A step too far

Perhaps because I grew up in the era when the sight of a camera on the corner of the street was reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984 rather than safety, I’ve often found the number of cameras scattered around the streets a little disturbing. Yet, there’s no doubt that the evidence of cameras has been useful in clearing up a proportion of crime, and so largely I’ve not felt too bothered about them.

Yet, there always comes a point at which the rights of the individual to go about their lawful business without being monitored by the state trumps the need of law enforcement to gather evidence, and that point has come with the news that:

Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

Every time that anyone makes a journey, it will be logged. Every time that you go anywhere, it will be recorded. Every movement you make, every time you go to the shops, go to your friends, travel to your parents, you will be being watched.

That isn’t security: it’s Big Brother. Of course, the standard answer will be that “only the guilty have anything to fear”. But that misses the point: the state has no business in what I do as long as I don’t break the law, and until the moment that I break the law, it has no right tracking my movements.

Add in compulsory ID cards, the removal in some cases of the right to trial by jury, the paralegal system of punishment called ASBOs, and the persistent attempts of the government to detain terrorist suspects without trial and you have a clear trend. This is a government that cares nothing for the rights of the individual, dislikes the courts as a method of ensuring justice, and believes that “it reduces crime” is an excuse for doing anything.

At what point does it stop? When we’re all electronically tagged? After all “only the guilty would have anything to fear” from that too.