...government-based initiatives for transparency need to grow, but it needs to be done properly, not in the wasteful and cash-hungry methods currently used by recent British governments that provide a poor, often unusable end-product at a vastly inflated price.
What role should open-source software play in local and national government use, and what would you do to promote its use over that of proprietary software?
The Pirate Party UK believes that open-source software can play an important role in government and the public sector, although there is certainly still a place for proprietary software — it is simply a matter of the best tool for the job.
We pledge to implement the [current] government's own Open Source Action Plan, which is currently being ignored. In many cases, open-source software can not only reduce costs, but can also offer improvements on proprietary equivalents, in addition to enabling greater transparency by making the workings of the machinery of government departments available for inspection by all via the source code. At the same time, open-source software should not be seen as a panacea; decisions should be made on this, like all topics, based on all the facts and an honest, open analysis of the situation.
How would you balance citizens' online privacy against protecting commercial interests? The cases of Phorm and the Digital Economy Bill's copyright clauses are relevant to this question.
Citizens' right to online privacy is as important as their right to offline privacy. ISPs should not be able to monitor an individual's connection in the same way that it is unacceptable for Royal Mail to open their post — something that the government is currently trying to change. No exception should be made simply because the internet is involved.
It is never acceptable for internet connections to be surveilled without a warrant, as it is unacceptable for all other forms of communication. Excluding means such as well-declared private CCTV to protect private property, all secretive surveillance should be classed as a criminal offence.
What is your e-health policy and will it include contracting patient data out to third parties?
The use of a medical database that has been tested and proved to be both reliable and secure will help both patients and doctors in all areas of medical care. The current paper-based system has many systemic issues — for example, files have to be physically moved between locations — and electronic records easily overcome these problems.
The problem arises when the data is not kept secure; something the government has become notorious for. We hope to solve this by requiring that private data be strongly encrypted and allowing people to claim compensation if their data has been 'misplaced'. There is very easy to use encryption software available for this purpose, and there is no excuse for a government data breach such as those this country has seen recently. An NHS database can be a huge benefit if implemented properly.
Only by enforcing a system of net neutrality can we really ensure that customers have an acceptable level of service and that businesses can operate freely.
Issues relating to the contracting-out of data are best left to the hospitals concerned. If it can truly help patients and the data can be handled securely, and if it can be done with the knowledge and permission of patients, then there is little reason to restrict it.
Which major government IT projects would you drop or change, and why?
Whoever wins the next election will need to find cuts in order to balance the budget. The Pirate Party UK believes that some of these cuts should fall on costly, over-budget and possibly unnecessary government databases.
Of particular concern is the National Identity Register (NIR) and the insidious ID card scheme that accompanies it. While the current government has already recognised that the scheme is unpopular and has made minor concessions, we would severely limit the NIR's scope and abolish the national ID card project. While this might ostensibly seem like lagging behind some of the other parties, which have promised to abolish the NIR, it is extremely likely that while the NIR itself will be axed by those parties, they will initiate another project with the same aims and methods, just with a different name.
Of equal concern to us is the DNA database. The government has already lost cases in the European Court of Human Rights and...