Erasing David

The New Mindreading


Check out this brilliant tactic to highlight how much of our data is hanging out there….

Great email


Hi – thought I’d post (with the writer’s permission) a great email we received recently.

It is not particularly nice about the film – but contains some really interesting points of view!

So in the spirit of sharing – here it is:

I just finished watching a documentary about privacy and security called ERASING DAVID. It didn’t take long to realize it made little sense. The object of the film was a kind of protest against gov’t and marketing tracking in UK. It’s a bit late now for Brits to start thinking about how they have allowed welfare state, police surveillance and bureaucracy to expand unchecked. However the idea that this can be falsified or proven by becoming a fugitive is a false premise. The proof of liberty and anonymity is in having freedom of movement, speech, artistic and hobby activities without regulatory interference or dossier building. The right of self defense is a major point of such proof, but the right of self defense has almost disappeared from Britain and Europe at large. 

I watched the entire 1.5 hr presentation, but kept waiting for an explanation as to why they were making a documentary about a misunderstood concept. In America “new-age” victims of university Leftist indoctrination who graduate without a sense of history or little knowledge of their pre-electronics forbearers seem to think that the lack of anonymity is a sudden modern phenomena. UK graduates probably get a more comprehensive view of world history, but are likewise inculcated with the sense that Goverment has become regent for the higher moral province of religion based morality. The divine right of Kings was poison to history. American exceptionalism rejected that concept and imposed a higher morality on Republican governance. This gives us the clarity and temerity to go over the heads of poiticians and invoke higher authority over any intrinsically lawless bureucracy.

Privacy and security are problematic in the west, with provincial and state governments going through fluctuations of lesser and greater intrusiveness over the last few centuries. But the concept of privacy is simply non-existent in primitive tribal society where every detail of life of each member of the group is known and controlled by strict convention and an absolutist religious and behavioral regime. Freedom as known in the West over the last century was (is), unknown in tribal clan society. On the other hand it is also an alien concept in any “communal” Communist or functionally identical Fascist police state, including police state Sharia Islam. The quickly evolving UK police state is a runaway bureaucratic nightmare that should have been balked thirty years ago, had the sensibilities and expectations of free expression not been expurgated by “progressive” (19th century Marxist) academia, regulatory zeal and political coercion. 

UK is, in regards to repressive governance, about 8-12 yrs ahead of USA. America’s growing resistance to an Obama re-election to a second term is symptomatic of a growing perception that this fool is totally dependent on a forced revision of natural law (inversion of morality and jurisprudence) to realize his “transformation of society” into yet another hellish socialist experiment. As in the case of Obamazoid dysfunctional bungling and inevitable catastrophic economic breakdown, the bureaucracy panics and becomes more repressive and reactionary in proportion to the resistance of the citizenry. Gov’t malfeasance, draconian prohibitions and inverted justice are ingredients for a self-energizing catalytic accelerant for eventual dystopian collapse. the only querstion is wether the bankruptcy is acidental incompetence driven by ideology, or deliberate policy of induced chaos and resulting politocal “emergency” opportunism as planned by the Alinsky school of radical usurpation. 

Islamic Sharia is rapidly invading UK. Communists make quick and convenient alliances with repressive Islam, enhancing their mutual interest in repressing residual ethical monotheist (Judeo-Christian) individualism. Rule by dogmatic pseudo-religious paranoia, be it secular or religious fanaticism, has a common goal. As in Iran, the old GDR or North Korean surveillance regimes, paid or coerced informants make political denunciations imposed by secret police. Sharia and/or fascist corporatism are totalitarian single party theocracies. The technology used is unprecedented in history, but the social control has always been with us since ancient times with much smaller closely watched tribal and hierarchical populations. Pre- Saudi Wahhabi Muslim periods of conquest and Ottoman rule tolerated competing religions, dress and languages, if not encouraged. The coteries and hareems of oriental potentates were often involved in both the spice trade and the Jerusalem Pilgrimage trade. Mohammedans were business oriented and needed cash flow unlike todays terrorists who are aborbing billions in UN sponsored tribute and therefore have no incentive to moderate their murdering impulses. Mix Sharia neo-primitivism with modern techno police state surveillance and digital tracking you have life with conditions similar to the NORK stalinist hell. This is why Americans WILL NOT sacrifice their ownership of firearms.

There is a lot of procedural overlap between governments labeled, Communist, Fascist, Sharia. In the modern era, they are exemplified by conditions ranging from NORK absolutism and perhaps somewhat less confining modern quasi secular regimes, to the worst, most primitive absolutist Islamic tribal states. I’ll ignore animist African cults for the purpose of this discussion, although mass murdering Islamo fascist activity is now gaining momentum in Africa. Sharia is in fact a comprehensive political, economic and religious dogma that controls travel, business, family life and personal expression. It is an insurgent invasive wave of authoritarianism threatening Western legal systems and individual freedom. It is especially threatening in UK where Mr. Bond resides. Though Britain is notorious as a CCT state under surveillance, it is relatively lax as compared to life should their swarming immigrants from the Middle East succeed in destroying the parliamentary enfranchisement of the last 400 years. I’m continually making comparisons to Islamo-fascist Sharia for the purpose of illustrating your eventual defenseless fate in UK. 

The premise of ERASING DAVID revolves around an experiment by Londoner David Bond in an examination of how easily he is spied upon and tracked by commercial and government entities. But their method of examining dossier building is antithetical to the subject. Bond tests the system by attempting to disappear and becoming, in effect, a fugitive. He hires a private investigator to track him down, the difficulty and time delay in finding him being the proof of concept. He continues to use his real name and travel around UK using various forms of public transport. This is fairly meaningless means of testing their theory, since fugitive tracking by authorities or detectives has been pretty successful by the use of spies and provocateurs since ancient times. Instantaneous police telecommunications have been in use since telegraph, telephone, more than 130 years.

We Americans have become jaded by “reality television”. We are suspicious about dramatic productions that may seem predictable and staged from the inception. The notion that there are still innocents that believe they might become lost without either careful scripting or comprehensive planning seems unlikely. We’ll give the witer-director-producer the benefit of the doubt. What we should be attempting to discover is the various means by which dossiers are compiled, and how to block this information and live with a minimal interface in these tracking systems. In other words how to live anonymously by obscurity, not by attracting a lot of attention and becoming a fugitive. How to confuse record keeping by creating false electronic identities that simply vanish along with their marketing and tracking data.

The way you measure privacy is not by becoming a pseudo-fugitive and commissioning a private detective to find you. Since most people of the middle class techo-banal lifestyle are fully vested in all the material trappings of “legitimate citizenry” they are utterly incapable of disappearing. This condition of the vast majority of sheeple is not really the question. The question is whether the various associated databases can be consolidated and compiled into a whole. A closely accurate and invasive profile of any given citizen. The second object of inquiry should be whether these databases can be hacked, either by criminals or by aggressive authorities, and used for ill. Since 60%-70% of the population don’t even acknowledge they are at some risk, by what strategy can we convince them to reverse this trend and recognize that the bigger the government, the smaller an more vulnerable the citizen? Brits have failed in limiting the political component of nanny state repression, coercion, and dependency. They cannot have individual autonomy and freedom without recognizing and rejecting “Progressive” central planning. With autonomy comes individual NOT collective responsibility, and self defense. Defense of the independent individual, and defense of the greater coherent homogenous community. But another symptom of the “progressive disease” is moral confusion and the inability to recognize evil. Or even to admit that there are absolute moral choices. Without real justice, not faux “social Justice” you have lost the right to punish and expel the predator and outlaw antithetical systems like Sharia, Islam, Communism and the incipient authoritarian police state, enviro-radicalism, forced conformity to “diversity”, etc. Not much hope in that for you thoroughly lobotomized, dry-cleaned and brain-strained Brits. 

There are several ways to get lost. To disappear in terms of identification obscurity, to be erased by totalitarian thugs, or in primitive times, to be killed by brutal strangers and never be seen again. Ransom saved the lives of wealthy travelers who would have been otherwise simply been snuffed out for sport. The relative gentility of modern authoritarians has made Western man soft. The expectations of a modern fugitive given years of litigation after arrest is more like a game of tag than the bloody brutalities of history. In early times a bill of attainder could have simply ordered any given fugitive’s ignominious state sponsored death by agents foreign and domestic. Deliver the head or some other identifying limb. 

Fugitives have been hunted down and captured since neolithic times. A coupe of centuries ago, the earth was comparatively depopulated owing to various plagues, wars, religious persecutions, diasporas etc. Rural agrarian people were extremely interdependent and any stranger was regarded as a potential enemy or threat. If you read or watch video representations of Classical and Victorian literature, you will notice that the information age began in the colonial period when human kind suddenly became globally mobile. Throughout the history of tribal society it was more or less impossible to “get lost”, and to varying digress everything about you was known to the extended interdependent clan. With sea navigation came exploration and colonial conquest, and a chance to start fresh, although you were only as hidden as those around you felt it convenient to help keep your secret. Before the age of idiocy, around 1970, most law enforcement and state border agents used intuition and common sense. With obvious exceptions, the inquisitive and suspicious nature, the amplification of experience by instinct, was expected. Most borderlands between monarchic states from Greco-Roman times to the renaissance were easily traversed, populations easily mixed and traveled, yet the unusual or suspicious was quiclkly reported or “Profiled” to authorities. Like a visit to the proverbial roach motel, you could easily “Check-In” to a barbarian encampment or a Roman settlement, but you might not “Check Out”. An Irish Baron persued by English authorities could easily migrate to France or Poland as long as the funds held out, but he had to contribute and become an asset to the local powers and not expect too much in the way of easy assimilation. A peasant locked into his identifying heritage by accent, dress, manner and ignorance was pretty well a local captive of circumstance, especially on what amounts to a “prison Island” like Britain. Only the very exceptional escape the gravity of their tiny coloquial universe. 

Don’t get me wrong, there was a golden age of anonymity, but it wasn’t in the ancient neolithic or biblical past. Nor was it in the age of Religious Wars or the Jihadist enbcroachments of Islam. Anonymity was chancy during colonial conquest or napoleonic conquest anywhere in the known world. The last chance for easily attained true anonymity was some time between the end of the napoleonic era and the Bell Epoche, Fin de Sicle, edwardian times, prior to and during the early disorganized period of the industrial age. The period of ineffective crude electronic telegraphy and rudementary criminal forensics. The early age of the megalopolis and mass immigration was the age of anonymity and even then international fugitives could and usually were successfully traced. The Bond “Erasing David” case proves nothing. The age an anonymity is gone unless you have wealth, resources, training and a long term “legends” set up and implemented for decades, like an intelligence agency. As late as the 1960s the pre-digital world allowed for construction of false identities found in radical “Black Arts” instruction manuals. Bond didn’t create a carefully planned series of false identities with which to “loose” his trackers. Worst of all, the personal, intimate and secret information that was compiled in Bond’s state dossier, the most interesting object of discovery, was never revealed. Nothing more useless than a documentary without expository revelation. 

Data Protection Regulation


What is the Data Protection Regulation and how will it affect social media? Read this article from The Independent to find out.

Ana Canhoto blog

Ana Canhoto, senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, discusses the principles behind government profiling in her latest blog post. Click here to read the full article. Look out for a mention of Erasing David!



Our feature documentary Erasing David is finally available on DVD, and is released in the UK this Monday 6th December.

You can pre-order your copy from our ace distributor HERE (with free delivery), or if you are modern, you can buy it on iTunes HERE, or on Amazon HERE.

I think you’ll agree this is a fantastic gift for your  loved ones this Christmas.

Erasing David plays the Pravo Ljudski Human Rights Festival, Sarajevo


Erasing David played in Sarajevo on Monday 15th November at the Pravo Ljudski Film Festival. Great times, great people..

Ghent Film Festival


We are very excited to have been selected for the prestigious Ghent Film Festival this coming 12-23 October 2010. If you happen to be in Belgium in October then we are looking forward to seeing you there.

Best Feature Soundtrack


Erasing David has won ‘Best Feature Soundtrack’ at the East End Film Festival 2010. Congratulations to Michael Nyman and Andy Simms!

Film 2010


Thanks to Paul at Film2010 for this review.

More4 Trailers


This is the trail played by More4 for ERASING DAVID.

Short version of the More4 trail.



Click below to buy on US Amazon

UK Census 2011


Should you fill it in?  Lockheed Martin are running it….  And here are some interesting reasons to think twice from the brilliant NO2ID:

NO2ID comment

10 Census Lies

The propaganda push for the 2011 census has begun. NO2ID opposes this census because it represents the worst features of database state, the insatiable desire for ever more information, and the presumption that official purposes override privacy.
Here are the ten worst lies you will be told in the coming weeks:

1. The Census is essential for government and business planning

On the contrary, it is worse than useless because it is expensive, inaccurate, and quickly out of date.

2. Our Census data is trusted and respected worldwide

Even were this true, should we care? Most countries do have some sort of census, but would being respected at doing something essentially useless be worth more than £300millions.

3. It’s a great source for genealogy

100 or 200 years ago there was little record of most people’s lives, and old censuses may be the only documents available. It is ludicrous to assume the same will apply in 100 years time, and outrageous to suggest it justifies spending public money.

4. It’s ‘good for employment’, it provides jobs.

Temporary ones, Yet the money spent would otherwise be spent on something — probably something useful involving permanent jobs.

5. Census data is confidential for 100 years.

Not any more. Census forms are kept from the public for 100 years. But EU legislation allows the 2011 census to be shared with all 27 member states, and the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 created powers to share the information with public bodies, and “approved researchers”.

6. The census results in high-quality information.

No one knows how many people lie in their return. The 2001 census is generally believed to have ‘missed’ around 900,000 men under 40.

7. Everyone should be proud of playing their part in the census.

There is no reason to be proud of being tallied like cattle. There is every reason to oppose the waste and the intrusion. There is a long history of public resentment of the census.
In the 1800s census officers had to be given police protection; in 1911 the suffragettes boycotted it in protest; and in the 50s TV publicity told people it wasn’t “another bit of snooping”

8. Communities can use census statistics to help gain recognition.

Whether a group is “officially recognised” is a political decision, not the same as individuals being located and categorised. 390,127 people recorded their religion as Jedi in 2001; they have yet to be officially recognised. More seriously, the Board of Deputies says the census underestimates British Jews, precisely because some of that community are nervous of officials knowing where they live.

9. Completing the census is straightforward, convenient and secure.

New questions are more intrusive than ever before, requiring details of employer’s addresses, the details of any visitors to your house, and where they usually live. This is a direct danger to people who have sensitive occupations. The online version is a perfect cover for phishing attacks.

10. Your personal information is protected

Security is only as good as the shortest route to breaking it. Thousands of people will be involved, large commercial contractors and government agencies will process it, and the law newly provides that the data may be accessed for a variety of reasons, not just for making a statistical summary.
It cannot be guaranteed there won’t be a security breach, or that data once captured will be used legitimately.

They cannot protect it; they shouldn’t collect it.



You can get it from:

VERVE *free shipping



Frank Ahearn


Check out the amazing Frank – he can disappear you good and proper, if that’s what you want.



Cerberus used false/pretext phonecalls to get data about me and my wife from the NHS.  Perhaps you think this is pretty rare and would never happen to you.  Well Professor Ross Anderson from Cambridge’s Computer Lab did some research in 1995 that might make you think again…  MORE


This New York Times article explains the 50 setting and 170 options you need to naviage to protect your Facebook privacy.  Or you could avoid putting up anything personal…

This public radio broadcast about deactivation vs deletion is interesting – also note that Facebook always keeps your data, whatever you do…

Check out this article on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s approach to privacy.  Here’s an extract of a reported conversation he had while at Harvard:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don’t know why.

Zuck: They “trust me”

Behavioural Tracking


Shoppers Who Can’t Have Secrets

Cameras that can follow you from the minute you enter a store to the moment you hit the checkout counter, recording every T-shirt you touch, every mannequin you ogle, every time you blow your nose or stop to tie your shoelaces.

Web coupons embedded with bar codes that can identify, and alert retailers to, the search terms you used to find them and, in some cases, even your Facebook information and your name.

Mobile marketers that can find you near a store clothing rack, and send ads to your cellphone based on your past preferences and behavior.
To be sure, such retail innovations help companies identify their most profitable client segments, better predict the deals shoppers will pursue, fine-tune customer service down to a person and foster brand loyalty. (My colleagues Stephanie Rosenbloom and Stephanie Clifford have written in detail about the tracking prowess of store cameras and Web coupons.)
But these and other surveillance techniques are also reminders that advances in data collection are far outpacing personal data protection.
Enter the post-privacy society, where we have lost track of how many entities are tracking us. Not to mention what they are doing with our personal information, how they are storing it, whom they might be selling our dossiers to and, yes, how much money they are making from them.
On the way out, consumer advocates say, is that quaint old notion of informed consent, in which a company clearly notifies you of its policies and gives you the choice of whether to opt in (rather than having you opt out once you discover your behavior is being tracked).
“How does notice and choice work when you don’t even interface with the company that has your data?” says Jessica Rich, a deputy director of the bureau of consumer protection at the Federal Trade Commission.
The commission has brought several dozen complaints against companies about possibly deceptive or unfair data collection and nearly 30 complaints over data security issues. In 2009, the commission proposed new guidelines for Web advertising that is tailored to user behavior.
The problem is, the F.T.C.’s guidelines are merely recommendations. Corporations can choose to follow them — or not. And the online advertising standards don’t apply to off-line techniques like observation in stores.
Mike Zaneis, vice president for public policy at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade association based in Manhattan, says the advertising industry is not generally collecting personally identifiable data.
His group has worked closely with the F.T.C. on industry self-regulation, he says, and is developing new industry standards to alert consumers as they encounter ads based on their online behavior.
In the meantime, Mr. Zaneis says, consumers can use an industry program if they want to opt out of some behavior-based ads. As for mobile marketing, he says, consumers are always asked if they want to opt in to ads related to their cellphone location.
The larger issue here is not the invasion of any one person’s privacy as much as the explosive growth of a collective industry in behavioral information, says Jeff Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a nonprofit group that works to safeguard user privacy.
“The whole business model is unfettered data collection of all your activities online and off,” Mr. Chester says. For example, he says that when consumers opt into cellphone ads, they may not understand that marketers may link their locations with information from third-party databases. The result, he says, is mobile dossiers about individual consumers.
As contradictory as it might sound, we need new strategies for transparent consumer surveillance.
In a country where we have a comprehensive federal law — the Fair Credit Reporting Act— giving us the right to obtain and correct financial data collected about us, no general federal statute requires behavioral data marketers to show us our files, says Ms. Rich of the F.T.C.
So, is the European model, involving independent government agencies called Data Protection Commissions that are charged with safeguarding people’s personal information, better than ours?
Europe’s privacy commissioners have generally been more forward-looking, examining potential privacy intrusions like biometric tracking, while the F.T.C. is still trying to understand the magnitude and the implications of the Web, says Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a research group in Washington.
“The U.S. system with regard to privacy is not working,” Mr. Rotenberg says.
By early fall, the F.T.C. plans to propose comprehensive new privacy guidelines intended to provide greater tools for transparency and better consumer control of personal information, Ms. Rich says.
In the meantime, what if consumers take a more active interest in who is collecting information about them?
In a recent documentary called “Erasing David,” the London-based filmmaker David Bond attempts to disappear from Britain’s surveillance grid, hiring experts from thesecurity firm Cerberus to track him using all the information they can glean about him while he tries to outrun them. In the course of the film, the detectives even obtain a copy of the birth certificate of his daughter, then 18 months old.
But the real shocker is the information Mr. Bond is able to obtain about himself — by taking advantage of a data protection law in Britain that requires public agencies and private businesses to release a person’s data file upon his or her written request.
In one scene, Mr. Bond receives a phonebook-thick printout from listing everything he ever bought on the site; the addresses of every person to whom he ever sent a gift; and even the products he perused but did not ultimately buy.
He also receives a file from his bank, including a transcript of an irate phone call he once made after the bank lost one of his checks. The transcript noted that he seemed angry and raised his voice.
“It read like a mini-Stasi file,” Mr. Bond said when I called him last week. When recorded messages inform us that we may be taped “for training or quality assurance purposes,” he reminded me, we should remember that our conversation may end up in our dossiers.
INSPIRED by Mr. Bond’s odyssey, I called some companies with whom I do business.
A customer service representative at a bookstore chain where I have a discount card told me that the company maintains a list of the amount each member spends on each transaction so that the store can tell people how much money they saved at the end of the year. But a loyalty cardholder is not permitted to obtain his or her own purchase history.
Then I called an online travel agency and asked if I could get copies of my flight history and phone transcripts. I was regretting a disgruntled call I made to the agency a few months ago after being stranded at an airport in a blizzard. The customer care rep said clients couldn’t obtain their own transcripts unless it was for legal purposes.
Was I being taped this time, too? They always tape, he said.

