Behind the turmoil of the economic and financial crisis, New Labour is stepping up its construction of a surveillance state that assumes that every citizen is an “enemy within”. The latest threat is contained within the innocuous sounding Data Communications Bill.
This will authorise the construction of a single massive database to hold the details of every phone call and email sent and received and every Internet site visited by the UK population. This is Big Brother writ very large indeed. It has alarmed even the government's own reviewer of anti-terrorist legislation, Lord Carlisle, who openly says such a database is too “awful” to contemplate.
Awful or not, it is full-steam ahead on all fronts. ID cards are being introduced for airport workers and no doubt pressure will mount for everyone to carry one. You can see it being a requirement when you open a bank account, transfer money or use your credit card. A sign of this is the requirement in the new bill for people to produce their passport when buying a mobile phone. In this way, the database state will build up details of everyone’s mobile.
As an article by Martyn Warwick on the TelecomTV site warns: “Currently, these can be bought, anonymously, for cash over the counter and there is no doubt that pre-pay phones are the communications devices of choice for terrorists and criminals. However, despite the hysteria the government, post 9/11 and 7/7, likes to whip-up and maintain to keep us fearful and biddable, terrorists and criminals form a minute part of British society. What's more, most of them are clever and can, and will, easily and quickly circumvent appearing on any Big Brother phone-ownership database while the rest of us will be ‘on The List’ and subject to God knows what disproportionate secret surveillance.”
Meanwhile, a conference of IT, security and finance executives has been warned that suppliers who collaborate with the government may be at risk of acts of violence, including the smashing of computer centres. Ian Pearson, a former BT "futurologist" and a chartered fellow of the British Computer Society, predicted that the government's crackdown on law-abiding people could lead to marches in the street, demonstrations outside some computer centres and targeted acts of violence.
He told the invited audience : "By 2012 to 2013 tops you will see a technology backlash in the major population. Why is it relevant to you? Because if your firm is providing services to government authorities, which help the government to crack down on law-abiding people, you are in the firing line." He added: "Be careful how you market new products. Make sure people do not understand the link between you and the government which is trying to crack down on their everyday lives. That will make you on the wrong side of the firing line." Pearson listed what he called examples of “The Stepford Society”:
- Road tolls via satellite-tracking
- Speed cameras
- DNA databases
- Identity cards
- 25% of the world's CCTVs
- Face recognition systems
- Tax enforcement via integrated databases
- Speed limits built in car management system
- Government knows everywhere you go
- Extensive and permanent police records
- One stop shop for all government data
- Monitoring of e-cash
- Number-plate recognition
- Abuse of millimetre wave cameras (which measure waves naturally emitted by the human body, exposing "cold" objects under clothing)
- Extensive monitoring of all electronic activity.
While Pearson is warning suppliers to get out of the firing line, ordinary people remain right in the government’s sights. The proposals made in Unmasking the State for a new, democratic system in place of the authoritarian, surveillance, database capitalist state are more relevant than ever.