553072)

It's myspace all over again!

Re:Oh god (4, Funny)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553544)

It's myspace all over again!

No, this is FaceGovernment. Much cooler.

Re:Oh god (2, Funny)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553558)

it's even better, the stalking creep psychopath following your posts is your government

firpanopticone? (3, Funny)

RockMFR (1022315) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553094)

firpanopticone? Is that an alternate spelling for "fire"?

Re:firpanopticone? (4, Funny)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553172)

Britain is putting their citizen observation stations EVERYWHERE, even in the middle of words.

Re:firpanopticone? (4, Funny)

SoVeryTired (967875) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553176)

Yepanopticons it is

Re:firpanopticone? (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553456)

Thepanre is noopthing to sconee here. War is peace.

Re:firpanopticone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553588)

Fnord.

Re:firpanopticone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553238)

firpanopticone

Fiery Opticon? Sounds like a British Transformer!

What an odd insertion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553274)

And what a strange place for it to "randomly" occur.

Panopticon: "...is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in 1785."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon

Re:firpanopticone? (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553410)

panopticon [wikipedia.org] .

just in case someone doesn't know. Jeremy Bentham left instructions that his corpse be stuffed. His stuffed self sat at the entrance to his club for many years, although I read it was removed after it began to smell bad.

The system... is down... (2, Interesting)

EEBaum (520514) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553098)

Bet that'll be fun when the system goes down for whatever reason. It's enough of a fustercluck when ONE major government system goes on the fritz... here, they'd all go down together!

What? (5, Funny)

AnonGCB (1398517) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553106)

Did anyone else think this was talking about the British Government reinstating a nationalized Geocities?

Re:What? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553130)

No. Just stupid title. But summary was clear enough.

Re:What? (0)

ZERO1ZERO (948669) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553168)

Yes

Re:What? (1)

KibibyteBrain (1455987) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553290)

After Brown was devastated when he found out his DBZ and Sailor Moon SVGA wallpapers site with 2482 hits was closed down by the whims of the private sector after a good 14 year run, he decided that only the public sector could be trusted with running such a critical service.

Re:What? (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553828)

Government reinstating a nationalized Geocities
 
Sweet - I'll move to the UK if I can get my official government webpage customized in the 'OMG Ponies' theme.

Doctor Jones (Inbox) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553108)

You have been poked 37 times by Illy Illington

Download an image of his last stool here.

You have 387 more messages.

Time 08:07.

A computer for all? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553126)

Will they also be providing a computer for everyone will no longer be able to go to a local government office?

Re:A computer for all? (4, Interesting)

Manip (656104) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553226)

Actually yes. They already are. If you are on low income you can apply for a grant to buy both a laptop AND internet connection.

Re:A computer for all? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553380)

Actually yes. They already are. If you are on low income you can apply for a grant to buy both a laptop AND internet connection.

Of course, you'll have to visit your personal webpage to apply for this, as the physical offices will be closing.

Re:A computer for all? (1)

Simmeh (1320813) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553622)

[citation needed]

Re:A computer for all? (1)

Simmeh (1320813) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553232)

and internet? and educational training?

Re:A computer for all? (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553302)

Unless the public library system in the UK is markedly worse than that of the US, it would probably be cheaper just to make sure that local libraries have some computers, assuming they don't already, and somebody on staff with a clue about the site(which will be more or less automatic, since librarians would also be users of it, and tend to be nonidiots in general) and just have people go there.

Re:A computer for all? (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553404)

Possibly at a local government office known by the colloquial term "library".

If you are not smart enough... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#31554012)

I say, if you are not smart enough to request public assistance, then weed thee out of the gene pool, forthwith!

Terminology... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553128)

Never the strong point of media or politicians.

Re:Terminology... (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553814)

Make that: "economics - never the strong point of politicians or union reps"
 
  we are pushing people who provide valuable services on the dole,' says one union leader
 
Government employees are net tax recipients; not wealth creators. At the margin (recognizing that not ALL government employees could be laid off) all the ones who go on to private sector jobs would be a benefit to society.