Little White Lies

Thanks to Tom Seymour at Little White Lies for this interview


The writer, director and star of Erasing David discusses the evils of CCTV, government databases and Facebook.

Interview by Tom Seymour

David Bond is the writer, director and star of Erasing David, an award winning and critically acclaimed documentary about the way the surveillance state has impinged on our civil liberties and right to privacy. He made the film, which sees him attempt to hide for a month from private investigators who have access to national databases and CCTV, after the details of his three-year-old daughter Ivy were lost by the government. He speaks to LWLies about the unknown, pernicious threats of vast CCTV networks and massive databases like the National ID Register, the NHS database, the National DNA database and the role that market forces play in social profiling the consumer.

LWLies: Erasing David recently screened at the Human Rights Film Festival in Ukraine. Do you see it as a film about human rights?

Bond: The festival’s full of really heavy films that try and persuade you that there’s something wrong with the world by showing you really horrific things. I really embrace that and I think it’s amazing work and often amazing investigative journalism, but it was really amazing to get the response we got. People were like ‘Oh, it really is a human rights film, but it’s also like a thriller, and we really enjoyed it.’ It got huge cheers in the room, and they said ‘In Ukraine we have no privacy rights at all.’ I don’t think they over-egg it, but I sometimes think that if you respect someone’s privacy and you respect the limits of what they want you to know about them, then that’s a really good foundation for lots of other things like a decent judicial system and  decent way of policing people, and the way one treats their neighbours. The more I get into it, the more I think the whole privacy thing is absolutely central in terms of a decent way of treating each other.

Do you feel we need to completely reform privacy laws because of the way they’re impinging on our civil liberties?

I support the idea of a bill of rights, where we establish clearly what our rights to privacy are, but I actually think the legal side is less important, particularly with the growth of technology. It’s so hard to get legislation to keep track with what’s happening with technology. But actually, and I think much more importantly, the challenge is education followed by control and consent so we’re able to get to the stage where we know what’s out there about us. That’s an education thing – be interested and aware of the fact that, for example, when you get two per cent off your Tesco shopping because you’ve given them all of your details, they’re actually making a lot more than that. It’s a financial transaction, although it doesn’t feel like that. You’re giving them something they really want, which is data which gives them a huge amount of power to twist the arms of other consumers, and you, to behave in a certain way. In return they’re only giving you a very small amount of money back. It’s about being aware of those sort of tacit transactions that are out there. Another example is Facebook. If you talk to people about Facebook they say ‘Yes, it’s this amazing bit of free software where you can be mates with people.’ I’m not against Facebook at all, but that’s not what it is. What happens is you enter a contract with them where you give them a huge amount of data and they then own that and can use it to market.

But surely it’s data that you’re in control of. If you create an image of yourself that doesn’t necessarily correspond to who you are, then the data they have on you is false. Many people probably don’t feel betrayed by Facebook…

You’re probably a wise user of it, but a lot of people aren’t. We want to point out to people who haven’t thought about it in those terms exactly what’s going on. And I’d also say also whatever your image of yourself is that you do represent on Facebook, when you combine it with the image you represent on Twitter and through your writings online and you combine that with info that’s freely available on profiling systems and information you might have to give the Government, as soon as the resolute picture comes together no one piece of information is bad. It’s not that one piece of info out there is bad in itself. What’s bad is when they can be brought together and can be used to try and predict your future decisions.

So is what you’re talking about a symptom of technology or capitalism or the policies of the current Government?

I think it’s led by market forces primarily, so the first thing that happens is market forces provide these amazing solutions. And they’re often a solution to a battlefield problem. So in Afghanistan they had to find a way of quickly fingerprinting and iris scanning hundreds of tribesmen and then analyse that quickly. This is a problem, so the defence companies and the technology companies come along and make kit that does that. But then, because of the system we’ve got with the way that stuff works, very quickly secondary markets are found for it. So you suddenly find the same algorithm in a school in Gloucestershire. It’s mentioned in the film – the company that makes that bit of fingerprinting technology also makes battlefield systems in Iraq and Afghanistan so there’s a kind of what I think is best described as Scope-Creep, where you make a bit of kit or you set up a system like the National ID register or the NHS database – let’s look at the NHS database. So if you break your leg in Wales and you have particular needs then the doctor there can access your database and find out about your medical history and your particular needs. That’s what we’re sold. But as soon as it’s set up, actually we discover that it’s this incredible social profiling tool, a cradle to the grave social profiling tool which allows Governments and private companies to analyse our behaviour patterns based on our medical records.

But hypothetically if you get run over tomorrow and you’re diabetic, surely it’s a comfort that this databse exists and can be used meaningfully?

Yes, but this is a classic argument that I hear loads. It’s an argument from an individual case to a mass piece of surveillance. So what you say is, ‘I’ve got a medical problem, so let’s put everyone on the system,’ or ‘a few people plant bombs on buses, so let’s watch everyone’ or ‘there are a few people out there that commit serial murders, so let’s take everyone’s DNA’ and it’s very easy to go from one to another without thinking about the other possibilities. In the case of the NHS database, if you do have a medical need then you go on the database, and I totally support that, I like the idea of an at risk database, like a medical alert. That makes sense to me. The dangerous idea is that you log and store information about everyone irrespective of whether it’s of use to you in an emergency situation, so it would also have information like whether you used to smoke ten years ago. Now that’s not going to help them sort you out in A&E, but it’s sure as hell going to help the insurance company in twenty years time when they decide you shouldn’t get cover for your health insurance.

Blair mentioned the DNA database in length at his campaign speech in Sedgefield, despite civil liberties not being a massively discussed issue in the election. He argued that in time it would actually be good for our civil liberties…

I’m not at all surprised to hear that is his line. He’s a classic example of someone who’s not very technologically knowledgeable. He doesn’t really understand the technology. When he got into power, I think he was hoodwinked by a lot of very smart scientists who, for one reason or another, thought they could solve certain problems, like crime or terrorism or the health service. These are big problems. If you look at Labour’s record, or maybe their legacy after May 6, they’ve produced a lot of massive systems – the National ID register, the NHS database. These are colossally expensive systems that have purported to solve problems. There is very little evidence to suggest they’re actually eliciting a useful response, that they’re working. I’m on shaky ground here, because I was talking to someone the other day who said they’d been the victim of a violent crime and their victims had been caught through the National DNA database, and they were saying ‘Do you wish my aggressors had never been caught?’ Well, of course not. But again, it is a single instance being used to argue a mass statement. What I would say is that keeping DNA of violent criminals who’s DNA has been kept at the crime scene, that does make sense to me, in much the same way that keeping murder implements in an archive somewhere, and keeping recordings of police interviews make sense, as they’re important pieces of evidence. But I have also talked to someone who was charged and cleared with a mugging. She’s 16, she was in prison for 24 hours before being released, and her DNA was taken and is now on the database for 12 years. Now we don’t know what that DNA is going to be able to prove about her in 12 years time. It is a fundamental possession of hers, that DNA. And there is no reason why the state should hold it in my view.

The Scotsman


Film Review: Erasing David

Published Date: 01 May 2010

By Alistair Harkness



LIKE a less annoying Morgan Spurlock, British documentary maker David Bond has contrived an entertaining scenario to expose the extent to which our privacy is being invaded and compromised. Perturbed by a government letter regretfully informing him that, along with 25 million other people, some of his personal data – including his name, address and bank account details – has been “misplaced”, Bond decides to find out what information our database culture holds on him while going on the run for 30 days from private detectives he’s hired to track him down with nothing to go on initially but his name. Though Bond is guilty of upping the dramatic stakes of the documentary’s chase element by deciding to disappear while his wife is seven months’ pregnant, the ease with which the private investigators are able mine crucial information from social networking sites and other everyday sources is a sobering reminder of how carelessly we’re submitting ourselves to an almost Stasi-like information state.

The Independent


David wrote this piece for The Independent about the film.

How to disappear completely
Is it possible to slip the net of today’s surveillance society?

Film-maker David Bond went on the run to find out

My name is David Bond. I am an average 38 year old, married with two children. We live in Hackney, London. I pay my council tax. I’ve never been in trouble with the police. There are no skeletons in the closet. Yet last year I went on the run from two private investigators whose job was to find and grab me. It was an experience I do not want to repeat.

Details about my family and me are on around 700 company and government databases. I am caught on CCTV cameras 300 times each day. Until recently I did not give this a second thought. Why should I worry? Then a letter from the Child Benefit Agency arrived. It said that they had lost my daughter Ivy’s data – and with it my bank details. She was four months old.

Thirty years ago, very little data was kept on British citizens – but now all that has changed. With support from the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation and The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, I have completed a feature documentary about the issues. It is called Erasing David. My producer hired Cerberus, a top firm of private investigators, to track me down. All they had to go on was my name and a recent photograph. I was to try to avoid being physically caught by them for 30 days.

My first move was to get out of the UK to leave a cold trail as soon as possible. I booked tickets on Eurostar in another name, and changed them to mine at the last minute. I visited Paul Rusesabagina in Brussels. Hotel Rwanda is based on his experiences. He has a strong aversion to ID cards. During the 1994 genocide, killers used them to distinguish Hutu from Tutsi at roadblocks. “You can never know how data will be used in the future,” he said. “It is a very powerful weapon.”

From there I went to Berlin and met with Jörg Drieselman, a survivor of Stasi surveillance and torture and the director of the Stasi museum. He is amazed at the lack of resistance by the British public to our growing database state. “It is very easy to establish a dictatorship, and to keep it alive,” he told me. Drieselman also warned that if the investigators were any good, they would use my family to get to me.

Heading back to the UK, I had a bad feeling about my Eurostar ticket – and opted for the ferry. It was a lucky instinct. Cerberus was waiting for me at St Pancras station.

Over the coming weeks, I slept less and less, and became increasingly paranoid. Before setting off, I had visited Dr Daniel Freeman, an expert on paranoia, at King’s College London. He warned that I would adopt a paranoid style of thinking while on the run – although, unusually, in my case there really was someone after me.

We are beginning to see the early victims of our brave new database world. I met a young woman, Emma Budd, who is persistently confused with a shoplifter by the criminal records bureau, and denied jobs. The stakes can be higher, though. Josephine Chong’s son Robert killed himself after being wrongly arrested for an indecent act.

We all give away a little more data than we should. The congestion charge was introduced to reduce traffic in central London – so why do the automatic cameras used store and share cars’ movements with the police? Data is easy to collect and very hard to control.

I will not say whether Cerberus caught me within the month. Watch the film. But after the month was up, they led me into their control room. One large wall was covered with information about me. They had a detailed personality profile that allowed them to predict what I might do. And all this was publicly available information. All of this is out there about you, too. Our personal data is a profound possession of ours. We should keep it safe.

‘Erasing David’ is released in cinemas nationwide on 29 April and broadcast in More4’s ‘True Stories’ strand on 4 May at 10pm ( )

The Daily Express


The Express ran this article about the film.


By Adrian Lee

ONE day last year David Bond stuffed a few clothes into a backpack, kissed his pregnant wife and baby daughter goodbye and vanished. He hadn’t done anything wrong, run up huge debts, or suffered some sort of mental breakdown.

In an information-obsessed society, where we are increasingly under surveillance and every aspect of our lives is scrutinised by police, the Government and private companies, Bond wanted to conduct an experiment. The 38-year-old film-maker gave only his name and a photograph to a team of private detectives, went on the run and set them the apparently impossible challenge of tracing him within 30 days.

At the outset it seemed the most terrific adventure. Bond, an Oxford graduate, looked forward to living by his wits, outsmarting the investigators, then returning home. However what happened over the next few weeks was to change his approach to life. As the net closed the game took on more sinister overtones and Bond found himself feeling hunted and angry at how much of his life was available to be picked over.

Leaving home in the depths of winter Bond tried to cover his tracks. Instead of using his own car he travelled to Brussels by train, making the booking using a friend’s credit card. It proved to be a wise move. Guessing he would flee abroad the detectives had impersonated their quarry to try to discover his travel plans. They’d contacted airlines, train and ferry companies. At the same time Bond’s birth certificate had been ordered, quite legally, providing  family details such as his parents’ names and occupations.

The investigators figured that Bond would seek sanctuary with relatives and finding up-to-date addresses was straightforward.

As for friends, a quick check of Bond’s Facebook page, which he’d tried unsuccessfully to delete, provided a wealth of leads. The investigators also set up a fake page pretending to be David inviting friends to get in touch. Plenty did.

In fact within a few hours the detectives had built up a full picture of Bond’s life.

They kept his wife Katie, 39, under surveillance knowing that with a two- year-old Ivy and a baby on the way family ties might prove too strong to ignore. A tracking device was attached to his wife’s car, while the homes of close relatives were staked out.

They also rummaged through the family’s bin bags for clues about his identity, such as bank details and scribbled travel plans. The private investigators were confident they would soon get their man. Bond, who has made a docu mentary about his time on the run, continued to work and film. It was not his  intention to simply hide out in a cave
or forest but to try to have some sort of meaningful existence and contact with society.

It meant using a mobile telephone and the internet to access infor mation and send e-mails. Both could provide clues for the hunters about his likely locations. Although Bond tried to pay cash whenever possible, wary of the trail
left by credit cards and ATMs, the investigators were able to discover that he’d been in Belgium after a man filmed their encounter and unexpectedly posted it on the internet.

He was taken aback when the detectives set up a website on which they mapped his route, including a visit to Berlin. They encouraged him to respond so they could follow the path of his e-mails and pinpoint a rough geographical area and sent bogus messages from friends to try to lure him into the open.

Suddenly Bond found himself looking over his shoulder, fearful that he was about to be caught. “I didn’t expect this change in my mentality,” he admits. “I’d been excited but now I felt pressurised. I struggled to sleep. I realised that if I made one serious mistake it could all be over. Gradually I realised it was inevitable they were going to find me.”

At one stage, as the chase took its toll, Bond broke his rule about  staying within society and hid out in South Wales, where he lived rough at night.

“I felt incredibly isolated and alone,” says Bond. “Perhaps I became a bit paranoid. That was the hardest time.
The separation from family was very difficult.”

It proved to be his undoing. Bond’s pregnant wife contacted him to say she was ill. He decided to head back to London so he could accompany Katie to hospital but the detectives were hot on his trail. By again  impersonating Bond and providing Katie’s date of birth to pass a rudimentary security check they persuaded an NHS worker to reveal the time and location of the appointment. They’d guessed that Bond would try to contact his wife and were watching the hospital.

Bond slipped in unnoticed via a back door but he was not to escape so easily. Later in the street the investigators confronted him. Barely half way through his 30-day adventure it was all over.

“Capture was a huge emotional upheaval,” says Bond. “I was shocked that they knew exactly where I was going to be. It was frightening. I felt furious that in such a short period of time they now knew so much about me and my life, much of it freely available.

“In many ways I was naive in the past, quite happily handing over personal details and believing that if I had nothing to hide there was nothing to worry about.”

Knowing that the detectives had access to only a fraction of the information stored about him Bond also contacted government depart- ments, banks, private companies, the supermarket where he held a loyalty card, mobile phone and internet providers. He wanted to know precisely what data was held and how it was used.

The results from 80 different sources were eye-opening. He dis- covered that Amazon alone had 120 pages of information, including personal details of everyone he’d ever sent a gift. Mobile phone and inter- net providers were storing details of every call and website visited.

When he’d complained in the past by telephone to his high street bank about a missing cheque it had beenrecorded on his file that he had been angry. Bond says: “My bank had even logged my mood, which is very subjective. In future it could be used to refuse me a loan. It’s the beginning of psychological profiling of customers.”

The film-maker was also shocked to discover that within 100 yards of his home there were 200 surveillance cameras, in shops and on the streets, monitoring his every move.

“I find it sinister that we are all regarded as potential threats or as criminals,” adds Bond, who now also has one-year-old son Albie.

“What’s most terrifying is how much information about our children is being stored.”

Even the private detectives who tracked Bond want tighter controls. Duncan Mee, co-owner of Cerberus Investigations, says: “The amount of information that is held about individuals has gone too far. In every day life enormous data trails are left. We were able to build a comprehensive picture of David’s life.” But he warns we all share some of the blame: “People are careless and put too much information out there, such as birthdays on social networking sites. It’s all available for public scrutiny.”

Bond’s attempt to erase himself has changed his life. He’s much more cautious about handing over family details, has cut up his loyalty cards and opposes schemes such as a national DNA database  containing everyone’s details. He prefers to shop using small stores rather than big corporations.

He remains deeply patriotic but is deeply worried about the threat to our liberty and privacy posed by surveillance and data gathering carried out in the name of national security and tackling crime. Oh, and he most definitely now uses a shredder.

Erasing David is in cinemas from tomorrow and on More4 on Tuesday May 4 at 10pm.

The Sun


The Sun ran this article about the film.

Working Films

Working Films leverages the power of storytelling through documentary film to advance struggles for social, economic, and environmental justice, human and civil rights. They hosted a summit meetings for Erasing David during 2009 to discuss ways of expanding the reach of the film.

E-Legal Gathering  is a discussion forum for private investigators, legal professionals and members of the general public to network with each other.

Guide for the Private Citizen

DOWNLOAD Private Citizen Guide

Personal information is much more than just your name, address and passport number, it is a valuable part of who you are, and you should treat it with respect.

