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UK Has Become a "Surveillance Society" 291

cultrhetor writes "In a story released by the BBC, Richard Thomas, the information commissioner for Great Britain, says that fears of the nation's 'sleep-walk into a surveillance society' have become reality. Surveillance ranges from data monitoring (credit cards, mobiles, and loyalty card information), US security agencies monitoring telecommunications traffic, to key stroke logging at work. From the article, the report 'predicts that by 2016 shoppers could be scanned as they enter stores, schools could bring in cards allowing parents to monitor what their children eat, and jobs may be refused to applicants who are seen as a health risk.' The report's co-author, Dr. David Murakami-Wood, told BBC News that, compared to other Western nations, Britain was the 'most surveilled country.' He goes on to note: 'We really do have a society which is premised both on state secrecy and the state not giving up its supposed right to keep information under control while, at the same time, wanting to know as much as it can about us.'"
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UK Has Become a "Surveillance Society"

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  • by mrogers ( 85392 ) on Saturday November 04, 2006 @05:01PM (#16718763)
    Yeah, if there's one place I'm concerned about privacy, it's when I'm out in public.
    So you wouldn't mind if a masked man followed you everywhere, every day, from the moment you left your house to the moment you returned, and made regular and detailed reports about your activities to unspecified people? Because personally I'd feel extremely intimidated and invaded by that situation. Unfortunately it's easy to forget that you're being treated that way by CCTV, because the cameras are relatively unobtrusive.

    I'd like to see a law requiring every CCTV camera to have a large screen attached, displaying what the camera is picking up - can you imagine the result being anything less than a public backlash against cameras? And yet the cameras would still be providing the same 'protection' they're supposedly providing now.

  • Watching Yourself (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 04, 2006 @05:08PM (#16718815)
    The real point of CCTV and similiar Surveillance is not to monitor or provide evidence for investigation; it is to change behaviour.

    When you think you are being watched, you watch yourself. You don't do things you might otherwise do.

    To take a flippant example, say you were on an empty street. You might choose to skip down the street for fun, knowing there is noone else around to chatise you for silly behaviour.
    If there is a camera on the street (which you can never know is in use or not), or even if you think there might be a camera on the street, you won't do it.

    Take this principal and extrapolate it to all social behaviour; the result of all this surveillance is to produce an overwhelming conformity and predictability in the social behaviour of a population.
    And never underestimate the importance of predictability to the powerful.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 04, 2006 @05:21PM (#16718919)
    Yeah, if there's one place I'm concerned about privacy, it's when I'm out in public.

    Your sentence may sound cute, but it's naive.

    When we're out in public, we do still have a *large* amount of privacy through being anonymous, at least in medium size cities and up. You can walk into a lingerie shop and ask the salesgirl for kinky underwear saying "It's a present for my wife" without everyone looking at you because they know you're not married. It's a sort of "virtual privacy", and it holds with respect to the government too. Your life is still yours and not in the public eye.

    That "virtual privacy" changes dramatically with regard to those in authority when there are cameras everywhere, and "odd behaviour" gets noted down on your file. You may think that that doesn't matter, since they're not going to pull you in for buying kinky underwear, but all these things add up. If they're looking for a serial killer of hookers who's trademark is a fondness for lingerie and who *might* live in your area, then all of a sudden you're on the suspects list.

    Maybe you're just too young to know how the world works yet. Well, you'll wake up one day and discover just how nasty a place it can be when someone has power over you. And one of the few protections we have against that is our privacy.

    Don't knock it.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"