Banksy CCTV
© Banksy
'There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment . . . It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time." - George Orwell's 1984
Under the pretense of the 'War on Terror' the creep towards total control of every aspect of the lives of the World's Citizens continues. No change in America under Obama except greater support for private contractors and further use of wiretapping. The House of Lords speak out against the violation of civil liberties but seem powerless given the EU's role in determining UK legislation. You can't even escape Big Brother UK for a holiday with new travel spying laws. Google latitude causes a stir with it's latest product for stalkers. RFID technology looks poised to facilitate the imposition of a carbon footprint tax despite the flawed global warming science it is based on.

The Orwellian Kingdom

In the UK it is encouraging to see public criticism of the expansion of civilian monitoring, surveillance and data collection. Whether the latest House of Lords damming report on UK's Big Brother society represents a shift in policy remains to be seen.

The Guardian reported the House of Lords concern over the rising CCTV threat to freedom:
"The huge rise in surveillance and data collection by the state and other organisations risks undermining the long-standing traditions of privacy and individual freedom which are vital for democracy," he said. "If the public are to trust that information about them is not being improperly used there should be much more openness about what data is collected, by whom and how it is used."

But the report is silent on proposals from Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, for a "superdatabase" tracking everybody's emails, calls, texts and internet use and from Jack Straw, the justice secretary, to lower barriers on the widespread sharing of personal data across the public sector.
The House of Lords are the unelected body of peers who form the Upper Houses of Parliament. The bulk of all the most important government legislation, is
initiated in the House of Commons. The Lords have little power to block a determined government. So it remains to be seen whether this report will put any brakes on the increasingly pervasive expansion of an Orwellian nightmare. With the UK Home Secretary herself conceding there is zero support for CCTV cameras in UK communities, the House of Lords report could represent a shift from the unpopular visible signs of Big Brother to more covert data collection on UK Citizens. - or maybe just less use of CCTV to catch classroom pranksters and more to catch journalists and dissenters.

The impact of the House of Lords report is further questioned by the undeniable influence of the EU on UK policy. The European court of justice (pdf) endorsed a directive that:
makes it obligatory for communication service providers to hold communication data (on all landline phone calls, emails, faxes, mobile calls - including location - and internet usage) for up to two years and to make it available to law-enforcement agencies.
The public should be concerned but seem blissfully ignorant of the privacy issues at stake. Police have already put 100,000 innocent children on DNA database. But media spin of "protecting vulnerable children" seems to be effective in covering up the risks posed by data gathering and the alarming rate at which UK citizens' private information is being lost.

Both opposition parties attacked the UK Governments plans for a new spy centre to retain all travel data for every person entering and leaving the UK in a centralised database for 10 years. This includes six year old children, as discussed in an article that provides evidence of just how dominate the EU is in determining UK policy:
Two months ago, the UK Borders Agency began fingerprinting foreign children over six years old, from outside the European Economic Area and resident in Britain [pdf file, 64.4Kb]. At the time Jacqui Smith was congratulated for her tough line on issuing identity cards to foreign residents and no one, not even parliament, noticed that the biometric requirements applied to children of six. And parliament didn't know because it was never asked to approve the policy.
The United Surveillance States of America

Obama has been quick to recognise the importance of cybersecurity and the Bush wiretapping legacy. The Obama administration ordered a review of Bush-era state secrets while hypocritically continuing to use these powers:
President Barack Obama's Justice Department on Monday was defending the privilege invoked by the Bush administration, in a bid to scuttle a lawsuit brought by four U.S. prisoners who claim they were kidnapped, taken overseas and tortured.
These were powers brought in under the guise of the fake War on Terror that have been used to target journalists as much as any perceived threat to homeland security.

At the same time Obama has ordered a 60-day cybersecurity review. This is seemingly an expansion of existing policy to continue lucrative contracts with Northrop Grumman Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, the Pentagon's biggest contractors:
[The Obama Administration] pledged to work with industry, researchers, and citizens to "build a trustworthy and accountable cyber infrastructure that is resilient, protects America's competitive advantage, and advances our national and homeland security."
This is the "change" that Obama was talking about?