This guide to protecting your privacy comes from the makers of Erasing David, a feature documentary about civil liberties and the database state.

Update: check out how insecure scanners and photocopiers are: WATCH

Also here’s a template if you want to make a Subject Access Request to anyone.

Front Row


Front Row just broadcast this great piece about the film.

You can listen again here:

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(22 April 2010)

BBC Radio 5 LIVE

Thanks to the Victoria Derbyshire show for featuring the film.

You can listen again here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(20 April 2010)

The Times


Saturday Times (17th April 2010)

Can you disappear in surveillance Britain?

David Bond wanted to see if it’s possible to vanish so one day he packed his bag, got into his car and kissed his wife goodbye

Photo: Phil Fisk

Article by: Jean-Paul Flintoff

Back in January last year, David Bond packed a rucksack, kissed his pregnant wife Katie and toddler Ivy, climbed into his Toyota Prius and drove away from home. Nobody knew where he was going – he didn’t even know himself. One thing he was sure about was this: “I’m going to leave my life behind and disappear,” he said.

A 38-year-old Oxford graduate with a solid if unspectacular career in media, Bond wasn’t your typical runaway. But then, you might have said the same about Will Smith in Enemy of the State, or Robert Donat in The 39 Steps – two of Bond’s favourite films. For Katie, left alone with a toddler, his disappearance could not have come at a worse time. “I had to juggle the childcare and work,” she says, “and I was seven and a half months pregnant.”

Bond might never have thought of running away if he’d not received a letter, some months earlier, informing him that his daughter was among 25 million Britons whose records had been lost by the Child Benefit Office, along with bank details and other private information.

He “became obsessed”, Katie remembers, about the amount of information on him and his family that was already out there. As he looked into it, he found that the UK, once a bastion of freedom and civil liberties, is now one of the most advanced surveillance societies in the world, ranked third after Russia and China. The average UK adult is now registered on more than 700 databases and is caught many times each day by nearly five million CCTV cameras. Increasingly monitored, citizens are being turned into suspects. Within 100 yards of Bond’s home, he discovered, there were no fewer than 200 cameras.

Before going on the run, he made 80 formal requests to government and commercial organisations for the information they held on him. He piled the replies on his floor, appalled by the level of detail. The owners of the databases knew who his friends were, which websites he’d been looking at, and where he had driven his car. One commercial organisation was even able to inform him that, on a particular day in November 2006, he had “sounded angry”. It was more than he knew himself.

Many people believe that, if you have nothing to hide, there is nothing to fear from all this scrutiny. But if you resist the urge to pick your nose while others are present, or close the door when you go to the toilet, you are a privacy advocate. “When you realise that your whole life is under view,” says the Tory MP David Davis, “it’s inhibiting.”

And what if the information about us is wrong? Bond found that the DVLA still keeps on record a youthful driving offence that should have been expunged years ago. He waved it grimly at his uncomprehending daughter: “This is Daddy’s drink-driving record.” Worse was the case of a woman he met, falsely identified by the Criminal Records Bureau as a convicted shoplifter, who’d taken a year to prove her innocence. Or the man who, after someone pinched his credit card details and used them to pay for porn, was arrested, then sacked without notice; when Bond met him, he still hadn’t been able to clear his name.

As Bond became more obsessed, Katie became increasingly annoyed. They argued over filling in a form for Ivy’s nursery. “They can use this data for God knows what!” Bond yelled. “I thought, for God’s sake, no one else worries about this,” Katie remembers. “Why do we have to?” She tried to reassure him: “It’s fine. They’re not going to do anything weird with our data. If some kind of weird government comes in, we’ll opt out.” He wasn’t convinced.

In the days that followed his disappearance, Katie heard from him occasionally, using pay-as-you-go phones he’d bought specially. But he didn’t tell her where he was, because he was being followed by detectives.

What he didn’t know was that Katie was being watched, too. Hoping to use her to find him, the detectives had leapt over the garden wall one night to fit a tracking device to her car.

They also worked out where she was due to give birth and phoned the hospital, pretending to be Bond, to get details of her appointments.

As it happens, Bond had left the country, travelling to the continent on Eurostar. The investigators had guessed he might do this and impersonated Bond to phone ferry, train and airline companies that might have bookings in his name. But they missed him because he’d booked his ticket using a friend’s credit card, and changed the passenger name at the last minute.

In Belgium, Bond met a man who filmed their encounter and put the film online. Soon afterwards, the detectives found it: they knew Bond was in Belgium.

Next, he travelled to Germany. As much as possible, he paid his way with cash, and – wary of ATMs – took money out only moments before travelling. If he thought he was being followed, he got off the train.

After meeting contacts in Germany, he returned to Britain on a ferry. Soon afterwards he picked up a message on his BlackBerry from the detectives, telling him they knew he’d been to Belgium and Germany. They were goading him, hoping to get him to reply so they could trace the route of his e-mail. They did that several times, often sending messages that appeared to come from his closest friends. The messages brought him out in a sweat, but he didn’t reply.

In Kent, Bond went to his father’s house. The strain was starting to tell. He stayed in his old bedroom, dismantling all his possessions lest they concealed some kind of bugging device. The next morning there was a knock on the door. Bond told his father to keep the callers talking so he had time to jump out of the window and over the back wall. He went to some friends, borrowed a car and drove to Wales to hide in the woods – where he grew gradually more and more paranoid.

But the funny thing is this: it was Bond who persuaded the detectives to follow him. “I told them I was making a film about privacy and surveillance, and wanted to be hunted,” he tells me a year later, over cups of tea in his East London home, amid the clutter of a young family – toy bricks on the floor, mashed banana on the table. He wondered if it was possible, in surveillance Britain, to keep himself to himself for a month. “I promised I wouldn’t sue them, whatever they did, as long as they didn’t cause my family any distress. ‘We’ll have you in four days,’ they laughed.”

Bond spent a long time finding the right detectives for his project, talking to countless retired coppers before he found Duncan Mee and Cameron Gowlett of Cerberus. Ordinarily, they work as investigators for major companies and law firms, scrupulously following the letter of the law as they trail organised gangs, often in unstable parts of the world. (If they broke the law, courts would throw out their findings.) The work requires them to penetrate layer upon layer of shell companies and false identities. How hard could it be to find Bond? After all, they’re often asked to find people who might be beneficiaries of a will, and that rarely takes more than a few hours.

After Bond phoned them, the arrangements were finalised by his friend and business partner, Ashley Jones – producer of the film. All the detectives were given was a photo, and the name, David Bond.

To begin, they gathered data about him on the internet. He’d deleted his Facebook page, but they retrieved it and much more. This helped them piece together yet more information from public records that require elementary details such as addresses and dates of birth.

Pretending to be Bond, they set up a new Facebook page, using the alias Phileas Fogg, and sent messages to his friends, suggesting that this was a way to keep in touch now that he was on the run. Two thirds of them got in contact. As a result, the investigators were able to crash parties and find out more about Bond in conversation. Mee explains: “At the party, we’d say, ‘How do we know you are who you say you are? How do you know David?’ One guy said he’d been in a band with him, but we pretended to be sceptical and said, ‘Oh yeah? What instrument does he play?’”

They also went through his bins, and later his father’s. From this they were able to piece together huge amounts of detail about Bond. For instance, they guessed that he was vaguely “green” because he printed on the back of documents Katie brought home from her office.

Everything they learnt went up on a wall in their office, forming what they call Bond’s “data wake”. Then they used techniques that would not have been unfamiliar to Sherlock Holmes.

“We looked at what kind of person he was,” says Gowlett, “so we could second-guess what he might do. His family, his education, the films he’s made. He’s a literate guy so we thought of George Orwell and Jura, the island where Orwell wrote 1984. That might be somewhere David would go. We put a pin in the map.”

By this time, Bond was steadily going bonkers, looking more than ever like Kevin Spacey playing some kind of psycho. Unable to sleep for fear of the detectives, and painfully lonely, he addressed his handheld camera in the dark: “I’m really f***ing freaked out… If I don’t come back, I love you, Katie.”

But then she phoned and told him there was a problem with her pregnancy. Nothing too serious, but she needed him to come with her to the hospital. So he returned to London, booked into a cheap hotel and the next day, avoiding the main entrance, smuggled himself into the hospital. When he found Katie at the clinic they were both overjoyed.

They hadn’t guessed that the detectives knew Katie’s hospital appointments, and certainly didn’t suspect that one of the other couples in the waiting room had been planted there. Bond remembers noticing them: “I thought, ‘She doesn’t look very pregnant. I hope there’s nothing wrong with her kid.’”

Tipped off by their colleagues, Mee and Gowlett were waiting for Bond outside the hospital. He’d been on the run for 18 days.

Immediately afterwards, Bond had what he calls a “weird psychic wobble”. He accused his great friend Jones of conniving with the detectives. “I became potty, behaved in a way I’ve never behaved before.” The next day, at the debrief, Bond had difficulty hugging the detectives. “I was still in a role that felt angry towards them. They seemed smug, happy to have got their man, and I was the idiot who had lost.”

He was appalled to see how much they knew about him, amassed on that wall. “There were huge bulldog clips holding together separate parts of my life – mother, father, schooling and so on. All obvious stuff, but it was more than the sum of its parts. The weirdest thing was the pictures of my mother they’d found in a church. It gave me the heebie-jeebies. I wanted to leave the room.”

On the run, Bond had been maddened by the thought that the best way to elude the detectives was to do the last thing they would expect him to do – which also meant the last thing he would expect himself. He went round and round in circles thinking that if ideas occurred to him – no matter how outlandish – he had to reject them, because the person who had thought of them was him. He hated to admit it, but he had indeed planned a trip to Jura.

Leaving the detectives’ office, Bond used a term to describe his feelings that he’s since concluded is inappropriate, but it gives an idea how strongly he felt at the time. He called it data-rape.

The journalist and privacy campaigner Henry Porter told Bond that privacy is like eyesight, or touch: “It’s that important.” Phil Booth, national co-ordinator of the campaign No2ID, broadly agrees. “Privacy is not something that people feel, except in its absence. Remove it and you destroy something at the heart of being human.”

You might think that the detectives, having made such impressive use of information that is publicly available, would disagree. In fact, it’s precisely because they know how information can be misused that they make the best possible advocates for privacy. “We’re often asked to do TV projects and we say no,” Mee says, when I meet them in Soho. “But we liked the fact that this project was going to take the lid off the massive amount of data on us all. That’s something that bothers us personally.”

“A lot of people are giving information away voluntarily,” says Gowlett. “Look how many young children are giving up their whole lives on Facebook and Twitter – everything, their date of birth, the names of relatives and friends, where they live, when they’re going on holiday and what their political views are.

“People should think carefully how data is going to be used. Some are careful enough to opt out of the electoral roll, but when they have a baby and a nappy company comes round they give every piece of information they’re asked for. And that will be used to tie up with other databases.” Databases such as Tesco’s, which holds information on virtually every adult in the country, regardless of where they shop.

The National Health Service is unrolling a multibillion-pound IT project that will upload millions of patients’ medical records on to a database, freely accessed by 250,000 NHS staff and, to a lesser degree, by private health companies, council workers, commercial researchers and ambulance staff. Letters are going out now, strongly urging us all to allow this and making it as hard as possible to opt out.

The detectives are appalled. “That will have all your medical history on it, your date of birth and everything that has happened to you,” says Gowlett. “It’s vulnerable, and people will be able to get all that information on you in one go.”

In the film, Gowlett demonstrated how easy it already was to pretend to be Bond and get information about Katie’s antenatal arrangements. For Katie, this totally overturned her previous complacency. “I was a bit freaked out that the NHS gave away our appointments,” she says. “I know what David meant about being data-raped.”

But in the end, David Bond concludes, it’s not enough to blame politicians or corporations. “We are all partly to blame. There is no baddie, no evil genius in Whitehall stroking a white cat.” He pauses. “At least, I hope not.”

Erasing David is in cinemas nationwide from April 29, and is being broadcast on More4 in May

Professor Ian Angell


Professor Angell from the LSE has been an amazing help during the making of ERASING DAVID and makes an appearance in the film.  Check out his site here, and his outrageous new blog FLIGHT OF THE GOLDEN GEESE.

Privacy Guide for Parents


CLICK HERE for the Privacy Guide for Parents

The information in this booklet has been prepared in conjunction with ERASING DAVID by the brilliant Terri Dowty at ARCH (Action on Rights for Children), an internet-based organisation that focuses on children’s privacy and data-protection rights. More information can be found on their website and their blog.


Terri Dowty


Thanks to Cherwell the Oxford Uni Paper for this great review.

Review: Erasing David

by Jane-Marie Saldanha | 15:55 GMT, Wed 14 April 2010

Photo: Amanda Lockhart

Erasing David follows David Bond as he decides to go on the run. Leaving behind his daughter and pregnant wife, he attempts to uncover the truth about the nature and lack of personal information in our country today. This is done through a series of meetings with victims and enforcers of information collection, interviews with privacy experts and David Bond’s ongoing attempts to evade two hired private investigators.

All of which makes this film sound less like the small British documentary that it is and more like a Hollywood thriller. And it does bare some resemblances to that particular genre. The eerie music composed by the Golden Globe winning Michael Nyman, jittery camera shots and the rising sense of paranoia ensure that the film is far more entertaining than the average anti-surveillance documentary. Having said that, this film is certainly about more than quick thrills – it is a perturbing exposé of the rapid loss of privacy in Britain.

Often, the film isn’t telling us anything we don’t already know. Most British people are probably aware that their details and web browsing history are stored, that their thrown out mail is easy to get to and that information databases are prone to error. What Erasing David does is give viewers an insight into the sheer magnitude of stored information in these databases on every single British citizen and how revealing this personal information can be when put together.

This is demonstrated in one of the film’s most unsettling scenes, when David Bond visits a private investigator’s office in which he sees hundreds of documents, pictures and maps pinned to the wall which collectively seem to expose everything about him. Things like his daughter’s date of birth, a photo of his mother, the name of his secondary school; information which on its own is not threatening and information which any of us could have given up to databases in the past without a second thought.

The truly impressive thing about Erasing David is that it manages to be deeply affecting without becoming uncomfortably dramatic. By the end of the film, it’s very easy to feel quite frightened. But what of? There are no tangible villains at all. We meet a perfectly polite woman who has installed fingerprinting devices in a school to take the register and even the private investigators never seem sinister, mainly because most of their tricks are carried out with such ease. Any of us could type a name into a social networking site or use a birthday to find out the time and date of a hospital appointment. There isn’t even a sense of some malevolent forces at work. We have little to pin our anxiety to, other than the general sense that as a country we’ve taken a step too far in the direction of security at the cost of our privacy.

For most of its 80 minute running time, Erasing David is a skilfully balanced film. Politically minded without straying into polemic and personal without losing its objectiveness, it will certainly make you think twice about the information you share every day.

Star rating – four stars

Erasing David will be shown at Picturehouses across the country on the 29th of April followed by a live streamed Q&A with Will Self, Michael Nyman, Shami Chakrabarti and David Davis

Index on Censorship


There’s a free sneak preview screening at the Free Word Centre (arranged with Index on Censorship) on the 16th April.

Henry Porter

Henry has been a great supporter of ERASING DAVID from right at the start – and gave a great early interview that helped us get commissioned.  He writes brilliant political thrillers and great comment for the Guardian / Observer.

Henry’s website

The Guardian

Philip French review The Observer


Philip French

The Observer Reviews Sun 2 May 2010 00:08 BST

Director David Bond does a disappearing act to see how easy it is to get lost in our surveillance-obsessed society

In this chillingly admonitory movie, director David Bond becomes the centre of his own documentary thriller by disappearing from his North London home for a month and seeing how easy it is for a pair of investigators to track his movements around Britain and Europe. His journey is interspersed by interviews with security experts, Stasi victims, civil rights lawyers and others concerned with the fact that Britain is (after China and Russia) the third most surveillance-ridden state in the world. The witnesses include Timothy Garton Ash, David Blunkett, Henry Porter and Helena Kennedy, and there’s an edgy score by Michael Nyman.

you are for sale…


CDD, U.S. PIRG, and World Privacy Forum Call on Federal Trade Commission
to Investigate Data Collection “Wild West”
Involving Real-time Advertising Auctions and Data Exchanges
Urge FTC to Develop Rules to Protect Consumer Privacy
in the New Personal Data Marketplace

Washington, DC: In a complaint filed today with the Federal Trade Commission, the Center for Digital Democracy, U.S. PIRG, and the World Privacy Forum challenged the commission to investigate the growing privacy threats to consumers from the practices conducted by the real-time data-targeting auction and exchange online marketplace. Increasingly and largely unknown to the public, technologies enabling the real-time profiling, targeting, and auctioning of consumers is becoming commonplace. Adding to the privacy threat, explains the new complaint, is the incorporation and expanding role of an array of outside data sources for sale online that provide detailed information on a consumer.
“This massive and stealth data collection apparatus threatens user privacy,” the 32-page filing explains. “It also robs individual users of the ability to reap the financial benefits of their own data—while publishers, ad exchangers and information brokers … cash in on this information.”  Among the companies cited in the complaint are Google, Yahoo, PubMatic, TARGUSinfo, MediaMath, eXelate, Rubicon Project, AppNexus, and Rocket Fuel. The complaint also cites the failure of privacy policies and self-regulation to meaningfully safeguard consumers.
“FTC inaction,” declared CDD Executive Director Jeff Chester, “has encouraged the data collection and ad targeting industry to expand the use of consumer information for personalized advertising. The commission’s failure to adequately protect the privacy of consumer transactions online, including those that involve financial and other sensitive information, is irresponsible. U.S. consumers, especially during this time of economic hardship for so many, need a commission that is proactive in protecting their interests.”
“Consumers will be most shocked to learn that companies are instantaneously combining the details of their online lives with information from previously unconnected offline databases without their knowledge, let alone consent,” said U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski. “In just the last few years, a growing and barely regulated network of sellers and marketers has gained massive information advantages over consumers.”
Recent developments in online profiling and behavioral targeting—including the instantaneous sale and trading of individual users—have all contributed to what CDD’s filing termed a veritable “Wild West” of data collection. Participating companies are employing “practices that fail either to protect consumer privacy or to provide for reasonable understanding of the data collection process, including significant variations in how cookies are stored and the outside data sources used.”  For its part, the advertising industry has been anything but shy in describing the power of the new real-time online ad profiling and auction system. “…Internet ad exchanges,” explains one online marketer quoted in the complaint, “… are basically markets for eyeballs on the Web. Advertisers bid against each other in real time for the ability to direct a message at a single Web surfer. The trades take 50 milliseconds to complete.”
Accordingly, CDD, U.S. PIRG and WPF called on the FTC to take the following actions:
•      Compel companies involved in real-time online tracking and auction bidding to provide an opt-in for consumer participation in such systems.
•      Require that these companies change their privacy policies and practices to acknowledge that their tracking and real-time auctioning of users involve personally identifiable information.
•      Ensure that consumers receive fair financial compensation for the use of their data.
•      Prepare a report for the public and Congress within six months that informs consumers and policymakers about the privacy risks and consumer protection issues involved with the real-time tracking, data profiling, and auctioning of consumer profiles.
•      Address the implications of potential information “redlining” of consumers, with companies deciding not to provide editorial content based on an assessment of the marketing value of a particular online consumer’s behavioral data.
The group’s FTC filing is available at
CDD is a nonprofit group working to educate the public about the impact of digital marketing on public health, consumer protection, and privacy. It has played a leading role at the FTC and in Congress to help promote the development of legal safeguards for behavioral targeting and other online data collection practices. U.S. PIRG serves as the federation of non-profit, non-partisan state Public Interest Research Groups. PIRGs are public interest advocacy organizations that take on powerful interests on behalf of their members. For twenty years, U.S. PIRG has been concerned with privacy and compliance by governments and commercial firms with Fair Information Practices. The World Privacy Forum is a nonprofit, non-partisan public interest research group. The organization is focused on conducting in-depth research, analysis, and consumer education in the area of privacy. It is the only privacy-focused public interest research group conducting independent, longitudinal work. World Privacy Forum reports have documented important new areas, including medical identity theft. Areas of focus for the World Privacy Forum include health care, technology, and the financial sector.