Re:Terminology... (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31554018)

Not necessarily. Those employed by the government maintaining roads, for example, provide valuable infrastructure support. If they were to enter the private sector then the cost to the economy from degraded communication would be greater than the gain from their extra incomes. If, on the other hand, we're talking about people copying data from printed forms into computers, then it doesn't matter whether they are in the public or private sector; doing a superfluous job does not create any wealth, no matter who does it, and does incur an opportunity cost.

UK Gov + IT... Oh no... (3, Informative)

Manip (656104) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553184)

Good news the UK government is getting involved in another large IT project... So we can assure ourself of two things, first off this will be hugely overbudget, and secondly it will never remotely do what they had originally intended. How is that NHS system coming? That nationwide police database? That system to monitor people entering and leaving the country? ...

The UK government has a bad track record of IT. They do stuff by committee and hire tons of "consultants" who only seem to exist to get themselves more consultant work. Instead of just written an ironclad contract and giving the work to a third party they instead give it out to dozens of third parties with a big government organisation in the middle and then wonder why it won't fit together at the end.

The sad truth is that nobody ever asks IT guys who to complete IT projects. Can you imagine if nobody asked doctors how to cure sick people? Or asked the military how to win a war? Sigh, now I'm pressed. I need a drink.

Re:UK Gov + IT... Oh no... (1)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553256)

IT project go over budget because the committees keep changing the specifications as they go along. Then the consultants aren't the people doing the actual coding, they're the ones writing specifications and handing them over to the backroom code-monkeys in India or wherever.

In order to implement the ID card system, it will be necessary for every individual to keep their details up to date. This includes whenever the individual changes nationality, employer or address. Failure to do so within three weeks will result in a fine and/or jail sentence.

Re:UK Gov + IT... Oh no... (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553434)

I'm not sure that your examples of doctors, and military are actually as distinct from the IT experience as one might like.

When some system has gone casters-up, users screaming, immediate crisis, people are happy to talk to(and typically blame) IT. Similarly, when somebody staggers into the ER, they usually obey the doctor, whether actively or de-facto because they aren't conscious enough to do anything else. When a shooting war erupts, the military commonly acquires substantial clout, and control over operations.

However, far fewer people are interested in listening to IT people give long boring talks about all the money and time they will need to build a system that actually functions. They are, in fact, almost exactly as willing to do that as they are to listen to, and follow, their doctor's advice on boring stuff like diet and exercise(and god help the poor epidemiologist who gives politically unpalatable advice like "Y'know, a food system based on subsidizing corn-syrup is turning us into lardasses" or "No, we shouldn't squander valuable antibiotics in order to make meat incrementally cheaper" or "Guess how many excess deaths the pollution from $FAVORED_LOCAL_INDUSTRY causes every year?"). On the military side, armies are commonly handled conflicts created and defined by outside political conditions, equipped with whatever hardware had the most persuasive vendor, and expected to achieve a politically satisfactory objective.

The details vary, of course, from situation to situation; but I'd say that all of those areas suffer from the common problem of having high short-term clout(once the shit has hit the fan, people generally cling to the experts who might save their sorry asses as though they were drowning babies); but far too little systemic clout to head off the problems that they can easily see coming(nobody wants to hear IT whine about vulnerabilities that might be exploited, they want to act surprised when they do get exploited. Nobody wants to reform their diet and exercise because of some doctor's mumbo-jumbo about cholesterol counts; but they are surprisingly willing to let the same doctor chop them open and do emergency maintenance when they keel over. During wartime, you can get excoriated for not supporting the troops hard enough; but that doesn't mean that you have to listen to their assesments of the situation on the ground, or even bother to order the hardware that they say they need.)

Re:UK Gov + IT... Oh no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553858)

HMRC, the Revenue Commissioner, introduced reminding people to make Value Added Tax returns by e-mail so cutting down on sending out letters. The system failed. They never went back to sending out physical reminders. The amount of money they manage to waste on IT is unbelievable.

