Since I was sufficiently outraged to write an article about the goverment’s latest move to increase its powers to spy on the its own citizens, there has been a healthy and, for the most part, positive response. It is clear that there are many people out there that share most, if not all of my sentiments and are able, and willing to add their voice, or blog, to the cause by reproducing the article with their own comments or thoughts. For all of those people that have done this, I would like to offer my thanks and I would also urge those who have not, that believe the state is gaining too much power, to do likewise and reprint my article, or a version of their own, based on the same theme. Please feel free to use as much of the content of my article as you wish.
Over at ShrewMammal.com, the author has introduced his own way of indicating his disgust at the was in which this government is steadily increasing its ability to spy on the public by stealth. He is urging people to include the tag ‘RESIST‘ in all like minded posts and has included a logo which I have included on the front of my own blog. Several people have also suggested that I join NO2ID and the Open Rights Group. I think this was good advice and I will act on these suggestions. However, there is a caveat to all this, because I remain convinced that we all need to act as individuals as well as groups.
There is a real risk that if we leave the arguments to dedicated and well-meaning groups, that we do, by default, pass our individual responsibility for doing something tangible to others. I know it is possible to participate in these groups and have your personal views considered and taken into account. That said, surely it is better to join and support these groups as well as making a noise on our own? Part of the reason that government’s are able to introduce such draconian laws is because we are represented as groups and not individuals. It is much easier for government to target and rubbish groups, than it is the entire electorate, they do it all of the time. At least that is my view.
I shall live by my own argument, I will support groups that have similar values to my own, whilst continuing to disseminate my own views and I will try garner as much support for these arguments as I can with other like minded people. That way we get the best of both worlds!
With the level of information that is gathered on every single individual in this country and the government’s powers to access it, there is little or nothing that we can do or say which cannot be accessed by government through the introduction of new legislation. In fact, it is not just government’s that has access, to this information, but tools of government, the police, security services, local authorities, customs and excise, even commercial organisations, such as insurance companies, parking companies and so on. Many of the laws that have been introduced have been brought about by the risk of terrorism and the need to combat it. But lets be honest, there is no rhyme or reason why everyone of us, all 65m, should become ‘suspects’ for the sake of tracking a few thousand individuals with questionable or even life-threatening motives. I can only speak from a personal perspective, but I would sooner face the minute risk of becoming a victim, rather than see so much state control and interference in my everyday life.
I am also, personally, sick and tired of the vocal, perhaps even well-meaning individuals, that insist that anyone who objects to this level of surveillance and government intrusion must have something to hide. This is utter bullshit. I have nothing to hide, in fact, I am quite willing to publicise my views on this blog, come what may. Government’s throughout the years have relied on a sheep mentality, they indoctrinate through the media, everyone’s thoughts in terms of the risks of terrorist attack, in order to justify their latest attack on our civil liberties and entrenched right to privacy. The sheep take it hook line and sinker. The sheep show no sign of being able to think as individuals, they think if something is published in the press, then it must be true, if something is said by a politician, then it must be accurate, that if someone is wearing a suit…available for under a £100 at Matalan, then they must know better. What a sad, sad state of affairs.
I believe that everyone is entitled to their own point of view, but this must be based on considering both sides of the case. I have considered carefully the views held by the sheep, but I remain to be convinced that 65m people should be spied on for the sake of catching a handful of people that may wish us harm. Throughout the ages, the masses have always been under threat, from war, terrorism, facism and so on. This Government has made no attempt to tell us precisely why they need so much information, instead, they just tell us that is is “necessary to combat terrorism and serious crime”. So next time I buy a car, if they salesman says it is a great car and he is wearing a suit, I should just buy it?
This is by no means exhaustive, but it is worth looking at how many databases are out there that contain information on our everyday habits and lives, not just government controlled, many are commercial, but of course, government bodies can have access to anything that is contained on a database, often without any court order, simply with the authorisation of a senior member of management. Some of these databases are essential, others and I mean the majority, highly controversial, particularly given the level detail held and the easy access by anyone with a suit!
· The DVLA hold a massive database on the cars that we own, or have owned in the past. Whether they have insurance, an MOT and the details of the registered owner. This information is even on sale to commercial companies.
· ANPR and CCTV cameras monitor our every move, there are some 4.2m CCTV cameras in the UK, many on the road networks, so our journeys can literally be tracked from camera to camera. ANPR can be used to track individual cars using number plate recognition
· Oyster cards, both in their current format and that proposed, can track our movements on any form of public transport.
· Many vehicles now has SatNav fitted or trackers, this is a further instrument allowing the authorities to track movements with reverse engineering.
