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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Big Brother is Watching!


Recently, there was a report by Privacy International on the degree to which a number of countries have become "surveillance societies". In short, this means to what degree citizens are under surveillance in their daily lives by agencies of the State. This report got little press in the US as far as I can determine. There was an article in a Canadian newspaper. Canada near top in protecting privacy rights: survey. The report is very revealing.

In the report, countries were ranked on a scale of 1 to 5. Germany scored the "best" as the country with the least surveillance at 3.9. Canada was second at 3.6. The US was at 2.0. What was shocking to me was that Great Britain was near the bottom as the country with the most surveilllance of its citizens along with Russia and China ; 1.5, 1.4, 1.3 respectively. These latter three were labelled endemic surveillance societies and the US was seen as an extensive surveillance society.

Instinctively, I dislike the idea of government keeping watch on it's citizens. Just because technology has made it possible does not mean that government should do it. There has not been sufficient debate on whether we want our government to be watching us. In Britain, every day a person is seen by 300 camera. I don't want to give government that kind of power. Britain, is a benevolent society which honours human rights for the most part. Russia, largely a criminal society and China, a politically controlled society are not as benevolent. Britain may not always be so honouring of human rights. I am sure a Muslim in Britain these days does not feel as trusting of government surveillance as they once were.

I am please that Canada is near the top of the list being a country with less surveillance than most. But this may not always be the case. The present Conservative government, in imitation of the US, or even under pressure from the US, is increasing surveillance. Just the other day they announced millions to increase cameral surveillance on the subways in major cities. 10,000 cameras on the Toronto subway alone. There is also talk of Identity Cards which reminds me of the system they used to have in South Africa. Increase border surveillance is coming into efffect. Apparently, the police have radar cameras that can view multiple vehicles, read their plates, look up information on them and record their speeds very fast. And the list goes on:-- suggestions of DNA information gathered and microchips implanted in our children, and centralized data banks, lists of people who can and can't fly, or who belong to organizations of which the government disapproves, etc. If Britain is the future for all of us I do not want it and think there should be wide discussion in Canada about the direction we are going.

As a person, who has been under surveillance in the US (having my phone wiretapped) I do not feel more secure in my person knowing what the government does do and is capable of doing. There is part of me that is very conservative: I want to be left alone. I do not want the government agencies snooping into my life.

A Society is always a compromise between the individual's freedom and the communities security. The pendulum is swinging too far in the direction of security, (ironically making us feel less secure). A free man in a free society must accept some risks. Such is the nature of true political and societal freedom.

Here is Privacy Internationals information in map form http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd[347]=x-347-545269&als[theme]=Privacy%20and%20Human%20Rights

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