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.

The End of Privacy

Once again, just when you think the British Government could not get more intrusive, they prove you wrong.

I have often discussed the ever-increasing Big Brother approach of the Labour Government as each new plan is revealed. Now we learn that any bottom-rung local bureaucrat will be able to access every piece of information on any individual held by any Government or local department, agency, or council.

When you consider that this will include all medical records, every email and phone call made, and all of the biometric data to be stored for the mandatory ID cards, think about local council workers making £12,000 a year. Certainly most of them are completely honest (even if honesty is not a particular plentiful commodity in this country), but think of the profit that can be made from identity fraud. We are assured by the Ministry of Justice that anyone misusing the data could get a prison sentence of up to two years. Two years = one year with good behaviour. Prisons bursting at the seams mean very few people can be sent away for first, second or third offenses. Seems like a pretty light risk for very big gain.

Or to put it more bluntly, it is handing over the data to people who will do terribly things with it. Then after the bureaucrats are done, the criminals will get it.

The New Stasi

In the former Soviet Bloc, everyone had to be very careful, because no one ever knew if their neighbour was spying on them to report them to the government. Miss those good ol’ days? Welcome to Gordon Brown’s Britain.

As reported today in the Daily Telegraph, if you live in the UK, your neighbours may have been recruited by the local council to report on you. They may be your very young neighbours.

Children as young as eight have been recruited by councils to “snoop” on their neighbours and report petty offences such as littering, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

The youngsters are among almost 5,000 residents who in some cases are being offered £500 rewards if they provide evidence of minor infractions.

One in six councils contacted by the Telegraph said they had signed up teams of “environment volunteers” who are being encouraged to photograph or video neighbours guilty of dog fouling, littering or “bin crimes”.

The “covert human intelligence sources”, as some local authorities describe them, are also being asked to pass on the names of neighbours they believe to be responsible, or take down their number-plates.

Ealing Council in West London said: “There are hundreds of Junior Streetwatchers, aged 8-10 years old, who are trained to identify and report enviro-crime issues such as graffiti and fly-tipping.”

Hundreds of Junior Streetwatchers. That’s just the ones working for one council.

Don’t confuse this with a neighborhood crime watch program. This is paying people to look into your garden to see if you have put your rubbish bins in the right place.

This comes at the same time that many councils are only collecting rubbish on a fortnightly basis, because they can not longer afford a weekly service, even though they are still collecting the same amount in council tax. Of course if rubbish has to be stored for twice as long, it is twice as likely that it will result in an infraction of local regulations – more money for the eight-year-old spies climbing over the fence for a peek.

This escalation in Britain’s growing surveillance state follows an outcry about the way councils are using powers originally designed to combat terrorism and organised crime to spy on residents. In one case, a family was followed by council staff for almost three weeks after being wrongly accused of breaking rules on school catchment areas.

It also emerged last month that around 1,400 security guards, car park attendants and town hall staff have been given police-style powers including the right to issue on-the-spot fines for littering, cycling on the pavement and other offences.

Big Brother really is watching.

Matters of National Insecurity

The Government is actively and admittedly planning the ultimate in surveillance on the British population. You could call it the Mother of all Big Brothers. Gordon Brown wants the Government to keep a database of every email, phone call and all time spent on the internet. After all, innocent people have nothing to hide. The Government just wants to be able to keep tabs on your innocence.

Sure it’s a lot of personal information, but if you can’t trust the Government, who can you trust? After all, the Government is only here to look after us and protect us. And where else could your information be more safe?

Take the Ministry of Defence, for example. They tell us it is just a fluke that 658 laptops were stolen between 2004 and 2007. That’s in addition to the 89 that have just been lost. But hey, they have recovered 32 of these. Up until a few weeks ago, the MoD only acknowledged that 347 laptops had been stolen. Seems there were “anomalies in the reporting process” that kept ministers from knowing that another 311 had been taken. A significant number of these laptops contained, as you might suspect, secret information vital to national security.

But the MoD doesn’t just keep information on the hard drives of its laptops. No, this the era of the USB memory stick. They have had 131 of these lost or stolen, but just like the laptops, they can’t even say when or where. They do know that some of the sticks also had classified information on them.

Yet in the midst of admitting all of this – and given that the British government never likes to admit anything, just think of what breaches of security and carelessness with data lie unknown that this point – they dismiss out of hand any attempt by opposition parties to hold them accountable and insist they must have more and more data about every single person.  It beggars belief.

There has never been a government in this country – at least in modern times – to have such complete disregard for the people they govern.

What’s Bugging Lawyers

Any time Big Brother is not watching, he may still be listening. In what is one of the clearest indications of how Britain is becoming a totalitarian state, it has emerged that the police bugging of a conversation between a Muslim MP and his constituent is not a fluke. And it is not confined to terrorism or national security cases.

A whistleblower at Woodhill Prison has let the press know that hundreds of lawyers have been bugged while meeting with clients.  This should have the Government worried – not because they are under a lot of pressure from opposition parties to explain how this has been allowed, but because judges could start throwing out convictions, even in some high profile cases.

If notorious criminals start hitting the streets because their human rights have been flagrantly violated a lot of people are going get unhappy very fast.

It is worrying that the State has such a need to control that it cannot afford to allow the privilege that has long formed the bedrock of the lawyer-client relationship. It must have information at all costs.  After all, information is power and the closer the State gets to omniscience, the more powerful it becomes.