· More and more of our records are now held on a database and once the current multi-billion pound project is completed, we can expect everything, our full health history to be held on a database. Authorities, or maybe even commercial organisations, can access this information at will. They could find out when we have had colds, if we have suffered from any communicable diseases, if we have terminal ilnnesses, how many children we have, if we have ever suffered from depression, you name it, they know it. Often our most intimate details, that have been entrusted to someone that has signed the Hippocratic oath.
· The advent of loyalty cards allows commercial companies, such as supermarkets and other consumer goods stores to track what we buy, how often, what we pay and so on. In fact, from this information alone, you can get a very accurate picture of an individuals life. If it is on a database, the authorities can access it.
· Government’s now insist of exchanging information on passengers incuded on their manifest, air, sea etc. So now they know where we travel, what for, what method of transport we prefer, how much we paid, how long we stayed etc.
· Passports will soon include more and more information, including, if the government gets its way, an iris scan, maybe even our DNA. There has also been a suggestion that passports include a microchip, which can be used to track movements (RFID).
· Governments and its agencies have long had the right to tap telephones, albeit this had to be authorised at a very senior level within government or the judiciary. Not any more, already, government agencies routinely monitor telephone calls, internet traffic, email, mobile phone calls and text messages. Now they wish to include this on a massive database, information that will have to be held for 2 years. Before, there was the option for a ‘service provider’ to request an independent review, to determine whether the information being requested was legitimate, lawful and reasonable. Now the government even wants to remove that right. Why, if they have nothing to hide? Government is now also insisting that passports are used when a prepaid phone is purchased.
· Mobile phones can also be tracked via cell site analysis, so our every move can be tracked for the past 2 years, it is not entirely accurate, but it can provide a pretty good picture. With more and more phones now having GPS installed as standard, this information will be accurate to a few feet.
· I won’t go into the level of information that is being proposed to be held on ID cards, because it has been covered in many articles on the internet. Suffice to say, the chip on the ID cards will be a sort of chip, with access to so much information it is truly frightening, especially when you consider that whatever form of encryption they use, someone smarter than they, will be able to break the code.
· Many people support a DNA database and I have to say, I have some sympathy for these views, this technology has been used to solve some very old crimes. However, we are so wrapped up in how DNA is as accurate as it is possible to be, we are prone to forget that it could be misused by anyone wanting to ‘frame’ someone, because a jury, may be so convinced of its accuracy, that they may not consider the possibility that the evidence could have been planted. Yes, call be paranoid, but how many times have we seen miscarriages of justice, because a ‘well meaning’ police officer “knew” that the person was guilty? A government intent on dealing with detractors could quite easily frame an individual with DNA evidence and with so many prone to lie to us, I would not trust them. Is this a database too far?
· Where anything that is supposed to offer irrefutable proof of guilt (or I accept innocence), there needs to be very powerful oversight, given most people are inclined to believe DNA evidence.
· Another issue with DNA, is the fact that the taking of this is now routine for any arrest, no matter how minor. We have the largest DNA database in the world. It is no longer used just to track offenders, but as a way to tell us about our futures, our genetic disposition to certain ailments, diseases, life spans etc. The more information they have on the DNA database, the more they can compare, which means that very soon, government will be able to forecast our futures, certainly from a health perspective.
The list goes on and this post could end up exceeding 10,000 words if I were to add each one and provide a details explanation. We are all able to complete our research online into any or all of these tools of government, therefore I will not seek to do it on this post. My intention is only to highlight just how much of our personal lives and how many of our civil liberties are already at risk, let alone what we will lose with the additional powers the government is seeking. Any government that wanted to know how its citizens were intending to vote, could access any number of these tools and get a pretty good idea, how democratic is that?
You can call me paranoid, but I cannot be accused of nothing to hide, because quite clearly, by life is already an open book for any government officer with the authority to delve into my affairs. They will be wasting their time and our money. But as my life is an open book, so is yours. Everyone, everywhere must have something that they would not want other to know, not because it is illegal, but because it is in the past, embarassing, or could be easily misunderstood. It is our very right to close the door when we go to the toilet or do our most intimate things, we should not have to be concerned about Big Brother, the state watching our every move. The ballot box will not remove existing laws, the ballot box cannot stop this government from introducing unreasonable acts against the will of the majority, but we can, if we are motivated to do so, push our case, publicise our views. So why not write your own version of my article, draft your own letter and make your point on the blogosphere. Let us all see how democratic this country really is, because I suspect, we have been so indoctrinated to take government ministers at face value, that we will, soon find that our opinions don’t matter any longer.
“I prefer liberty with danger than peace with slavery”