What about ex-pats (2, Informative)

walkoff (1562019) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553186)

It seems to be using the wrong list. i'm a British citizen but not currently on any voting lists because i've been living out of country for years, if he really wants to number us all they should be using our national insurance numbers.

Message from Number 1. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553356)

i'm a British citizen but not currently on any voting lists because i've been living out of country for years, if he really wants to number us all they should be using our national insurance numbers.

Your impudence cannot remain unchallenged. Therefore, you are now Number 6.

people who provide "valuable services"? (4, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553188)

so there are thousands of government workers that could easily be replaced by a small pile of silicon chips and a bit of electricity, and they are said to provide "valuable service"? I have an idea, let them go work and provide something of actual value, or let them starve to death. win / win either way.

Re:people who provide "valuable services"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553262)

No wonder the unions are complaining.

Re:people who provide "valuable services"? (5, Insightful)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553416)

Yes, to quote Yes Minister;

Sir Humphrey: It sets a dangerous precedent.
Jim Hacker: What, you mean if we do the right thing now we might have to do it again later?

Evil conservative (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553370)

let them go work and provide something of actual value, or let them starve to death. win / win either way.

A little harsh, but not a troll. Why should the government be exempt from good stewardship with tax revenue?

I've heard it said that schools exist so the teachers have jobs. Toll booths remain open, even though they only support the employees and bring in no further revenue.

There is no reason the government should be allowed to waste money just so someone has a job. Might as well pay one person to dig a hole and another to fill it back up. But that would only make sense if it was a union job.

In the private sector, a leech who doesn't care about his customers quickly goes out of business. In the public sector, a leech who doesn't care about his customers forms a union.

Re:people who provide "valuable services"? (4, Insightful)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553474)

Who or whom marked this guy as a troll? He's absolutely spot on. The Unions see the public services as job creation schemes, rather than providers of useful facilities for citizens. This tells you all you need to know about why public services are so bloated and give poor value for money.

but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553190)

how do you type out "Phlegm" for all the dothead names?

Every British Citizen To Have a Personal Webpage (0, Flamebait)

dethadol (976517) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553208)

Complete b*ll*cks. Look at their record on IT.

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553294)

myspace.gov.uk ?

That's going to play well with 3-strikes your out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553298)

Particularly with no appeal ....

Too late (1)

blai (1380673) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553300)

Geocities had already closed down.

Copyright infringement (4, Interesting)

bcmm (768152) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553306)

So, how does this fit in with the plans to disconnect the families of people who are accused of copyright infringement? I guess media companies are going to be able to get anyone they don't like prosecuted for tax evasion too?

Re:Copyright infringement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553480)

The library?

I'm more worried about those that can't use computers for whatever reason.

It's about time (5, Insightful)

Katatsumuri (1137173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553322)

The amount of paperwork and legwork to get anything government-related done is untolerable in this day and age. We should have been enjoying electronic government for at least 15 years by now. Finally someone up there is getting it.

Now half of the posts here will be about the stupid "personal webpage" phrasing that has nothing to do with the actual idea, and the other half will be about an Orwellian apocalypse. Which may be well-grounded, as British government earned some bad reputation in regards to privacy.

However, I would still argue that this is a step in the right direction, and it is inevitable in the long run. We as a technical community should suggest ways to protect privacy with proper modern protocols, not with the obscurity of 18th century style paperwork.

I also hope that the governments in other countries will follow the example.

Re:It's about time (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553606)

You're a youngster aren't you.

You have no idea what a government might do given the technology. You think fascism is just something you read about in the history books. You don't even seem to realise that parts of Orwell's prediction have already come true. You are a frog in a pot and you don't even realise its on the gas.