Google is Watching You

While the World's Governments impose increasingly restrictive legislation to control every aspect of our lives, private companies such as Google and Social Networking sites are doing their bit to soften the blow and ensure a techno-savy population become willing participants in the erosion of privacy and civil liberties.

Not content with watching every aspect of our lives, Google's latest product, Latitude, has been dubbed by some as the stuff of stalkers and Big Brother:
This is a location-sharing service that lets you know the relative location of your friends in real time. This isn't based on specific data that you input about yourself either, because Google is able to calculate your location (with some level of accuracy) based on how you are currently accessing the web.
The Director of Privacy International, Simon Davies, said:
"Many people will see Latitude as a cool product, but the reality is that Google has yet again failed to deliver strong privacy and security. The company has a long way to go before it can capture the trust of phone users."

"As it stands right now, Latitude could be a gift to stalkers, prying employers, jealous partners and obsessive friends. The dangers to a user's privacy and security are as limitless as the imagination of those who would abuse this technology."
To it's credit, Google does much to promote it's concern for privacy. However, what would happen if Google comes under different ownership? Given Google's current market dominance it is easy to assume it will continue as it is indefinitely. However unlikely as it seems today, this article raises valid concerns regarding the fate of customer data when companies merge:
in today's rock-bottom economy, with its mergers and bankruptcies, the retail concept of data ownership is getting quite a workout. For example, CompUSA closed its doors but has now reemerged in a very different form in Florida. And there's no telling where the petabytes (exabytes?) of customer information now controlled by Circuit City will wind up.
Further, Google and other companies would be quite powerless should new legislation be introduced that deems data under private ownership a threat to National Security. But don't worry, as we keep being told by our politicians, "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear"...

Convergence of technology and global warming politics
carbon footprint RFID
© RFID JournalA demo of the prototype RFID system determining a product's carbon footprint.

The Amazing Story Behind the Global Warming Scam shows the financial incentives granted to researchers developing CO2 related technology and the politics behind a new carbon footprint tax. Should this be imposed upon consumers, RFID technology is likely to play a key role. Researchers are working on how RFID can be used to calculate an item's Carbon Footprint:
The Bits to Energy Lab is studying how to use data collected via RFID to calculate an individual item's carbon footprint, then display that information on an RFID-enabled mobile phone.
Converging mobile devices to communicate with vehicles, a Cashless Society where Cell Phones Double As Electronic Wallets, It is relatively easy to extrapolate a not so distant future scenario:
At the supermarket checkout, all products with embedded RFID chips in your shopping basket are instantaneously scanned, the cost deducted from your bank account and you're immediately given a carbon footprint sum based on unique data on every product you have chosen. Linked to your Carbon footprint ration card it may well be that you'd have to put those Saudi dates back on the shelf otherwise you'd be over your monthly CO2 limit. You wouldn't have enough credits to get your shopping home, since your car will be automatically disabled unless you make an immediate carbon off-set purchase.
Sacrificing Privacy for Entertainment and 'Security'

Such is the hype and excitement generated by new technology that few stop to consider the threat to freedoms and civil liberties they sacrifice in sharing their 'news' with the world. Granted, new Social Networking Web tools such as StumbleUpon and twitter can aid networking and communication. However, the amount of private information people willingly give away without thinking is alarming. Facebook has just announced a change to it's terms of service that essentially mean they can do what they want with your information forever!. New search tools such as Pipl and Spokeo's HR recruitment tool make this data easily accessible to anyone.

Alongside the willing sacrifice of privacy by a naive public, is the enforced erosion of civil liberties under the guise of the 'War on Terror'. Government legislation has significantly increased surveillance, data collection, centralisation and security measures 'for your own safety'.

Who is to blame for the steady creep into an Orwellian nightmare?
Benjamin Franklin
© unknownBenjamin Franklin