Contact: Jeff Chester (202-494-7100)
April 8, 2010
Center for Digital Democracy

Big Brother Watch


An awesome organisation that campaigns to protect our civil liberties and personal freedoms.  Please support them.


Education Materials


To get a screening copy of the film to play in an educational environment (university, college, school or home), please visit:


Here are packs to help to introduce the film, and the issues:





After the government loses his personal data – his name, address, and bank account details – David decides to find out just how much privacy we have left. David disappears – and private investigators Cerberus are hired to hunt him; they are given only his name. Using only the information he’s left behind, Cerberus have 30 days to catch David.

ERASING DAVID is a film which asks the fundamental question: does the man with nothing to hide really have nothing to fear?

At its most basic, ERASING DAVID is a film about privacy. It’s also a film about identity, security, liberty and rights – and what we mean by each of those terms. Whether you agree with David’s arguments or not, in a world which is ever more monitored, it’s surely worthwhile investigating these questions further.

Michael Nyman

Thanks to the great Michael Nyman for writing a brilliant soundtrack to the film.  He’s also supported the film by coming to screenings and talking it up.

Time magazine


Wednesday, Mar. 31, 2010

Trying to Escape the Surveillance State

By Dan Fletcher

Britain is one of the world’s leading surveillance states. Privacy International, an advocacy group, ranks the U.K. right behind flagrant offenders like Russia and China. But such concerns didn’t hit home for British filmmaker David Bond until the U.K. government lost a slew of data on his newborn daughter. In response, Bond decided to see what it would take to escape detection for a month in his data-happy homeland. The experiment turned into a documentary, Erasing David, now available for download from iTunes and Bond sat down with TIME to talk about his film.

What made you finally want to get off the grid?
I got a letter from the U.K. government in 2007, saying they had lost my daughter’s details. It was pretty stressful experience — they lost her name, her date of birth, my name, my bank account details, our address. It really freaked me out and made me think that if that type of data can be lost with a kid that age, what risk are the rest of us at?

It seems like privacy is an oft-discussed concern in Britain. What has the government done that’s been cause for alarm?
There’s always a balance between privacy and security. You’ve got to know where you want to draw that line, and for various reasons, the British government has drawn the line in a pretty frightening place. I think those reasons are terrorism, fear of crime and also the fact that we didn’t we have the problems in the Second World War that our European neighbors did. We don’t have the kind of collective memory of what its like to live in a state that surveils its population.

How’d you structure your escape for the film?
We went looking for private investigators, and found these amazing guys called Cerberus, who are known as a group who always find their man. They took on the challenge. From that point, we had to plan the date the disappearance would be and give them very limited information about me — just my name and photo.

Did you meet with anyone or get any tips before the chase started?
I had some obvious advice like, “Don’t use your cell phone,” and some then some really cool advice like, “Don’t take tons of cash because you might lose it all. Instead, use an ATM, but only use it right before you travel.” The other people I met were victims of the database state, people who had suffered as a result of details being lost or misappropriated. I met a girl who couldn’t get a job because she’s on some criminal database as a shoplifter, but she never did that. I met a guy who was caught up in an operation to do pornography on the web, but his name was just spelled wrong. These nightmare stories result from the increasingly digitized world that we live in.

So once the chase began, what was the first day like?

I took pretty serious precautions. I booked a ticket on Eurostar — the train to Paris — in someone else’s name, and then I immediately went to the Eurostar station and switched the ticket to my name and left. I was out of the country within forty minutes. But I knew I had to come back, because I didn’t want to do a film about whether you could live privately abroad. The PIs did say to me, “Go anywhere in the world. We’ll catch you.” But I ended up coming back to Britain.

Did they set up traps for you along the way?
They came up with a bunch of really cunning stuff. They set up a website called and sent me an e-mail saying, “Hey, we know where you are! And here it is on this website!” I knew that they might track me if I visited it, but I went to an Internet cafe and checked it out, and sure enough, they had loads of information on me about where I’d already been. They were hoping to pin me on my IP address but they also were driving me into a state of nervousness and paranoia. I also had deleted my Facebook page before I went away — I thought it would be an easy way to get to me. But they’d managed to harvest my friend’s details from Facebook. Even when you delete your profile, loads of data stay up there. They made a fake profile of me called Phileas Fogg, as in the guy from Around the World in 80 Days, and they sent it to my friends saying, “Hey, I’m on the run, I’d love to get in touch.” And loads of them responded.

What was your downfall?
I wanted to last 30 days, but they caught me a little before that. My wife was heavily pregnant while I was on the run, and she got ill. She needed to go to the hospital and she needed me to come [with her]. I took a lot of precautions: I was really careful about how I entered the hospital, but they hacked into her medical details, and they knew she was going to be there and assumed it would draw me out of hiding.

What was unexpected about the experience?
I was really surprised about how much information is gathered about children in the UK and stored online. Schools are regularly fingerprinting kids in the UK to allow access to libraries — but still, its fingerprinting. The really terrifying thing I found is that I feel like we’re normalizing our kids, both through these activities and things like iPhones and Facebook apps. We’re normalized to living an utterly exposed life. But there’s value in privacy — its a tremendously uplifting and strengthening feeling, to feel like you can withdraw. Not because you’ve got anything to hide; just because you want to.



Erasing David: The man who tried to disappear

By Stephen Parkinson |29 April 2010 |Categories: Culture

So far today you’ve probably used your Oyster Card, used your mobile phone, viewed websites, maybe shopped online too. And all that data is stored, assigned to your profile, and giving a partial snapshot of your life.

Prompted by a letter telling him that his data had been lost in the notorious misplacement of Government data-discs, documentary-maker David Bond decided to take the only logical step, and disappear.

The resultant documentary, Erasing David, interlaces Bond’s attempts to evade capture by two security experts by leaving his heavily pregnant wife and children at home and travelling to the UK countryside and mainland Europe, with investigation into data collection and use. Think a low budget documentary version of The Conversation, cut with The Bourne Identity.

This division of the subject results in a film of varying quality. Intriguing (and worrying) sequences regarding fingerprints of school-children, CCTV coverage, personal data held by websites and hospitals all provide footage which would be suited to a television-based investigative documentary, and illustrate the breadth and depth of the data collection to which we are all subject, often unknowingly.

However the low-fi chase, which provides the human drama and tension-building narrative is less convincing. In fact, given that the security experts tracking David barely touch on data-collection, resorting instead to old-fashioned investigating, the nagging doubt arises that this half of the documentary doesn’t relate to the other. The process of disappearing from ‘the system’ is only briefly touched upon, and as a result the majority of the documentary has a disconnect with the original proposal.

Erasing David is an interesting watch (although better suited to the smaller screen), with prescient points to make about identity and surveillance, but somewhat clouded by a mixed up narrative.

ain’t it cool news




Hitting my stride. Got some good ones under my belt today. The documentary Erasing David, from director David Bond, is a very funny, and very entertaining movie that also works to scare the crap out of you. David lives in the UK, which is an even more intrusive surveillance state than we’ve got here, believe it or not. In an attempt to find out how much data there is on himself, he disappears for thirty days and hires private detectives to find him. The film follows his attempts to stay off the grid, as well as the detectives’ attempts to find him. It’s fascinating and truly chilling, and the film may change the way you feel about your own privacy. As one of the talking heads in the film says, privacy is one of those things you only ever feel when it’s taken away. David’s hope is to find out far one has to go to be free of what his wife calls “data-rape,” and it’s frightening – although not too terribly surprising – when he does. Put it this way – if you have no job, no friends, and live in a hole in the ground, or an abandoned building, you’re probably going to be able to live a private life. Which is good news for one or two of the folks who’ve been commenting here, but bad news for the rest of us. This is a really good film, and an important one. It’s running on VOD now, and at the Q&A, the filmmakers said it’s also now available on iTunes. Check it out. It’s not often such important information comes your way in such an entertaining package.

good screenings

Show the best, award-winning social justice filmmaking, including ERASING DAVID from this site.  Share films that aren’t just good – they do good too…

Now anyone in the UK or Denmark can buy a license to screen ERASING DAVID. Good Screenings cunning software will calculate the license according to who you are, where you screen and how many people you’re screening to. You can even keep the profits for yourself or your organisation, campaign or cause.

Check out this article from the Guardian about Good Screenings.

We are movie geeks


Thanks to WAMG for this review of the film:

12th March 2010

By Travis

Right now, this very moment, do you feel like you’re having a “private” moment? If you’re on the Internet, a cell phone or even walking down a public street… then, don’t count on it. In fact, award-winning filmmaker David Bond literally goes out of his way to show just how unlikely it is to have a truly private life in the documentary ERASING DAVID.

After receiving a notice in the mail from a major corporation, apologizing for a breach of private digital information, David Bond decided he would try and disappear for 30 days. He became fascinated with the idea that every detail of his life was being tracked, recorded and stored in databases.

David’s plan was not to erase himself from the system, but rather to escape the system and see if the system could find him. He challenged a pair of successful UK private investigators to track him down, using any and all legal means to track his whereabouts. Meanwhile, his wife is seven months pregnant and proves to be the overly trusting, shall I say slightly naïve opposite of David’s increasingly concerned and suspicious character.

At first, David’s fascination is an intellectual curiosity, but his ambiguous approach quickly spirals into a state of self-induced paranoia and fear. David moves from one place to another, in and out of the UK as he meets with various experts on privacy in the modern world.

Co-directed by David Bond and Melinda McDougall, ERASING DAVID uses David’s first-person experience (a la filmmakers like Morgan Spurlock and Michael Moore) to unravel the surprising truth about how vulnerable our information is to the world. Combined with expert meetings on the nature of privacy and how to maintain it and a few traditional interviews spliced in from other experts on the subject matter, be prepared for a beginner’s course in how the government and private corporations keep tabs on public citizens.

Amongst the most shocking bits of information gleaned from ERASING DAVID is that the UK has some 5 million closed caption cameras watching and recording the public’s every move and that the UK is the nation with the third most surveillance in the world, right behind China and Russia. The relatively frightening facts presented add their own sense of uneasiness, but the film is enhanced in this respect by composer Michael Nyman’s (RAVENOUS) original score, which is almost enough reason on its own to see this film.

ERASING DAVID is more than just a documentary, documenting David’s experiment and informing the public of the very public nature of their private lives, it is also an entertaining narrative. David Bond attempts to maintain a loose, casual personality at first before slowly drifting into the more paranoid side of himself that has him hiding in more rural regions.

There is occasionally a quirky, playful element to Bond’s film. In particular, David spends some time in a rural region and this scene has an odd feel of Jason Bourne spy conspiracy meets the lurking unknown sensation of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. The scene is meant to evoke a sense of fear and the point gets across, but ultimately comes across in a humorous tongue-in-cheek fashion.

The film is in black and white, but bits of color occasionally bleed through, which suggests the film was converted for effect. It’s an interesting, moody touch, giving the film a bit of the film noir, gritty private detective atmosphere.

For the same reason SUPER SIZE ME and BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE received flack from some critics, similar questions regarding the “authenticity” and “spontaneity” of ERASING DAVID occasionally surface. This doesn’t really pull away from the effectiveness much, as this element sort of comes with the territory when making this type of documentary film. ERASING DAVID is still a fresh, engaging and relevant work.

Andy Simms


The wonderful Andy Simms provided additional music for the film.  Check out his webiste here.

Media Privacy Laws


No privacy laws, but the media must behave, say MPs

Frances Gibb, Legal Editor

Newspapers and broadcasters run the risk of increased damages in privacy actions if they fail to tell people they will be exposing them, MPs say today.

But the Culture, Media and Sport Committee has come down against making prior notification mandatory, as sought by Max Mosley, the former chief of Formula One. The MPs also rule out legislation on privacy but urge a new fast-track procedure to allow temporary injunctions on stories.

The media should also have a new statutory “public interest” defence to protect responsible investigative journalism and would not have to tell the subject of a story in advance if there was a pressing public interest not to do so, the MPs say.

The proposals are part of a package of reforms drawn up by the committee under John Whittingdale. Many media organisations had feared they would lead to privacy laws, but Mr Whittingdale said: “A healthy democracy requires a free press. It is essential that newspapers should be able to report and comment on events, public figures and institutions, to be critical of them and to be a platform for dissenting views. At the same time the press must be seen to uphold certain standards, to be mindful of the rights of those who are written about and, as far as possible, be accurate in what they report.”

There was increasing evidence that investigative journalism was being deterred by the threat and cost of defending libel actions, he added, which was a “matter of serious concern”. Mr Whittingdale said: “There is a growing clamour of voices calling for reform of our libel laws in order to reduce the cost of mounting and defending libel actions. Until this is addressed, it will continue to have a stifling effect on press freedom and the Government should now act swiftly to do so.”

The report’s recommendations were aimed at reducing the cost of libel actions and “tipping the balance, which has tipped too far in favour of the plaintiff. At the same time, we want to see the self-regulatory system under which the press operates strengthened, to increase its credibility and ensure that standards are maintained.”

The MPs also call for urgent action to curb “libel tourism” , including discussions between the Lord Chancellor and US law authorities. Where defendants in libel actions do not live or work in Britain, there should be extra hurdles before they are allowed to mount a claim, the committee says.

Mr Whittingdale said: “We remain of the view that self-regulation of the press is greatly preferable to statutory regulation. However, the Press Complaints Commission as it currently operates is widely viewed as lacking credibility and authority.

“To counter this, we believe that it must be seen to take a far more active role in ensuring that standards are upheld and that it should have the power to impose financial penalties on newspapers that breach the PCC code.”

Rules for reporting

*No legislation on privacy

*Press Complaints Commission to recommend prior notification to the subject of articles, subject to a “public interest” test

*A new law to clarify Parliamentary privilege and ensure free and fair reporting

*The burden of proof should be reversed in the case of big corporations so that they must prove libel and not the defendant

*Action to curb the use of super-injunctions and research to discover the extent of their use

*A new regulator, a Press Complaints and Standards Commission, with powers to fine and halt publications

Copyright 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Privacy is dead?

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg says privacy is dead. So why does he want to keeps this picture hidden?

It’s one law for the rich and another for the rest of us as our secrets are paraded online

Richard Woods

Let’s pick a person pretty much at random: Dan Braden of Austin, Texas. I do not know Braden at all, but I can tell you that in the past few days he has spent $373.46 on Louis Vuitton goods, $162.47 at a local grocery store, $20 at a fitness centre and $3.23 on iTunes.

He is also a regular at Starbucks, went to a Maudie’s Tex-Mex restaurant last week and spent $717.10 on new tyres.

Is someone spying on Braden or hacking into his bank account? Nope. Instead, he has signed up to Blippy, a new website that puts online every purchase users make with a designated credit card. He is happy to publicise where he goes and what he buys. No privacy worries for him.

“If I buy some Britney Spears, I guess my friends would make fun of me,” said Braden, who works for the computer company Dell. “But I’m not too concerned about privacy. I don’t think I’m doing anything I would be embarrassed about.”

Call it openness or exhibitionism, it is spreading everywhere. On Twitter you can post your thoughts minute by minute. On Facebook and Flickr personal photographs abound. One website will even broadcast your weight to the world every time you step on the bathroom scales.

Do we no longer care about privacy? Not much, claims Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of Facebook. Last week he declared: “People have gotten really comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people.” He described such lack of privacy as a “social norm”.

To those who grew up peeking at the neighbours from behind net curtains, it might seem crazy. To younger generations, born with the internet in their DNA, Zuckerberg may have a point.

As Daniel Masoliver, a 24-year-old postgraduate student in London, put it: “The only reason privacy ever existed is because Facebook didn’t. People have always liked talking about what they’re into and the more people share information with one another, the more comfortable others are joining in.”

Nevertheless, some online reaction to Zuckerberg’s claims was hostile. “He’s an idiot,” wrote one social networker; “Poppycock,” said another.

Experts in the social networking phenomenon are also concerned. The erosion of privacy, they say, brings dangers for both individuals and the wider body politic.

Sherry Turkle, professor of social studies of science at Massachussets Institute of Technology, said insensitivity to privacy “shows a disregard of history and the importance of privacy to democracy and, I might add, intimacy. Young people are not unconcerned about this matter. But they feel impotent”.

Even Zuckerberg, 25, is not truly comfortable letting it all hang out. When a change to Facebook’s privacy settings happened recently, it revealed pictures on his profile page of him larking around with friends. In some he looked a bit of a dork.

When news of the photographs spread, the images suddenly disappeared again.

Last week a Facebook spokeswoman was backpedalling vigorously, denying Zuckerberg had said privacy was dead. “His remarks were mischaracterised,” she said. “A core part of Facebook’s mission has always been to deliver the tools that empower people with control over their information.”

She added: “If the assertion is that anything Mark chooses to make private is inconsistent with his remarks last week, here are a few other hypocritical elements of his life: he hides his credit card numbers in his wallet, he does not post the passwords to his online accounts, and he closes the door behind him when he goes to the toilet.”

So is privacy no longer the social norm or not?

IN A YouGov poll for The Sunday Times this weekend, 30% of people said they agreed that privacy matters less than it did, and 63% disagreed. Just over 70% said they were worried about private information falling into the hands of others on the internet, while 28% said they were not worried.

The differences of opinion may partly be down to age. The pace of technological change is so fast that researchers believe even small age gaps produce significantly different attitudes and behaviour.

According to America’s Pew Research Centre, 68% of teenagers send instant messages on the internet compared with 59% of twentysomethings, and a far lower proportion of older age groups. In the UK a study of social networking by Ofcom, the communications watchdog, found that 54% of internet users aged 16-24 had set up a profile on a social networking site, with the numbers falling steadily with age.

The younger these “mini-generations” are, the more they appear to accept openness, if only through necessity. If everyone is revealing their lives online, they don’t want to be left out.

“I remember thinking there was something distinctly creepy about Facebook when I went on it for the first time,” said Jack Hancox, 24, of London. “Now it feels completely natural to put photos up and have various profiles on different sites. But still, I think people are quite wary about what they put online.”

