It’s All Very Well To Have Concerns…

October 30, 2012 44 Comments

…but Henry Porter seems to be too afraid of the downside to ever consider their might be an upside:

At what point will the British public realise that its privacy and freedom is in mortal danger?

His concern is due to the rise in ‘high-definition and facial-recognition technologies in CCTV systems’ and the potential privacy concerns they will raise.

Wherever you go, someone will be logging your movements – whether it is the police or the big supermarket chains that are anxious to monitor the behaviour of customers in their stores.

Unfortunately, Henry, you are talking to a generation which is quite happy to share with complete strangers – potentially, around the world – where they are going and what they are doing via social media…

When people have that kind of power, they always abuse it. If you doubt me, recall that the police national computer system has been used by serving officers for illegal purposes.

Yes, it has. And those officers have been caught and often dismissed, sometimes jailed.

Why do you not assume that the same would be the case with those who misuse this technology?

And consider how a government in a tight situation might be tempted to use a national face-recognition system to keep tabs on people to stifle protest, free expression and assembly.

Which simply makes it quicker and easier, and less labour-intensive, to do what they are already doing with old fashioned photography, and which a judge has already ruled to be merely a known consequence of being a regular protester.

And why should it ‘stifle protest, free expression and assembly’? I hate to use the hackneyed phrase ‘if you’ve got nothing to hide…’ but it’s a cliché because it’s partly based in truth.

If you aren’t planning on throwing rocks at the police or swinging on the Cenotaph, and you aren’t currently claiming to your boss you are ill in bed when you are really marching through London for Tibet or seals or Chilean donkeys, you need not worry about being photographed, surely?

… right now, MPs must have a serious look at the technology, and what is already happening on our streets, because the nightmarish future is already here.

What nightmarish future? A world where these people are photographed, identified and arrested? If so, bring it on!

And why isn’t the ‘Guardian’ and the likes of Henry Porter worrying about rather more sinister advances?

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44 Responses to It’s All Very Well To Have Concerns…

  1. Tatty
    October 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    their might

    Oh Julia :oops:


    • October 31, 2012 at 5:21 am


      • October 31, 2012 at 8:16 am

        Indeed. You will have this one thrown back at you when you next indulge in some grammar pedantry, eh? 😉

        • October 31, 2012 at 4:13 pm

          Bound to! Can’t even blame IOS5 for it either.. :oops:

  2. ivan
    October 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Julia, I have to disagree with you on this because he is right in part.

    How soon will people start to use some form of masking when they go out? I’m sure there are people that ‘have nothing to hide’ that just don’t want their every move documented because they value their privacy. Then we will end up with a society as depicted in Mask of Chaos by John Jakes (Ace 1970).

    Of course the extension of the CCTV will be into the home ‘just to keep you safe’. This is 1984 and the party/police state that we are sleep walking into unless we actually stand up and be counted and do something about it. It has already started with the secret family courts and other legal moves as you and Anna have pointed out.

    This is not the country my fathers generation fought for, it is turning into the exact opposite.

    • October 31, 2012 at 5:23 am

      “…because he is right in part.”

      Yes, he is. But he assumes that the part he is right about means that we should never ever use modern technology because it will be misused by some people. That, frankly, is the view of a Luddite.

      CCTV in the home? I doubt it.

      • October 31, 2012 at 8:15 am

        No, he isn’t assuming that at all. He is correct in pointing out the dangers of CCTV – that, sooner or later it will be abused, just as he was correct in pointing out the dangers of a national identity register and identity cards. After all, that was only using modern technology as well. He is not saying that modern technology should be eschewed at all.

        That said, I tend to disagree with his conclusion that we need a privacy law – after all, public places are not private. What we do need is greater transparency and control over organisations such as ACPO that operate outside of the legislative process and we do need to clamp down very firmly on their ability to play with new toys that are operated to our detriment. As I said earlier in this discussion, where we go should not be logged routinely by the state “just in case” as it is none of their business.

        • October 31, 2012 at 4:15 pm

          “…greater transparency and control over organisations such as ACPO…”

          I have the beginnings of a follow up post to this one, and ACPO are very much involved in it.. 😉

          • October 31, 2012 at 4:15 pm

            ACPO are a real problem for those of us who value liberty – they are completely unaccountable.

      • Tatty
        October 31, 2012 at 9:37 am

        CCTV in the home? I doubt it.

        But cover the laptop’s built-in webcam when you’re not using it… 😉

        How soon before SmartTV’s have these things, anyway ? Just think how convenient it will be to chat to family and friends while Corrie is on ?

