I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch of the imagination. Neither do I consider myself more than mildly paranoid. However, when I read about governments making moves to collect data on private citizens with no history of subversive behaviour whatsoever, I don’t get paranoid, but I do get concerned. This is one of those times.
Britain’s Home Office is looking seriously at the idea of monitoring Facebook, My Space and Bebo, requiring all social networking sites to keep data on every member, who their friends are, and who they have contact via their personal pages. This comes on top of plans to store information about every phone call, email and Internet visit made by everyone in the United Kingdom.
Given all this on top of America’s Homeland Security Act and similar moves all over the western world I have to think George Orwell will be wearing a wry smile on his face if he’s looking on from whatever afterlife there may be. There has never been a better cover than the “war on terror” for government spying on its citizens. I’m reminded of a song by Kris Kristopherson titled The Law Is For Protection Of The People. One of the last parts of the lyrics goes like this:
So thank your lucky stars you’ve got protection
Walk the line, and never mind the cost
And don’t wonder who them lawmen was protecting
When they nailed the saviour to the cross.
I’m not a Christian, but the sentiment remains the same. Too many people are too willing to give up privacy and freedom when those who are supposed to be saving us apply fear in big doses.
However, Vernon Coaker, a Home Office minister sees it differently. In an exchange with the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Tom Brake he stated: “It is absolutely right to point out the difficulty of ensuring we maintain a capacity to deal with crime and issues of national security – and where that butts up against privacy.”
This tendency for conservative governments to look first and foremost to curtailing the liberties of it’s citizens in the name of fighting crime and terrorism should be alarming all of us. Wherever they choose to trample the liberties of their citizens they should be voted out, and it should be made clear to them why. There is no demonstrable evidence that fear mongering and curtailing of rights can or will protect anyone in any way. It’s all smoke and mirrors, and we need a grass roots uprising to put a stop to it.
Isabella Sankey, policy director at Liberty, an independent human rights organisation which works to defend and extend rights and freedoms in England and Wales, said: “Even before you throw social networking sites into the mix, the proposed central communications database is a terrifying prospect. It would allow the government to record every email, text message and phone call and would turn millions of innocent Britons into permanent suspects.”
Similar agendas have been voiced here in New Zealand, and with a new conservative government in power, and getting more conservative every day, i’m sure we’ll be hearing more such ideas here. I’m hopful Kiwis will be wise enough to see such moves for what they are, the thin edge of a wedge designed to take away our liberties.