By contrast, Bryony, a 15-year-old Facebooker in Hampshire, said: “I don’t think people are worried about it. When you are writing on Facebook, you are caught up in it and don’t think about privacy.”

One of her friends, Peter, said: “I’m not really concerned — except a little if my future boss finds out what it [his Facebook profile] was like. But it would also be cool looking back on it when I was 60.”

Or maybe not. The follies of youth are a necessary rite of passage, says Turkle, and used to be easily left to fade; now they may stick around for ever.

“Adolescents need to fall in and out of love with people and ideas,” said Turkle, whose forthcoming book Alone Together examines friendships in the digital age. “The internet is a rich ground for working through identity. But that does not easily mesh with a life that generates its own electronic shadow.”

In other words, your youthful mistakes may remain for ever on a computer server and come back to haunt you.

Like many social network users, Sophie, another friend in the Hampshire group, takes comfort from Facebook’s privacy settings.

“I’m not really worried,” she said. “I have it set up so only my friends can see stuff.”

Not everyone is convinced by such safeguards. For a start, Facebook has reduced the privacy level of its default setting. If you don’t actively impose privacy, lots of people will have access to your information. It can also become publicly available if a friend’s profile is not properly protected.

Even if you do try to restrict your profile, the data that remains public can still give away a lot about you. Facebook, for example, has no privacy restrictions on your name, photograph, list of friends and certain other material.

By analysing such data, “spider” programs can draw up social graphs that reveal your sexuality, political beliefs and other characteristics. According to Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge, it can be done even if you list as few as eight friends.

That might not matter so much in Britain, says Anderson, “but in a country like Iran, where they punish gays, this is serious stuff”.

Other concerns relate to how social networking sites use your data behind the scenes. Facebook’s privacy policy runs to more than eight pages of A4 and few users will read it. If you do, you will learn that Facebook “may collect information about you from other Facebook users”; keep details of any transactions you make; and allow third parties access to information about you. It also admits it “cannot ensure that information you share on Facebook will not become publicly available”.

EVER since George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Big Brother state has been most people’s first concern about diminishing privacy. Now private organisations and criminals are catching up fast.

The recent book Delete: the Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age cites the case of Stacy Snyder, a student teacher in Pennsylvania. After she posted a picture of herself apparently drunk on a social networking site she was denied a teaching certificate.

Burglars are already thought to use Facebook to try to find out when properties may be left empty. And Anderson warns that “phishing” is a growing threat. Using data gathered from social networking sites, criminals are sending people emails that appear to come from their friends. Research shows that people are far less wary of such emails than unsolicited spam, even though they can lead to identity theft.

While the rest of us find our privacy is up for grabs, the rich and famous are having theirs increasingly protected. Lawyers are using human rights legislation to bring cases in British courts, which are favourable to protestations of privacy.

The latest action has been launched by Kate Middleton, the girlfriend of Prince William, who claims her privacy was violated by a picture of her playing tennis on Christmas Day.

A greater danger than there being one privacy law for the rich and another for everyone else is that of a chronic malaise, at least in the view of Jaron Lanier, author of a new book called You Are Not A Gadget.

Lanier fears that the openness and “collectivity” of today’s internet is leading us towards mediocrity.

“We shouldn’t want the whole world to take on the quality of having been designed by committee,” he said. “When you have everyone collaborate on everything, you generate a dull average outcome in all things.” The best innovation relies on privacy, he says.

The shift towards openness, however, has momentum and attitudes may well be changing as Zuckerberg claimed. Young people are either unaware of the risks or feel that less privacy is the price they have to pay to participate in social networking.

Anderson is only half-joking when he says social networking has become a “survival necessity” for the young.

“At Cambridge all the party invitations go out on Facebook,” he said. “So if you don’t have Facebook, you won’t get invited to any parties, so you won’t have any sex, so you won’t have any children, so your genes die out. So it’s an evolutionary necessity to be on Facebook.”

Just remember, when you accept that Facebook invitation to a hot date, do not use a Blippy card to buy contraceptives on the way there. Unless you want the whole world to know what you are thinking.

Additional reporting: Georgia Warren

Copyright 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Google Buzz…

Evil let loose after Google breaches email privacy

The launch of a networking site has backfired badly

Dominic Rushe

LAST TUESDAY Eva Hibnick, a Harvard law student, opened her Gmail account and saw an offer for Buzz, a new service from Gmail’s owner, Google.

She wasn’t interested. “I just clicked ‘No, go to my inbox’,” she said. Within hours she and millions of others realised that sometimes no means yes.

Now Hibnick is taking Google to court, and the search giant is left fighting a rearguard action in the latest skirmish over privacy on the internet.

Hibnick, 24, is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed against Google over the launch of Buzz, a social networking service that lets people bring their online connections together to share status updates, videos and photos. With 146m users, the sheer size of Gmail instantly catapulted Buzz into the top ranks of social networking sites alongside Facebook and Twitter.

As Gmail users were quick to point out, though, they chose to join those networks, while Buzz’s new army was conscripted. The service raided a Gmail user’s contacts book to set up the social network.

The people we contact most frequently are not necessarily those with whom we have the closest relationship. Within hours of the Buzz launch, angry tales were being told of people’s contact details and other information being passed on to the “psychotic” and “abusive ex-husbands”.

Actress Felicia Day, Vi in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, found herself deluged with messages from strangers after posting one message on Buzz. “Buzz things turn up as a message in your inbox? Disabling now. Heart attack,” she wrote. Before Google changed Buzz, some fans would also have been able to see who Day emailed most frequently.

Hibnick and her lawyer claim that information she had a right to consider private had been shared among her Gmail contacts. “I signed up for a private email account, not for a social networking site. They can’t just opt you in,” she said.

“Basically all my email contacts were accessible. Everyone is so shocked that Google would do this.”

Fellow Harvard law student Benjamin Osborn, who is assisting on the case, said the initial problem was that it was not clear what information was being shared and with whom.

Hibnick’s lawyer said Google could face statutory damages of $1,000 per occurrence — a potentially huge sum given Gmail’s size. But he added that the real aim was to force Google to put better checks and balances in place over privacy.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, the watchdog based in Washington DC, has now asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether consumers were harmed and has asked the commission to demand that Google ask Gmail users to sign up for Buzz instead of enrolling them automatically.

Google moved swiftly to contain the crisis last week, dropping the automatic sign-up and offering clearer instructions on how to opt out of the service and keep messages private.

“We made some mistakes and we accept that,” said Peter Barron, Google’s head of communications. “But if you look at the way we responded, I hope people will see that we reacted quickly to those criticisms and made significant improvements.

“These days everyone leaves a data trail, whether it’s from shopping online, using your mobile phone or doing a search. When you use a credit card you are exposing far more about yourself than in an online search but people generally trust credit-card companies not to misuse their data. At Google, users’ trust is all we have. We take privacy very seriously and build privacy features into all our products based on the principles of transparency, choice and user control.

“Those features were and are present in Buzz, but we accept they could have been clearer. Buzz is not about making private information public unless you choose to.”

Don Cruse, a Houston-based lawyer, said that what disturbed him most about Buzz was that it was automatic. In a blog he warned clients, and journalists, that they could end up sharing confidential contacts if they used the service. He said Google was “repurposing old data in a way that flouts our expectations of privacy”.

“People have an expectation of privacy with email. There are lots of famous examples of emails making it to people they shouldn’t have reached. But this was not an accident, it was a deliberate change in structure,” he said.

“The big story is that they wanted to set up a social network, something they have failed to do well in the past. The downside is that they have hurt the Gmail brand.”

The Buzz controversy is unlikely to end in epic fines for Google. Last year Facebook paid $9.5m (£6.2m) to settle a similar class-action lawsuit over Beacon, an advertising system that tracked Facebook users’ online activity outside the site and told other users what they had been up to.

Perhaps more damaging is the damage Buzz has done to Google’s image. John Quelch, a Harvard Business School professor, said it faces two problems in any new venture. “First, Google is a hostage to its publicly stated aim to ‘Do no evil’. That definition of evil is open to considerable interpretation. They have to be very careful that this aim isn’t viewed with cynicism rather than respect.”

Second, Quelch said the execution of Google’s search business is so far ahead of its rivals that people had high expectations of any new service. “They rather missed it on Buzz,” he said.

Copyright 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Medical Database ‘Contains Errors’

New patient medical records database ‘contains life-threatening errors’
David Rose, Health Correspondent

The new system of electronic patient records being introduced across England is unreliable and contains inaccuracies that could put lives at risk. A draft report on the Government’s plan to create health records for 50 million people reveals that the national database contains serious errors and omissions.

So far, about 12 million patients in England have been sent leaflets about the new Summary Care Record, and about 1.2 million electronic records have been uploaded. But researchers reviewing the project for the Department of Health are understood to have found examples where the database failed to indicate allergies or adverse reactions to drugs, and listed medication that the patient wasn’t taking. It also indicated false allergies or adverse reactions to drugs, Computer Weekly reports today. Such errors could lead to patients being given inappropriate medication or suffering severe reactions, which in the worse cases can be fatal.

Under the scheme, GPs allow confidential data on their patients to be uploaded to a database run by BT under a £620 million contract to design, deliver and manage the NHS data.

Patients must give implicit consent to have a Summary Care Record created and can opt out of doing so, but critics say that they are not being given enough details to make an informed choice.

By the end of February, about a third of the 152 primary care trusts in England had begun mailing leaflets to nearly 9 million patients, but only about 15,000 people had opted out of having their health data uploaded to the new system.

The draft review of the Summary Care Records system, by University College London, found no evidence that incomplete or inaccurate data on the SCR database had led to patients coming to harm. But it suggests this is precisely because doctors did not trust the new system, and took extra time to double-check details of medications and allergies.

The project is a key part of the National Programme for IT — the £12.4 billion overhaul of NHS computer systems — but is running four years late, according to auditors.

The Government requires that GP practices meet minimum standards of data quality before they can upload records to the NHS data “spine”.

Officials at the Department of Health are concerned that if they set the standards of data quality that are too high, only small numbers of GP practices will upload their data, limiting the potential of a national scheme.

Other problems include a low take-up of the scheme by hospital clinicians, and significant bugs or delays in implementing local systems. Up to a third of local GPs in some areas are also understood to be using computers that are never likely to be compatible with the national system.

Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, said: “These are clearly serious concerns, and suspending the roll-out of the programme would allow time for them to be addressed. The NHS IT programme is unlikely to succeed without the confidence of the public or NHS staff.”

The Department of Health declined to comment on the report ahead of its official publication next month, but said that errors resulted from problems with GPs’ original records, rather than the system itself.

Copyright 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Parent Paranoia?

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Paranoia infects the way we treat kids

In its many intrusive policies, the government displays a fundamental mistrust of parents and children

This is number 1,789, or thereabouts, in my long running series, “What the hell is going on in this country?”

Every morning I wake up to emails from my researcher Hannah Lease. There are now thousands on my system, each one detailing some new piece of madness or a liberty that has been lost, or is disappearing. Over the years, themes have emerged. One of the more interesting for future historians and sociologists is the paranoia that has infected our dealings with children.

Britain is now a society that on the one hand incarcerates the children of asylum seekers for periods longer than any uncharged terrorist can be held, and on the other is insisting that sixth formers and parents of children who are taught at home must have CRB checks. Nowhere else in Europe would parents wishing to attend Christmas carol services and other events around the holiday season be asked to have CRB checks: even those who walk other people’s children to school have been told they must be checked.

Graham McArthur, the headmaster of Somersham School in Cambridgeshire and evidently one of the new breed of officious, trembling martinets that run our schools, was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying:

We rely quite a lot on parental volunteers. It is a community school and parental engagement is very important to being part of the community. For the carol service they will need clearance [from the banned list] which is basically something we can do on the day. You need to see details of who they are, where they live and make several phone calls.

It will not surprise you to learn that parents are being asked to take their passports so that their details can be checked.

In Liverpool, parents have been banned from speaking to teachers without an appointment. Sally Aspinwall, head teacher at the Beacon Church of England primary school in Everton, wrote to parents saying she was piloting new security procedures due to “recent health and safety guidance issued to schools by Ofsted”. This mystifying action results, of course, in the reduction of easy, natural communication at everyone’s expense but Aspinwall no doubt rejoices in her ability to issue bossy edicts with nothing less than the backing of Ofsted.

We have become so obsessed with paedophilia and child abuse that we are prepared to watch children being forcibly taken from their parents because the state or local authorities believe they know what is best for the child.

But how transparent are the processes involved in removing a child? Last week, the senior Tory MP Tim Yeo used parliamentary privilege to accused Suffolk county council “of snatching a baby from the mother’s arms”. He said that the council ignored the rights of the parents and child, and gave false evidence to an adoption panel without ever having questioned the ability of parents to care for the child.

Does this represent a society that is working for children, or is it another example of presumptuous intervention that shows itself as Dickensian heartlessness? I tend towards the latter, particularly when you consider the case of Child M, an Iranian boy of nine who has again been detained by the UK Borders Agency in Yarl’s Wood with a view to deporting him and his parents to Iran where they may face prosecution for possession of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.

Local authorities and the state constantly protest that they are striving in the interests of children, but reading these stories and looking at the record on databases one really wonders if authority is in fact more interested in control over children and parents than promoting consistent policies of reasonable care. Certainly when it comes to the case of Child M, as with so many other kids locked up by the UK Borders Agency, the state’s much vaunted compassion suddenly seems to evaporate.

What puzzles me is the state’s unending curiosity. Recently the health department launched an 83-point questionnaire for parents of children who are entering school for the first time. The Healthy Child Programme and 83-point questionnaire has so far involved parents only in Lincolnshire. They have been told it is confidential but actually their answers will be open for inspection by hundreds of health workers, who will then visit families offering support.

Here are some of the questions:

• Do you (the parent) have friends you can talk to?

• How often does your child drink plain water?

• How many times a week does your child eat red meat?

• Does he or she often lie and cheat?

• How does your child behave when you leave a room?

Jill Kirby of the Centre for Policy Studies said:

Parents are not told how the information will be used, nor that they can refuse to give it … It risks labelling children and families as problem cases when the aim should be to help children escape from difficult backgrounds.

I don’t apologise for returning to the subject of children again. It seems to me that in its myriad policies on children – whether the persecution of kids on the street bypolice seeking DNA samples, the drawing up of huge amounts of information for databases inaccessible to parents, the use of CCTV in classrooms, the introduction of biometric registration systems, the unbelievably impertinent instructions about parents attending school events, the insistence on CRB checks and the production of ID in the most ridiculous circumstances, the treatment of asylum seekers’ children or the fascination with the most intimate details of family life – the government is displaying a mistrust of children and parents, which I seriously suggest has an almost sociopathic nature. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Large Databases Can Never Be Secure

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Large databases can never be secure

The decision not to prosecute a doctor for accessing the health records of well-known patients raises wider privacy issues

The decision by Scotland’s Crown Office not to prosecute Dr Andrew Jamieson for accessing the emergency care summary (ECS) records of well-known people is interesting. Despite the absence of a conviction, the case involving footballers, politicans and BBC journalists is significant because it shows that big centralised databases are the enemy of privacy.

Jamieson worked at Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline where it was alleged he used the ECS system to look up the records of the prime minster, Alex Salmond, Jack McConnell, Celtic Football Club players, a newsreader named Jackie Bird and seven other BBC journalists.

Those involved were told last week that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute Jamieson following charges last March after the nature of the alleged breaches and medical reports on the accused had been considered. I suspect that one consideration was it was not in the victims’ interests that medical records were produced in court as evidence, which is understandable, yet it serves to underline the sensitiveness of the material that Jamieson is reported as saying he viewed it out of curiosity.

The temptation will always be there. The ECS records are uploaded from GPs’ surgeries every evening and contain information of demographic details, current medication, allergies and adverse reactions for about 5 million patients in Scotland. The system was launched in 2006 with the “highest standards of security” yet it clearly conforms to Cambridge professor Ross Anderson’s rule that a large, functional database can never be entirely secure (while a completely secure database can never be functional).

True, the health service were said to have spotted Jamieson’s activities quickly and informed all his alleged victims but the ease of any such breach must strike home to all those who have argued with such touching faith that the NHS Spine database is secure and patients should stop worrying about their privacy.

This impatience with reasonable doubt is a characteristic of all the advocates of the database state. We’re briskly told we should join the 21st century and that our privacy is a minor consideration in the delivery of joined-up services and connected government.

I guess it’s simply a matter of time before the children’s database, ContactPoint, is abused by one of the 300,000 people who will eventually have access to the names, addresses and personal details of the children in England and Wales. Indeed, the Telegraph reported this week that the database has suffered at least three security breaches before its nationwide launch.

ContactPoint is a two-tier database that places extra security around the children of famous people, but that doesn’t say much about the basic security offered by ContactPoint, does it?

The Jamieson affair is an important warning even though the decision not to prosecute will have the effect of sweeping it under the carpet. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

The Dangers Of State Surveillance

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liberty central

The dangers of state surveillance

Encouraged by terror laws, the authorities are increasingly using surveillance techniques in trivial circumstances

The abuse of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, Ripa, is by far the largest element in the revelation last August that 500,000 official requests to access phone and email records were made in 2008 – the equivalent of one in 78 adults coming under some form of surveillance by the authorities in the United Kingdom.

The issue here is about abuse and proportionality, not whether the law has been broken. Two recent reports suggest that the surveillance of people for misdemeanours is unlikely to decline despite assurances from the government and Home Office that local authorities were being reined in.

A freedom of information request by the Lancashire Evening Post has found that applications made by Lancashire county council under Ripa laws targeted cleaners who failed to show up for work and a care assistant who claimed too much on travel expenses. “A person in Chorley thought to be selling counterfeit goods via eBay, people pursuing false personal injury claims, and a retailer selling furniture not up to fire safety standards were among those investigated using powers granted under the act,” the paper reported.

In last year’s annual report, the surveillance commissioner, Sir Christopher Rose, raised concerns about direct surveillance such as the bugging of public places, taking photographs of suspects and the use of covert human intelligence such as informants and undercover agents. Of course this has always been part of police investigation into serious crime, but it is frightening to see these tactics routinely deployed in trivial circumstances.

His fears came to mind when I read a quote in the LEP from Jim Potts, a trading standards officer, who said: “We have simply recorded that a member of staff has seen another member of staff do something at work, in the way that managers can and do every day.” How easily that trips from Potts’s lips, but what of course he is unwittingly justifying is the informant society. In Staffordshire a FoI request made of the police by the Express and Star newspaper found that terror laws were being used to monitor drug dealers, people suspected of sex crimes, burglars and thieves. In 10 cases police tracked people suspected of minor public order offences.

Most people accept, I believe wrongly, that this is part of the modern world but Staffordshire police do not reveal the number of convictions gained by these activities – a vital omission if we are to assess proportionality and effectiveness, or indeed to make larger judgments as to whether terror laws have been allowed to undermine essential values in our society. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

More than an administrative error

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More than an administrative error

In trying to justify the retention of DNA of innocent people, the Home Office attempted to use the same case study twice

Channel 4 News’s story that the Home Office made up a case study to push for the retention of the genetic profiles of innocent people is not surprising, because the Home Office’s support for the DNA database is shot through with dishonesty and underhand manoeuvring. Let’s not forget that the government is already in breach of a 2008judgment from the European court of human rights on this matter.

