Memorandum submitted by Mr Charles Farrier
I am submitting this as an individual. I am
an IT professional with 15 years' experience working in software
and website development. I work extensively with databases and
am aware of the dangers inherent in them.
1. The rise in technology combined with
a mass media-fuelled climate of fear threatens our way of life.
Citizens of the UK are asked to sacrifice privacy for measures
that it is not possible to prove the success of. The sudden increase
in surveillance technology threatens the citizen's right to privacy
and their very way of life. The use of surveillance on law abiding
citizens going about their daily business or exercising their
democratic right to protest calls into question the health of
our democracy. The forthcoming National Identity Register and
the government's data sharing agenda will remove existing privacy
firewalls. The use of such data for profiling is the stuff of
despotism. If surveillance is allowed to increase unchecked then
it could have effects on the behaviour of individuals who are
anxious not to stand out in the crowd or appear in a bad light
in the eyes of the authorities. Stronger safeguards must be put
in place, bills before parliament should be subject to privacy
impact assessments and our constitution needs to be strengthened
to protect the citizen.
2. We live in dangerous times, as the rise
in technology combined with a mass media-fuelled climate of fear
threaten our way of life. The world of performance targets, blame
and litigiousness forces officials and decision-makers to "do
something", to err on the side of perceived safety. The fear
of "not acting" is made to weigh heavy on minds but
at what cost?
3. As Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National
Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter recently put it: "Fear obscures
reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic
politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they
want to pursue."
4. A recently published policy review document
released by the government states: "Citizens are asked to
accept the gathering of greater levels of information and intelligence
in the knowledge that this will facilitate improvements in public
safety and law enforcement."
Why should citizens accept further intrusion into their private
lives when research calls into question the effectiveness of current
measures? It is interesting to note that the huge proliferation
of CCTV cameras led to just a 5% reduction in crime whilst street
lighting led to a 20% reduction.
5. Chief amongst the current armoury of
so-called safety measures is the use of surveillance technology.
A way of intruding into people's lives in the interest of "protecting"
them. After all, the axiom "nothing to hide nothing to fear"
rules supreme, doesn't it? I will argue that there is very much
to fear, particularly if you have nothing to hide.
6. Privacy is a difficult concept to define
and something that many people seem to take for granted. In the
UK privacy is embodied by the system of common lawin which
you are free to do anything as long as it is not specifically
legislated against. Privacy goes hand in hand with anonymity.
Buying a newspaper is not an unlawful act and may be done under
anonymity by making a cash transaction in a small newsagent. But
consider this simple act in the modern world. The journey to the
newsagent filmed on CCTV, the purchase filmed within the shop
and the transaction recorded if the purchase is made with a credit
or debit card. Why should this be watched and recorded? Now imagine
a future world in which this information is added to a central
register and the choice of newspaper contributes to a profiling
score. Such a vision is not far off with the UK National Identity
Register waiting in the wings.
What have we become that we feel the need to pry into the lives
of law abiding citizens in such a way?
7. The start of the 21st century has ushered
in a wave of "modernisation" often for the sake of it.
Those that do not embrace "modernity" are branded Luddites.
Yet many of the changes in surveillance technology are so far
reaching that they threaten what it is to be human. For instance,
advances in CCTV cameras mean that we will progress from simple
stop motion black and white images to high resolution, colour
digital images with facial recognition and perhaps soon expressions
Technologies such as expression recognition will intrude into
behaviour identity and lead to a robot-like neutral public persona.
Technology should be a tool to assist humanity not a weapon with
which to enslave it. Advances in technology are big business and
there is a whole industry keen to make whatever case necessary
to increase salesgovernments should be acting on behalf
of their citizens not the commercial designs of the high tech
8. For an insight into surveillance technology
trends and their impact in modern society I draw the committee's
attention to the Institute for Prospective Technologies (IPTS)
report Security and Privacy for the Citizen in the Post-September
11 Digital Age: A Prospective Overview..
9. One of the most worrying trends in recent
years has been the photographing and filming of protesters.
Our society is supposedly a democracy in which the right to protest
is respected. Yet law abiding citizens who choose to go on a demonstration
are routinely filmed. The eerie sight of police with handheld
equipment recording the presence of protesters embodies a threatening
and disapproving state. This is unacceptable in a democracy. What
laws allowed this to become routine? What has our society become
that the expression of a democratic right is met with such muscle-flexing
of the state? What happens when the advances in technology allow
the previously shot footage to be matched against the National
Identity Register using facial recognition? Will this data be
used for profiling? Protesters should be heard but not individually
monitored and any existing footage should be destroyed.
10. Identity management is a cornerstone
in the surveillance state. Through the introduction of a centralised
database of all citizens, each allocated a unique identifier (National
Identity Register Number, NIRN), the full power of total surveillance
11. In the past identifying information
such as fingerprints and mugshots has only been stored for convicted
criminals but the UK's identity scheme seeks to store such personal
and private information on all members of society. The unique
identifier will allow information from disparate databases to
12. The indexing of data by the NIRN when
combined with the government's forthcoming data sharing agenda
will destroy existing privacy firewalls. For instance, assurances
that medical data will not be stored on the National Identity
Register are meaningless if medical records contain a reference
to a citizen's unique identifier. Effectively the National Identity
Register will be joined to the NHS spine via the NIRN.
