Weblogs for denny
Week before last, I posted a reply to this blog post about the 'Internet Eyes' commercial 'crowd-powered' CCTV monitoring service. Annoyingly whoever runs the blog seems to have decided to post a reply from the company, but not my own reply. I'd like to claim a conspiracy theory or something, but my reply wasn't even particularly strongly against the scheme, so it's probably just laziness.
Still, as they didn't want to post it, I'm going to post it here instead:
In general, surveillance on private/commercial property by the property owner is far less ethically and pragmatically problematic than surveillance in public areas. As you say, people who object to commercial surveillance can Ã¢â¬Ëopt outÃ¢â¬â¢ simply by not shopping in stores that have CCTV, or that are signed up to this scheme, or whatever other criteria people may have for Ã¢â¬Ëunacceptable surveillanceÃ¢â¬â¢. This isnÃ¢â¬â¢t an option we typically have when dealing with public spaces, where the surveillance is (almost always) run by local or national government and/or police forces Ã¢â¬â we have no equivalent way to place pressure on these organisations. Governments are only affected by elections, which come about rarely and have a vast number of issues affecting our vote in them, many of which most people would consider more important than Ã¢â¬Ëhow much surveillance has this government approved latelyÃ¢â¬â¢. The police are even less constrained than that.
For these reasons, my main interest in this scheme would be how it interacts with governmental bodies. For instance, can the police view the feeds? If so, can they view them at will, or at request, or would they need a warrant or Ã¢â¬Ëreasonable causeÃ¢â¬â¢ to view footage? Would their access be live, or after the fact? Any police officer, or just selected/approved ones? How about private security companies and other quasi-police organisations?
Also, IÃ¢â¬â¢d be interested in whether any of the cameras have any view of public areas Ã¢â¬â for instance, cameras on window displays which also capture part of the street outside. As far as IÃ¢â¬â¢m aware thereÃ¢â¬â¢s no law against this, but it raises obvious problems with cameras capturing movements of people who havenÃ¢â¬â¢t Ã¢â¬Ëopted inÃ¢â¬â¢ by entering a store displaying signs for their CCTV and this scheme.
I won't be writing for Police State UK for the next couple of months. The reason is that I've decided to run for Parliament, and I don't want to be taking swings at various political parties and politicians on here while I'm doing that. I'm not sure if it's against the rules or not, but it seems underhanded.
If you're interested in my campaign, please check out my website and see what you think. Especially if you live in the Hackney South and Shoreditch constituency!
Every time I sit down to write about one issue on this site, I end up with an ever-expanding list of stories and issues which tie in or spin off from the initial points I'm trying to make - I have more browser tabs open now than I did when I started the post I'm currently writing, all examples of points I've yet to make, all of which supply more context for why I find the initial issue so worrying.
This spiralling collection of things I want to write about isn't (just) the result of my disorganised writing style - it's the result of a growing system of oppressive legislation and law enforcement, both in theory and practise, which when you look at it as a whole is becoming increasingly difficult to view as something other than a police state.
I haven't written anything about the ongoing debacle around the issue of MP's expenses* as it's not really on-topic for this site. We have a relatively narrow focus on civil liberties issues, and I don't want to muddy the waters with unrelated stories. However, reading an article today about one of the journalists who has been working this story for five years now, I found a fantastic quote which sums up so much of the attitude that has underlaid the whole issue since the news started to break, and which is deeply relevant to the issues we normally cover here on Police State UK. As you may have guessed, the quote is that in the title of this article - "Transparency will damage democracy" - and it was said by Andrew Walker - head of the House of Commons Fees Office.
I can only assume that he's using a different definition of democracy from the one that I use.
I think we've seen this attitude, that our political masters know best, showing up a great deal in our government over the last ten or more years - despite their lip-service to the concept of transparent government - and we're likely to see it a great deal more. In fact, I think it's likely to stay with us for exactly as long as they consider themselves our political masters instead of our public servants.
But there is always the hope that this scandal will be the one that breaks public trust in the government so completely that they will realise there is only one way to regain it... they will have to start doing their jobs right. All of them, regardless of their party and the results of the forthcoming election. And by 'doing their jobs right' I mean looking out for the good of the country (instead of their own perks), speaking for and voting in the interests of the people who elected them (instead of the people who buy them the nicest dinners), and generally being an honest and trustworthy representative of the people.
Hey, I can dream.
* Although I've been reading about it with some fascination. I recommend some of the posts on Liberal Conspiracy as a good starting point, there are numerous relevant articles on The Guardian website, and of course it was The Telegraph who originally broke the story.
Three terror suspects whose freedom is restricted by control orders have won a legal battle in the House of Lords over the use of secret evidence.
Nine Law Lords unanimously ruled it was unfair individuals should be kept in ignorance of the case against them.
This seems good to me. I appreciate that there might be some circumstances under which secret evidence makes sense (protecting undercover agents, etc), but the potential for abuse of such a system is so incredibly vast that I cannot see any way to fairly allow such a system to exist.
In contrast, all of the MPs and MEPs that I dealt with while living in Milton Keynes for the ten years before that seemed capable of replying to emails within a reasonable time-frame.
I have also found that the members of the GLA and MPA all seem to reply to emails very promptly, even if just a courtesy 'thank you' for the points you've raised.
This suggests to me that the London MPs need to be trying harder.
The petition on the Number 10 website politely requesting Gordon Brown to resign ASAP is just a few names away from hitting the lovely round number of 50,000 signatures.
I haven't actually signed it myself - I'm not honestly sure if the alternatives to Brown would be an improvement at this point - but I'm enjoying watching the number go up anyway. And looking forward to reading the official government response :)
Just managed to snag two tickets for the Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross talk on surveillance this Friday, organised by the Open Rights Group. Really looking forward to it!