Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Overlord returns to the track

It is no secret that many years and several pounds of excess weight ago I used to do a bit of motorcycle racing, with quite a bit of success as far as it went. A few weeks ago I was invited to take part in an endurance race, riding as part of a team with my old friend Ian Hutchinson. because there is no fool like an old fool, I agreed.

the upshot is that Ian and I shall be competing at a four hour endurance event at Langbargh circuit near Middlesbrough on, get this, the 30th of December 2015! Madness! 

In order to make this venture worthwhile it occurs to me that it would be a nice idea to attempt to use the spectacle of an overweight, middle aged brewery magnate wobbling around on a motorcycle for hours on end in terrible winter conditions to do a bit of good for Great Heck Brewery's charity of choice, namely Yorkshire Air Ambulance. To that end I'll be reaching out to all our customers and my friends to stump up some cash.

Great Heck Brewery will match the total of donations up to £100 and add it to the contribution to YAA. 

Here's a link to a justgiving page so you can make a contribution if you so wish.


Friday, 18 September 2015

What do parents have the right to consent to on behalf of children?

Earlier this week I received a letter from school telling me that they want my kids' fingerprints so they can operate a cashless system in the canteen. My letter to the headmistress can be seen here: http://greatheckbrewery.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/yesterday-i-received-letter-from-my.html

The issue has been fermenting in my brain to the point that it woke me up at 5am this morning and caused me to write this email to Human Rights Watch's Joanna Nowak. I hope you find it interesting.

Dear Joanna,

Earlier this week I received a letter from my children's school stating that they are to implement a cashless system in the canteen, it said that they 'Require' their fingerprints to operate it. There is an opt-out available with a lower level of security, which I will be taking them up on.

I find the idea of harvesting biometric data from school children very disturbing for reasons which are set out in this blog post (a reproduction of my letter to the headmistress).  http://greatheckbrewery.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/yesterday-i-received-letter-from-my.html

Since publicising this in my small way it has come to my attention that this practice is widespread and it occurs to me that, in addition to the concerns laid out in my letter, there is a human rights issue in relation to the right of the children whose parents consent to this practice. When those kids become adults they will have the right to withhold their fingerprints from the authorities except in certain circumstances, e.g. they are subject to a criminal investigation. If their parents have previously consented to their fingerprints or other biometric information having been taken whilst they were too young to give consent themselves then their right to withhold is effectively nullified. The State already has the information without their consent.

As my letter to school says, I do not impute any sinister motive to the schools in collecting this data but I believe that its very existence is very dangerous and that the school system has no right to collect such data in order to operate such schemes.

The school replied to my letter without addressing any of my concerns, justifying the scheme by saying "We are one of the few schools in East Yorkshire not already doing this." A line of reasoning which never used to work on teachers when I was at school.

My children are very keen to be a part of this scheme but I won't let them. They are being conditioned to give up their rights literally in return for food. It amounts to grooming the population for subservience to the State whilst they are at their most susceptible. I don't think that a parent should have the right to consent to this on behalf of their children any more than they should have the right to consent to anything else which requires adult consent, for example marriage.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this and whether you'd be interested in helping to give the issue some publicity.

All The Best,

Denzil Vallance

(PS: A select few people are already following this saga so I will be making this email public.)

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Snaith School to harvest fingerprints from children

NOTE: There is a follow up to this article here.

Yesterday I received a letter from my children's school saying they 'require' the fingerprints of the children so that they can operate a cashless system in the canteen. Here is my response, please share far and wide:

Harwinn House, Main Street
Great Heck
DN14 0BQ
Tel: 01977 661430
Mob: 077233 81002
Regd. No. 05967347
17 September 2015

Jean Pickerill
The Snaith School
Pontefract Rd,
DN14 9LB

Dear Ms Pickerill,

I am writing in response to the letter I received yesterday about the new cashless system you are set to introduce for the children on October 12th. I will certainly not be giving permission for my children to have their fingerprints registered on your scheme. In fact I don’t even feel that I have a moral right to give such a permission on their behalf if they are deemed too young to do so themselves. They are not my property, they are people.

My reason for writing to you is not my attitude to my own children but far more importantly my deep concerns about the very existence of such a scheme in , of all places, a school. First of all I would like to make clear that I do not impute any sinister motive to the school in the implementation of the system. My concern is that with the best will in the world and the most diligent application of data protection rules the very existence of biometric records of school children (I can barely believe I just had to type that phrase) is terribly dangerous.

During the German occupation of France during the Second World War, municipal and school records which had been collected for legitimate reasons and carefully stored away were used for perverted purposes by the occupying Nazis. Huge numbers of people were deported, robbed, used as slaves, for medical experiments and executed.

I don’t doubt that as your letter states, the fingerprint is stored as an algorithm but this is pretty academic. The fact is that unless it were possible to recognise the child from his or her fingerprint using the system it would be useless. Imagine the consequences for the entire cohort of children if this technology and information were to fall into the hands of those who wished to do down certain groups of them. Especially given that the school and other State institutions routinely collect information about the ethnicity and religion of the kids. (I don’t co-operate with that either by the way.)

It is all very well that there is no public record of my Children’s race or religion and that you won’t take their fingerprints but even so, the very lack of this information in relation to a small group could, if the records fell into the wrong hands, be used to mark that group out as trouble makers.

Furthermore by implementing this system on a cohort of impressionable young kids you would be conditioning them to give biometric information away willy-nilly before they are old enough to consent to it themselves. We are already one of the most routinely CCTV photographed populations in the World. Surely it is my job as a parent and yours as an educator to warn children of the dangers of this kind of intrusion. Not to soften them up for a life of being snooped on by the State.

I have nothing against a chashless system in principle. They have been operated in numerous workplaces over many years using a card and PIN system.

Therefore I implore you to abandon this new scheme altogether, substituting a card and pin system in its place or at least delay it so that the case against it may be put to other parents who may not have considered these points fully before giving consent. At the very least I would ask you to circulate this letter to all parents giving it equal prominence to the letter I received yesterday.

I shall also be writing to local MPs and media and I shall tell them as I tell you now that other than on this issue I am very impressed with Snaith School and that I would recommend it to anyone.

Best Regards

NOTE: There is a follow up to this article here.