All telecoms companies and internet service providers will shortly be required by law to keep a record of every customer's personal communications. This all inclusive ‘Big Brother’ system will record phone calls, emails, text messages, and even the links clicked on the internet, all stored for at least a year under government control. According to government officials this type of surveillance is absolutely critical in combating terrorism and hardened crimes.
This is the same kind of rhetoric that was given when CCTV was installed up and sown the country. However, according to the London Police Chiefs less than 3% of crimes were solved with the assistance of CCTV in 2008, even though the number of CCTV cameras in England had reached 4,200,000 in the year 2002. The most fitting use for CCTV has proved to be in discovering which parents lied about where they lived in order to enroll their children in better schools and who is not disposing of their rubbish properly. CCTV is conceivably the best example of a tool implemented to fight crime that quickly turned into a mechanism for domestic control, even going as far as attempting to install them in school toilets.
This new program, no matter how good the intentions, will only add to the already out of control invasions of privacy in this country. Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary has said he has fears about the abuse of the data:
The big danger in all of this is 'mission creep'. This Government keeps on introducing new powers to tackle terrorism and organised crime which end up being used for completely different purposes. We have to stop that from happening.
Grayling is simply pointing out the obvious. The government has repeatedly used programs such as this against its own citizenry without regard for personal privacy, claiming that only tguilty have anything to fear. The crusial question though is at what point do law abiding citizens need to start fearing their own government? If monitoring your private phone calls and emails without a warrant, and without permission from a judge, isn’t enough then what is? I doubt that people would tolerate CCTV in their own homes, but the difference between allowing cameras in our homes and this new program seems to be minuscule at best.
Spencer Aland blogs regularly here.