Of course, ‘I’m listening’ was the catchphrase of fictional radio psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane. Frasier was a character that lasted 20 years, funny, neurotic, pompous and entirely loveable.
Of course, Crane and the actor, Kelsey Grammer who plays him are conservative. Nevertheless, Grammer is someone who knows the price of privacy having sued to protect his own and having being sued for supposedly invading that of an ex girlfriend.
Theresa May clearly doesn’t share his conservative concern about privacy. Theresa May wants to listen to everything you have to say.
But not of course if you’re less than keen on the draft Communications Bill. If you have something to say about that, well, Theresa is more interested in next season’s Laboutins.
She’s certainly not listening
Libertarian commentators have voiced concern about the Bill. Why? Because they don’t think it is proper to require private communications companies to store details of every text message, email, website visit or phone call that you make.
And, the Liberty crowd aren’t the only ones. The Constitutional Court in Germany held that to do so would be unconstitutional, oh and so did the Czech Republic and… the Romanians.
But should you dare criticise the Bill you are simply dismissed as a conspiracy theorist.
Yes, you’re a conspiracy theorist. You live in your parents box room, you have body odour, wear a ‘They Shot JFK’ t-shirt and use your super fast broadband to look up websites all about how the Queen and the CIA are in league to try and take over the world.
You’re a concerned citizen. But why, why be concerned? Because, afterall, if you’ve done nothing wrong then you have nothing to hide.
Sorry, but I still have some concerns.
My first concern is my phone bill. ‘eh? Well, Orange are going to have put in place new systems to record all these billions of peices of information and hand them out to the Government when required. Of course, that’s going to be added to my phone bill.
And, well, there’s my tax bill too, no doubt there’ll have to be a variety of systems put in place and non-jobs to manage this wonderful society saving power. We’ll be paying for those too no doubt.
But, it’s not going to be simply the police and the security services with this power. Oh no, because of course HMRC will require them to track down tax evaders and well, the local council will need them too to catch those pesky benefit fraudsters (and people who put their bins out a night early.) And, lest us not forget the NHS, if too many biros go missing from A&E their counter fraud lot better be able to check everyone’s phones to be sure there’s not a trade in illict bics.
Expensive, given to hundreds of agencies and, lacking in safeguards.
Because, to get this data you will not need a warrant. The local snooper at your local council will be able to get hold of this data and no doubt they shall.
The reason this has come into the foreground is simply because the technology is there to do it. Computers are more advanced, this amount of data can be handled more simply and efficiently. So, why not.
And, if I were being cynical (guilty), I might say that as coppers and prosecutors get the chop, these powers might make it a little easier for speculative investigations when the man power isn’t available to do the full thorough job.
But, what about other dangers? Because, technology is advancing. Voice recognition is a great example. Remember your first PC? No doubt it was bundled with ‘voice type’ software. You’d spend 4 hours training the software to recognise and type your voice. Then, you’d use it in word for the first time.
‘Dear Sirs, I write to complain about the service I received in the Staines Tesco’s yesterday’
And on the screen would appear
‘Bear furs, might detain trout reverse in the stains testicles lest he may’
But technology has moved on. Voice recognition is reaching new levels, software is available which indicates whether people are telling the truth. We phone call centres and conduct banking transactions with computers.
So, we can’t be far off technology that can pick out key spoken words and phrases. Say a keyword on the phone, security service file opens. Or, why not install the technology in all licenced premises, or better yet, all public places.
Why not? Because I’m entitled not to have my phone calls listened to, or my emails scanned. I’m entitled to share a secret with a friend.
Walk down this path and criminal trials will turn into English literature lessons. The few police officers left will be forced to collate huge transcripts and when juries get them guilty and not guilty will depend on the interpretation of a word or a phrase. Of course, the police won’t have time or the resources to investigate any other things most of the money being spent on IT technicians.
If I want to slag off the Government, I am entitled to. I am entitled to because I live in a liberal democracy. I am entitled to do it on the phone, or via email, without the contents being checked because I mention a key word. I’m entitled to privacy.
I cannot understand how the Conservatives who harped, loudly about civil liberties before being elected and slammed the Labour erosion thereof can possibly put this draft bill out there.
Moreover, the Liberal Democrats, supposedly the party that will guard our rights the most are supporting this. For heaven’s sake, they have liberal in their name!
Why doesn’t the coalition save the money on the software and simply adopt the Gauleiter system. Boris can be gauleiter of London and that woman who lives down your street who curtain twitches can be Blockleiter and report you to the council when you put your bins out an hour early.
As a country we have shed so much of our own blood and that of others in the name of liberty, each step like this we take dishonours those lives.
Start listening now Theresa