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Friday, July 11, 2008

Surveillance and stupidity

Searching for something else, I came across Camilla Cavendish, writing on Times Online. She is right to say that

The latest proposal by Home Office officials, to hold every telephone call and e-mail in the UK, described as a “crucial tool” for protecting national security and preventing crime, is wholly disproportionate.

[From We're a nation of interfering traffic wardens | Camilla Cavendish - Times Online]

But it's more than merely disproportionate: Delivering that kind of power to petty bureaucrats, especially British petty bureaucrats, actually stimulates, encourages and invites the kind of distressing behaviour that we imagine to be the torment of the hapless inhabitants of Burma or North Korea. Just as the Regulation of Invesitgatory Powers Act (RIPA) ended up being used by councils -- at great expense -- to stop parents from sneaking their children into State Education Camp No.913 when they should be going to State Education Camp No. 914, I firmly expect the government's great e-mail database to be utterly useless in finding Osama bin Laden but invaluable to Woking Borough Council when investigating important cases of people not shutting their rubbish bins properly. By matching the e-mail trail to the DNA database to the CCTV photos, they'll have you bang to rights if you put too much in your bin (too much being now defined as more than a binman, sorry binperson, can easily move with two fingers.

I know which way my two fingers are pointing. One of the reasons why I'm beginning to think it unlikely that my children will ever decide to stay and seek their fortune in this green and pleasant land is that the steady erosion of fundamental liberties -- for no good purpose -- is becoming so commonplace that it is scarcely remarked on.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

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