Just take a walk through central London and see the machine guns and CCTV following you around everywhere you go. Are you old enough to drive? Take a drive through London. You number plate is logged and stored. Go to the British Library and ask to see on of their many books. Your name and the book you asked to see will be logged and stored permanently. The police have instant access to your location via your mobile phone. Believe it or not, in the not too distant past, it was possible to travel anywhere in the country, to buy almost anything you wanted to buy, to speak to anyone by phone without it being monitored.

We're already half way down the slippery slope, and you make some cheap joke about at the expense of those who are concerned about it.

One thing is for sure, if someone stops it, it won't be thanks to you.

Re:It's about time (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31554026)

I was rather amused when my Belgian couchsurfer confided in me that they might be ticketed before they return home because they "may have exceeded the speed limit at some point". They calmed down when I explained we don't have speed cameras on our highways here in the US, but still didn't completely believe me.

Re:It's about time (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31554050)

Just take a walk through central London and see the machine guns and CCTV following you around everywhere you go.

Seriously? Okay, I've not been to London since last month, but I'm fairly sure I'd have noticed machine guns. CCTV, yes. London does have a lot, but then it needs to because it also has a lot of known criminals [parliament.uk] that it needs to keep track of. Machine guns? Not so much.

Re:It's about time (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553628)

...obscurity of 18th century style paperwork.

Oh, this aspect won't go away. You'll still have to jump through hoops and feel like bashing your head on your desk trying to comprehend legalese.

Re:It's about time (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553722)

Wrong. Now you can automate it with a script.
Of course that’s only an obvious thought if you are used to really using a computer.
Instead of just playing with point-and-click appliance systems.

Re:It's about time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553728)

While I agree with the you in that the services available from the government to the people are in need of a heavy work over, this will fall flat on its ass. Its over ambitious, way to complex and it is an IT project, which as has already been stated in this news story comments is the UK's biggest hell. This sounds more like pandering with the elections coming up. Not to mention the fact that if every person in the country really did have to access this service online, I would question the UK's internet infrastructure to handle it all.

on the dole, VS on the dole (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553336)

Cutting public services is not only bad for the public who use services but also the economy as we are pushing people who provide valuable services on the dole

So either we pay people to continue to do a job that can be done better by an automated system or we pay their unemployment benefit.

Re:on the dole, VS on the dole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553464)

It's typical luddite bullshit from public sector unions. They aren't supposed to do work for the sake of doing work, they're supposed to provide a service to citizens, citizens that pay them through taxes and fees. Saying this new system won't do the job properly or will expose users to risks is one thing, saying it shouldn't be done because it'll make the government more efficient is just ridiculous.

Re:on the dole, VS on the dole (1)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553496)

Once again a demonstration of why adjusting policies to save specific jobs is totally bass-ackwards. This is the same as forcing GM to keep too many dealerships open. Using politics to subsidize or arm-wrestle certain jobs from going extinct hurts the free market and prevents those people from actually being productive in the economy. The only legitimate use of power is to alter policies for the public good and let the market decide what jobs are and are not required to serve that public good. And in this case, the public good means saving money on bureaucracies so it can be spent actually helping people.

[Cue cynical comments in response to reasoned idealism.]

Re:on the dole, VS on the dole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553526)

The difference is that if they lose their unproductive jobs, some of them can actually take productive jobs.

Re:on the dole, VS on the dole (1)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553630)

It's remarkably cheaper to do the latter. Suppose you didn't have to pay for hiring, managers, facilities, supplies, training, or anything else that goes with having employees on site. Now suppose you use all that extra money to put up a computer that's better than the humans were. Now, pay all the humans 2 years wages and walk away having A) improved services, B) cut spending, C)profit! It would of course be the first time in recorded history that a government had ever done more than C.

Re:on the dole, VS on the dole (2, Insightful)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553666)

Exactly; people seldom see it this way, but 'useless government jobs' *are* basically just another form of welfare (just not in intent, necessarily).

Outsourced surveillance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553394)

Two things instantly spring to mind:

1. they'll probably outsource this to some sweatshop Java coders in India, being the ultimate insult to British programmers.

