News that the UK government has backed down
over plans to make it 'compulsory' for all patient records to be online is welcome.
In brief, the notion was that doctors should upload patients' files to a central database, which, proponents say, could save the lives of vulnerable elderly people if paramedics gained instant access to information about their medication and their GP's most recent diagnosis.
Opponents of the scheme have objected to the scheme because it runs counter to the long-held doctor-patient confidentiality tenet. Who would access the records or, perhaps more importantly, who could? Seventy five pounds for an ex-directory number, £150 for the address a car is registered at and £500 for a criminal record. These are just some of the tariffs that the information commissioner last week revealed had been paid by journalists for personal data, exposing how established the market in snooping has become, in spite of strong theoretical safeguards.
Earlier, the Department of Health insisted that anyone wanting to be left off the database should apply in writing stating why they object. In other words, they had to give officials the precise information they didn't want to go on record. Now patients can ask their doctors not to upload their files.
There are no personal worries for Jakartass in all this; I live here. However, given that all
citizens of Indonesia and long-term expatriate residents will shortly have personal details on an electronic database, there are parallels here. The government is reactivating its Regional Intelligence Community (Kominda)
, supposedly to gather grassroots intelligence on our terrorist fraternity.
Also, unless the newly passed Civil Registration Law is amended, there will be scope for further isolating particular groups. One article at least will worsen the discrimination faced by minority groups in the country. This article requires citizens to identify their religion, one of the six recognized by the state - Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
Such religious identification runs counter to the Constitution, especially Article 28 (e), which guarantees freedom of worship and religion, and which recognizes non-denominational beliefs.
As the Jakarta Post commented, "Lawmakers, particularly those from Islamic-oriented parties in the House of Representatives, seem to have forgotten past incidents of interreligious violence. Often, such violence saw groups of people from one religious group conduct illegal identification card checks, looking for people from a different religion. Once found, these unfortunate people were often beaten black and blue, or worse.
Was it really "people from one religious group
" or was it, as popularly supposed in Poso and elsewhere, people from the state apparatus?
I doubt that any electronic database can be guaranteed safe from hackers. Having one with extraneous information is a danger to society. Those those with access to the information, and especially those who from their positions of power claim to represent society, can distort or manipulate the information for personal ends, as Nixon did