writes in the Guardian,
One of the things about British society that is very hard to understand is the
almost complete lack of popular concern about the imminence of the surveillance
society. Perhaps it is part of the disengagement with politics – the general
checking-out from issues that seem not to impinge on our immediate comfort and
But there can be
no mistake after the
report by the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dilemmas of Privacy and Surveillance
– Challenges of Technological Change, that we ignore what is happening at our
peril and that we have a very short time to act.
“There is a choice,” say the
authors of the report, “between a Big Brother world where individual
privacy is almost extinct and a world where the data being kept by individual
organisations or services are protected and kept secret.”
Add to this the
frantic construction of government databases – the NHS spine, the ID card
scheme's National Identity Register (NIR), the police DNA data base and the now total surveillance
of British motorways and town centres by a system that retains journey details
for two years – and you realise that the surveillance society is not so much
imminent as a clear and present danger. It should take no imagination to see
that apart from fundamentally altering the human experience, a surveillance
society reduces individual liberty and makes each one of us much more open to
abuse from the state and big corporations.
This report is to
be welcomed because it is produced not by politically motivated liberals, but
by scientists who understand the power and reach of surveillance technology.
Thomas, the information commissioner said much the same thing in an excellent
report last November that criticised the NIR. And there are signs that the
penny is beginning to drop on all sides of the house. The cross-party home
affairs select committee is to look
into the impact of widespread CCTV, the NIR and the police DNA database.
It is little
appreciated that each generation must fight for its freedom and the freedom of
its children in distinct ways. We have become complacent about our liberties as
though they were in our blood, part of a gene pool of democratic virtues that
very few other nations are fortunate enough to possess.
In Britain, right across Europe, the USA and Australia, all of its citizens are being faced with
the same draconian repressive legislation, the same arguments, the same removal
of rights, the same invasive technology and the same propaganda.
The Say No to ID
cards movement is growing, but not at a fast enough rate. Are we citizens really aware
of what's going on around us, right around the world, and how far the
authoritarians have come? Do we understand their strategies and tactics? The
answer is a resounding “No!”
To compliment the report a full length American made documentary film is
primarily about the serious issue of taxes; its thesis is that there is not
actually a law in the USA requiring the lodgement of income tax
forms. No law, in fact, that allows the imposition of income tax. I recommend
this film to non-Americans as well as Americans, for more reasons than I can
The film is directed by Aaron
Russo, who was manager for Bette Midler from 1972 to 1979 and The Manhattan
Transfer, and the producer of the films The
Rose, Trading Places
and Wise Guys. Russo has
personally won both an Emmy and a Tony award and his films have also won a
number of Golden Globe awards.
Freedom to Fascism is a must-see despite its off-putting title. And it's a
must-see-right-through, because some of the most important material, about RFIDs, (Radio Frequency ID) the
technology behind the ePassports and the ID Cards, is at the end.