15 September 2008

Invasion of Privacy

Staying on the same theme of 'Big Brother', invasion of privacy and the like, let me bring to your attention (if you are not already aware) of a few examples of Big Brother at work in the UK.

The Guardian newspaper in the UK has written a piece stating that in the near future 50m car licence plates will be captured on camera - in short, all movements by vehicles will be tracked. The data will be stored and therefore used by the 'authorities' for up to five years. Some of the reasons given are to...wait for it...fight terrorism.
That isn't the worst thing about this. The worst, most horrifying thing is 'pilot studies' have already been and are already being conducted on 10m vehicles and the UK citizens have allowed this to happen. A few murmurs here and there but nothing major. Nothing to stop the creeping surveillance being inflicted on people.

Now that people are being affected by a 'shock' recession, higher food prices, higher heating bills, higher water bills, higher mortgages, a housing market that has crashed so houses remain unsold if not offered at bargain bottom prices, higher public transport costs, more unemployment as employers lay off workers, higher rates of depression and anxiety, etc. etc. What better time to tighten the screws, to tell the misguided, weakened, forlorn populace about the new measures being introduced to protect them from 'Al Quaeda' (an imaginary organisation dreamt up and created by those who know better)?

And then there are the ID cards: The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, has warned against the introduction of them and has cast severe doubt about the usefulness and purpose of monitoring people to the degree that is being proposed by the government.
Millions of individuals' personal data has gone missing over the last few years - stored on Cd's, flash drives, hard drives and laptops - personal data regarding prisoners, child benefit claimants, drivers and so on.

What worries me is how can the government guarantee that personal data about me will be kept securely and only divulged to the minimum number of persons under specified circumstances? Not that I agree to any data of this type being stored about me, but how could they assure me that a centralised database is safe? How will they use this information and why do they need to collect it from me in the first place?
I am aware of someone who paid a private detective to obtain print-outs of the bank statements of another person they were in dispute with. A fee was paid and the documents were received. The person who entered the bank database and obtained the requested information was a bank employee, someone who had been vetted and was a trusted person but had a nice little earner on the side. Just one example.

The fact that a government minister or their agents tell me that my information is safe with them gives me no comfort, in fact, it is the stuff of nightmares, actually. That the state feels it necessary to gather data on the masses to that degree presents serious long-term problems for the people and we seem not to care very much.

So...my point is that if people don't wake up and wake up soon the police state will have gained such a firm hold that it will be difficult to turn the clock back and reject the impositions that will affect generations to come. If you have children...think about it. Not to scare you into submission nor action but just to at least think about it. It is happening and it is happening now.

Related Links:

A Surveillance Society - House of Commons, Home Affairs Committee Fifth Report of Session 2007–08 - pdf

Warning over 'talking CCTV' plans - BBC 2007

Watchdogs 'alarm' over ID Cards -BBC 2004

SpyBlog.org.uk - 'Watching Them, Watching Us'


ImitationAngel said...

That's pretty bad but I remember seeing a story where the average person is recorded at least 7 times a day whether they realize it or not. I just wonder if we really need to be seen on someone's screen 24/7.

Fennster said...

That's a scary thing to think about that it's almost becoming a reality. The governments already have enough power, this would almost put them to God status. I hate "Big Brother"

Bent Society said...

Zee - check this story out. It happened a couple of months ago in Nottingham... the story is going to become all to common I think


It's like the "boiled frog principle" - you drop a frog into a pan of boiling water and it will leap out to safety. Sit it in a pan of cold water and then heat to boiling and the frog has no idea untill it's too late.

Once they have budgets ring-frnced for this spy technology you set a monster in motion that is hard to stop. Accountants and other jobsworth bean counters and petty tyrants will ensure the money is spent before the end of each new financial year to ensure they get the same next year. Result? More and more CCTV all over our poor land.

They now have them on housing estates!

Jacqueline said...

I feel like taking up residence in a cave in Bora Bora.

Political Disgust said...

with computers getting more and more advanced what did people think was going to happen. soon they will be installed in walls, doors, and virtually everything. this is just the beginning. Silly old movies like Demolition Man (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106697/) with everything monitored could EASILY become a reality!


Bent Society said...

Zee - re your comment about this issue on the Bent Society Blog...and here too...

One way might be to unite the bloggers on this issue. There must be tens of thousands of complaints about the concept - there may be a few hundred or more complaints about its misuse among the blogging community. We have a lot to say on this issue - as do so many mainstream journalists. But nobody is listening to any of us. Why not?

I think it's for the following reasons:

T (1) he budgets are in place and have to be spent or lost, (2)it’s being sold as a crime remedy, deterrent and detection aide (moral high ground) - (3) lack of privacy in a public place is not much of an argument against it. In terms of what happened that night in Nottingham - where is my proof?

So what can we do about it?

Personally I don't believe CCTV is cost effective in many of the areas where it is mean to be of benefit - and there is its weakness. CCTV is yet another cure all quack cure. It's meant to help with social ills - but has never been properly evaluated. That should be a crime in itself - because -for example- it would be a crime to use untested expensive quack cures in he NHS. It should be criminal also for the police and local authorities to do so in terns of spending tax payer’s money on unproven schemes such as CCTV.

Here is where we need to campaign - "END THE QUACKERY IN POLICING!" That is their weak spot.

CCTV needs a proper national monitoring and evaluation of its effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. That is where we should campaign if we want change.

Ask yourself this one question: if they want it so much (and they do because CCTV is everywhere) then why not evaluate it to justify it and silence all the critics? Could it be because they know it will not stand up to scientific scrutiny?