What is surprising is how second rate was the attempt to deceive the committee scrutinising the crime and security bill by Home Office minister David Hanson and his staff at the department. In a letter to the committee, Hanson set out five case studies to justify retention. A Conservative MP with a name from Trollope and an eye from Conan Doyle, James Brokenshire, noticed the first case study, involving a rape, bore a remarkable similarity to the fifth study Hanson had offered in evidence.

“Under questioning, the Home Office minister admitted that the two cases were one and the same,” reported Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News. When caught red-handed, the Home Office said that the duplication was the result of “an administrative error”. I’d like to know what that is if it isn’t a direct lie, because to repeat the details of the first case while composing the letter required a deliberate act of manipulation. Someone knew the evidence was falsified, even if it wasn’t Hanson.

Brokenshire was clearly sceptical. “The minister has clearly provided information that is fundamentally incorrect,” he said. “He’s saying it was an administrative error. Well, at the very least it says gross incompetence in the preparation of evidence on such a sensitive and significant issue as DNA retention and its use in serious crime. I think he’s got more answers to give in relation to this.”

Hanson’s response makes you realise that the basic standards expected of ministers and Home Office civil servants no longer exist. Instead of apologising and admitting the deception, he blusters that the “Tories are on the wrong side of the argument”. Then he attempts to justify retention as though his credibility was still intact. “We believe that the indefinite retention of the DNA profiles of all those convicted of crimes, and all juveniles convicted of serious offences together with the retention of the DNA profile of those who are arrested but not convicted for six years is an appropriate and proportionate approach based on the best available research.”

My problem with the Home Office – incidentally the subject of a revealing documentary by Michael Cockerell on BBC4 last night – is that on DNA, as with many areas where liberty and rights are affected, the policy seems to be coming from civil servants with an unyielding agenda. Their addiction to scooping up the DNA of innocent people is matched by a sense of ownership of people’s biological essence that’s seen the Home Office use the DNA database for unspecified scientific research and using DNA testing to “establish” the origin of people from the horn of Africa in the Human Provenance Project, which was condemned last year by the leading names of genetic science.

This episode shows that the state is not to be trusted. If Hanson and his team cannot admit to this simple-minded deceit then we cannot believe anything they say. This was not an administrative error. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Britons are fearing for their rights

Britons are fearing for their rights

The public has grown increasingly concerned about the rise of the state’s surveillance culture, according to a new poll

A new ICM poll shows that the British are much more concerned about the state holding information on them than they were four years ago, when the last state of the nation poll was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

And concern expressed by a very large majority of British about rights is far sharper than in polls of the last few years. Drill down deep, as this survey of 2,288 people interviewed face-to-face did, and you find strength of opinion about issues that the parties would be foolish to ignore in the coming election. The penny on state power and surveillance has dropped with ringing clarity.

The most fascinating results came when people were asked what rights should be included in a bill of rights. In the week where a defendant escaped from the first criminal trial without a jury and an official report condemned the incarceration of thechildren of asylum seekers who have done nothing wrong, 88% of people said the fair trial before a jury was the most important right, which was one percentage point ahead of the right to be treated on the NHS within reasonable time. I’d have bet £100 on it being the other way with a much greater gap between the two.

As surprising are the next five rights people favour in descending order: the right to know what information government departments hold on you – 81%; the right to privacy in your phone, mail and email communications – 79%; the right to join a legal strike without losing your job – 76%; the right to obtain information from government bodies about their activities – 75%; and the right to free and peaceful assembly – 72%.

You couldn’t get a clearer, more encouraging picture of a nation that is still fundamentally committed to a free society. Released by Power 2010, which is currently asking the public to choose its top five priorities for political reform, the poll revealed that 80% agreed with the need for a bill of rights, 52% strongly.

The last state of the nation poll revealed that only 33% of people opposed ID cards. Now 53% declare them to be a bad, or very bad, idea, while 63% – up from 53% – worry about the government holding information on them.

It’s important for the Home Office and senior figures in all parties to understand the British public is rejecting the idea of massive centralised power over which they have no control. Some 56% thought government power was too centralised, with 88% saying that local communities should have more say over decisions that affect them.

Clearly this has showed up in private polling by the main parties, which explains the enthusiasm for “empowering” local communities. Pam Giddy, the director of Power 2010, said that the poll backed up the results of nearly 100,000 votes cast in the reform campaign: “People are worried about the power of the state. They want more say in decisions that affect them, their families and communities. And they want a stronger parliament that can hold government to account.”

Incidentally, this clear demand should be on the minds of MPs when they begin to debate Dr Tony Wright MP’s reforms on Monday, in particular the proposal that a new Commons business committee should set the chamber’s timetable instead of the government. If there is one thing MPs can do to express the will of the public before the election a vote in favour of this vital reform is it.

The point about the state of the nation poll, for which the Rowntree Reform Trust again deserves our gratitude, is that it is tracks opinion that is plainly developing against centralised state power, as the reverse in attitudes on ID cards show. So the government should consider where these attitudes will be in another four years and make sure that it responds to the public opinion instead of following the rather arrogant and intrusive agenda of the last 13 years. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Opting Out Of NHS Spine

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Opting out of NHS Spine

Doctors are concerned about the rapid roll-out of the patient database, and are helping people who don’t want to be on it

If private detectives hack people’s phones and provide transcripts of their messages to News of the World reporters, it should only take us a moment to see the enormous prize offered to journalists and inquiry agents when everyone’s medical records in England are uploaded to a centralised database that will be accessed by hundred of thousands of NHS workers.

On the whole, the public seems blissfully unaware of the risks, but GPs see it all too well and are acting together in London to make it easier for patients to opt out from the NHS “Spine”, which the British Medical Association says is being rolled out far too hastily.

The threat of the database being breached is very real indeed. In January I reported onthe failure of Scotland’s Crown Office to prosecute Dr Andrew Jamieson who, out of curiosity, accessed and read the medical files of Gordon Brown, Alex Salmond, Jack McConnell and TV and sports celebrities that were held on a similar database. There was evidence to suggest that court case would prove so embarrassing for the victims, whose medical records would be produced in evidence, that charges against the doctor brought a year ago were dropped.

In terms of security there is not much to choose between the Emergency Care Summary system in Scotland and Summary Care Record, which is being introduced in England and will make an outline of a person’s medical history available to hundreds of thousands of NHS staff.

To most people, the Spine seems logical in the digital age, but the Scottish case offers an example of what Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge has been predicting while at the same time steadily insisting that there are ways of making patients’ information available as well as maintaining their privacy. He was among those to welcome the action by the London GPs to hinder the roll out to six million patients in the capital on the grounds that most people don’t understand the implications of the database run by BT and Oracle.

A letter is being sent to GPs from the London-wide group local medical committees that warns about the very short period that primary care trusts and the NHS are giving patients to make this critical decision on their records, which, by the way, cannot be viewed when a patient falls ill in Scotland or abroad. According to Computer Weekly, “The organisation is also encouraging GPs to “be more proactive and contact patients directly, or via patient participation groups, or via the practice website and text system if you have them.”

Patients who do not opt out will have their records uploaded but the records of those who do will be kept solely at their doctor’s surgery, where far fewer people will be able to access them. It seems an obvious choice to those who care about their privacy and worry about the eventual linking up of all government records which might give access to various agencies unconcerned with patient health.

It is difficult to find a doctor who is in favour of the system. “It is important that opting-out is made easier,” said John May from the BMA’s patient liaison group to “At the moment there’s no opt-out form in the patient information packs being sent to patients across the country. They either have to take the time out of their day to go and see their GP, or phone a call centre, or download a form from the internet and post it in.” Dr Grant Ingrams, chair of the GP IT committee added, “The summary care record roll-out is now happening too hastily.”

Another doctor said the action by London Medical Committees represents a “complete lack of confidence in the Summary Care Record and fundamental confusion and reservation about the ethics of transferring records on to the SCR without the confirmed explicit consent of each patient”.

The GPS are circulating a poster to London practices that asks: “Do you want your medical records to stay confidential to this practice, or to be uploaded to the NHS central record system, the NHS “spine”?

Meanwhile, if you want to the opt out the form is at the end of the document entitled “What happens if I choose not to have a summary care record (SCR)?”. If you have any questions about the opt-out, you can phone the NHS care records service information line on 0845 603 8510.

• The BBC has revealed that the government is trying to fix a quick deal with suppliers for its controversial £12.7bn NHS IT programme ahead of the next general election and in order to tie the hands of the next government. Mike O’Brien has confirmed to BBC Radio 4’s File on Four programme – in a broadcast this evening – that his officials aim to sign new deals by the end of March. This story appears in the latest Computer Weekly which says that the memorandum of understand would commit the NHS to spending about £3bn. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Your 10 questions for would be MP’s

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Your 10 questions for would-be MPs

As we prepare to elect the MPs who should safeguard our rights, what 10 questions on liberty would you put to party candidates?

In about eight weeks’ time we will be voting not just for a new government, but a new parliament of representatives, in whose hands will lie the future of our free society.

We want your help to draft a list of questions that can be put to all the candidates of the major parties to establish their credentials, not as party creatures, but as individuals of conscience who will stand for the values of a liberal and democratic society before any other political interest.

The dying parliament is among the worst in the past 100 years – corrupt, lazy, arrogant and dismissive of the public – but it also contained some good MPs who fought the tide of illiberal legislation and who are aware of the direction Britain has taken under Labour’s authoritarian government. We need many more like them to reassert parliament’s power and to hold the executive to account.

Ten key questions on liberty, rights and democracy is what we want you to be able to ask candidates with a view to getting their pledge of support on the record for all voters to see. Where support is not forthcoming, that should be made public.

Where do we start?

At an event last night to celebrate the launch of Keith Ewing’s book, The Bonfire of the Liberties – now the definitive text on Labour government’s attack on liberty and rights – we listened to a young man named Cerie Bullivant talking about his experience of being subject to the restrictions of a control order for two years without having been found guilty of a crime, or being allowed to know the evidence against him. The system of control orders seems to me one of the worst examples of arbitrary state power in modern Britain. I would ask – will you condemn house arrest of a person who has not been found guilty of a crime in a normal court of law?

Are you worried about trade union rights – the right of workers not to be catalogued on secret databases and blacklists, which affect their ability to gain work? What about the rights to assembly and free protest without being harassed and photographed by our militarised police? Last night we heard from Pennie Quinton and Marc Vallée, who have been prevented by police from carrying out their duties as working photographers. Their stories are part of an important battle over the control and regulation of public space. Should we ask all candidates to declare the commitment to the principle that anyone should be allowed to make an image in a public place without being questioned by the police, PCSOs or the numerous varieties of accredited busybodies?

Each year a very large number of innocent people are stopped and searched by the police who, according to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report, exhibit obvious racism by picking on black and Asian people. One question might be, “Do you support a repeal of current legislation which allows police to stop and search hundreds of thousands of innocent people without having reasonable cause? And do you condemn the racist bias in stop and search policies, as well as the police national DNA database?

We should attempt to get the assurance of candidates that they will do everything they can to roll back the database state. ID cards and government policies to capture all our communications data and all personal details when we travel abroad are being rolled out. The government is putting pressure on NHS patients to allow their medical records to be uploaded to a database, which many experts believe is innately insecure. Records of all children in England and Wales are being compulsorily uploaded to the Contact database. You may feel strongly about these databases or about the Vetting and Barring Scheme, which some see as one of the symbols of a country that is fast losing the reflexive presumption of innocence. What question would encourage a candidate to explicitly reject the culture of suspicion and mistrust that has grown up in the last 12 years?

One worry is the way demonstrations are being oppressed by hostile police who have little regard for the right of people to engage in legitimate political protest and do everything in their power to photograph individuals for their secret databases. Another concern is the use of the Ripa laws and the growth of invasive databases, some of which have no basis in law – the police ANPR surveillance system, for instance, which captures and retains most vehicle journeys in the UK.

Or you may feel that you want to hear more general declarations about candidates’ fundamental political beliefs, principles they are prepared to sign up to and against which their voting record may be measured. My co-director of the Convention on Modern Liberty, Anthony Barnett, suggests that every candidate is asked to explicitly recognise that the threat to our liberty currently posed by government is greater than that presented by terrorism.

Over to you. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

ID card nation by stealth

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An ID card nation by stealth

Now the Home Office is suggesting the ID card could replace the bus pass for the over 60s – insinuating it into national life

Leading Labour’s pre-election push on the ID card is Home Office minister Meg Hillier, a former mayor of Islington and an MP since just 2005. According, Hillier has voted strongly in favour of a smoking ban, replacing Trident, terror laws and – naturally – ID cards, while voting against an investigation into the Iraq war and climate change laws: so, a bright New Labour high-flyer who balances her busy political life with the demands of a young family, or a dreary knuckle-dragging authoritarian, according to your point of view.

Hillier’s attempt to embed the ID card into British life has a desperate ingenuity about it. First the Home Office tries – without much success – to persuade young people that the card is a hip accessory that will allow them to prove their age when buying alcohol or clubbing, now Hillier targets old people with a suggestion that the ID card willreplace the bus pass, as part of a plan where the elderly are given the card free.

The efforts to roll out the £5bn scheme when government departments are so strapped for funds tell us much about the deep, pathological needs of the state when it comes to “identity management”. The Home Office has responded to the widespread hostility to the card by identifying different groups’ needs and devising ways of subtly implanting the card and making it seem indispensables. As I have written many times, the primary motive is not to allow you to identify yourself, but to allow the state to identify you and furthermore track your life in the records accumulated by the National Identity Register.

Phil Booth of NO2ID may be right when he says in response to Hillier’s latest idea that the government has reached the end of the road on the policy and that “the minister is indulging in wild fantasy and speculation”, but he knows well how determined the Home Office is to get the universal ID card and if it does, as night follows day, police officers will eventually be allowed to demand to see someone’s card on the street.

You only have to look at the abuse of Section 44 to understand that, or read this young man’s story about being stopped by police with sniffer dogs on the way to work and being told that the fact that he had been searched would appear on a database, although nothing was found. Without protest we already accept incredible curtailment of our freedoms. Think how it will be with the ID card.

The particular gleam in the eye of Hillier and IPS officials at the moment is the prospect of putting an electronic identifier in a person’s mobile phone – which they seem to have forgotten is one of the most frequently stolen items. Typically, this was presented as satisfying the needs of another social group – the poor. At a Social Market Foundation event recently, Hillier talked of the needs of the “socially disadvantaged” in her constituency who had no other form of identity documents.

In response to a councillor at the event who asked why the government kept on changing its argument for the ID card, she said that “9/11 has put the cast on the ID card”, but that the card had always been a multifaceted project. Whatever that means, the government has failed to make the case for the card and every time it thinks of a new reason is soundly beaten by the logic of civil liberties groups. So now the policy is not to make the argument but to insinuate the card into national life. Well, at least we have a chance to say something about that in a few weeks’ time.

• Following the success of an event last week to launch Keith Ewing’s book on Labour’s attack on liberties, it has been suggested that such an event would go down well outside London. If there are groups, who during the election campaign, would like to hear about the experiences of people who have fallen victim to New Labour’s authoritarian laws, or from speakers of all persuasions who appeared at theConvention on Modern Liberty, let me know at, and Professor Ewing and I will see if we can put something together. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Wall Street Journal


Thanks to the Wall Street Journal for this great review on their blog.

In ‘Erasing David,’ a Filmmaker Vanishes and Challenges Investigators To Find Him

By Michelle Kung

David Bond, flanked by two private investigators

The first week of Austin’s South by Southwest festival focuses on film and interactive trends and events, so it seems only fitting that “Erasing David,” a documentary about online privacy, premiered here. The film, which debuted on iTunes and AmazonVOD the same day it opened at SXSW, centers on British filmmaker David Bond, who challenges two private investigators to find him — using only publicly available data — as he attempts to disappear for a month. “I thought it would be a lot more exciting and fun,” said Bond. “But it turned out to be quite a bit more freaky and paranoia-inducing than I expected.”

Bond first got the idea for the film in 2007, when he received a letter from the U.K. government saying they had lost his four-month-old daughter’s child benefit details, including her date of birth, address and bank account information. Concerned — and curious — about the state of privacy, civil rights and the database state in the U.K., he decided to make a documentary, though he wanted to structure it in a way similar to fictional thrillers like “The Conversation,” to make it compelling. Bond put together a team of filmmakers he trusted to shoot the investigators at work while he “ran.” He packed his bags in January of 2009, and found himself in the “really weird” position of having no creative control for a large chunk of his film.

The Wall Street Journal: In the film, you state that the U.K. is among the top-three monitored countries in the world.

It scores really badly according to the academics. For example, we have this thing that’s called the ring of steel around the financial center in London since the IRA bombings in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I feel like we have moved in the UK from being a beacon of liberties — being the birth place of democracy and the Magna Carta and all that –  to being like an example of how not to do it.

Your wife is pregnant in the film. Was it hard to convince her to go along with this?

It looks awful in the film, I know. But we planned the disappearance and there were lots of things in place before we discovered she was pregnant. It was a tough discussion but it was one where she kind of knew what we lined up to make the film happen. So she was very understanding. And as you saw, it wasn’t a bed of roses for her by any means. I’m still kind of on my knees groveling as we speak.

You’re releasing the film on VOD in conjunction with your premiere here at SXSW. Was that a purposeful move?

That was part of the attraction for us, absolutely, because we know how hard it is to take a documentary into the U.S. market, let alone on that has the added complication of being a British documentary with an unusual genre structure. We really feel like there is an audience out there in the US for the topic, and being able to access that interest online is an exciting model for us.

Given the subject matter of privacy, how much are you using social media to publicize the film?

We use it up to a point. We have to be very, very careful with our disclaimers around it. We never use people’s e-mails or anything else. We encourage people to set up not fake but spam e-mail addresses in order to receive information from us. I think the answer is we are really excited by it and we really use it.  But we are also very keenly aware of the privacy issues involved.

Gordon and the Whale

Gordon and the Whale review by Kate Erbland 13th March 2010

Rating: 8/10

Directors: David Bond, Melinda McDougall (co-director)

In ERASING DAVID, documentary filmmaker David Bond attempts to drop off the grid of surveillance life for thirty days. Increasingly dismayed about the content and quantity of personal information available to the world at large, Bond employs all manner of tactics to learn what is out there about him, how it was acquired, and how to stop it. Well-placed flashbacks show us just how it all snowballed until Bond saw no other way to truly discover the truth than to utterly subvert it.

In the early stages of his quest, Bond hires an amusingly able privacy consultant, who scares Bond by routinely popping up, either physically or via some sort of unexpected bit of technology (hello, baby monitor). What is at first somewhat funny and very interesting steadily builds into the tension that runs through the film. To make matters even worse (and to turn the film into a bit of good, old-fashioned chase story), Bond hires two of Britain’s best private investigators to track him down as he spend his month “on the run.” The PIs on his trail use good old-fashioned detective work to track Bond – they start with just his name, finding themselves rummaging through his trash, and pretending to be him on the phone. But the availability of information on the internet makes their job frighteningly and consistently easy. As if these stakes are not high enough, Bond also has a baby and a pregnant wife at home, who is none to pleased with his idea to strike out on such a ride in the final trimester of her pregnancy.