        Come to think of it…way back in my teen days….me and a best mate rang up a massive phone bill once watching Brookside “together” and talking about it.

        I’d get a right Royal bollocking though if…once I’d flown the nest… I ever even phoned my dear ole mam when Corrie was on. She’d be apoplectic if I popped up on the telly screen now. :lol:

        • October 31, 2012 at 4:16 pm

          Big tv events are often the cause of much Twittering. Personally, I find it too distracting!

  3. October 30, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Sorry Julia, got to disagree. I can’t think of any time or situation where ‘Nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ is correct, even in part.

    I have something to hide – It’s my own privacy. The simple fact that I don’t want the authorities to know a certain bit of info about me or to record me on some database or watch my movements is enough reason to say no.
    Some scare story about prevention of crime / terrorism / drugs / kids etc does not justify forcing me at gunpoint (when no said for long enough) to do something I don’t want to.
    I can conceed that most security measures are helpful and maybe essential when used sparingly and properly targeted. That happens so rare as to be not worth mentioning though.
    CCTV is one case of an over bearing state rather than a measured use of security. It started out as ‘essential’ for certain small applications they grew out of all proportion. Better would be a visible police presence and suitable deterant through the courts.

    • October 31, 2012 at 5:24 am

      “Some scare story about prevention of crime / terrorism / drugs / kids etc…”

      CCTV doesn’t prevent. That’s always been a nonsense.

      But it does aid detection after the fact, and that’s all to the good, surely?

      • October 31, 2012 at 8:13 am

        Actually, it isn’t even very good at that, either, is it?

        • October 31, 2012 at 4:18 pm

          I can think of quite a few crimes its played an investigative part in – but quality of image is always an issue. However, that can only improve.

      • October 31, 2012 at 11:36 am

        Nah. Not when it means facial recognition and watching everybodys movements and huge amounts of cash to run the whole thing.

        Besides, most of the pictures we see in the news are grainy rubbish.

        Proper policing is also goo for detection. Much better than sitting in front of a video with a coffee and a box of doughnuts

        • October 31, 2012 at 4:19 pm

          But the police force – having already partly separated from the public by choosing vehicle-based patrols – is reducing. Something’s got to change.

          • October 31, 2012 at 4:51 pm

            “Something’s got to change.”
            I couldn’t agree more. I vote for a return to traditional policing.

            • October 31, 2012 at 4:53 pm

              Second that.

  4. David A. Evans
    October 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    So we have a 59 year old male who happens to be on the PNC for no other reason than having a Jack Russell and a Hi-Vis jacket. (It’s a long story.) He happens to be in say Ely where there are loads of CCTV cameras. Automatic face recognition picks him out & next thing he knows is…

    “You’re a long way from home Mr.Evans, do you mind telling us what you’re doing here?”

    Not possible? I think it’s more likely than just possible!


    • October 31, 2012 at 5:25 am

      Except we don’t seem to have enough police for that sort of ‘Minority Report’ policing. At least, that’s what they keep telling us!

      • David A. Evans
        October 31, 2012 at 6:13 am

        It’s the lack of police that makes CCTV with face recognition software so attractive.

        No police intervention unless the computer flags you. Who’s to say what triggers the flag?


        • October 31, 2012 at 8:12 am

          Precisely. Attended a protest recently? What if you are identified as belonging to a verboten group such as, oh, I dunno, the EDL?

          Or, of course, a mistaken flag – after all, the do get it wrong from time to time…

  5. cuffleyburgers
    October 30, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Sorry Julia but you can’t disagree with someone who is for once correct, just because he’s writing in the grauniad…

    • October 31, 2012 at 5:27 am

      On this, I’d disagree with him whatever he’d have written it in. Because while he’s been right before, he’s wrong on this. He’s become a Luddite.

      Technology can – and should – be made to work for us.

      • October 31, 2012 at 8:10 am

        No, he is right, spot on, in fact. This is nothing to do with being a Luddite and everything to do with recognising a spiralling state spying on its citizens.

  6. October 30, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    And why should it ‘stifle protest, free expression and assembly’? I hate to use the hackneyed phrase ‘if you’ve got nothing to hide…’ but it’s a cliché because it’s partly based in truth.

    It has no basis in truth. My life, my movements and my whereabouts are my concern, not that of the state. The state should be absolutely transparent and afraid of us, not the other way around. Porter is right on this as he usually is.

