For a long time now I have been giving speaking out at conferences and in interviews around the world about the encroaching nature of our surveillance states.
One aspect of this, the endemic CCTV coverage in the UK, is notorious internationally. Not only the estimated 4 million+ public CCTV cameras on British streets, but also all the traffic cameras and private security cameras that sneak a peak onto our public spaces too. As if that were not enough, earlier this year it was also reported that local councils are investing in mobile CCTV smart spy cars too.
Additionally, of course, we had the issue of Google Street View invading our privacy, and the camera cars also just happened to coincidentally hoover up the private internet traffic of those too trusting to lock their wireless internet access. Unlike the UK, the Germans have thankfully said a robust "nein" to Google's plan.
All this, as I've previously noted, despite the fact that the head of the Metropolitan Police department responsible for processing all this surveillance information went on the record to say that CCTV evidence is useless in helping to solve all but 3% of crimes, and those merely minor. In fact, since CCTV has been rolled out nationally, violent crime on the streets of Britain has not noticeably reduced.
But, hey, who cares about facts when security is Big Business? Someone, somewhere, is getting very rich by rolling out ever more Orwellian surveillance technology.
On the streets of Britain, it is getting progressively worse. Audiences across Europe and North America have responded with shocked laughter when I have mentioned that police trials had been conducted in the UK using talking CCTV cameras that barked orders at apparent transgressors.
In 2007 Middlesbrough, a town in the north east of the UK with a zero-tolerance policy, began a trial using these talking cameras. In line with a government review of civil liberties this year, it was reported over the summer that the use of these cameras might be phased out. Needless to say, the council is fighting a fierce rearguard action against the removal of talking CCTV – an obvious example of the inherent difficulty of trying to wrest established power from the authorities.
Then earlier this year it emerged that various British police forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), have ordered military-style drones to spy on the citizenry from the skies. One drone manufacturer said that there had been enquiries about the potential for militarisation of these drones: thankfully, his response was reported as follows in The Guardian:
"Mark Lawrence, director of Air Robot UK, said: "UAVs will, to an extent, replace helicopters. Our air robots cost £30,000 compared with £10m for a fully equipped modern helicopter. We have even been asked to put weapons on them but I'm not interested in getting involved in that."
However, Wired has reported that "non-lethal" weapons could be installed, to facilitate crowd control.
There is also the other side of the security coin to consider, of course. If these drones are implemented in the skies of Britain, how soon before some enterprising young "Al Qaeda" cadre cottons on to the idea that this could be an effective way to launch an attack? So much for all our wonderfully effective airport security measures.
Plus, these little airborne pests will prove to be a real hazard for other aircraft, as has already been noted.
Despite all this, no widespread indignation has been voiced by the UK population. When will the tipping point be reached about this incipient Orwellian nightmare?
But hope may be at hand. A somewhat frivolous article appeared today, stating that small spy drones will become the new paparazzi: Version 2.0, no doubt.
Perhaps, finally, we shall now see some meaningful opposition to this encroaching Big Brother state.
Once Bono, Sting, Saint Bob and the assembled celeb corps get on their high horses about their enshrined, fundamental right to privacy, it might finally become fashionable to discuss the very basic principles underpinning our civilisation…..
….you remember, those fuddy-duddy ideas like the right to life, not to be tortured, not to be unlawfully imprisoned or kidnapped, free speech, fair trials, free conscience etc ….. oh, and privacy of course!