As David criss-crosses Europe and gets himself into increasingly close scrapes with his would-be captors, ERASING DAVID begins to feel legitimately frightening – both in terms of the physical chase and in terms of how Bond’s information has been so readily accessed. But of course there’s not just the basic issue of people knowing things about you that you may not feel you have expressly allowed them to know, there’s also the deeply unsettling possibility that this information will be misused. And it’s not just in terms of fraudulent activity, as Bond places a huge emphasis on false positives in government-gathered information. He meets young Emma Budd who, upon applying for a job, was the victim of a false positive on her criminal record – a person with the same birthdate and a “similar name” had a shoplifting conviction. She didn’t get the job and her entire life was turned upside down. ERASING DAVID is scary enough for the Bond family, but the consistent theme that this could happen to you runs deeply throughout the proceedings.

In just over a week on the run, Bond turns paranoid. But it’s not so much paranoia when he’s actually being followed, now is it? Paranoia turns to loneliness and wackiness. Bond acutely feels the pain of what he has only temporarily given up in his quest. And it does become a quest. Bond goes to ever-increasing lengths to hide – even setting off for a remote valley in Wales. But the point of this experiment is not for Bond to hide out somewhere remote, he needs to attempt a normal existence. He needs to prove it is indeed possible.

Is it? The film’s basic conceit already makes everything tenuous enough, but the film’s score, packed with building strings and pounding drums and ticking clocks, kicks ERASING DAVID up to a new level. There is something of great importance at stake here – and when it’s all over, it’s not just David who wants to be erased.

UK iTunes


USA iTunes


Helena Kennedy QC

Helena Kennedy is one of Britain’s most distinguished lawyers. She has spent her professional life giving voice to those who have least power within the system, championing civil liberties and promoting human rights.  She makes an appearance in ERASING DAVID and has been a great supporter of the film.

Privacy International

PRIVACY INTERNATIONAL is a brilliant human rights group that campaigns across the world to protect people against intrusions by governments and corporations.

BBC Radio 4 Broadcasting House


David and the PIs contributed to an excellent piece on this week’s Broadcasting House on Radio 4 (Sunday 22 November). Ace Radio 4 reporter Chris Vallance follows in David’s footsteps as he attempts to spend a day without leaking data…

You can listen again here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(22 November 2009)

The Erasing David bit is at 32 mins and 25 secs..

The radio piece also features the wonderful Nick Rosen. Nick’s website is full of cool articles, including easy tips on how to live Off Grid..

Seven ways to drop off the grid

USA Amazon vod

If you are in the USA – you can watch the film right now on Amazon VOD.

Skytram Express


by Liz Tramer

What would you do if I could tell you that I knew your mood on January 1, 2003, or your wife’s maiden name? What about where your parent’s lived, your food allergy or your personality type? You might think that this “big brother” society doesn’t exist, or since we’ve never met, I can’t possibly know that information. You’d be dead wrong. Erasing David proves without a reasonable doubt that we currently live in an Orwellian world, and most people are unknowing participants. When filmmaker David Bond received a government letter stating that his, and millions of others, data had been lost, including his name, birth date and bank details he was taken aback.David became curious about just how much personal information was available to the public. He decided to try and go off the grid for 30 days. His journey for privacy has astounding implications that will affect the way you conduct your everyday life.

When David received a generic letter about the loss of his “identity,” he began to wonder just how much information had been collected about him and how that information was obtained. His research led to a shocking discovery. There was a mountain of information on him. His moods were gauged on days by orders he’d placed on Amazon or from entries on the Internet. David wondered if so much data had been collected on his past activities, how easy would it be to track his future movements.

It wasn’t enough to just disappear; he wanted to know if he could be found. For this reason, he hired two private detectives to try and locate him once he tried to become lost among the crowd. David discussed the project with his pregnant wife and tried to convince her that this endeavor was being done both for their family’s future and to ensure their child’s safety. Once he had all parties on board, the race was on. Roles had been assigned: the detectives were the hunters and David became the hunted.

He snuck out of his home in the middle of the night and began his journey. Along the way, he realized that his phone, e-mail and credit card information all left a trail. The more time he spent around others, the greater the likelihood of information being revealed. Even a visit to his family and the locations he would consider safe, became places of discovery.

As the film progresses, David becomes more paranoid and incredibly isolated, leaving viewers wondering if the cost of privacy needs to be complete isolation. “At the time (of the experiment), I barely slept. I began to have paranoid thoughts about everybody I met or even passed in the street. I wondered if people were agents of the Private Investigators. I even began to wonder if my producer (and great friend) Ashley had betrayed me in order to make the film turn out a certain way,” David said.

As David faced loneliness and despair, the private investigators were able to gather birth certificate, marriage licenses, photos, and childhood information, and compile an accurate and revealing story of David’s life and personality. Through the public information the investigators gathered, for al intents and purposes, they were able to transform into David Bond when necessary.

Erasing David is a riveting game of cat and mouse. Director David Bond’s quest for anonymity reveals to viewers how much of your information is public, and the frightening future implications. Bond said that after completing the project he “routinely questions exchanges of data and information that most people don’t notice.” After watching the film, you will never look at filling out a form or surfing the Web the same way.

Immediately following its premiere at SXSW at 8 p.m. on March 12, Erasing David will be available for online rental across the U.S. for the duration of the festival. For more information, or to watch the video online, visit

Movietainment Review

Erasing David – You think you are being watched living in the United States. Well, the United Kingdom is the third highest surveillance state in the world and it is home to David Bond. As an experiment, David wanted to test the waters and see where his paper footprints say about him. What could bills and purchase habits online provide for the government or any interested party in tracking him down? So for a month he decided to investigate by leaving his life behind and dare a pair of experts to find him. Erasing David might begin like a Spurlockian exercise, but the discoveries are far more chilling than the fat and sugar intake of fast food. Despite the stakes being little more than a game between this particular mouse and cats, Bond’s film – a real-lifeRunning Man for those familiar with Stephen King’s (aka Richard Bachman’s) original story – still evolves into a thriller of some magnitude as our own paranoia of a superhighway becoming an invisible peeper into our private worlds comes front and center. Many of us still walked into a McDonald’s at some point, but we may think twice the next time the convenience of our daily lives might be making it opportune for the many Big Brothers out there to know more than we care about us.



In the film, we see David talking to a number of experts on privacy – including Toon Vanagt and Frank Ahearn. Frank in particular shows David that living a ‘normal’ life means sacrificing your privacy – using a mobile phone can give away your location. Toon notes that using new media such as Twitter, people are becoming more careless about their privacy – letting people know their whereabouts much more freely than they would have done in the past.

This problem has even spawned an internet site,, which trawls Twitter posts to give away people’s locations. Are we too careless with our location on the internet?

More fundamentally, Toon argues that privacy is about ‘what you reveal about yourself to whom, and for what purpose’. This means how much of your identity will you reveal, and how much of your liberty are you willing to compromise.

Legally, privacy law is still catching up with the internet – and it’s not clear if it will be able to do so. The issue of a privacy law in the UK (which does not exist at present) has raised much controversy – doesn’t the idea of a privacy law actually limit others too (in terms of freedom of speech). Do people have an absolute right to privacy?

  • Do we have an absolute right to privacy? If a high-profile celebrity privately held racist beliefs, would ‘we’ have a right to know?

  • Should the UK have a privacy law? And if so, how would it deal with the amount of information individuals now make freely available over the internet?

  • Conservative leader David Cameron famously responded to questions about drugs by saying all politicians have a right to a private life outside of politics. Do they have the right to a private life after entering into politics?


In the film, we see David in conversation with Professor Angell of the London School of Economics. Here David notes that if we do not give up some information we simply cannot access any services.

The British government is currently trying to introduce identity cards. They say that the cards will provide an easy and secure way for legal UK residents to prove who they are. However, the cards are controversial: people have different views about whether they are a good idea or not.

The ID card can be used as a reference for checking and confirming ID when voting, opening a bank account or hiring a video. It will act as proof age for buying alcohol or cigarettes.

Design your own identity card in your exercise book or on a piece of paper. What information do you think you would need to have on the card you are designing?

HOW FAR IS TOO FAR? Clearly we have to sacrifice some freedom in order to benefit from public services such as education or health. Do ID cards represent a step too far, or are they essential for security and proving people’s entitlement to services?


The film begins with David on a train, reflecting on the fact that the government have lost the details of his identity. In this context, identity seems simple enough – his name, his address, his bank account details.

But identity is undeniably about more than this. Do we really only have one identity? Or do we have several? How are these identities constructed? The film raises the question not merely of how identities are constructed, but who constructs them. In short, are you solely responsible for your own identity? Is the impression conveyed by the information on your Facebook or Bebo page ‘you’? Or is there more, which – to paraphrase Toon Vanagt – you choose not to reveal.

How much of your identity is constructed by others? And is it possible that – even using only information you have given them – they could construct that identity in a way you might find unfamiliar? As Professor Timothy Garton-Ash states in the film, on its own one bit of information may not hurt you, but a number of pieces paint of picture. Is it necessarily a picture you like?

  • HOW MANY KINDS OF IDENTITY DO YOU HAVE? Legal and cultural are two kinds. Can you think of any others?

  • THE UK IDENTITY CARD SCHEME Construct your own identity card. What kind of information should such a document hold? How much is too much? And how do you decide what is too much?

  • IDENTITY THEFT is an often-discussed crime; evaluate your own security by looking at how much information you give away on the internet.

press pack



+44 207 060 5466

the trailer for web 87mb:

the trailer can also be embedded from Vimeo:

press notes 196k:

stills of David 1.2mb/1.4mb:

still of David and Cerberus, the Private Investigators 704k:

headshots of Director and Producer 100k/72k:

colour still of David running away 6mb:

web version of the logo and strap 348k:

the postcard back 444k and front 2mb:

the full poster 7.6mb:

web version of poster 52k:

clean and bigger web version of the poster 980kb:

audio version of the trailer 2.9mb:

stills grabbed from from the film:

The Documentary Blog


by Charlotte

Erasing David is showing at next week’s SXSW and I can’t recommend it enough.

Filmmaker David Bond grew increasingly worried about how much information is held on us by organisations and the government and took the gutsy step of trying to go off the map for a month. He hired a team of private investigators to track him down and the film follows this journey. As someone living in Britain it’s a terrifying watch, especially in scenes where David manages to get hold of all the data held on him by communications companies and online stores. The film itself is thrilling, funny and although scary, highly entertaining.

Erasing David is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year, and you should definitely check it out.

There are details below the jump of where and when you can see it.

Official Synopsis:

David Bond lives in one of the most intrusive surveillance states in the world. He decides to find out how much private companies and the government know about him by putting himself under surveillance and attempting to disappear – a decision that changes his life forever. Leaving his pregnant wife and young child behind, he is tracked across the database state on a chilling journey that forces him to contemplate the meaning of privacy – and the loss of it.

Once the bastion of freedom and civil liberties, the UK is now one of the most advanced surveillance societies in the world – ranked third after Russia and China. The average UK adult is now registered on over 700 databases and is caught daily on one of the 4 million CCTV cameras located on nearly every street corner in the country. Increasingly monitored, citizens are being turned into suspects. But if you’ve got nothing to hide, surely there’s nothing to fear?

When David receives a letter informing him that his daughter Ivy is among 25 million residents whose details have been lost by the government’s Child Benefit Office, he begins a journey that will see him hounded across Europe.

David soon discovers some alarming truths about what the government and private companies already know about ordinary citizens. He meets people who have been caught in the crossfire of the database state and have had their lives shattered.

As his concern grows, he makes a life-changing decision. He will leave his pregnant wife and child behind and put himself under surveillance for thirty days. The UK’s top Private Investigators are hired to discover everything they can about him and his family – and track David down as he attempts to vanish. Is it still possible to live a private, anonymous life in the UK?  Or do the state and private companies already know too much about ordinary people?

Forced to contemplate the meaning of privacy – and the loss of it, David’s disturbing journey leaves him with no doubt that although he has nothing to hide, he certainly has something to fear…

Erasing David is a documentary about privacy, surveillance and the database state.

Erasing David will be available on on iTunes and Amazon VOD during SXSW and will then debut on cable VOD two weeks later via the wonderful people at Cinetic.

For those in the UK it’s on release in cinemas from April 29th and will be shown on Channel 4 on the 4th May.

dr dentler blogs


INDIEWIRE BLOG March 10, 2010: “@SXSW: ‘Erasing’ and ‘Crying’ trailers” by Matt Dentler features the film.

@SXSW: ‘Erasing’ and ‘Crying’ trailers
A few days ago, I mentioned two films that we’re launching out of SXSW 2010. If you’re attending SXSW, come check them out, and meet the filmmakers who are coming over from the UK. If you’re not attending SXSW, you will be able to watch Erasing David and Crying With Laughter on iTunes and Amazon VOD.

Jack Blood Freedom Radio


Thanks to Jack Blood on Deadline Live for this great radio interview – and for his continued support of the film. Jack – we love you.

the surveillance chronicles


thanks to net.wars for this great review of the film.

bbc world service


Thanks to the kind people at OUTLOOK on the BBC’s world service for asking David in to talk about the film. Check it out.


Thanks to eFilmCritic for this interview.

SXSW 2010 Interview: “Erasing David” Director David Bond

by David Cornelius

The South by Southwest rundown on “Erasing David”: David Bond lives in one of the most intrusive surveillance states in the world. He decides to find out how much private companies and the government know about him by putting himself under surveillance and attempting to disappear – a decision that changes his life forever. Leaving his pregnant wife and young child behind, he is tracked across the database state by two ruthless private investigators, on a chilling journey that forces him to contemplate the meaning of privacy – and the loss of it.

Just what is “Erasing David”?

“Erasing David” is a feature documentary. I wanted to ask how much of our personal information is floating around in government and corporate databases? To find out, I went on the run for a month and set two of the world’s top private investigators the task of tracking me down, using only publicly available data.

What inspired you to attempt this challenge – and document it?

When my daughter was a small baby, a letter arrived from the UK government. It was an apology – they had lost her and my data on a CD (it included her name, date of birth, address and my bank details). It really spooked me and I started noticing the growing number of press stories about the database state. I read some research from the London School of Economics that said that the UK is one of the three most intrusive surveillance states in the world. That’s when I decided it was time to make the film. I wanted to know how much private companies and the government know about me by putting myself under surveillance and attempting to disappear. I guess saw it as an adventure which I hoped would make a point. What I didn’t realise was that the experience would be profoundly unsettling and transformative.

There’s a “chase movie” vibe to this whole thing. Did you plan from the start on taking this approach, or was the suspense an unexpected result of the challenge?

We were pretty sure that given we had a hunter and a quarry, there would be some chase-driven tension in the final film. That said, our initial plan was that the chase element would be a relatively small segment of the film and that there would be much more discussion of the issues. In the edit, we discovered that watching a real-life chase is really compelling, so we went with more of it! I was really surprised at the effect that the challenge had on me. When I look at the film now and see myself looking pale and gaunt it takes be back to how frightening it was at the time. There’s a good reason why people use the phrase “he has a hunted look” – I really had a hunted look!

One thing I noticed was that for the whole time I was running away, I had a really stiff neck. A doctor told me that this is a common symptom if you are constantly in “flight” mode. Basically it is your body telling you to look behind you! So at the time, I barely slept, I began to have paranoid thoughts about everybody I met or even passed in the street. I wondered if people were agents of the Private Investigators. I even began to wonder if my producer (and great friend) Ashley had betrayed me in order to make the film turn out a certain way (he hadn’t, by the way, and he’s forgiven me for thinking that!). By the end I had started talking to myself and was showing signs of deepening paranoia.

The really freaky thing was that this didn’t just stop after the chase. For a good few weeks afterwards I found it really hard to sleep and settling back into family life was much harder than I thought it would be. The long term effect of making the film (it is over a year now) has been the most profound. I routinely question exchanges of data and information that most people don’t notice. This can be a pain – but it is also really liberating: I better understand the Faustian pact we have with governments and corporations. And I am resolved to fight my and my family’s corner when it comes to letting others learn about, profile and map us.

Why did you decide to place yourself at the center of the story instead of just staying home and working on a simpler “talking head” style documentary?

I love “talking head” documentaries, and I think we could have treated the issues that way. Sometimes, though, I wonder whether people who are not into the issue can struggle with such a treatment. I wanted people who are really not worried about the database state to enjoy the film and for it to draw them into the issues. To make that work, we needed a strong personal story that highlights the boundary between individual and state. I was already into the debate, I had a young family, I was cheap to hire: what can I say, I gave myself the job… Is that nepotism?

Just how hard it is to film yourself while simultaneously trying to remain unnoticeable?

I tried to look like a terrorist. I mean a tourist. I had a small HD camera that looked like a tourist camera and I basically hid behind it. It should work fine, but then the paranoid UK government introduced a law so now anyone taking a photograph of a police officer or certain types of building can be deemed to have committed a criminal offence, so you do have to be really careful with the “tourist” cover.

There is definitely something paradoxical in the film. I’m trying to hide – to erase myself – whilst simultaneously filming myself and then screening the results. I like the paradox though. I think it reflects what we all feel – that it would be great to be recognised, but also great not to be…

What got you started making movies?

I’m colour-blind and I made a short film called “Lions are Green” about the experience of seeing the world differently. Colour-blind people may well see the world the same as other colour-blind people – but because they are in the minority, no language develops to describe how it looks. That’s how I got started and I think it’s the same challenge of how to express a minority feeling that keeps me going.

Any lessons learned while making this movie?

Ask and it might happen. We asked Michael Nyman to do the music. It turned out he’s a privacy campaigner and he said yes.

Are you nervous about coming to South by Southwest?

This is Erasing David’s US premiere and I’m thrilled that it is happening at SXSW. I’ve wanted to come to the festival for years. My friends are really jealous that I’m attending. So, yes, nervous but really excited.

What’s next for you?

We’re developing various ideas at the moment. The linking theme is how the individual relates to the group – and how the group shapes the individual. That’s what interests me. Watch this space!

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a filmmaker, I’d probably be…

…sorry, does not compute.

Beatles or Stones?


In ten words or less, convince the average moviegoer to watch your film.

Erasing David: thriller documentary. You’re in data danger. Be afraid.

“Erasing David” has its U.S. premiere as part of the SX Global series. It screens at 8:00 PM March 12 and 11:00 AM March 16.

The Hollywood Reporter


Thanks to The Hollywood Reporter for this article.

Filmbuff to offer SXSW premieres on VOD

Two movies to debut simultaneously online and at fest

By Gregg Kilday

March 1, 2010, 09:48 PM ET

Filmbuff, Cinetic Rights Management’s VOD distribution label, has acquired two films, David Bond’s “Erasing David” and Justin Molotnikov’s “Crying with Laughter,” which it will premiere day and date with the two titles’ premieres at this month’s SXSW Film Festival in Austin.

