Written by Civil Liberties, Politics

CCTV Cameras OK – Microphones a Step Too Far

Oh the irony. Earlier this week Henry Porter presented a fine programme on More 4 (should have been on Channel 4) called Suspect Nation, examining not just ID cards, but the rash of CCTV cameras and other monitoring that’s going on. In particular, there’s the “function creep” where data’s captured and used more and more without anyone asking the questions.
So now when you use your Oyster Card on the tube or enter London, your journey details are captured.
Today we hear that the logical next step of CCTV is to add a microphone to the cameras and record the sounds, at the Olympics in particular, but you can bet your bottom dollar, it’ll be everywhere else.
The irony comes when the former Home Secretary came onto Five Live this evening to say that this was a step too far and “simply unacceptable”. David Blunkett thinks it’s fair enough to follow me around on the streets via camera, but it’s a step too far to hear what I’m saying.
Actually, it is wrong for “them” to monitor my conversations in the street, but then I don’t particularly want to be tracked around as I walk. I don’t have an Oyster Card (and if I did, I wouldn’t give accurate ownership data for it). I don’t have a car, although that’s more a lifestyle choice. I know I can be tracked with my phone even when I’m not using it. But I can at least buy an unregistered pay as you go phone, or not carry one at all. Similarly, my local shops might prefer me to use debit or credit cards now (cheques seem to be seriously on the way out now), but cash still works.
Blunkett is the man who introduced ID Card legislation to Parliament, so his concern now about civil liberties is amusing. Or it would be, if it weren’t so truly disturbing. Of course, his private life has featured significantly in the press in the past. Imagine how much worse it might have been if additional data was kicking around on databases for journalists or muck-rakers to dig through (they’d get access – they always do) looking for background on a dallying politician’s private life?