Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Every Breath you take......

All telecoms companies and internet service providers will shortly be required by new law to keep a record of every customer's personal communications. This all inclusive ‘Big Brother’ system will record phone calls, emails, text messages, and even the links clicked on the internet, all stored for at least a year under government control. According to government officials this type of surveillance is absolutely critical in combating terrorism and hardened crimes.

This is the same kind of rhetoric that was given when CCTV was installed up and down the country. However, according to the London Police Chiefs less than 3% of crimes were solved with the assistance of CCTV in 2008, even though the number of CCTV cameras in England had reached over 4,200,000 and that was back in 2002!

The most fitting use Government and local councils can find for CCTV has proved to be in discovering which parents lied about where they lived in order to enroll their children in better schools, who is not putting out the correct wheelie bin on the correct day and for punishing the governments favourite cash cow the motorists. CCTV is conceivably the best example of a tool implemented to fight crime that quickly turned into a mechanism for domestic and civil control.

This new program, no matter how good the intentions, will only add to the already out of control invasions of privacy in this country. Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary has said he has fears about the abuse of the data:

"The big danger in all of this is 'mission creep'. This Government keeps on introducing new powers to tackle terrorism and organised crime which end up being used for completely different purposes. We have to stop that from happening."

Grayling is simply pointing out the obvious. The government has repeatedly used programs such as this against its own citizenry without regard for personal privacy, trotting out that wonderful old chestnut “only the guilty have anything to fear”.

The crucial question though is at what point do law abiding citizens need to start having a real fear of their own government? If monitoring your private phone calls and emails and internet use without a warrant, and without permission from a judge, isn’t enough then what is?

None of us beyond the vacuous celebrity chasers in the Big Brother house would tolerate CCTV in our own homes, but the difference between allowing such cameras in our homes and this new program is indistinguishable.

It reminds me of some lyrics from a song by one of my favourite bands in the 80’s

Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take, I'll be watching you
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay, I'll be watching you
Oh can't you see you belong to me?

So aptly and prophetically performed by ‘The Police’

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