Blogging the US Capitol

19 December 2005
Saturday: Unlike the UN, the US Captiol has no wireless internet, so I will have to post this later. Would have been way more cool to do it live. Who do I complain to?

My friend works for the office of the Clerk and I am waiting for Congress to come to agreement on a bunch of legislation so we can go out to dinner. I write this from the secrecy of the friends and family room of the House, which is situated directly opposite the entrance to the House Gallery. From here they vote ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ by inserting plastic cards into machines. Earlier, some very unruly politicians pretended to be listening to a proposal on cervical cancer screening. Tension is brewing as decisions later concern immigration and defence appropriation. This is why everyone is in on a Saturday.

The family room is fully equipped with a kitchen, sofas and a playpen for children. It feels like somebody’s living room. I’ve been told the upstairs section where I am sitting with my laptop is a good place for naps. On the bookshelf there are a number of Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, and Thomas Friedman books, and a triumphant number of novels by Nora Roberts. Two religious titles: Jesus, who is he? and The Mark: The beast rules the World.

Some trivia: A bullet hole from the day when Puerto Rican nationalists stormed the Congress in 1954 is still visible just to the right of the Speaker.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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