13. The government promised a consultation
on data sharing and a data sharing bill in the Spring of 2004.
Why did they not fulfil this promise? Surely if they have nothing
to hide they would have donesurely they have nothing to
fear from explaining to UK citizens the full implications of data
sharing. Why are they introducing such measures by stealth?
14. In addition, the audit trail enshrined
in the Identity Card Act will facilitate the creation of dossiers
on UK citizens. Each time a card is electronically read it will
be possible to record the location in time of that event and so
track individuals and their behaviour.
15. The collection of information in databases
is intrinsically linked with profiling. Roger Clarke of the Australian
National University defines profiling as: "a data surveillance
technique which is little-understood and ill-documented, but increasingly
used. It is a means of generating suspects or prospects from within
a large population, and involves inferring a set of characteristics
of a particular class of person from past experience, then searching
data-holdings for individuals with a close fit to that set of
16. Allowing computers to categorise citizens
in this way is a frightening vision of a future in which every
action could increase the likelihood of becoming a suspect. In
addition, computers always make mistakes and it will only be a
matter of time before such systems lead to wrongful arrests, detentions
17. Profiling is the stuff of despotism.
In Nazi Germany the forerunner to modern computers, the Hollerith
punch card machine was used to categorise the German population
in the census of 1939.
This allowed them to conduct the Holocaust in a controlled and
18. The unwritten constitution of Britain
is too weak to protect UK citizens. The power of parliament is
supreme and armed with such technology it is not difficult to
see a future "elective dictatorship" completing the
erosion of civil liberties that has been accelerating so alarmingly
in recent years.
19. Lord Scarman, the first chairman of
the Law Commission warned: "When times are normal and fear
is not stalking the land, English law sturdily protects the freedom
of the individual and respects human personality. But when times
are abnormally alive with fear and prejudice the common law is
at a disadvantage: it cannot resist the will, however frightened
and prejudiced it may be, of Parliament."
20. The advances in surveillance technology
will create an electronic Panopticon in which citizens feel that
their every move is being recorded and analysed. The effect of
this will be to create a society of behavioural uniformity. The
law abiding citizen clearly stands to lose the most. As New
York Times columnist William Safire put it: "To be watched
at all times, especially when doing nothing seriously wrong, is
to be afflicted with a creepy feeling. That is what is felt by
a convict in an always-lighted cell. It is the pervasive, inescapable
feeling of being unfree."
21. The government should be protecting
privacy not working to destroy it as it currently is. There should
be legislation against excessive surveillance. Safeguards should
be put in place and sunset clauses for all measures that reduce
citizens' freedom. All bills before Parliament should be subject
to a privacy impact assessment.
22. The constitution needs urgently to be
reinforced to create clear limits on what the government can and
cannot do. As Christian Parenti put it: "As a society, we
want to say: Here you may not go. Here you may not trade and analyze
information and build dossiers. There are risks in social anonymity,
but the risks of omniscient and omnipotent state and corporate
power are far worse."
108 Zbigniew Brzezinski-"Terrorized by `War
on Terror'-How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America",
Washington Post Sunday, March 25, 2007; Page B01 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/23/AR2007032301613.html) Back
"Building on progress: Security, crime and justice",
HM Government Policy Review, March 2007. Back
"To CCTV or not to CCTV?", NACRO, June 2002 (http://www.nacro.org.uk/data/resources/nacro-2004120299.pdf) Back
Whilst such proposals are not on the face of the Identity Cards
Act, it could be possible through the linking of databases (upon
the customer's unique identifier) to data mine in this way. Back
See "Urban Surveillance and Panopticism: will we recognize
the facial recognition society?" by Mitchell Gray http://www.surveillance-and-society.org/articles1(3)/facial.pdf Back
Security and Privacy for the Citizen in the Post-September 11
Digital Age: A Prospective Overview, A Report to the European
Parliament Committee on Citizens Freedoms and Rights, Justice
and Home Affairs (LIBE), IPTS July 2003 (ftp://ftp.jrc.es/pub/EURdoc/eur20823en.pdf) Back
See Casualty of War-eight weeks of counter-terrorism in rural
England, Liberty, July 2003 (http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/publications/pdfs/casualty-of-war-final.pdf) Back
See Information sharing vision statement, HM Government,
September 2006 (http://www.dca.gov.uk/foi/sharing/information-sharing.pdf) Back
Profiling: A Hidden Challenge to the Regulation of Data Surveillance
by Roger Clarke, Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science,
Australian National University, 1995 (http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/DV/PaperProfiling.html) Back
See IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black, 2002, Time
Warner Paperbacks. Back
Hamlyn Lectures, English Law-The New Dimension, 1974. Back
The Great Unwatched, William Safire, New York Times
18 February 2002. 12 December 2002. Back
The Soft Cage-Surveillance in America by Christian Parenti,
2003, Basic Books. Back