Sunday, September 30, 2007

Living with Big Brother in 2007

It's insidious, and downright dangerous in a country, however democratic it claims to be - but 2007 sees Big Brother alive and well, in many guises, as The Economist reports:

"It used to be easy to tell whether you were in a free country or a dictatorship. In an old-time police state, the goons are everywhere, both in person and through a web of informers that penetrates every workplace, community and family. They glean whatever they can about your political views, if you are careless enough to express them in public, and your personal foibles. What they fail to pick up in the café or canteen, they learn by reading your letters or tapping your phone. The knowledge thus amassed is then stored on millions of yellowing pieces of paper, typed or handwritten; from an old-time dictator's viewpoint, exclusive access to these files is at least as powerful an instrument of fear as any torture chamber. Only when a regime falls will the files either be destroyed, or thrown open so people can see which of their friends was an informer.

These days, data about people's whereabouts, purchases, behaviour and personal lives are gathered, stored and shared on a scale that no dictator of the old school ever thought possible. Most of the time, there is nothing obviously malign about this. Governments say they need to gather data to ward off terrorism or protect public health; corporations say they do it to deliver goods and services more efficiently. But the ubiquity of electronic data-gathering and processing—and above all, its acceptance by the public—is still astonishing, even compared with a decade ago. Nor is it confined to one region or political system."

It's a slippery-slope when there are intrusions into the liberties and rights of people - especially when they are are being snooped on or details of their daily lives recorded - even in the name of the so-called "war on terrorism". Read the complete piece from The Economist here.

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