The storm before the storm

11 December 2005

As ministers from the WTO's 149 member states settled in to Hong Kong's shiniest hotels, local migrant workers and the vanguards of the international contingents of protesters took to the streets for the opening rally of what promises to be an incendiary week.


Among the 4,000 who set the ball rolling with chants of "our world is not for sale" was the first batch of thunderous Korean farmers. Immigration officials look forward to welcoming a further 1,500 tomorrow.

Also in evidence were several hundred of Hong Kong's 97,000 Indonesian migrant workers, almost all of whom work as domestic servants. The vast majority of them had received, via their employers, a letter from the Indonesian consulate warning them that the Hong Kong police had prison sells with their names on them. That, it seems, was an empty threat. Nonetheless, according to a reliable local hack, any plucky migrant spotted on the march can expect the sack.

Obvious a slogan as "people before profit" might seem, it reflects a worrying reality. Word is that the EU may push a last ditch deal in which Britain's rebate would be put on the table in exchange for the French committing to a review of the Common Agricultural Policy. By way of recompense for such magnanimity, developing countries would be impolitely asked to tear open their manufacturing and services markets. More than one Asian peasant was close to tears today as he contemplated the ruination such a deal would visit on his family.

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.

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