2. it'll either be more Big Brother shite, or it will be so insecure as to be a farce.

Combine this with the ACTA for added fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553426)

So, according to various things being planned:
In order to access governmental services, you need an internet connection.
If you are accused three times of copyright infringement, you are banned from using the internet for a minimum of a year. (I haven't heard any real specifics given, but that was mentioned as a minimum.)
In other words, get accused three times and in addition to your whole household going on an internet access blacklist, you also lose access to a large chunk of governmental services.
And I live there. Words cannot express my unbounded joy at this.

Eroding specialist knowledge? (1)

Lemming Mark (849014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553432)

Well, this doesn't sound so great to me. I'm a tech savvy UK citizen and I do lots of things online. But certain aspects of our nation require specialist advice to navigate. If you're job seeking it is probably worth having someone who can give you sensible advice on the law etc without you having to trawl through pages and pages of documentation to (possibly) find the information you're interested in. Ditto the tax system - the guys at the local tax office will see people without an appointment and can quickly explain what needs doing in a given circumstance. I'm happy "wasting" some of my taxes on maintaining these places even if they could be replaced by an online gateway because they provide "someone who knows" without every citizen who ever has a question having to work themselves up to being a minor domain expert before they can do a relatively simple task. Even with a good UI and a lot of online help I doubt I could sort out problems as effectively myself online as by just asking an expert with access to the right information and the knowledge to use it well.

Re:Eroding specialist knowledge? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553662)

I don't see why we would lose access to these experts just because they are no longer civil servants. It sounds like those people have valuable knowledge, which they could offer privately for a fee just as they have done as a public servant.

I am suggesting that they take their knowledge and skill and open up shop offering their services as private business owners. Those that take advantage of their services can pay their fees. True they lose the reliable government jobs, but as entrepreneurs the reward is there if they are good at what they do. They have been given government sponsored training, and on the job experience.

government services = oil spill (4, Insightful)

pydev (1683904) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553450)

'Cutting public services is not only bad for the public who use services but also the economy as we are pushing people who provide valuable services on the dole,' says one union leader

Hey, let's engineer a couple of oil-spills, too! Jobs for thousands of people, and those people will be performing valuable services!

Re:government services = oil spill (-1, Troll)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553632)

Hey, let's engineer a couple of oil-spills, too! Jobs for thousands of people, and those people will be performing valuable services!

Hey, let's make specious comparisons and stupid remarks on internet forums!

I don't see the problem said the milch cow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553470)

Once all transactions are on line, your anonymity will be completely gone. The government will be able to monitor what you buy, how much you pay, who you speak to, where you travel to, who with, and for how long. They will know who you phone, who you email, where you work, when you sleep, how much electricity, gas and petrol you use.

That's not all. Once you are reliant on the internet and your mobile phone for services, the government will be able to selectively cut off those services too. Yours, anyone you associate with, the members of the same political party. They can - and do - stop all cell phone calls in areas when they believe there is reason to do so, or simply disable selected phones, and impose news blackouts to prevent your associates finding out. The compliant press aid and abet them.

From now on in, you will conform whether you like it or not. They don't need to put you in prison. You are under control right where you are - going about your daily business.

The milch cows will declare, "I don't see the problem" as they chew the cud while waiting their turn to be milked.

Denmark Already There (4, Informative)

Jezral (449476) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553488)

Denmark already has a similar thing. We can perform most actions dealing with the government online, and we even get a gratis certificate for digital signing and encryption of emails. I haven't had to go to a government or city office in years.

I'll sponsor the first contest. (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553490)

What a wonderful way to have EVERYBODY's personal information in one easy-to-hack location.

then are they going to internet connection (1)

KB3NZQ (1263224) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553518)

i have a friend in the UK and he hardly gets on line cause it costs too much so if the government is going to move all services online than what are they going to do about the cost for the internet

Re:then are they going to internet connection (3, Informative)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553626)

o_O

Er... you can get ADSL broadband for £6 (around $9) a month. That's (up to) 8Mb/s with a 10GB cap.

