by Michael Smith
Electronic surveillance and collection of personal data are "pervasive" in British society and threaten to undermine democracy, Members of the House of Lords have warned. And rightly so, one can but hasten to add.
The proliferation of CCTV cameras and the growth of the DNA database were two examples of threats to privacy, so the Lords constitution committee said.
Those subject to unlawful surveillance should be compensated while the policy of DNA retention should be rethought.
Too many times local authorities also have been making use of RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which was never intended to be used in the way that so many councils are employing it, such as spying on people as to what rubbish is put out when incorrectly and by who, and such like.
The government said CCTV and DNA were "essential crime fighting tools", but this has, in fact, been disproved by senior police officers who have stated not so long ago that CCTV is useless in most cases. So why the continuation of the lie to the people.
The only answer here can and must be that the government of the UK is hellbent on “people control” and nothing else.
Surveillance and data collection, so the Lords' committee says, must be proportionate.
What, however, is proportionate in this instance and who decides this and who monitors this on behalf of the people?
Civil liberties campaigners have warned about the risks of a "surveillance society" in which the state acquires ever-greater powers to track people's movements and retain personal data.
Controversial government plans for a database to store details of people's phone calls and e-mails were put on hold late last year after they were branded "Orwellian".
Ministers are currently consulting on the plan, which would involve the details but not the content of calls and internet traffic being logged, saying it is essential to fighting terrorism.
While we are being told that this database will not contain the details of phone calls and emails who is to say that this is going to be thus and, yet again, who, on behalf of the people is going to monitor this.
None of these methods will aid in the fight against crime nor in the fight against terrorism. Only one things will: proper policing; one that is NOT target driven but one that uses the old-fashioned ways of investigations of officers with common sense and a nose for spotting things that are wrong.
In its report, the Lords constitution committee said growth in surveillance by both the state and the private sector risked threatening people's right to privacy, which it said was "an essential pre-requisite to the exercise of individual freedom".
The public were often unaware of the scale of personal information held and exchanged by public bodies, it said.
He only reason I can see for all those intrusive measures is that the governments are, in fact, frightened of the people and of the power the people have nowadays with the Internet. For the very same reason that they, in Italy, are trying to outlaw the citizen journalist, the Blogger and Blogs.
Instead of alienating the people by such measures the governments should empower the people to take part in the enforcement of the laws that there are and to be the eyes and ears as far as crime and terrorism is concerned and empower the people also the properly, as individuals, to hold the police to account when they do not deal with crime in the proper way.
Target-driven policing is leaving people frustrated and worse. You cannot tell a crime victim that they must book an appointment with an officer to take a statement or too tell Park Rangers when there are hoodlums rampaging through a park, threatening people, that local officers will be made aware and will attend to take a statement in a couple of days.
The reason for such replies is the target culture and the wish to appear to solve everything to which officers are being dispatched. So, if you don't send a response vehicle then that is not logged as such an incident and hence the possible lack of a result in an investigation does not reflect (badly) in the league tables. This is what it is all about and, as far as the government is concerned, “people control”
here is so much misuse of the powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, for instance, that it is hardly surprising that people, and especially organizations that try to protect the civil liberties in the UK, are getting concerned.
Orwell was right only a little too early in the date.
There are and estimated 4,000,000 (in words: four million) CCTV cameras in the UK and often they are used by local councils to simply spy on people over issues such as littering and such like.
The Conservatives said the government's approach to personal privacy was "reckless".
"Ministers have sanctioned a massive increase in surveillance over the last decade, at great cost to the taxpayer, without properly assessing either its effectiveness or taking adequate steps to protect the privacy of perfectly innocent people," said shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve.
The government and the police, as said previously, are alienating rather than making friends out of the public but then they do not seem to care. They rather see anyone and everyone as a criminal and terrorist until proven otherwise. It used to be “innocent until proven guilty” but that was a long time ago.
When the “Miranda” warning in the UK was changed from “you have the right to remain silent but anything you may say will be taken down and given in evidence” to “you have the right to remain silent but it may harm your defense if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court”, the goalpost was moved and it became a “guilty until proven innocent”. In the same way as anyone carrying a knife may be considered automatically to carry it will ill intentions, for instance. A knife is a tool and not a weapon, primarily, and while there are people who carry a knife as a weapon the emphasis should still be, also with children and young people in the possession of a knife, that there is another purpose there for that knife than as a weapon of offense or defense. Guilty until proven innocent, and in the knife instance often it simply is guilty, whether guilty or not. You do not solve crime that way.
I sincerely think our People, the Rom, were right never to trust the state.
© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009