Privacy is Now a Thing of the Past

It’s the Biggest Brother instrusion into privacy in history. From tomorrow across the European Union every email will be stored, details of every website visited by every person will be stored, even information about every internet phone call will be stored, initially for a year.   But then all it takes is another directive to extend the storage indefinitely. These will be available to the Government, police and security services, as well as hundred of local government agencies and even what we call “quangos” in this country – quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations – of which there are no end.

Just like the anti-terrorism laws that have now allowed local councils to stalk people and invade their privacy in many different ways on suspicion of having the wrong rubbish bins or living across the street from a local school catchment area, the same jobsworths with now be able to know everything about you while they go on fishing expeditions to find anything else you might be doing wrong.

Britain has not be an unwilling participant in all of this. It has, in fact, led the way. It makes the Home Office’s Intercept Modernisation Programme much easier to implement. Under the European directive, internet service providers will have to store the information. Under the Home Office plan, the Government itself will have one giant database of their own, through which everything will be monitored and which will gather far more information.

Of course the Home Office won’t reveal the full extent of its plans, just like the European Union would not reveal what it was doing until it was in place. We certainly have no guarantee that either Brussells or Whitehall have told us anything near what they have actually done or what they actually intend to do with it. That what they have told us is so disturbing makes it all the more worrying.

As we have seen over and over and over, every bit of private information the Government has collected manages to go missing, whether it is the bank details of every family with children or top secret military data on laptops or the confidential details of every prisoner in the UK and of 5,000 employees of the justice system, and the list goes on and on.

All this electronic surveillance is on top of every bit of information held by any part of central or local government, and with socialised medicine this includes all medical records, being available to any bureaucrat at any level. Even I called that the end of privacy. That was in January and it was only the beginning of the end.

Only a few years ago, this would have been the stuff of science fiction – a paranoid all-controlling state actively engaged in monitoring every move, every conversation, every communication instantly and at every level. This would have been the fantasy of communist police states, but only realised in what for some silly reason we call the free world.

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The Perils of Facebook Friendship

Like several people that read this blog and whose blogs I read, I am on Facebook. Having always felt awkward in some social situation, the Internet would seem like an ideal place to relate to others. I have been relating interpersonally online since before the Internet, back in the days of 1200 baud modems and the BBS culture.

The whole “friend” thing on Facebook continues to be an interesting, and sometimes not altogether comfortable, thing. I’m not exactly a “friend collector” – you know the folks that become Facebook friends with anyone and everyone in order to have a massive friend list. My friend list has some friendships made in various stages of my life, some people that I have met online, especially who have commented on this blog or who I read (or commonly both), and some family members.

But I am constantly faced with the struggle of whether to friend or not. It is never because I don’t want to add a particular person, but rather the fear of rejection. If it is someone I’ve not seen in a long time, I wonder whether they are quite glad to be rid of me and will they face a dilemma if I show up in their friend requests.

Something I don’t know that I’ve faced offline is to be specifically de-friended. I’ve had a lot of people in my life fade away (much to their relief, no doubt), but I’d never been tidied out of somebody’s life. When someone knocks you off their Facebook friends, you don’t get notified. However, this has happened to me twice that I know of. I have so few friends and make new friends so rarely that I get used to seeing the number of friends I have displayed.

In both cases, I thought that maybe they left the whole Facebook thing. Nope, still there. In one case, I introduced a person to Facebook and they have over 100 friends now, but I’m not one of them.

I”ve seen journalist comment that the whole friend thing smacks of junior high – “will he be my friend?” “I’m not gonna be your friend” stuff – but as I never really had very many friends when I was junior high (and the few I had were older), I guess this is all new to me.

Wireless Monks

My patron saint (the predecessor of my name saint and to whom I feel a greater affinity) used to spend Lent each year on Caldey Island, which lies three miles off the Pembrokeshire coast. He ordained its second Abbot, St Samson, to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate. He probably never imagined that the monks of Caldey would support themselves by e-commerce.

Now the monks have wireless broadband.

Father Daniel, Abbot of Caldey Abbey, said: “Patience is one of the characteristics of monastic life, but even the patience of the brothers was being tested by our slow, dial-up internet service.”

Yes, even monks move along with the times.