Perhaps your friend is very, very hard up, but although the UK doesn't have the cheapest broadband in the world, it's really not that bad, either. I think it compares reasonably well with the US.

Re:then are they going to internet connection (1)

KB3NZQ (1263224) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553680)

this guy had a 56k dial up line

Re:then are they going to internet connection (1)

KB3NZQ (1263224) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553710)

o_O

Er... you can get ADSL broadband for £6 (around $9) a month. That's (up to) 8Mb/s with a 10GB cap.

Perhaps your friend is very, very hard up, but although the UK doesn't have the cheapest broadband in the world, it's really not that bad, either. I think it compares reasonably well with the US.

at $50 US a month i had 512 X 512 KB cable with $4 a month for the modem in Johnstown PA at home in pittsburgh pa i have 15M by 1M dsl but only 3M by 512 KB is my and that is also $50 a month US

We have this in Norway already.. (5, Informative)

hyfe (641811) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553572)

We have a single website for this in Norway already (norge.no), it's bloody usefull. Everything you need from the government is either there, or linked to from it. They even run free phone/sms/e-mail support.

There's nothing sinister about it, it certainly hasn't magically removed the bourecrazy, but it is another of the many small reasons I'm slightly smug to be norwegian; The land where stuff for the most part just works (which still doesn't stop people from whining though).

Has everybody gone insane? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553574)

Cutting public services is not only bad for the public who use services but also the economy as we are pushing people who provide valuable services on the dole,' says one union leader.

If you can be replaced by a computer program, you're not providing valuable services. Dealing with the socio-economic effects of automation isn't trivial, but having people do jobs that don't need to be done by people is both degrading and economic suicide. See socialism.

The move could see the closure of job centers and physical offices dealing with tax, vehicle licensing, passports and housing benefit within 10 years

Many of these require reliable identification, something which is very hard to do online. Perhaps the people who got fired from their physical office jobs will have to be rehired into fraud-detection jobs.

everyone in Great Britain will be given a personalized webpage for accessing Government services

I pity the people who will manage the access passwords. A login system which is sufficiently secure for dealing with tax, passport and housing benefit matters must be a nightmare without end for the users and admins alike.

Canada has this already (1)

dieth (951868) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553598)

I've used to to file my EI reports, my Income Tax, and to bitch at my elected representatives for being sell outs.

Leave it to the unions... (2, Insightful)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553614)

... to stand in the way of progress. Unions have a long history of holding milking their employers with little regard to the overall health of the business (who cares if GM is going down the toilet, so long as the retired union guys gets their pension) . Here is yet another case where they are holding their own pocketbooks as more important than all else. As a tax payer, I'd rather see the govt get rid of agencies that are manually processing paperwork (inconsistently at that) and automate as much as possible. However, I do strongly feel that you should be able to reach a real person if something needs straightened out.

Re:Leave it to the unions... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31553984)

unions are a bunch as big a bunch of crooks as i've ever seen. some rep's aren't too bad, most don't get the basic concept of "if the business fails, then were will your people work". they always think that management are hiding profits in some secret bank account. some rep's who were blooded in the 80's are just fucking retarded. they think everyone needs to pay union dues or they shouldn't work, and that they have the right to run the country.

How does the 3-strikes and you're out rule apply? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553668)

If everything is on-line and you can't get on the website because the ACTA or whatever "3 strikes and you don't get internet access" rule dominates, which one will take precedence?

Will you be able to not pay taxes because you can use the "I can't get internet access" excuse?

Luddites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31553688)

> However, the proposals are coming under fire from union leaders who complain that thousands of public sector workers would be made jobless

Your job doesn't exist for the sake of providing you with employment. It exists because it needs doing. If your job is obsoleted by technology - a process that has been ongoing since the industrial revolution - get another goddamn job.

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