More evidence emerged this weekend that we in the UK are the most closely scrutinised group of people in the world. The Home Office has recently released plans to log every single journey that we make beyond these shores – estimated at around 250 million trips every year.
They will note when we travel, who we travel with and when we return to the UK, as well as names, addresses, itineraries and phone numbers. The plan is to keep the data for up to 10 years, assuming somebody doesn’t leave it on a suburban train seat in the meantime.
By the end of 2010 the government hopes that all passenger journeys will be logged in this way, and any company selling any sort of international travel ticket will have to pass information to this new ‘Spy Centre’ for analysis by the police, immigration and other associated security services. The hope is to catch terrorists, other criminals and benefit cheats.
This ‘E borders’ programme stemmed in part from Tony Blair being asked in 2005 by Jeremy Paxman how many asylum seekers there were in the UK. He was a bit flummoxed by this as nobody had any accurate data on it, so here we are a few years later with more covert analysis of our day-to-day activities. There is a startling array of ways that we are already kept tabs on, ranging from the 4 million or so CCTV cameras infesting the nation, number plate recognition, mobile phone triangulation, credit cards, and the electoral roll, to more covert analysis like tracking internet pages visited, phone tapping and keystroke software that reports what you are typing on your computer. (You can read more on a BBC report on it here).
Whether this increasing level of surveillance bothers people is a debate that is going to run for years as tracking systems become more and more sophisticated. The day can’t be far off when you’ll be able to opt for a biometric chip implant with all your relevant data on it so you can go through the fast track channel at security and customs.
It makes you wonder what George Orwell would have made of it all.
ID card anyone?
“No-one who has not sat in prison knows what the State is like”.
“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…..well, I got others”.