T Nation

What is Wrong with Britain?


I was reading this article, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8158942.stm, about the CCTV cameras and how even though the limeys are 100 percent under Big Brother's watch, they can't solve the damn crimes anyway.

My question- how did Britain get to become this constantly surveilled police state that it is becoming? Doesn't anyone there care that they seem to be quickly sliding into "V for Vendetta" land?


Here's another recent article. I would be railing against this like a bastard if I was them.

Surveillance fears for the UK

Computer security veteran Phil Zimmermann warns about the seductive nature of technology.

The UK is risking sliding unwittingly into a police state because of the growing use of surveillance technology, says security guru Phil Zimmermann.

"When you live in that society and it changes incrementally over time you are less likely to notice the changes," he told the BBC. "But if you come from outside the picture as it stands is more abruptly visible as something wrong."

Mr Zimmermann has spent his career in technology wrestling with privacy and security issues. He created PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) which encrypted e-mail to protect it from prying eyes.

Friction free

For him, the wholesale use of surveillance systems has gone too far in the UK.

The coupling of CCTV cameras with face-recognition algorithms that can track people through crowds, read registration plates and fuse all the sources of data was, dangerous, said Mr Zimmermann.

"It adds up to something that I think is able to undermine democratic institutions," he said.

For Mr Zimmermann what is creating the problem is the "seductiveness" of modern computer technology.

"As the years have gone by governments have sort of indulged themselves in the seductions of surveillance technology," he said. "Advances in surveillance technology made it possible to collect vast amounts of data, to reduce the data by computer analysis and become more aware of everything."

Advances have removed the "friction" that, in the real world act as a balance to excess, said Mr Zimmermann.

For instance, he said, the reason that the postal system is not swamped with junk mail like e-mail systems is because sending direct mail costs money.

"In e-mail it costs nothing and so that makes the friction disappear and because of that we get thousands of junk e-mails a day," he said.

"By analogy, if it takes some work, some elbow grease, to investigate people then I think you get a reasonable balance of civil liberties," he said.

The danger, he said, came when technology removed that friction and made it possible to get at huge amounts of data about people and analyse it to get a picture of what everyone is doing.

"It becomes possible to know everything about everyone all the time," he said. "It becomes possible to become omniscient."

Police power

It was "absurd" to suggest, said Mr Zimmermann, that only criminals or people who had something to hide would be threatened by such a state of affairs.

"Everyone has something to hide," he said. "We have our medical records, our private lives, our intimate selves, our financial lives. Things about our lives we do not want others to know. And this can be abused."

He added: "The power of the incumbency becomes amplified when it has access to enormous surveillance resources."

While technology could help people defend themselves against some intrusions into privacy, such as using encryption to scramble the content of e-mail messages, it could not defend against the wholesale use of surveillance systems in public.

"I can't encrypt your face," he said. "We live our physical lives in the physical world and that's not really subject to encryption."

Mr Zimmermann did not deplore all use of surveillance systems by government and police. In some cases, he said, this was appropriate given that many criminals were using technology too.

But, he warned, that did not excuse the extent to which it was starting to be used.

"These technologies tend to over-amplify the capabilities so that you can become extremely efficient in knowing everything," he said. "You can overshoot the mark as you attempt to catch up with the criminals and become aware of what everyone is doing all the time.

"I think that is harmful to society," he said.

"If you create a system where the police have too easy a job there's a threshold where if it becomes too easy it can slide into a police state," warned Mr Zimmermann.


Did you know that Brits are now expected to inform their government when they leave their country, where they will go to and what they will do there?



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That is unfuckingbelievable to me.

And yet, no one talks about this? Is it an American thing to want to have your personal life stay that way?


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The phrase 'For the good of the community..' is one of the most sinister phrases ever invented. Hitler used it, for the good of The Aryans. Stalin, for the Proletariat. Evil.




As much as I don't want to sound like your terrible "right wingnut", this is what the 2nd Amendment is for. My business is my business, not yours or the gov't or anybody elses. The situation is a living testament to the fact that the police can't protect you pre-emptively, they clean up the mess and prosecute afterwards. They can protect on a statistical level, not an individual one. It is interesting to note that until very recently (summer 2008) you could not effectively defend yourself against attacks on your person or in your home--you risked being charged with assault or manslaughter, or worse.




and this -- http://hotair.com/archives/2008/07/16/basic-right-of-self-defense-restored-in-britain/

for basic overview. Don't worry they're pretty quick reads. "trading safety for security" needs to be highlighted, as it has be DISASTROUS in Britain.

