speed gun
© unknownSinister Surveillance
Rather belatedly, citizens of the UK are waking up to the fact that they are under constant surveillance, have lost their privacy, their civil liberties and are now beginning to voice their outrage. 1.1 million children are on a UK DNA database and schools are assisting in softening-up the next generation to accept biometric identity and zero privacy.

Drone aircraft are beginning to be used to monitor civilian populations in the USA and the UK. The USA and Australia attempt to catch up with the UK's dystopia by using the tried and tested 'terrorist' meme. Your Skype calls are likely to soon have someone listening in on them and the much criticized social networking sites are actually displaying some positive uses for once.

Has it been left too late to stop the Big Brother society that we are now a part of?

The Orwellian Kingdom is Revolting

The printed media in the UK have reported a great deal on the declining public enthusiasm for having their every move captured on CCTV. The Guardian presents a strong argument for how ridiculous the UK data-mining operation is to search for terrorist suspects. Spying on 60 million people makes the risk of false positives completely unworkable. The Independent urges its readers to fight for their liberties that have wrongfully been taken away:
It is a plain fact that, over the past decade, civil liberties in the United Kingdom have been seriously undermined. We now live under a government that detains its citizens for long periods without trial; uses covert surveillance techniques to spy on everyone from organised criminals to litter louts; seeks to record every electronic communication we undertake, and that will, eventually, compel us to register for identity cards.

[...] Of course, ministers calculate that the public care little for liberty and have acted accordingly. This misconception must too be corrected. Individuals must speak up for their rights, and the Convention on Modern Liberty, which holds an inaugural meeting at the end of the month, aims to help them. It is time to restore those liberties that should never have been taken.
More than 1,500 Government officials, journalists, authors and privacy experts met to call on British citizens to protest at growing government surveillance. With £1.25million Home Office funding, The UK is proud of its underground centre that is the spy capital of the world and believes it to be a "best-practice example" on which the future of the UK's public surveillance system should be modelled. This is in total contradiction to the complete ineffectiveness of CCTV that the article presents:
A joint Home Office and police report recently found 80% of CCTV pictures are of such poor quality they cannot be used for detecting crime, and a police surveillance expert estimated last year that just 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV.
What the UK is not so proud of is the massive number of data losses and serious security breaches that put citizens' private data at risk.

We Will Know Everything About You

As we reported in the previous Big Brother Digest, the House of Lords gave a devastating analysis on the surveillance state. The government's reaction was to continue the now tiresome propaganda blaming the 'terror threat' for the need for citizens to accept the erosion of their privacy. Sir David Omand, an architect of the government's national security strategy clearly reported the police state's ambitions to know everything about you. He warned that "Finding out other people's secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules.":
"This is personal information about individuals that resides in databases such as advanced passenger information, airline bookings, and other travel data, passport and biometric data, immigration, identity and border records, criminal records and other governmental and private sector data, including financial and telephone and other communications records.

"Such information may be held in national records, covered by data protection legislation, but it might also be held offshore by other nations, or by global companies, and may or may not be subject to international agreements. Access to such information, and in some cases to the ability to apply data mining and pattern recognition software to databases, might well be the key to effective pre-emption in future terrorist cases."
Softening-up the Next Generation to Accept Biometric Identity

1.1 million children are on the DNA database that according to the UK Information Commissioner, makes suspects of us all. Despite a unanimous ruling by the European Court of Human Rights against the UK's mass retention of DNA of innocent people three months ago, they still can't get off the DNA database. Furthermore, to get every UK citizen into the database faster, the 'father' of ID cards, David Blunkett, is shifting focus away from unpopular ID cards and making passports compulsory.

