Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Big Brother is watching you -- yes, you!

A long time ago, fingerprints left at the scene of a crime were used to track down criminals. Known offenders' prints could be compared. Suspects could be fingerprinted, and if they were eliminated from the investigation their fingerprints weren't needed any more.

Then, a few years ago, the government decided that they'd keep fingerprints of suspects on file indefinitely - even if they turned out to be innocent after all. More recently they decided to fingerprint the entire population, possibly in case we might be considering a career in terrorism. Naturally, we all need to have voluntary identity papers as well, so the police can tell who we are. Then they realised they needed a huge database with files on everyone, to go with the fingerprints, and the optional-unless-you-need-to-do-anything identity papers.

Of course it's not going to be a crime to leave your papers at home - not at first, anyway!

But as if it were not enough to know where every citizen lives, and to be able to identify them (and access their data) at any time, a whole new surveillance network was proposed this week.

They want to track where you drive - every last journey. The time, the date, the destination - and, as a side effect, even the speed! The stated reason is for a "pay as you go" driver tax. It might even replace road tax or petrol tax. Yeah, right!

It's going to be hugely complex, with different costs for different types of roads, and compulsory spy circuitry in every car. You won't be able to work out how much a journey will cost you without a computer.

It will cost a fortune to build (we'll be paying), and it'll have a few unintended consequences.

It will drive traffic away from expensive motorways and bypasses, onto cheaper country roads and through small towns, which won't be able to cope with the new traffic.

It'll hit low earners, those living in isolated areas, and anyone else who really needs a car.

It will remove incentives to use economical cars (unless of course they keep petrol tax as well, or introduce further complexity by tiered per-mile costs).

There will be masses of data on each driver, which will be safeguarded only by the government that tried to grant access to your phone records to just about everyone - from the Food Standards Agency to your local council.

It's possibly not the smartest way of financing roads - and it has staggering scope for intrusive monitoring of yet more details of our lives.

And if you thought GATSO speed cameras were a bit devious... you aint seen nothing yet!


Madradin Ruad said...

I'm with you on the libertarian aspects - once that Box is in every vehicle it won't be a big step to program it to deny people the right to travel places - e.g. - unpopular Government, mass demo called in London, Government progrmes boxes to stop cars travelling more than 20 miles. Unthinkable ? Who would havethought 30 years ago we would have some of the things we have today.

However - I'm all in favour of anything that smites commuters and ends the school run.

Paul said...

If it only applied to "4x4"s (or SUVs in the States) that would pretty much take care of the school run :-p