Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Big Brother

We live in a country where:

We are monitored by 4 million CCTV cameras, an ever increasing number, making us the most watched nation in the world. There is one CCTV camera for every 14 people in the UK. If you live in London you are likely to be on cameras 300 times a day. According to a 2004 European Commission report, Britain has the highest density of CCTV cameras in Europe. It found then that 40,000 cameras monitored public areas in 500 British towns and cities, compared to fewer than 100 cameras in 15 German cities and no open street CCTV at all in Denmark. In the past decade the Home Office has spent 78% of its crime prevention budget on CCTV, before assessing its effectiveness in deterring or detecting crime.

We have the largest police DNA database in the world, according to a recent House of Lords report, with more than 7% of the population having their samples stored already, whether they have committed a crime or not. This compares with 0.5% in the US. It took a normal, everyday bloke who had committed no crime to take a case right up to the European Court to even get the Government to look at reviewing this.

There are 1,000 surveillance requests every day by ‘state’ organisations.

5,000 schools now fingerprint their pupils for registration, using the library or buying school meals etc.

Your NHS records do not belong to you, they are NHS property. You may not have them, even if you ask really nicely.

Countless organisations hold electronic information on you: your local council, HMRC, your bank, insurance companies, fuck me even Tesco with it’s ClubCard.

Local authorities use terrorism legislation to check whether you are sending your children to the right school, or who is putting their dustbins out on the wrong day, or who is dog fouling the local streets. Councils want to introduce computer chipping of rubbish bins.

By law, ISPs have to retain your email messages for one year. The police have access to mobile phone tracking information. Our Labour Government wants to expand forced retention of mobile phone calls and email messages.

From last month, if you are flying to the USA, you must submit your personal information three days in advance so that the US authorities can check you out.

And Labour desperately wants to introduce ID cards.

A little while ago, and I forget the exact numbers or the exact reference, David Dimbleby on BBC Question Time stated that before Labour came to power only a handful (4-6) organisations could ‘surveil’ you, now over 700 can, including every local authority in the country.

There is always a logical argument for the state to want more data on its citizens, to more efficiently cut crime, to target the evil, to stop tax dodgers etc. Freedom is always inconvenient for the forces of the state. Freedom is often inefficient.

But ‘freedom’ is a fragile thing, usually hard fought for and always given away at your peril.

We have allowed our freedom to be eroded by stealth. (Liberty has frankly been asleep on the job). We have reached the moment where we need to pull back.

I am a law abiding citizen who happily used to carry an armed forces ID card, but I am implacably opposed to the national ID card scheme.

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