Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Privacy Lost

Its been such an informative news month. Many of our dear governments trampling of long established rights and freedoms have come to light in gaffs and explosions. The latest news of an MP being taped while in conversation with a constituent in jail.

Not that long ago (ie under the last conservative government) a request for electronic surveillance had to be approved by a magistrate, then signed off by no less than the home secretary. It had long been deemed such an extreme invasion of privacy that it required the highest level of judicial and political oversight.

No more.

Through a string of legislation surveillance can be undertaken on the simple suspicion of a senior police officer or in many circumstances, a senior civil servant. Did you know that your local council has the right to bug your phone if you are suspected of fly tipping? No judicial oversight, no conversation with a government minister, you can just have your phone calls listened to because you have dumped some rubbish. Oh, sorry, because you're suspected of dumping some rubbish.

Now I don't know about you, but I've never been hugely impressed with the quality of management of my local council. In saying that I think we have one of the better managed councils.

Did you know that there are over 100 government agencies at various levels that can access your tax records or even your medical records? They don't need to particularly prove anything, just ask for it in the normal carrying out of duties.

Now, perhaps, modern surveillance doesn't need the signature of the home secretary, though it would clearly make people think twice. However, the complete break with even standard judicial oversight is absurd. We've sleep walked into a police state people and its time to wake up.


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