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Friday, 20 April 2012


I was listening to a discussion on what has become known as the "snooping debate", how substantial amounts of information on us is recorded, tracked, stored, analysed, etc and it reminded me of a book I reviewed for Tribune magazine last year.  Credit card activity, internet usage, supermarket loyalty card schemes, street cameras and so much more already happen.  We are being monitored for a myriad of reasons, political, marketing and....(drums chin with fingers like Doctor Evil). Happy about that? Too late? Nothing we can do re regain control of our privacy? Interesting and scary book.

Edited by Alex Deane
Biteback £9.99
Product Details

Big Brother Watch is a campaign, from the founders of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, to protect freedom and to fight intrusions on privacy. As Tony Benn says in the foreword to this compilation: “Civil liberties are the foundation of freedom and democracy depends upon our defending them vigorously.”  In an increasingly dangerous and volatile world, the State seems to see the need for closer and closer interest in the everyday lives of its citizens.  As powers to observe our habits and film our movements (in other words to snoop and spy) increase, our individual freedoms diminish.  It is a frightening way to run a democracy.  In twenty-seven powerful essays, a cross-section of commentators dissects the UK’s surveillance culture, the nanny state giving way to the bully state, national and local authorities as near-dictators and citizens as fodder to supply databases with personal details, fingerprints, DNA and anything else that can be used to control us.  The glib phrase “free country” is no longer true, if it ever was in the first place.  It is more a case of liberty lost and democracy denied.  Damian Green, MP highlights that Britain leads the world in CCTV use and estimates that there is one council-owned street camera for every 1,000 people.  He draws on research that suggests walking down an English street a person can be captured on CCTV up to three hundred times in one day. Harry Snook, a barrister, has counted 266 separate statutory powers permitting entry into a private home. David Green, director of the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, writes of the invention of new offences as the State looks to combat hate crimes, aggravated assaults, speech misdemeanours and deviations from political correctness.  Immigration and asylum seekers have brought new pressures for society to bear, new powers to watch our movements and new cultural sensitivities that need tiptoe care to avoid hurt feelings and insults.  Each essay delivers a fresh perspective on how modern Britain is changing. Alex Deane, the editor, reminds us of the Big Brother Watch mission statement (a tad corporate?): “To look to expose the sly, slow seizure of control by the state of power, of information and of our lives and we advocate the return of our liberties and freedoms.” It is a monumental task and Britain may well be past the point of rescue, but read this book and gain a deep understanding that modern democracy with limitations and provisos is not as cosy a concept as we like to believe.

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