Britain's been on this path for years, and they are substantially farther along than ourselves (obviously). What's not so obvious is that the liberal Labour Party seems to be the primary driving force for all this stuff. This is why the crazy righties of this country are so crazy about stuff :wink:. Not that it isn't often UNjustified, but sometimes it actually is. That is why vigilance is always necessary towards our gov'ts law making bureaucracy. Shit like this can happen to us if we let it.


V for Vendetta was actually showing what can go down in America. It's Already on it's way! More and more cameras are being placed everywhere here too. Since people are sensitive to it they will do it under the guise of safety and such. People will accept it if they believe they will be safer.

So in short here in the USA we have

  1. More and more cameras in public places.
  2. Secret searches and seasures.
  3. Diminishing First amendment freedom of speech rights.
  4. Second amendment severely under attack and withering away.
  5. Patriot act.

Things in America are definitely bad right now. We are under assault and loosing. We'll see how it gets by the time my son is grown up, he's 1 now. Keep in mind that Britain is a good friend of the USA and where they go we may soon follow.

We're all keeping dual citizenship for a reason.


It can be sinister but it can be good too. But in this case i agree. Same as "for the children"


Any technology that can circumvent the govt powers and authority will be kept in check and deemed illegal. They'll argue interfering with justice or something.


That's why USA > Britain. At least here I can own a pistol and carry it on my hip, AND AINT NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT!


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There is certainly a lot wrong with the British surveillance society. In a society which has gotten continuously safer, the amount of CCTV cameras and infringement of civil liberties has been astonishing. Frustratingly, good parts of the public feel ever more threatened in spite of evidence to the contrary, and support these measures, even though they give away of lot their freedoms with it. And it is fear driven politics. In the case of exit border controls (described in the Telegraph article), it's basically a reaction to the fear of illegal immigrants staying in the country unchecked.

The Labour government has certainly not helped this trend by its blind actionist approach to appear 'tough on crime' (filling up prisons almost to breaking point with literally thousands of new offences), and in many cases complete ignorance of evidence on many underlying social issues and solutions. These issues do get raised though - quite regularly in the press. Just follow the Guardian's or the Economist's coverage of heavy handed policing tactics with regards to protesting (Kingsnorth, G20) and their systematic misuse of anti-terror legislation to avoid being blamed for what's essentially racial profiling.

This is quite disheartening, as everyone knows here that I'm a pinko liberal - and the 'labour' party in government has been just as dogmatic and authoritarian as their conservative predecessors. Sad that - but unfortunately not expected to be reversed. I don't necessarily imply a sinister motive though, just basically kackhanded policies trying to kowtow to the diffuse public fears. I gather, every electorate in a democracy gets the government it deserves (well given the lack of balance in the British voting system, that's not entirely true). What's worse, is that with all the data compiled, data protection fuck ups are the norm (storage media lost, in some cases releasing massive amounts of data into the public).

So in essence, we've got a fear ridden society which ignores evidence when making policies, implements monstrous control mechanisms, amasses huge amounts of data on its citizens and then loses that data. I gather the 'ever watchful eye' is its own biggest enemy.



Given that the Constitution makes no mention of privacy other than property rights, I don't think Franklin had binding others in ignorance in mind.


No. It was written by Alan Moore, and Englishman, about the future of the UK.

On this I agree.

I am still waiting for Obama to get rid of the PATRIOT Act... and it's not happening. I am not happy about that.


The illegality of it will certainly dissuade some from using it though.


Oh, but the brilliance of the founding fathers is such that the Constitution is a "living, breathing document," don'cha know. So there may have been no mention at the time, and if you're ignorant today you won't be able to see any mention in there besides protection from unreasonable search and seizure, but if you're wise, then it IS in there today and you can find it plain as day. Presto chango! Living and breathing.


You're not wrong there. But it's not all one-sided. We're still free to travel to Cuba, after all, unlike the citizens of the Land of the Free :-).

I'm not sure anyone believes the future will really stack up like the Telegraph article quoted: partly because the next election will get in the way, and partly because the government is bound to cock up the IT so badly. Anyhow, NOT having any exit controls is pretty rare - most countries have some kind of border control there: the US is exceptional in this regard (and Britain has been).

I'd have said considerably more so. But there is a significant libertarian streak in the conservative party. Whether they will do anything about it when they come to power remains to be seen. [Rightwing conspiracy theorists will point out at this point that so much law comes from Brussels these days that their hands will be tied anyhow.]

Well, we've certainly got a government in hock to some dangerously authoritarian forces, who love to play on people's fears. I doubt that many of them have sinister motives, but that doesn't stop them putting in place a whole series of measures (CCTV cameras are the least of my worries, really) which could very easily be used to enforce a brutal police state. Yes, I'm concerned, and a lot of other people are, too. But, ironically, those who speak out are dismissed by the 'liberal' media as right-wing nutjobs.

[Well, it's not so ironic really: it's always been the left that's loved control.]