Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Big Brother

It seems almost inconceivable, but it might actually be true, The Home Office is proposing the creation of a gigantic database that would log every phone call, every e-mail and every website that is visited from Britain.

The nominal excuse- as usual- is "to combat terrorism". However it represents a truly vast invasion of the privacy of British Citizens. It reflects a culture amongst some key elements of the security agencies and law enforcement officers that people are all guilty until proven innocent.

This is the mindset that has already made the UK the most spied on free society in the world- 4.2 million cameras, which represents a staggering one camera for every 14 people. Yet a series of investigations have shown essentially no impact on crime figures from the use of CC cameras at all.

These same agencies are those that support the use of ID cards- a further invasion of privacy- and yet can not guarantee the security of the data that is collected at almost any level.

It is not enough to speak out about civil rights. The time has come to respond to the co-ordinated position of these individuals with a joined-up response of our own. In my opinion a legal right to privacy needs to be adequately defined- preferably with constitutional force. Strict limits need to be set as to what the State is and is not allowed to hold on individuals, and that the individual should have the right to know and to challenge the information held on them in government information systems. A genuine freedom of information act, based on full transparency, must now be established.

Accountability is at the heart of the democratic system- the secretive and closed state that has been created in recent years has no business holding so much information on individuals and in the end it may prove to be a more than hypothetical restriction on our freedoms.

The very basis of our liberty is not "those that have nothing to hide have nothing to fear" but that that we are all "innocent until proven guilty". Our surveillance society is not safer and neither does it adequately protect the data it holds.

It should be dismantled.

6 comments:

Newmania said...

Well I quite agree and that is an excellent post.

loveandgarbage said...

Thank you for that post. This is a topic where the country seems ignorant of the problems, or have a mindset - expressed on radio phone ins - that "if you've done nothing wrong you've nothing to hide". A wonderful riposte to that.

I have posted on this today and there is a very good piece in The Register indicating some of the technical problems with the proposal.

Jock Coats said...

When they brought in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and at the time we had a civil liberties policy working party going on that I attended, before ID cards were really mentioned, I suggested that we should each have a sort of a "nuclear key" ID mechanism of our own, and any data held by any government agency about us could only be accessed if the member of staff wanting access had their key AND some authentication inputs from the data subject themselves so effectively no civil servant could access your data without your express permission each time. Unweildy? Perhaps, but that was partly the idea!

Golly - not that I remember personally, but to think that once upon a time not so terribly long ago a different tax officer would deal with each of different schedules in your tax return so that no one civil servant ever was supposed to know exactly how much you were worth in total. Halcyon days!

Cicero said...

Too right Jock! I think privacy is an area that we as aa partyshould really go a whole bundle on...

Cicero said...

Too right Jock! I think privacy is an area that we as a partyshould really go a whole bundle on...

Martin said...

Good Job! :)