When our faux-fascist Home Secretary Jacqui Smith proposed that the UK authorities should keep a log of our phone calls, email and internet traffic, just in case we happened to be terrorists (or maybe drug pushers, or speeders, or litter bugs or something), there was a wave of public outrage that forced her to backtrack. Her argument was that the authorities wouldn't actually be recording our calls or snooping into the content of our emails. She and her bumblers in blue just wanted to know who we were corresponding with. They might be terrorists (or maybe drug pushers, or...), after all.
Of course, Jacqui's email and web visit demand has all been overtaken by EU legislation demanding that internet providers keep exactly that information for the authorities to fish through as and when they please. But what about phone calls?
Well, it's remarkably easy to snoop on people's mobile phone conversations. And to monitor, in real time, exactly where they are. You can even programme someone's mobile to record what they are saying. This video shows how bad guys can do this to you.
And what about the good guys? Well, there are all sorts of 'legal safeguards' when the security authorities try such things. But I wonder how many judges actually rule against such phonetaps when the police demand them? And is the division between good and bad guys even clear any more (I cite the recent G20 police-v-protesters footage in evidence).
Eamonn Butler's latest book, The Rotten State of Britain, is available to buy here.