The two films will appear on the iTunes Movie Store and on Amazon VOD at the same time as they receive their North American premieres at the fest.

“David,” a documentary about the surveillance state, is slated to play the fest March 12, while “Crying,” a thriller, bows March 14.

Starting on Apr. 1, both titles also will be available on demand through Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon and Cox cable providers.


Thanks to Variety for running this article.

Filmbuff to premiere SXSW pics on iTunes

Video-on-demand distributor nabs ‘David,’ ‘Laughter’

Video-on-demand distrib Filmbuff has acquired two pics set to unspool at SXSW this month: David Bond’s “Erasing David,” a new docu about surveillance, and “Crying With Laughter,” a Scottish thriller from scribe-helmer Justin Molotnikov. The distrib will premiere the pics on iTunes and at the same times their films screen at the fest.

“David” will preem March 12 and “Laughter” will bow March 14. Starting April 1, both titles will be available on demand to Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon and Cox subscribers.

Bond, a U.K. native, films his own attempt to avoid two private investigators with “David.” Pic is produced by Ashley Jones.

Molotnikov’s pic follows a standup comic arrested for an assault he has no memory of committing. Film is produced by Claire Mundell, Alastair Clark and Rachel Robey.

New York Times

Thanks to the NYT for mentioning the film in their recent article about new distribution models.

“Just this week, one such service, FilmBuff, said it had acquired the right to show a pair of films, “Erasing David” and “Crying With Laughter,” on iTunes and, simultaneously with their premieres at South by Southwest, in Austin, Tex., later this month.”

Thompson on Hollywood


#SXSW Wrap, Hits and Misses

Continuing to build its rep as a balmy spring destination for genre fans and cinephiles alike, the 17th South by Southwest Film Festival saw a strong turnout at films and panels appealing to young males and indie filmgoers, from opener Kick-Ass and stoner-comedy Leaves of Grass to the more finely calibrated critics’ faves Tiny Furniture (which won the dramatic jury prize) and Cold Weather. Clearly, the fest hasn’t lost its indie cred, although a hardcore midnight screening of A Serbian Film tested the limits of many filmgoers.

On the commercial side, Lionsgate opener Kick-Ass, Universal’s ensemble comedy MacGruber and Apparition’s rock biopic The Runaways built up some launch momentum, while two college pics, frat thriller Brotherhood (which won the narrative audience prize) and randy coming-of-age fantasy Cherry (starring breakout Kyle Gallner) piqued some buyer interest. Also likely to find a distrib is New York writer-director Lena Denham’s witty post-college drama Tiny Furniture, while IFC was circling the gorgeously crafted, genre-tinged Cold Weather.

Among those who scored at the fest, Rhys Ifans carried the meandering comedy biopic Mr. Nice with his sexy portrait of dope-smuggler Howard Marks, aging from teens to 40s without makeup (Ifans is also the best thing in Greenberg). Fresh from Cargo‘s SXSW world premiere, CAA is setting meetings for young Swiss director Ivan Engler, who delivered the eye-popping sci-fi thriller on a miniscule budget. How did he pull it off? Once committed to his VFX plans, he had no wriggle-room to change his mind. And he worked seven years for virtually no pay.

The worst things to befall SXSW 2010 were far from disastrous. An exhausted Quentin Tarantino showed up for the pre-SXSW festivities at the Texas Film Hall of Fame, coming through for his Austin chums Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez, only to skip town before the much-anticipated SXSW genre panel (Rodriguez, who also showed early footage from Predators, filled in).

One night the Elektra Luxx projection died mid-screening, never to come back—requiring rescheduling. James Franco couldn’t make the premiere of his ecstatically received behind-the-scenes SNL doc Saturday Night, because he was filming Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. And while Joan Jett eschewed her planned SXSW Runaways gig in favor of a David Letterman taping Monday, fans ate up the sight of Kristen Stewart in red leather. (Music attendees were lured by such attractions as Smokey Robinson, Courtney Love and Hole, The Whigs, Efterklang and the Stone Temple Pilots.)

Yes, Austin got very crowded. According to Daily Finance, six years ago only 35 reporters and 3,000 people attended SXSW. In 2010, the WSJ reports that the music fest counted more than 400 press and 13,000 registrants, up 11%, while the film fest marked 9500 and the interactive side 14,200 registrants, each up by 33 %.

The SXSW screenings were bursting at the seams, partly due to fewer available screens at the Alamo Drafthouse on Lamar (which was selling out 3-D showings of Alice in Wonderland). Many folks weren’t getting into screenings, even when they lined up an hour early. (I tracked down film contacts to help me get into smaller venues.) Time and again, film fest producer Janet Pierson gently apologized in her pre-screening intros for people being turned away from films, suggesting they schedule alternatives. “A good problem to have,” she added. SXSW believes strongly in staying democratic: everyone stands in line, badge or no badge, no press and industry screenings.

The crossover among different groups makes SXSW a heady mix. I hung out with interactive attendees at the bustling IFC House, over meat skewers at Fogo de Chao, and at an impromptu twitter-meet at the Hotel Driskill bar via the NYT’s Dave Carr, who tracks SXSW goings-on here. We talked about privacy (the topic of Danah Boyd‘s consciousness-raising opening keynote), Twitter, @anywhere, Foursquare, the future of journalism, criticism, online distribution, social networking and mobile apps. Just like everyone else. (Stay tuned for more pieces informed by the panels I attended.)

Great Buzz:
And Everything is Going Fine (doc biopic, Steven Soderbergh, USA, Magnolia)
Erasing David (doc, David Bond, UK, Cinetic Rights Management: Filmbuff VOD)
Four Lions (terrorist comedy, Christopher Morris, UK)
Micmacs (action fantasy, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, France, SPC)
Monsters (quasi-doc alien romance, Gareth Edwards, UK, Magnet Releasing)
The People vs. George Lucas (doc, Alexandre O. Philippe, USA)
The Red Chapel (doc comedy, Madds Bruger, Denmark)
Saturday Night (SNL doc, James Franco, USA)
The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights (concert doc, Emmet Malloy, USA, IFC VOD)
Waking Sleeping Beauty (doc, Don Hahn, USA, Disney)
World’s Largest (doc, Amy C. Elliott and Elizabeth Donius, USA)

CinePolitics interview


Interview with David and clips from the film..

Uncover The News


Lovely review from Kristen Coughlan on the Uncover The News blog…


By Kristen Coughlan

Erasing David is a British documentary on big brother and privacy concerns.  The basis of this documentary is filmmaker David Bond proposes a challenge to Cerberus, a private investigator company. He challenges two of their investigators to find him in thirty days. All they had to go on is David’s name. At the same time, David has to try to do things that will keep the investigators off his trial and escape big brother.

Throughout the film, David is doing research before and during his experiment into past and present, ways of surveillance. David contacts companies he had dealings with like an online book store and his cell phone company to see what data they have on him. He had a privacy expert follow him throughout the course of a day to show what will end up in a database.

During this experiment, he meets some men in Germany that had encounters with the stasi and they told him how the stasi worked.  He also meets with a woman that was trying to get a job and during a background check and she was prevented from getting the job because someone with the same name as her had a criminal record.

While David was traveling to meet with these people, the investigators from Cerberus were on his trial. They looked through his garbage, social networking page, and watching his cell phone usage. They used the website to show their process and as a way to try to track David. They even followed and gathered information on David’s family.

At one point in the documentary, David was having concerns in signing up his daughter in daycare. He went to a school where they used fingerprints to buy their lunches and even for computer use to log in to their lessons.  He felt concerned what the data obtained might be used for in the future.

How David was tracked down was a simple trick.  After the experiment, David was invited to the investigator’s office and he was stunned at what he saw. On the wall was every piece of information that the investigators have dug up on him.

The movie ends when his wife has given birth to a son. The baby’s information is being put in a database for his birth certificate.

This is a must see documentary.  It really opens your eyes on how you can be tracked and traced. It also shows that it is old methods such has looking through trash and getting information from others still works in the present.

school screening


We’ve just screened the film to 300+ pupils at The King’s School Canterbury, David’s old school. They seemed to love it and we were amazed by their level of engagement with the issues. Here’s a review of the screening. We’re really pleased to announce that Dr David Perkins, the head of politics at the school, and his colleague Mike Finn, are designing and writing the education packs for the film. With the help of The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust we will be making these available to Citizenship teachers of key stage 4/5 and to A-Level and 1st year undergraduate politics teachers from late April on this site.

Passionate Eye (CBC)


Did you watch Erasing David on CBC’s Passionate Eye this evening? What did you think? Do you have any database state stories of your own? Do tell…

Erasing David in Canada


Erasing David has made it to Canada. The good people at The Passionate Eye are showing the film at 10pm on Sunday 17 January..

ERASING DAVID at the Soho Hotel


We’ve just come back from a packed screening at the Soho Hotel. CERBERUS, the Private Investigation company which tracked me down, invited lots of their clients. These turned out to be a fascinating bunch of lawyers and companies who use CERBERUS to navigate the murky world of data tracking and IP protection. We were delighted by the response to the film and thanks to Duncan and Cameron for arranging the screening.

Utku’s Top 10


Goodness us. We just stumbled upon the blog of a fellow called Utku who has featured Erasing David in his Top 10 films

Production Focus features ED


DB interviewed

The lovely people at Production Focus interviewed David recently at the Sheffield Doc Fest. You can read the interview here… They get the scoop on what motivated David to make the film, self-shooting, the research process and David’s advice for aspiring filmmakers..

Social misconduct…

social networks

“…information about your friends’ behavior can be used to better predict your behavior..”

Scary article on

How Rapleaf Is Data-Mining Your Friend Lists to Predict Your Credit Risk

Cerberus Private Investigators


Introducing the Private Investigators charged with tracking David down…

Cerberus private investigators

Cameron Gowlett and Duncan Mee are the directors of Cerberus Investigations who were given the task of finding David. In their day job they undertake all manner of tracing, surveillance and anti-counterfeiting investigations and have been involved in several high-profile investigations involving missing persons and child abductions. Alongside helping the Green Lions team make Erasing David, they also work with the human rights charity Reprieve to help trace relatives and uncover lost information.

Action On Rights For Children


Protect the rights of children

Check out the ARCH website

Talking David


Awesome article by David Byrne..

Internet Antichrist


This is the 1/2 hour guide to beefing your privacy.  The 101 for how to live a rather more personal existence.

1. Take the NO2ID pledge

The first step is the hardest.  Pledge that you won’t be doing with any ID cards if the government insists you have one.  This take the shortest time but it states your right to control the government databases that you are on.  Join the causeSign the pledge.  (Notice that NO2ID does not demand any personal information.)

2. The big NHS opt out

This how they got David.  You’d like to think that a massive database with all our health records on is a good idea.  But you’d be wrong.  No is the time to opt out.  Once they upload your records, you’ve sod all chance of getting any kind of control over them ever again.  This website does the letter for you in around 30 seconds.  Yes to have to press print and then sign and post it.  Sorry.

The Big Opt Out

3. The local register

Getting off the edited local electoral roll means so much more than drawing a line in the sand with the state.  Not only do credit rating agencies use the edited roll to check you out – but local governement sells it to private companies, who then track you and market to you.  Yuk.

Local authorities produce two versions of the register. There is a Full Register that can be inspected, and a slimmed down version that is available for marketing purposes, which is called the Edited Register.

If you want to have your name omitted from the Edited Register then either tick the box on the electoral registration form when it comes around in the autumn or click here..


Enter your postcode, then click on the email address link at the bottom right of the page and send the following email:

Dear Local Authority,

I wish to opt out of the edited version of the electoral register.



Please confirm when you have done this.




Congratulations, you are taking control of your information and on the path to a more private life…



Take me to the Liberty website!

The Open Rights Group

Protecting your rights in an online age..

Open Rights Group


This is the 1/2 hour guide to beefing your privacy.  The 101 for how to live a rather more personal existence.

1. Loyalty Cards etc

Get a new Oyster card (£3) and don’t register it.

Cut up your loyalty cards.  The money off is not worth it.  Supermarkets make more from selling and using your data than they give back to you in money-off vouchers. You’ll shop in more varied places and save money.  If you shop online – then be aware the most major supermarkets will keep you data whatever you set your preference to.  So I’d say don’t.

2. Junk mail

Join the Mail Preference Service now. It takes 1 minute:

Mail Preference Service

Whether or not you register with the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) if you have actually asked an organisation to send you advertisements, you will receive those mailings from that organisation. Giving permission to an individual organisation overrides the MPS. This of course explains why there are so many tick boxes and why they are always so small and difficult to find.

I’ve also been registered with the Telephone Preference Service for quite a while now and it’s led to a much quieter life with those nasty sales calls occuring very infrequently. It really does work. If you live in the UK and haven’t registered – do it! It’s free and really is no hassle.

Telephone Preference Service

If you receive regular unwanted mail from a specific company despite being registered with the MPS, you have probably forgotten to tick the opt-out box. To stop such mail you have to contact the sender directly and ask to be removed from its mailing list. By law, organisations are obliged to respect such a request.

You are now more private than when you first logged on..


Join the cause!

Sign the Pledge!

CPH:DOX Copenhagen


The wonderful wonderful people at CPH:DOX in Copenhagen have selected Erasing David to play in their festival.

The film will play in competition for CPH:DOX’s AMNESTY AWARD  – a programme for films that focus on various aspects of the struggle for human rights – and screens on..

Monday 9th November at 16:45 in Cinemateket
Sunday 15th November at 14:00 in Cinemateket



Helping innocent people get off the DNA database..

Genewatch website

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust

A fantastic organisation..

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust


Protect your privacy on Facebook:


It is extremely important that you check your privacy settings in Facebook to insure that one of the largest social networking sites is not using your personal information for it’s own use. Go to Account Settings and check which boxes you have ticked to allow access and copying of your information

The Channel 4 Britdoc Foundation


Our favourite people..


The Production Team


About the Director

David Bond is an award-winning director, producer and writer of documentary, commercial and short film projects. He graduated from the Met Film School in 2004 and since then has completed various film projects exploring social and political themes. ERASING DAVID is David’s first feature documentary. David co-runs production company Green Lions with his creative partner Ashley Jones and is currently in development on several projects including new feature docs, a radio series for the BBC and a book about his adventures on the run.

About the Producer

Ashley Jones co-runs indie production company Green Lions with creative partner David Bond, producing, directing and developing documentary and fiction projects. As well as producing ERASING DAVID, his first feature doc, Ashley recently directed a series of 3 Minute Wonder films for Channel 4 about the UK strip industry, and is currently developing new projects, including three feature docs and a radio documentary series for the BBC.

About the Co-Director/Producer

Melinda McDougall is a freelance filmmaker and journalist who has worked on numerous programmes for Channel 4 and the BBC including Gypsy Wars, Cutting Edge and The Apprentice. She prefers the grittier side of life and is happiest when surrounded by prostitutes, strippers, ticket touts or Irish Travellers.

About the Editors

Steve Barclay and Wojciech Duczmal are both brilliant editors.

About the Associate Producer

Rebecca Lloyd-Evans has previously worked as a producer on high profile projects such as the documentary THE TRIAL OF SADDAM HUSSEIN and as a development producer on nature, science and observational documentaries for world-wide broadcasters. Rebecca previously worked as Head of Development at Rise Films (WE ARE TOGETHER), and was the Associate Producer for Green Lions Films’ ERASING DAVID. She is currently working on a secret factual series for Channel 4.

About the camera

Annemarie Lean-Vercoe and Gavin Northover are both brilliant camerapeople and lovely folk…


DAVID BOND lives in one of the most intrusive surveillance states in the world. He decides to find out how much private companies and the government know about him by putting himself under surveillance and attempting to disappear – a decision that changes his life forever. Leaving his pregnant wife and young child behind, he is tracked across the database state on a chilling journey that forces him to contemplate the meaning of privacy – and the loss of it.

Once the bastion of freedom and civil liberties, the UK is now one of the most advanced surveillance societies in the world – ranked third after Russia and China. The average UK adult is now registered on over 700 databases and is caught daily on one of the 4 million CCTV cameras located on nearly every street corner in the country. Increasingly monitored, citizens are being turned into suspects. But if you’ve got nothing to hide, surely there’s nothing to fear?

When David receives a letter informing him that his daughter Ivy is among 25 million residents whose details have been lost by the government’s Child Benefit Office, he begins a journey that will see him hounded across Europe.

David soon discovers some alarming truths about what the government and private companies already know about ordinary citizens. He meets people who have been caught in the crossfire of the database state and have had their lives shattered.

As his concern grows, he makes a life-changing decision. He will leave his pregnant wife and child behind and put himself under surveillance for thirty days. The UK’s top Private Investigators are hired to discover everything they can about him and his family – and track David down as he attempts to vanish. Is it still possible to live a private, anonymous life in the UK?  Or do the state and private companies already know too much about ordinary people?

Forced to contemplate the meaning of privacy – and the loss of it, David’s disturbing journey leaves him with no doubt that although he has nothing to hide, he certainly has something to fear…



We like Scroogle. has all the benefits of Google with none of the privacy issues….  Please note, we are not endorsing scroogle[dot]com in any way.

Also check out Google Sharing.

census 2011


The 2011 Census is pointless, out of date and wasteful – and that’s just what the government says about it. A Census form has just landed on my doormat.  Should I fill it in? Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said last year there were alternatives to the census that could provide “better, quicker information more frequently and cheaper.”  The 2011 Census will cost around £500m.  Eric Pickles MP reported how councils had been short-changed of government funding from use of out of date information from the 2001 census.  Yet it makes sense that the government should know who and what we all are, right?

Please help me answer the following questions about the Census:
1. Is the Census is essential for government and business planning, or effectively useless because it is expensive, inaccurate, and quickly out of date?
2. Is our Census data is trusted and respected worldwide, or do other countries have just as good, and more cost effective ways of  at knowing about their citizens?
3. Is Census data still a great source for genealogy, or is wrong to assume that in 100 years time we’ll need census data to know about our ancestors?
4. Is it good for employment to run a census, or are the jobs it creates temporary?
5. Is census data really confidential for 100 years, and is it a concer that the information you provide will be shared with lots of other organisations, including EU member states, public bodies, and approved researchers?
6. Is census information high quality, or is there evidence that many people lie in their return? Some say that the 2001 census ‘missed’ 900,000 men under 40.
7. Should we be proud of playing their part in the census, or proud of the long history of public resentment of and resistance to the census?  In the 1800s census officers had to be given police protection; in 1911 the suffragettes boycotted it in protest; and in the 50s TV publicity told people it wasn’t “just another bit of snooping”.
8. Can small and growing communities use census statistics to help gain recognition, or is that a political decision – after all, 390,127 people recorded their religion as Jedi in 2001, and they have yet to be officially recognised.  And does the census underestimate British Jews, precisely because some of that community are nervous of officials knowing where they live?
9. Is completing the census easy, quick and safe, or do new questions intrude more than ever (new required data: details of employer’s addresses, details of visitors to your house, and where they usually live)?
10. Is our personal information protected, or with thousands of people involved, and large commercial contractors and government agencies processing data, should we worry about data security?
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