The government has instructed college IT departments to deploy an anti-terror dragnet, whereby colleges are told to monitor web browsing for Islamic extremist sites and report students to the police. Schools have fingerprinted 1 million children for mundane activities such as book borrowing and canteen purchases and are introducing facial recognition and biometric registration. Parents are rightfully expressing their concerns:
David Clouter, a parent activist from the pressure group Leave Them Kids Alone, regards the use of biometrics in schools as "a disproportionate response to a nonexistent problem" and believes it is a "giant softening-up exercise for the next generation to accept biometric identity in some form". Children will get so used to offering their fingerprints or staring into a camera that they won't challenge it when the state asks them to do it: "Every traffic warden, every minor official, will go round fingerprinting everybody. And people won't see it as out of the ordinary, which it most certainly is."
Watching your every move
© The Daily MailGoggles enable officers to see exactly what the drone is filming

Recently passed legislation makes it now a a crime to take pictures of police officers (unless they are washing up the dishes). A new law requires ALL alcohol vendors to install CCTV cameras. UK shops are starting to use facial recognition software to force shop staff to smile. As if that wasn't bad enough, Big Brother spy planes that track the Taliban may soon hover over UK homes, with ministers believing that they are likely to become 'increasingly useful' for police work.
Armed with heat-seeking cameras, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles would hover hundreds of feet in the air, gathering intelligence and watching suspects.

The Microdrone has been trialled by Merseyside police. The white top features GPS technology, which allows officers to navigate it. It contains a memory card to store recordings from several flights
The massive increase in CCTV is alarming and quite puzzling when it is considered how ineffective they have been in reducing crime and the staggering amount of money thrown at this technology. Is it simply a process of conditioning of the public to being watched? The subtle yet broad psychological effect is essentially "dumbing down" the public's free will and its expression. Speed cameras may have the same effect - they too are reported to have very little impact on reducing the number of road deaths. By awarding big contracts to companies, they will increase investment and innovation that will eventually produce technology that does work. The fact that the current technology is not effective will require far greater investment to be introduced.

The renowned Spy Blog recommends the "well researched, and thought provoking" documentary that discusses this issue. Here is the trailer of the movie "Every Step You Take":

The Copy-Cat Surveillance States

As intended all along, the creators of the 'war on terror' are now using the many laws to protect the public interest against citizens themselves. Freedom of speech becomes non existent when animal activists are arrested as 'terrorists'.
From the same series as the infamous Patriot Act, authorities in the US seem to be turning the country into a police state more and more every day. This has been made especially clear recently, when a group of four animal rights activists have been arrested as "terrorists" in the Santa Cruz and Alameda counties, the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI reported on Friday. Indeed, America has come to see a time when protesting against something immoral has become a crime against the people and the state.
Australia's latest police weapon, a secret search, is a similar example of how laws introduced to combat 'terrorism' are in fact being used to increase police powers against citizens. The Australian Government has also been praising a new wiretap law that increases police powers.

US Individuals voicing privacy concerns report that the growing use of background checks and DNA Databases raises policy questions. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union urged the US court to block warrantless GPS tracking. However, criticism of government's proposals are limited to little known reporters, privacy groups and bloggers. The mainstream media do present some of the privacy concerns but their editorials are generally biased towards supporting the government's increasing use of surveillance techniques. For instance, despite presenting the study that questions whether cameras cut crime, the NY TImes persists in presenting isolated incidents and repeating Police Department figures.

A pair of Republican legislators have introduced a new bill which would force ISPs to retain user data for two years. It is being 'sold' to Congress and the public as a means of helping law enforcement fight child pornography when in fact it targets every single citizen by legalising the recording of Internet activity.

While not as rapid as the UK, the USA is increasing its use of CCTV. A good example is the Chicago Mayor who wants CCTV on every street corner, having already linked street cameras to its 911 network.

Similarly to the UK's introduction of RFID chips in passports and ID cards, a new radio chip is coming soon to your USA driver's license:
Ultimately it could provide electronic identification for every adult in the U.S. and allow agents to compile attendance lists at anti-government rallies simply by walking through the assembly.

The proposal, which has earned the support of Janet Napolitano, the newly chosen chief of the Department of Homeland Security, would embed radio chips in driver's licenses, or "enhanced driver's licenses."
While the UK is testing drone aircraft, they are actually now up in operation along the American border.
The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Monday launched the first flight of a Predator B drone aircraft along the American border with Manitoba. The plane uses infrared sensors, heat sensors and video cameras to monitor activity on the ground as part of the Americans' plan to make their northern border more secure from terrorist infiltration and illegal immigration.
Once again the threat of 'terror' is used for tools that are more likely to monitor immigration. Fortunately these drones are not armed like the ones currently in action in Pakistan. But with automated technology announcements such as the Pentagon's plan to deploy autonomous robots in war zones, how long is it before Terminator style robots begin to take the place of law enforcement officers in the USA?

