Wednesday 11 February 2009

The imagery of surveillance

Has anyone else noticed the increasing pervasiveness of surveillance imagery that is cropping up all around us? It started with the most recent TV Licensing advert that reminded us in a creepy, slightly threatenting tone of voice that you can run but you can't hide, because "it's all in the database".
And a few weeks ago I encountered this at a bus stop on my way to work. So even the cows need watching now to make sure that - what? - they give enough milk? Don't eat the wrong kind of grass?
Matron cannot help feeling scared that in the homeland of CCTV, these images seem to become part of the wallpaper. So much so that no one notices them any more. Despite all evidence to the contrary, individuals in the UK continue to believe that being captured on film up to 300 times a day will successfully protect them from becoming victims of criminal activity and resistance to widespread public surveillance is minimal. Matron is afraid that these images might be doing their bit in habitualising us all to the normality of constant observation.
Three cheers therefore for the House of Lords Constitution Committee which last week published a report entitled "Surveillance: Citizens and the State" that looked at the impact that government surveillance and data collection have upon the privacy of citizens and their relationship with the State. Among other things, it recommends that the government should introduce a statutory regime for the use of CCTV by both the public and private sectors and that a Parliamentary joint committee on surveillance and data powers of the state should be established to which any proposed legislation which would expand surveillance or data-processing powers should be referred. With the upcoming consultation on the Interception Modernisation Programme and the implementation of the Data Retention Directive for internet data just around the corner, this reminder does not come a minute too soon.
Whether anyone in this increasingly arrogant government will take any notice of it, is another matter entirely. For recent examples of sheer pig-headedness, see the government's response to the House of Lords report on personal internet security and it's notification to the European Commission stating that it wants to extend its existing derogation from the artist's resale right for the work of deceased artists for a further two years. This does not mean that Matron is necessarily in favour of copyright terms that exceed the artist's own lifespan. But the decision to extent the derogation was taken despite the fact that, as part of an IPO consultation on the matter, only 10% of respondents were in favour of such an extension. Little wonder that the majority of people in this country are starting to feel a smidgen ill at ease with their elected representatives. But unlike the people in the US, do we have a viable alternative?

No comments:

Post a Comment