It’s just like watching the detectives
My life is reasonably boring, I have nothing to hide, and I’m certain that I would be grateful if a CCTV camera helped capture – or better yet, deter – someone causing harm to me or someone I love. But there’s still something wrong about a society that habitually spies on its fellow humans.
Early this year, the UK’s House of Lords issued an official report called Surveillance: Citizens and the State, which in part noted that nobody really knows how effective these measures are, much less whether the cost in privacy and trust in government is worthwhile.
That hasn’t prevented the unpopular UK government from proposing that it monitors all phone calls and internet usage. The government also began rolling out a national program of noting when and where all car license plates happen to be.
Already, telecoms companies log details of the times, dates, duration and locations of mobile phone calls, numbers called, website visited and addresses e-mailed under a voluntary agreement. These records are supposed to be destroyed after a year, but there are no clear guidelines for who has access to this information or what can be done with it.
The Liberal Democrat party said the government’s plans were “incompatible with a free country and a free people.”
In a 2007 study analyzing to what degree countries keep their citizens under surveillance, the United Kingdom was in the bottom five – right down there with Russia, China and Singapore. The United States was in the bottom ten, but was noted as “improving.”
(Title lyric by Elvis Costello.)