Two recent developments show that in the UK state surveillance of the individual is set to increase significantly.
The first concerns the report by the Sustainable Development Commission published today. The report calls for more cameras to be fitted on motorways to ensure the speed limits are adhered to. ‘Time over distance’ or average speed cameras should be fitted to rods to prevent drivers from first jamming the brakes on then jamming the accelerator on when encountering a standard speed camera.
The next development in this type of system is where the system can track a car on any journey and assess its speed throughout. These can be fitted anywhere.
The attraction is less fuel use, fewer speeding fines and less accidents as well as a cleaner environment. But it also means much less revenue for the taxman in the way of fuel duty and fines, this has to be replaced, probably with higher fuel duty. What we will have is a slightly safer and slower system with no change in overall cost to the motorist.
But there will be thousands more cameras in society. With future technological developments who knows what they could be used for. Face recognition racking of the individual perhaps?
The other surveillance story that re-surfaced over the weekend was that of the police use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). It transpires that BAE are working on a system of ‘blimp’ type UAVs that can sit at high altitude and use sophisticated cameras (normal and infra red for example) to track movement of vehicles and people on the ground.
These cameras are to be used by Kent police to monitor the Channel and for the Olympics we are told. But once the technological obstacle of sharing the airspace safely with other aircraft has been overcome, then these things can be deployed anywhere. They can monitor traffic, demonstrations, secure areas, a rowdy Saturday night in Manchester city centre, a neighbourhood near you as well as spying on people just out of curiosity in the hope they might do something wrong.
There are other ways that these UAVs can be used. They could be used my local councils to monitor the heat output of your house for example and tax you accordingly.
Now, once we’ve technically tied the two systems together, viola, almost total surveillance.
In response to the UAVs Andrew Withers, Deputy Leader of the UK Libertarian Party who writes occasionally for The Economic Voice, said “The LPUK condemns this extension of the 'surveillance state' and proves that Government is still not listening. Who are the Police being quoted here? There is obviously no such thing as 'the Police', policing is carried out by Regional/County Constabulary, is this another 'ACPO' initiative? The private limited company, that has no public oversight but receives millions from the State. The State is again seeking to extendÂ the 'security apparatus' by including the CAA as they have with accountants, lawyers and banks. How long before these drones are armed as in Israel/Iraq/Afghanstan. Drones do not shout 'Armed police Stop' (but then again neither did the Police in the De Menezes case).”
The state does not have a good record in protecting data or using laws as they were intended to be used. Surveillance is now getting out of the control of the people in the UK. Only a few of the elite will have the full picture, but as long as the ordinary person in the street can watch tripe on the telly and have a drink at the end of the day then why should they worry? And aren't all these cameras just to keep the ordinary person safe?