Big Daddy or Big Brother? Where does the balance lie between protecting society and oppressive snooping? The one thing we can be sure of is that technology keeps moving the goal posts and the authorities race to keep up. “We are sleep walking into a surveillance society” said Chris Graham when he took over as Information Commissioner last year. Since then he’s given a new edge to the job, the latest example being a new report into continuing “ function creep” alongside the onward march of new technology. It goes without saying that Northern Ireland receives no special treatment or analysis that I’ve come across. If you find anything authoritative, do post it. And yes, you’re right, the ICO’s brief doesn’t take in MI5, but there’s more than enough to be going on with.
Although the monitoring of internet use by staff and tracking their movements by GPS applications on their mobiles is already commonplace, the report highlights some worrying new trends in workplace monitoring. They include the use of CCTV in classrooms ostensibly to control pupil behaviour but also used to monitor teacher performance.
The recent trial by Merseyside police of the use of unmanned helicopter drones in UK civilian airspace which can record hi-resolution visible and infra-red images from heights of 500m
The “e-borders” programme under which the details of more than 137 million journeys in and out of Britain have already been logged since 2005 to be held in an active database for five years and then archived for a further five years. The data is checked against “watch lists” which are being developed into “no-fly lists.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London