The Blog

Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear

In November of 2010, Cameron took a little visit to China. During that visit he spoke to them about human rights and made a lovely talk about how important it is to listen to the people, meanwhile students across London were protesting about how they didn't want the tuition fees to rise.

It was the sort of beautiful juxtaposition of double standards that Francis Ford Coppola would've creamed himself at directing, before ruining it all by putting Andy Garcia in the shot.

This week has made me curious if those 'human rights' talks were more a masterclass for our PM, studying the high art of exactly how to balance on the fine line between a dictatorship and a democracy, without needing a balancing stick to make a show of it all. Luckily the government's plans for mass digital surveillance were pushed back last week but the fact they were announced in the first place, and that they've not been quashed, merely delayed, are both very worrying indeed.

If you're one of those who aren't remotely worried about the constant monitoring of everyone in the UK's emails, social media interactions and phone calls, then you are more naive than a backwards bottle of Evian. Sure, maybe you have 'nothing to hide' which might make you assume you have 'nothing to fear', but its not as easy as that. I have nothing to hide - apart from my laptop when I leave the house for fear of burglaries - but yet I still have many fears, not including all those about spiders, zombies and spider zombies.

Maybe, just maybe, I haven't got a clue about all of this stuff, being just an unknowing member of the public like I am. Maybe what we do need to do is waste tons of money paying people to invade our privacy scouring through millions and millions on mundane tweets just incase some mad terrorist accidentally tells us he's having Cheerios for breakfast because its his last breakfast before he blows himself up. Or that its worth checking everyone's Facebook status updates just incase in amongst all the lonely cries for help, pointless information about meaningless personal lives and vitriol against whoever the Daily Mail is currently sacrificing to the hordes, there might be one by a budding young criminal stating so and so ' just off to spend a few hours honing his sex trafficking trade.' Chances are, they will find very little. Have they not seen the Wire and the wise words of Stringer Bell? Real criminals don't talk on the phone. Instead there'll just be tons of people persecuted for using a targeted word or making a joke. Remember the ongoing Twitter Joke Trial where poor Paul Chambers was arrested and gained a criminal record for making a joke about 'blowing Robin Hood airport sky high'? Imagine everyone you know being misconstrued as a terrorist because they might have said something is 'da bomb'. Yes, I am assuming that people say that. Yes I am down with the kids, the kids from ten years ago that are now adults. What if you're asked to draw 'dynamite' on Draw Something and next thing you know you're being accused of treason? Or you hit square C4 on Battleships? Just who knows who'll be watching.

We've been promised that its all for security and not all just snooping, the latter not at all meaning we all have to add 'izzle' at the end of certain words. Cameron has spouting on and on how his role is to protect the UK from organised crime. Personally I'd prefer to see him don spandex and a cape, becoming than filter through my private messages, and that's saying a lot as the thought of him in tights is retch inducing. But who's to say how it will be abused? Especially as this monitoring of all of us normal types is announced in a week where the government's double standards meter must be ringing all of its bells. Osborne's announcement that he is 'happy' (something that seems impossible from a man who's has the smile of Norman Bates at the best of times) with publishing senior cabinet ministers personal tax returns, is a rare exception to the rule. To be honest, if that gets passed I'll be as shocked as the next man, with guaranteed opposition from the rest of the commons. Not just that but the promise of anything from a man who has already glossed over that government spending for 2011-12 was twice as much as he said it would be in last year's budget. If he was made of wood, his nose would now be of a length that police would arrest him for carrying. Outside of this pledge though their have been many talks of secret courts these last few days, where ministers could decided what information is hidden from the press and the public - a move that's not at all sinister in any way. I mean, why would we need to know what decisions go on behind closed legal doors? I'm pretty sure that a government who allegedly takes money from donors to have lunch with the PM, or sneaks through health system reforms without divulging necessary risk registers, or etc etc (add any one of your favourite foul play moments from Coalition from the last two years here) would only use such 'secret courts' for the power of the people, yep? Of course. Although Nick Clegg has pledged that he'll fight against such plans, which means with all his power and sway that they will almost certainly happen and Cameron will cut his pocket money for a week for being insolent.

So Orwell's 1984 comes to possible fruition many years after he predicted. A Big Brother with no cash prize for the most popular, but more likely a court hearing we'll never know about. This government were meant to be all about transparency, but at no point did we presume it'd be the public's matters that become visible to them. Like a two way mirror, only no one's even offered us a coffee in our interrogation room. Freedom of speech is well and truly dead it seems. Our opinions don't mean anything, our thoughts and words will be monitored, and those who oppose it can be judged away from the eyes of the world. I for one won't change anything. I'd like to see anyone in the government be able to work out text speak or hashtags anytime soon. So I say we all continue to tweet, FB and email lengthy insult matches to friends using longer and longer swears all we can. But do stop using 'da bomb', if only because 15 year olds will think you're as 'out of touch' as the Conservatives. Let's just hope that by the time this measure rears its ugly head again the country won't be so left in the dark and we'll be under new political management who actually understand how all this new fangled technology actually works.