    Nothing to hide, nothing to fear is the canard trotted out by the totalitarian. It has never been true and never will be. I have my privacy to hide and intend to do all I can to keep it hidden from the prying eyes of the state.

    • October 31, 2012 at 5:29 am

      The state isn’t going to follow you for kicks – it doesn’t have the resources for that. Nor the need to.

      If you have committed a crime, or are suspected of doing so, then yes, this might come into play. But so would ordinary bored-cop-in-a-panel-van type surveillance, had they enough resources.

      This is no different because it’s technology-based, rather than people-based.

      • October 31, 2012 at 8:09 am

        No, the state will follow people that step out of line – such as attending protests. This technology enables that behaviour, making it easier for them. We should never give the state more power over us as sooner or later it will be abused and we should not be making it easier for them.

        There is a significant difference between the bored cop watching a specific suspect for which there is evidence of malfeasance and the routine gathering of data on all of us. A huge difference. One is reasonable and proportionate, the other is most certainly not.

        • October 31, 2012 at 4:21 pm

          “No, the state will follow people that step out of line – such as attending protests.”

          They can still only arrest you if you do something arrestable.

          • David A. Evans
            October 31, 2012 at 4:30 pm

            REALLY? So why am I on the PNC?

            EDIT: In fact they can arrest you for an arrestable offence, find that it wasn’t you and not charge you. No worries, job done, another one on the PNC!


          • October 31, 2012 at 4:33 pm

            That’s irrelevant. They have no business cataloguing the movements of people engaging in perfectly legal activities.

      • Greg Tingey
        October 31, 2012 at 8:53 am

        Tell that to the tasered-in-the back blind man!
        Or de Menezes …….

  7. David A. Evans
    October 31, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Actually Julia, extending the nothing to hide, nothing to fear meme…

    When are you volunteering to be added to the PNC database?


    • October 31, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      When I commit a crime (and get caught)!

      • David A. Evans
        October 31, 2012 at 4:31 pm

        Like I didn’t?

        Can’t get it removed either.


  8. Andrew Duffin
    October 31, 2012 at 11:19 am

    First time I’ve known Julia arguing in favour of more intrusive technology to be used by the State “for our own good” (it always starts like that, doesn’t it!)

    However, I’m not worrying much about face recognition software yet, because frankly, at present it simply does not work.

    “They” have gone to enormous trouble to make (e.g.) passport photographs as uniform and standardised as possible, for this very purpose, and it still doesn’t really work even for that. In real-world situations with variable weather, clothing, difficult camera angles, poor lighting, and so on, it’s so unreliable as to be completely useless.

    Maybe after a few more cycles of Moore’s law, and a lot more work, it might be something to worry about, but not now.

    • Tatty
      October 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      First time I’ve known Julia arguing in favour of more intrusive technology to be used by the State “for our own good”

      I don’t think that’s particularly what she is doing.

      Rather that, she’s in favour of it being used…seeing as we already have it and it can be used….”for our own good”.

      Though we all have different opinions on what that actually means. 😐

      • October 31, 2012 at 4:23 pm

        No, not so much ‘for our own good’ at all. It’s in my interests (and yours?) that people committing crimes are caught. Is that ‘for our own good’?

        • October 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm

          Indeed so. That doesn’t mean that we all need to be monitored on a routine basis in order for that to happen.

        • Tatty
          November 1, 2012 at 9:21 am

          Is that ‘for our own good’?

          Yep, I think we’d all agree on that one.

  9. Furor Teutonicus
    November 1, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    XX If you aren’t planning on throwing rocks at the police or swinging on the Cenotaph, and you aren’t currently claiming to your boss you are ill in bed when you are really marching through London for Tibet or seals or Chilean donkeys, you need not worry about being photographed, surely? XX

    Stand fast Lass!

    I am sure I have written this on your very own blogg, but in this case it is, I feel, worth a repeat;

    Just after the Nürnberg laws were introduced by Göring, the Rabbinical council of Berlin (therfore MOST of Germany), made a statement which read SOMETHING similar to; “We accept the marking of personal I.D cards with “J”, and the wearing of the yellow star, because WE HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG, AND WE HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE.”

    The best laid plans of mice, men and Rabbinical councils, hej?

    It is NOT the “Government” of today that you neccessarily need to fear, but what these developments in law, enable the “Governments” of tomorow to do with the info.

    • November 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm

      There is one other crucial point to this – and that is that it is none of their damned business what law abiding citizens do or where they go.


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