A wide-ranging speech by Henry Porter exhorts us to be alert and informed about the looming database state:
We used to think of this country as having innate respect for freedom and privacy, as though it was somehow part of the British DNA, an immutable geographic feature of these islands – like the Pennine Range.
But today instead of being an example to the world we are fast becoming the test bed for a new, technologically driven authoritarian state – what one website calls the first fascist democracy.
They may be going a little far but you see the point – democracy does not presuppose liberty.
Not sure if that last sentence should say ‘entails’, but you get the point. He discusses the proposed creation of a database to record all emails and phonecalls made by UK residents (which we on this blog, loyal readers, have already agreed is outrageous), the ongoing use of automatic number-plate recognition devices to track vehicle movements on motorways and in town centres, the need to inform the authorities of your credit card details, contact number, and travel plans when leaving the country, the proposed law to record the names of everyone who stays in hotels, the ubiquity of CCTV cameras, the National Identity Register, the world’s largest DNA database, and a small selection of instances of terror legislation being abused to allow people to be spied on by the police and/or their local councils.
“We the British have let this happen without debate, without marches, without protest, without – it seems – the slightest qualm or anxiety.
Where is the biting satire?
Where is the outrage of the intelligentsia?
Where is the media?
This lack of protest, this meekness of spirit in Britain worries and angers me in equal measure. But you know what makes me even angrier- it is the profoundly pessimistic view of this country that these laws and decrees embody. Labour’s cynicism and negativity about our country is the most contemptible part of its administration, and I am afraid that we have all to some degree bought this account of ourselves – that we are not fit to run our own lives without being watched, monitored, chivvied and punished every second of the day.
But this society is still greater than anything Labour’s imagination is capable of conceiving.
So let the struggle begin here.
That means making this issue a part of your everyday life. Talk about it with your friends. Use the media, get in touch with your MP – especially if you live in Labour and Tory constituencies and, yes, start protesting. We need to get on the streets and challenge every part of this programme to make us slaves of the database.”
On that note, although it’s not national government that’s involved, you may be interested to know of a consultation being held by the Scottish Government for how local councils should deal with the use of biometric technology in schools. This would include fingerprint or palm recognition systems so that pupils wouldn’t have to worry about forgetting to bring their card to the school library to get books out, or to facilitate cashless school meal systems. Should you feel that the benefits of such schemes are outweighed by other concerns, such as perhaps privacy, the consultation is open until 4th December. (Thanks to Peter for pointing this one out.)