The Plans to Listen to Internet Chatter

Concerns were raised last year over the difficulty in eavesdropping on VOIP telephone conversations such as Skype when it was announced that they can't comply with police wiretap requests. The European Union's Judicial Cooperation Unit, Eurojust has launched an investigation into the possibility of tapping Internet telephonic conversations. This time the politic spin is targeting 'criminals', but yet again it will affect the millions of citizens who could well find that their Internet chit-chat is being listened:
Italy is leading the Europe-wide feasibility study, announced on Friday. The Italian government has cited concerns that organized criminals and arms and drug traffickers are using VoIP services such as Skype to avoid traditional, more easily tapped phone networks.

"The possibility of intercepting Internet telephony will be an essential tool in the fight against international organized crime within Europe and beyond," said Carmen Manfredda, Eurojust's acting national member for Italy, in a statement. "Our aim is not to stop users from taking advantage of Internet telephony, but to prevent criminals from using Skype and other systems to plan and organize their unlawful actions. Eurojust will make all possible efforts to coordinate and assist in the cooperation between Member States."
Social Networking showing some Protest Power

The social networking sites have not yet witnessed any substantial activity from consumers against their Skype calls being soon recorded and stored by the authorities. Two recent examples do however, show that when users group together and organise a protest they can achieve positive results:

Not long after the New Zealand government announced its proposals for Internet regulation, black squares replaced colourful icons all over Twitter and other social network sites as part of a protest against them. The result? The New Zealand government actually dropped it's plans, as the Guardian reports:
New Zealand's prime minister, said as he told a media conference that plans to introduce a law that would in part oblige ISPs to cut off "repeat copyright infringers" would be delayed until 27 March - and that if rights holders and ISPs couldn't agree on a code of practice, that part of the new law would be suspended indefinitely.

But to online activists, the reason was much simpler: it was because of a campaign that encouraged people to black out their avatars on Facebook, Bebo, Twitter and other social media sites.
The other successful protest was against Facebook's new terms of service that would have allowed it to "do anything it wants with your content. forever.". Because of complaints, Facebook backtracked on terms of use:
Facebook has removed language for its terms of use that appeared to give the company vast, perpetual control over any data posted to the social-networking site.[...] Facebook users immediately revolted, prompting several new groups on the site dedicated to fighting the changes.

The arrest of a Briton for distributing 7/7 conspiracy-theory DVDs has lead to the video becoming widely viewed. It is compelling viewing and about one minute into the last part, the narrator gives some interesting views on how Big Brother (the TV show) is designed to condition the public into accepting the idea of living under constant surveillance.

Is it too late to fight back to regain our lost liberties?

It really is up to you to decide...

For some further viewing to assist in your decision making, here are the recommended films from the producers of the aforementioned documentary:
  • "The Power of Nightmares" - a BBC documentary series examines the mythical "War on Terror" - part 1
  • "The Power of Nightmares" - part 2
  • "The Power of Nightmares" - part 3
  • "Big Brother City" - GERMAN documentary about surveillance in Britain [by ARTE]
  • "Widerstand.com" - GERMAN documentary about the growing resistance against surveillance of the public [by ARTE]
  • "Taking Liberties" - New British documentary on the erosion of civil liberties under the Blair government - in UK cinemas starting June 8
  • "Is our privacy threatened?" - debate with The Information Commissioner Richard Thomas - BBC Radio 4, "Call You and Yours", 29/05/07
  • Commentary about recent BBC programme "CCTV - You Are Being Watched"
  • PBS Frontline - Spying on the Home Front
  • Suspect Nation (Channel 4 Documentary)
  • ORF Weltjournal - Leben mit Big Brother (Austrian TV report - aired 21/02/2007)
  • Look - Movie (shot as if ripped from surveillance cameras)
  • Alltag Überwachung (German Documentary)
  • Faceless (movie made out of real CCTV footage) by Manu Luksch
  • "Stop the Big Brother State" animation by David Scharf
  • V for Vendetta (on IMDb)