Jude Collins

Thursday, 5 April 2012

David Cameron's plans for civil liberties: they're for your own good.

"The innocent have nothing to fear".  That's how the latest proposed violation of our privacy is being touted. Or maybe I should say "public proposed violation". Because you may be sure you're being watched and monitored in all you say and do without being told a thing about it.

Take Google Earth. The first time I used that, it took my breath away. You just type in an address, anywhere in the world, and the big on-screen globe spins and the camera goes swooping down from space and sits above the place you want to view. Thanks to Google Earth, I can see the state of my next-door neighbour's back garden (something I've never seen before) and he can see the moss growing on my driveway (which he can see any day).  You don't for a moment think that if we the public can get that kind of intimate detail on camera for nothing, the big boys haven't got a souped-up version that can see the length of your fingernails, and the colour and texture of your toilet-paper in the teacht beag?  Big brother never had it so good.

Now David Cameron and Co are proposing to extend their power to monitor the population's emails, phone calls and social media communications. And like a kindly doctor, David explains that it's for our own good - it's "needed to keep the country safe". Besides, it's not all bad news. The authorities will just have access to who you emailed or phoned or had social media communication with, not the content of that communication. WTF? DO YOU BELIEVE THAT? (Yes, I know I'm shouting. Why aren't you? Why isn't everyone?). They'll note who we contacted and how often but, hand on heart, they promise not to read what we wrote or listen to what we said. And Rangers are a prosperous club.

And when they've used the surveillance methods to locate you (assuming you're a bad person, of course, which you may not be: I've no way of knowing since I haven't access to the proper monitoring equipment) - when they've located you, they can then try you in secret. That's the second part of the proposed Cameron package. Secret courts will allow ministers to decide what information can be concealed from the public and the media and even the person being tried. So there goes the idea of open justice and the media' s right to report on matters of public interest.

But sure when you live in a place where the government can lock thousands of people up without trial, and keep them locked up; when you live in a place where  former prisoners can be sent back to prison because the British secretary of state thinks it's a good idea; and when you live in a place where, when some cases are heard in court,  time and bother  is avoided by dispensing with a jury. When you've been through or are still experiencing all of that, you may, like me, hear an old rural whispering from nowhere : "What do you expect from a cow but a kick?"

By the way, do you think Britain should be trading with a country like China, given its record on human rights?


1 comment:

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