Dr Alf brings us two rather quaint videos, which purport to suggest that we can have privacy in Europe and balance our right to privacy with security. The reality is rather different.
To begin with, we are photographed by security cameras 300 times a day, and in the UK, there are more cameras per head of population than there are in the People’s Republic of China. The footage from these cameras is retained by private companies and can be accessed by the police and security services at will.
Mobile phones in roaming mode and even when switched-off are emitting a signal locating the phone and by definition the person who is carrying it every 8 seconds. By triangulation, the police and security services can track a person to within 300 meters of where they are 24 hours a day, and if that person is with another person or persons, then they can see who has been consorting with or accompanying them.
Every street in the UK has a “collator”(this has been the standard practice for at least 50 years), who is a police spy employed to give the police information about who lives in the street and provide data about what people are doing. The police store that data forever and then use it when crimes have been committed or as a way to target “persons of interest”.
Everything we say on the telephone can be taped, the moment we say certain key words and even if we don’t RIPA allows our human rights to be breached “proportionately” by the police, council officials, benefit fraud investigators, the security services and even outsourced providers of policing services like G4S, who are already running rural police stations, escorting prisoners and providing investigative services to police forces up and down the country.
Automatic number plate recognition allows the police and the Highways Agency to establish whether vehicles are stolen, properly taxed, insured and MOT’d and whether a given vehicle has been driven erratically or too fast.
The plan eventually is to have all roads covered by facial recognition cameras, as well as the new digital speed cameras which will then allow the police and the Highways Agency to know where people have driven to, who they were with, when they started their journeys ,what route they took and when they came back.
All cars built since 1995 have devices in them that link to transponders built into motorways like the M6, MI, M2 and the M25, so that at some future point when road pricing comes in, satellites can track a person’s every move.
When we buy something in a supermarket or retail outlet on a store, credit, debit or charge card we leave an electronic trail which can be matched to our phone and car movements, web browsing and security camera footage to come up with more information about us than the Stasi in the old Eastern Germany could ever have imagined.
At home, the latest generation of Samsung flat screen televisions and Apple phones contain a facility to enable the security services to watch and listen to a person as they watch television or use their smartphones. The data is retained by the phone and television manufacturers and the facility to observe and listen to a person can be triggered by the security services without a warrant.
A trip to the BT facility at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk reveals a building with blacked out windows.
There BT engineers, totaling 70 in all, listen in to conversations of suspected terrorists, jihadists and organised crime figures who have been identified and targeted for “relentless disruption” whatever that phrase means in practice.
Turning now to e-mails and Skype, the Russians have 2 million cyber warriors in the GRU and the Chinese have at least 4 million in the PLA. The Climate Change e-mails, which were leaked from the University of East Anglia, emerged after a potentially hostile foreign power hacked into the University’s computers and revealed how climate data was being manipulated to make the case for Global Warming appear stronger than it really was.
The EU has already passed legislation which says that cookies have to be on all EU domiciled websites so browsing data and what is typed can be tracked by Google, Microsoft, Skype(owned by Microsoft) and other providers.
Our own security services can and do collect metadata and can get live feeds from the telephone cables before they cross the Atlantic of people they need to analyse further.
To retain a measure of privacy one could use proxy servers but the reality for some time is that privacy as we once knew it has been dead for a very long time.