Following on from my last blog it seems that the storm is beginning to rise. More and more comments are being made about “Edward Snowden” the computer analyst whistleblower who uncovered top-secret NSA documents leading to revelations about US surveillance, and if he is allowed to, may release much more.
The George Orwell novel 1984 (for those who are not familiar with it) is about the big brother state run by the Ministries of Oceania listening in and controlling everyone. Clearly Orwell never imagined the Internet and social media via mobile phone and tablets when he published his novel in 1949, but if we look at the concept without these tools and devices, we then have the Government or the state with recording devices in every street corner, every shop, every home, school and work place listening in to all our business and private conversations.
Would we have permitted this back in 1984? I think not, so why should we permit it now? One commentator here in the UK said that it was like the government coming into your home, un-invited and without a warrant, and photocopying all your papers, correspondence and then recording into all your private conversations, walking out and saying “don’t worry, we will only keep this for 30 days and only use it if we need to”. In my opinion, if we allow this behaviour to continue, we see our freedom being taken from us, our freedom of speech, or freedom to communicate with others, our freedom to have an opinion.
The rationale the Governments are putting out is that we need this level of surveillance to protect ourselves, to stop groups forming into extremists and perhaps planning harm. Well, perhaps that is true. But just imagine if Syria had this information stored on their citizens, no uprising could ever take place again. Imagine if Saddam Hussein, even Hitler had this information captured and stored. In the wrong hands (and who are we to determine right and wrong hands, the UK an USA once backed Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gadaffi as their allies) this private correspondence could be lethal.
Currently governments are trying to manage a financial crisis by doing the unthinkable of printing endlessly fiat money to flood the market, reduce its value, increase inflation and inflate away most of the debt.
The irresponsible ones admit wrongdoing and go bankrupt and recover faster. But they are all chasing after more and more taxes from Companies and individuals. Who is to say that the collected data would not be used to analyse and determine where and how tax is avoided (both legally and illegally) and plug the holes. Or use it to help their court case against dissidents, or immigrants, or even the opposition party. Where could it lead? Where will it end? Who regulates? Who oversees? Can anyone stop the inevitable invasion of government power control ling every aspect of our lives. What if giant (marketing) companies wish to acquire this data to better target us with focused selling? Could a government be persuaded to sell this data to help pay down debt and increase sales, taxes and capitalism?
Add all the data the Government holds on us together and see how much freedom we really have:
- Official tax records
- Official health records
- Council records
- Unofficial financial records
- Unofficial communication records (landline, mobile, txt, email)
- Unofficial research (Google search engine results, buying patterns, our reading material)
- Unofficial CCTV footage of our every movement (Britain has more CCTV cameras than any country in the world, greater than any communist country like China). If they need to, you can be traced throughout London all the way to Manchester without anyone following you or you knowing, simply by CCTV’s
The list appears comprehensive, which before technology would have been totally impossible and thought by the citizens as an invasion of privacy, freedom and liberties.
Whilst the Governments intentions appear to be good for now, in the wrong hands we could all end up walking blindly into a Sci-Fi movie where we either conform to a Government view of “perfect citizen”, or we are expelled!
Watch this space as Edward Snowden reveals more, if he is not silenced by super-powers frightened of the people finding out the truth.
Remember, we in the IT community helped create this world, without thinking of the unintended consequences.
Any feedback and comments are always welcome!