Saturday, March 3, 2007

The lessons of Estonia

Estonia seems to be at the cutting edge of technology at the moment.

During the week, the 'Safety Elephant', Charles Clarke, visited one of those three Baltic states swopped under the Treaty of Versailles which I had to learn for O' Level history. He was filming for a Channel 4 programme, Fighting Identity Fraud. The purpose of his visit seemed to be to "prove I was right all along" on ID cards. The official blurb for the programme said:

Identity theft is the fastest growing fraud in Britain. But how do you stop thieves stealing your identity? Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke believes strongly that ID cards are the key, and in a passionate polemic makes the case for the controversial plans to register the biometric data of British people on a national database. He's furious that people say supporters of the national database will help bring about a fascist state or British gulags.

In fact, there were some interesting observations coming out of the programme. It showed how Estonians can see who accesses their personal data and what it contains, and correct it, if they want. There were also some interesting comments from British A&E doctors who passionately want a better centralised database of health records, to allow them to treat us better.

Today the Guardian reports some more news from Estonia. It is the first nation to allow voters in a general election to cast their ballots online. Its parliament has already declared internet access a basic human right.

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