Uproar has finally started over people realising that they have a right to keep their personal data private. IrishWater have been facilitated by their friends in the media to explain their position, but sadly their explanations fall short. Equally as unfortunate is the fact that pretty much every media outlet is not challenging IrishWater, whether this is due to the fact that IrishWater are currently spending a very large advertising budget or due to a corrupt media class is something you can judge for yourself.
For those of you that are not aware of what exactly your PPS number is and why its important in relation to the current situation, here is a quick explanation. A PPS number is a unique identifier for a person, sometimes used so government services can verify who you are to make sure you are not using government services or allowances twice. It’s essentially an ID number. In the world of software and databases, this is called a “Key”. This key unlocks the door and allows the viewing of sensitive data such as Name, address and date of birth. As explained in a previous post, this information is invaluable to marketing companies and other private organisations.
IrishWater say they want your PPS number to verify that the data you supplied to IrishWater is correct. Once verified, IrishWater will no longer store your PPS number or sell it to anybody (note they have finished denying that the company and its database will be sold). That’s all well and good, but the problem is that once IrishWater have verified your data to be correct, it’s in their database with their own unique ID or “Key”. So, for all intents and purposes, IrishWater have effectively made a copy of your “Key”, and a very large chunk of a government database. IrishWater have been saying that other utilities such as telephone companies have PPS numbers, however this is stretching the truth. Fixed line telecom companies get PPS numbers for senior citizens claiming an allowance. Small databases are not worth much, the value in the IrishWater data is the entirety of its database,it will cover almost every address and every citizen in the country. Especially valuable in the future is the data belonging to the children of today.
A public database is being moved into private hands by stealth. There is no doubt at all that the entire process is fundamentally flawed. The question must now be is whether this is due incompetence or the actual plan all along was to build a valuable database as a saleable asset. Considering that a number of the senior managers in IrishWater came from the Poolbeg incinerator project, questions need to be asked. Was the €100 million spent on that project without any explanations due to incompetence or was that trick planned all along also?
An IrishWater PR person was on the radio telling us that there have been communication issues in relation to the whole PPS issue. What sort of an explanation is that? IrishWater are spending a whopping €180 million (of our money) on establishing itself and still cannot explain what is going on. Imagine going into an expensive restaurant and paying up front for the most expensive meal, the chef then arrives over with your meal and says “I don’t really know what’s wrong with the food, but you should eat it anyway”. This all smells like another Poolbeg (the sewage plant this time).
What’s even more curious is the silence from other arms of the state in relation to this. Silence from the line Minister in charge. The Data Protection Commissioner has gone to ground. IrishWater and their friends in the media have been busying spouting the line that the commissioner approves of the gathering PPS of numbers, however last Friday a notice appeared on the IrishWater website stating that “Please see below our updated Data Protection Notice that we are currently reviewing with the office of the Data Protection Commissioner”. So, IrishWater are busy scaring people into handing over very important data without any permission. Why the rush? Remember, once you hand it over, your privacy is gone.
The privatisation of such a large database is very bad for the privacy and lives of citizens. We already know that privatisation of public assets is good for a select few connected insiders and bad for the public. A lot of you reading this will be too young to remember what happened with Eircom, Eircom used to be called Telecom Eireann, a state run telecoms service. It was incredibly inefficient, so the decision was made to privatise it. Since it was privatised, it’s been asset stripped and sold a number of times. We now have a poor broadband infrastructure due to under investment in this now crucial asset. The story about how citizens were conned into parting with their money to “invest” in shares is one for another day, but a quick Google will tell all. A quick Google about the sale of the ESAT telecoms license will also tell you a lot. Is it a coincidence that FG and Denis O’Brien are now all over IrishWater?
Strange how public assets are privatised and private losses are socialised? The banks went bust and all sorts of laws were passed over night to ensure that the taxpayers would take a loan to bailout the banks. This was sold to as a bailout for Ireland, it was not a bailout for Ireland, it was a bailout for bankers. It was a loan to the taxpayers. To repay this loan, we now must sell our most important assets, our data and our water. We don’t know how valuable a resource our data and water will be in 20 years. We do know our population is growing, so water will be an increasingly scare resource. At least when it’s in public ownership we have control. Will our children and grandchildren forgive us for giving away such a precious resource? Why should we be selling our assets to pay off debts that are not ours?
Our media’s lack of interest in questioning IrishWater is expected. We know RTE is a propaganda arm of the government, we know who owns most of the rest of our national media. So, it’s up to us to bail ourselves out. We have social media and its time to spread the message that it’s OUR data and OUR water. If we refuse to hand over our PPS numbers, then it makes the sale of IrishWater a lot more difficult.
Spread the word,get on Twitter,Facebook and other sharing services and tell your friends why you are keeping your data private.
They have robbed enough from us already.
We are not letting it happen again.