Author Topic: Diabolical Liberty-Taking(s) ...  (Read 3236 times)

Phil Talbot

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Diabolical Liberty-Taking(s) ...
« on: March 08, 2009, 04:54:25 PM »
Diabolical Liberty-Taking ... even the tamed NewLabour Stooges at the Guardian, etc, seem to be beginning to notice it ...

Politicised prying

Editorial The Guardian, Saturday 7 March 2009

Yesterday the Guardian reported that firms were buying information about which workers are active in unions. Today we expose how the police monitor protesters, and upload their details on to a central database. And their own films from last year's climate camp, which can be seen on the Guardian website, show that while they are at it, they also take the chance to pry on journalists who are covering the story.

Taken together, these stories provide a reminder of why last weekend's Convention on Modern Liberty was so timely. There are those, well represented in the government, who argue that the great eye of surveillance is a hallucination of the paranoid middle class. For most voters, certainly, paying the bills and being safe on the street are more pressing concerns than the proliferation of CCTV. The deep worry, however, has never been mere discomfort at the idea of being filmed or otherwise tracked. Rather, it is the potential for abuse that comes with the electronic logbooks. The lesson of history is that the powerful cannot be relied on to use the information they possess for the public good, as opposed to their own convenience.

The dangers are most obvious when the prying has a political dimension, as it does in the case of today's story. The police will first have to explain how collating details on protesters - and holding them for years - tallies with their recent claim in a separate court case that such evidence is only kept as an insurance policy against being sued. They said then that they kept the material on CD in case it one day proved useful in their defence. Next they will need to establish how the secretive transfer of such data to a central system is compatible with the right to privacy enshrined in the European convention, which could well prove to be difficult to do. Legal niceties aside, the fundamental question is what the service thinks it is doing keeping tabs on the political activities of individuals who are not suspected of any crime, or indeed spying on journalists who are doing their job.

If today's revelations underline the perils surveillance represent for democracy, the employer-funded blacklist of supposedly awkward workers, which the information commissioner exposed yesterday, illustrates how it also affects the bread and butter of life. Two electricians who fear they are on the list, whom we interviewed yesterday, believe it was employers' improper knowledge of their working history that left them unable to find work. The black mark was given for having taken bad bosses to tribunals; in other cases, past union activism may have had the same effect. Rights at work count for little when the right to confidentiality is trampled on. The public interest thus requires respect for private lives.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2009, 07:28:56 PM by Roger »