In 2006 the Information Commissioner surprised everyone by stating that the UK has become a surveillance society.
The UK has the the highest degree of surveillance in Europe, and one of the biggest surveillance networks in the world.
As Surveillance Watchers points out:
The word surveillance has been derived from the French word which literally means “watching over.” So surveillance refers to the art of watching over people or things or objects. But nowadays the word has come to represent intrusion into privacy, not least through surveillance by governments and private business.
The problem is, people easily forget why the UK has pushed so hard on surveillance in society.
It was in response to IRA bombings that the UK rolled out wide scale CCTV camera operations in London in the first place – before expanding them out across major city centres.
And, of course, the fall out from 9/11 means that security and surveillance issues have again become a major concern for the UK, and incidents such as the 7/7 London Tube attacks reinforce the need for continued vigilance.
I’ve been approached a couple of times by the BBC to provide comment, not least because of being the site editor here – not least when programme editors are looking for a fairly strong views from someone who believes the only persons to fear from a surveillance society are criminals.
Unfortunately, I don’t fit the bill – while I think surveillance can be a good thing, I think in the most part, it’s too susceptible to bad management, poor implementation, and lacks basic privacy protections.
The real problem at heart is that while surveillance is a great idea in theory, in practice it falls too far short of it’s aspirations.
An ideal surveillance system will stop crime before it starts – not simply be used to catch perpetrators after the fact.
In the meantime, I have no doubt that the UK will continue to develop as a surveillance society, and that we will continue to face intrusions against our personal privacy.
And, unfortunately, I think for some time to come, the short-comings of what should be a far more useful surveillance system will continue to be reported.
Is the UK a surveillance society? Almost certainly. But the best advantages of surveillance in theory has yet to be made practical in fact.
Visited 4005 times, 2 so far today