Written by Chris Floyd
Oct. 8, 2008
"technology to wipe out truth is now available. not everybody can afford it but it's available. when the cost comes down look out!" -- Bob Dylan, "World Gone Wrong"
[create a] centralised database that will track, in real time, every call we make, every website we visit, and every text and email we send. That information will then be stored and analysed - perhaps for decades. It will mean the end of privacy as we know it.
In the name of the fight against crime, and the fight against terror, we are all to be monitored as if we could be suspects. Computers will analyse our behaviour for signs of deviance. The minute we become of interest to anyone in authority - perhaps because we take part in a demonstration, have an argument with a security guard at an airport, spend too long on a website, or are witness to a crime - the police or the security services will be able to dip into our records and construct a near-complete pattern of our lives.
Stop and consider this for a moment. Think about how happy any of us would be to have our lives laid out to official view. All our weaknesses, our private fears and interests, would be exposed. Our web searches are guides to what is going on in our minds. A married man might spend a lot of time on porn websites; a successful manager might be researching depression; a businessman might be looking up bankruptcy law.
The UK's network of speed cameras will soon be able to track every journey we make by road under the automated number-plate recognition system. Mobile network records can already place us, at any time, within 100 yards of our phone's location. The ID database will record every time we go to a hospital or a benefit centre, fill in a prescription or a draw a large sum from a bank. The children's database will give access to every piece of gossip or fact about our children or their family, perhaps in perpetuity. It will record that an older sister may be alcoholic, or that a father is in jail, or that a 14-year-old is thought to be having sex. Nobody will be able to break free of this information about their past.
None of this information will be safe, because we know three things about the mass collection of data. The first is that the authorities will mine it where it suits them. The second is that the data will be lost. And the third is that it will leak.
I'm all for the targeted pursuit of crime and terror, but this isn't it. This is a multibillion-pound misuse of the state's time and our money which will fundamentally damage our freedom to think and to act.
With each passing day, it becomes more evident that the main purpose behind Bush's illegal, warrantless domestic spying program is not collecting intelligence on terrorists and would-be terrorists – a task for which the government's existing draconian powers of surveillance were more than sufficient. As many people have noted, Bush already possessed the legal right to order the immediate surveillance of any person in the country, subject to the sole restraint of having to seek approval from the secret FISA court within 72 hours. Given the established record of this court's near-total acquiescence to thousands of such requests over the years, it is simply impossible to believe that it would not grant its ex post facto approval to any surveillance ordered by Bush which had even the most tenuous connection to a potential terrorist threat.