Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Death Of Privacy

We aren't so much sleep walking as charging head on into a world in which the State can follow our every move. There are CCTV cameras in every town centre and on nearly every road in the UK. Traffic cameras can read our car number plates and will soon be able to automatically track our movements on the roads. Internet and telephone records can be searched by the police with the appropriate approvals. Most financial transactions are digital and can be tracked. An ID card is in process that is likely to become a piece of compulsory documentation. The NHS is building a system to keep track of all of our health details for life. Children from "high risk" backgrounds are being identified at birth. And now The Times is carrying an article about Blair's endorsement of the police collecting the widest possible database of DNA.

Blair is quoted as saying: “Politicians are more resistant (to the database) than the public. The public think, if this is helping us track down murderers, rapists . . . then go for it.”

This is the standard argument put forth by those that would like to curtail our freedoms. Now, I have nothing to hide and would feel very comfortable giving my DNA to the police to exonerate myself from a particular crime, but I don't believe that this data should be saved indefinitely and used to sweep randomly. My concern is not with being accused of acts deemed major crimes today, but the potential for the government to impose future laws that I may then fall foul of. As the State becomes better at linking data from different departments, who knows where future connections will be drawn.

Is it beyond our imagination to picture a future in which even our genetic make up is scanned at birth and our lives effectively mapped out for us on the basis of prior data. A national database would be the first step and then the connections with other data would begin: crime, health, education. Where will data collection and analysis stop and State coercion begin?

The government doesn't need this data and the idea that all the citizens of the UK need to lose their basic freedom - privacy - in order to catch a tiny number of criminals that could not be pursued on a case by case basis is lunacy. It's like using a steam roller to crack a nut.

Tony Blair makes an interesting observation when he says that "politicians are more resistant". They should be as our elected representatives. My concern is that they will not be resistant enough.

1 comment:

Freebyrd Freeman said...

NHS Medical Data Base - Government plans to put medical records on a national electronic data base. My personal view is that psychiatric files should inform the appropriate agencies if a person was genuinely potentially dangerous (to themselves or others) or if the person was in danger from others. Documentation should also inform the appropriate agencies as to the person’s level of vulnerability and need of assistance. I have very great concerns about the proposed new data base. I have seen huge amounts of paperwork concerning myself, most of it is inaccurate, misleading and open to interpretation. .

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