NIS – Big Brother’s Spooky Geeks

NIS, Labour’s spooky Data Centre in Hemel Hempstead is very interesting. The high-security data back-up service that, errr, doesn’t back up, was formerly McDonnell Douglas Information Systems (MDIS) – part of the giant U.S. Defence Contractor. Nice to know that Labour’s membership list data is in reliable hands.

MDIS / NIS gets a lot of public-sector work and contracts. Public-sector contracts are notoriously murky especially when they are not put out to tender, such as after MDIS/NIS took decision makers and wives on an all expenses paid weekend away. Wakefield’s District Auditor’s report into the awarding of a multi-million pound contract by councillors without any other bids being sort is scathing – the police investigated the less than transparent dealings but no criminal charges were laid – the councillors responsible were the then Labour leader and deputy leader. They have since stepped down.

NIS also do the speed camera software, they do local authorities, the congestion charge, some Scottish NHS stuff, 999 call handling and of course, The Big Conversation. Quid custodiet ipsos custodes? Well, its all automated by a Pentagon contractor, not just any old contractor, but a contractor associated with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) developers of a tracking system called “Total Information Awareness” (TIA). The goal of which was to track individuals through collecting as much information about them as possible using computer algorithms and human analysis to detect potential activity.

The project called for the development of “revolutionary technology for ultra-large all-source information repositories,” which would contain information from multiple sources to create a “virtual, centralized, grand database.” This database would be populated by transaction data contained in current databases such as financial records, medical records, communication records, and travel records as well as new sources of information.

The U.S. Congress defunded the project in 2003 amidst privacy concerns, but nothing to worry about here in the UK. After all, the DARPA research did give us Londoners a by-product on the cheap, MI5’s favourite surveillance toy, the congestion charge camera network. So its no surprise that Stephen Lander, ex-head of MI5, was a non-exec director of NIS. Go scare yourself.




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