Big Brother is watching you.
Or, more likely, me, as I am in the UK and most of this site’s visitors are in the US.
‘Great’ Britain has the world’s largest network of surveillance cameras, despite being such a tiny island.
Considering that, it is, perhaps, surprising to discover that this country also has the worst record in Europe in terms of protecting privacy, according to a report from Privacy International (PI), a London-based international watchdog.
Privacy International describe Britain as ‘an endemic surveillance society’, on a par with Russia, Singapore, the US and China, all of which featured in a survey of 47 countries.
Lack of accountability
Britain fares poorly in the report, and comes last in Europe, due to her huge network of CCTV cameras, Identity card plans and a severe lack of government accountability.
Interestingly, when the rankings for Great Britain are broken down, they show that Scotland (who now have their own Parliament) perform significantly better.
The director of PI, Simon Davies, said that the loss this year of computer discs containing personal and bank details of 25 million UK families claiming child benefit showed the risks of storing such sensitive information on huge government databases.
In conclusion, the PI report says that the 2007 rankings ’show an increasing trend among governments to archive data on the geographic, communications and financial records of all their citizens and residents.
This trend leads to the conclusion that all citizens, regardless of legal status, are under suspicion’.
Worrying stuff, eh?
Great Britain wasn’t the only country to garner unfavourable views in the report which also concluded that ‘The impact was worst in the US and across the EU as governments boosted surveillance and information gathering in the name of security and protecting borders’.
Amongst ’democratic’ countries, the US had the worst performance in terms of ’statutory protections and privacy enforcement’.
Does anyone have a good record?
With new surveillance measures being initiated by the European Parliament in Brussels, privacy across the whole of the EU has suffered, says the report.
This has led to the top of the league table featuring countries such as Greece, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia, Canada and Argentina.
Only Malaysia scores worse than Britain in the whole world, with a score that is only fractionally different.
Last word from Privacy International
The Privacy International report says that border and immigration control concerns in the last year have led to countries trying to ‘implement database, identity and fingerprinting systems, often without regard to the privacy implications for their own citizens’.
How does this make you feel?
Each is, obviously, a concern.
However, does combating them justify invasions of our privacy?
Personally, I am not in the habit of breaking the law, I’ve never made a bomb and I am a Brit through and through. Even so, it is now a fact that I can go virtually nowhere in the country I live in without someone being able to track my every move.
This makes me feel uneasy.
With the censoring of the British media, restrictions on travel, proposed identity cards and all sorts of other ’security’ measures planned, I can’t help but think that George Orwell’s predictions of a government controlled life were right.
Though I’m not particularly religious, I also wonder if any future biometric plans held by the government will involve some sort of tracking chip, embedded in the body, that will be mandatory in order to have a normal life and to be able to purchase goods and services?
Heaven forbid that the part number for such a device might be along the lines of ‘DCLXVI‘.
Does this type of government surveillance make you feel scared, or safer?