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CCTV - The Fifth Utility 282

An anonymous reader sent in a solid story discussing the fifth utility, or, the closed caption surveliance systems in Britain. Lots of background information on encryption and privacy issues. But in the end, a very good story covering a lot of issues that might be second nature to many readers of this site, but maybe not to the average newspaper reader.
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CCTV - The Fifth Utility

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Will all the videos of me just have a big smiley yellow face with "Anonymous Coward" printed underneath it as I walk in front of the cameras?
  • This reads to me like a troll, but I'll bite anyway I actually have (relatively) little problem with CCTV, but "honest politicians"? What a joke! PPP (large interests pushing the government to pick the absolute worst option for financing the London Underground), Tobacco's exemption from Formula 1 Racing, The changes in the copyright law that are like the DCMA but without even the token "fair use" comments in the bill, as well as people like Geoffrey Robinson who appears to have monied many members of parliament... and so on. The government might not quite be to the legalised influence buying position that's tolerated in America, but it's hardly perfect. And the police - well, they're humans too, and they mess up - unless you missed the huge number of bad convictions and the many miscarriages of justice. The worst part is that British law (generally) used to be designed to be incorruptible. With the (seemingly heralded) removal of double jeopardy laws and the slippery slope trodden by RIP, it looks like we may be heading in a position which would scare a lot of people.
  • >The BBC, instead of using advertising on it's channels charges an annual fee to viewers (around £80 per household).

    Not purchased a TV license recently have we? :)

    Last one I bought says £104 on it - I'ld imagine it'll go up soon - I seem to remember it being £103 last year. Or so, but then I've not been awake as late.

    It's very very fiddly when you're renting accomodation - I'ld imagine that the people at our previous residence have received quite nasty letters - as I've received some for the people before us "FINAL REMINDER" etc. I had to ring them in the end as I didn't really want to piss around with this.

    (However, I still like the BBC, although most of the stuff I get my TiVo to tape is admittedly on Sky 1)
  • >Can you even imagine why you are getting the crap bombed out of you?

    Because these people have no concept of not using violence and because they are unwilling to compromise with other people?

    Half the people in Northern Ireland don't want to be in a United Ireland - this is why both sides of the issue should work together and find a suitable compromise, which they are trying to do now. The Real IRA simply refuse to compromise at all.

    You can argue the rights and wrongs of partition and the initial colonisation, but they have happened, and attaching Northern Ireland to Ireland would make a lot of people unhappy, Ireland poorer, and give them the same problem we have.

    > Has your Parliament no hand in all this? Do you not see that you are reaping what you have sown?

    Unification of Ireland might be something that should occur, but I doubt it'll occur within the forseeable future - and it isn't going to be a sudden big bang, but will instead end up happening slowly. Repeated terrorist incidents are not going to make it happen any faster, but will in fact, probably slow it down.

    At the moment what is needed most is for both sides to start trusting each other and repeated bombings are at best going to slow this down.
  • The thing that struck me most about this system when I was kicking around Britian were the movies. The abscence of commercials meant that they showed (to cite two examples that were on when I was over there) Basic Instinct (uncut) and Schinder's List in their entirity, just as though I'd rented the video. This was in the fall of '97, so at least Schindler's List was somewhat recent.

    I'd guess that y'all pay about 1-2[there's no pound sign on this friggin' keyboard] to rent a video, so providing you liked their selections, I'd guess it's a good deal from that point alone. Of course, I've always been more inclined to watch old BBC stuff on PBS than most of the American channels (pre-cable, anyway) so I'm probably biased. Coughing up $150 per year wouldn't be very much fun for 2 channels.

    Believe me, though, I'm thankful that y'all subsidize the World Service for me.

    Don Negro

  • So essentially your response to this is that the British government, unlike every other government on the planet, is completely trustworthy because Gordon Brown is a salt-of-the-earth kinda guy, and the British police are flawless?

    Is this the same government which pays for a security service (MI6) which has the capability of censoring any information regarding how they spend the taxpayers money. Are these the same police who, on several occasions, framed innocent people for the purposes of providing sacraficial lambs after a number of IRA terrorist attacks in the 70s? Are these the same police who are virtually invisible on the streets of London until after a crime has been committed (which they see on their beloved CCTV)?

    The article is right, the British have no experience of totalitarian government, and as a result people like you think that it could never happen in Britain. I am sure that totalitarian government was probably the last thing on the German's minds in the 1920s too. The main difference is that Hitler never came close to the surveillance capabilities that the British government now have.

    Note: And before you dismiss me as a dumb yank who knows nothing, I spent 6 years living in the UK (4 in Scotland, 2 in London), and originate from Dublin, Ireland. I even went through 6 months of police training in Scotland before deciding that the police wasn't for me.


  • I am not sure that abusing a law designed to protect the public interest is really all that funny.


  • by Sanity ( 1431 )
    Er, if you actually read the sentences you quote from my post you will see that I am Irish.


  • The point is that if the government creates a good law, then by-all-means, use it the way it was intended, but don't provide ammunition for those who would prevent such laws in the future by abusing them. How does using the Data Protection Act to force a fast-food chain to hand over CCTV footage of you achieve anything other than pissing people off?


  • by Sanity ( 1431 ) on Sunday April 15, 2001 @04:54PM (#289623) Homepage Journal
    It is the freedom not to be forced to trust your government.


  • What high quality TV? I live in Canada and often flip through 70 channels on my Rogers cable and find nothing to watch. The best channels are consistently those from the CBC (Canadian "equivalent" of the BBC). 38&cid=250 []
  • There are a lot of myths and urban legends regarding the right to videotape or otherwise record people in public and private situations.

    Most of the cases in the US have involved invasion of privacy in some way. The only standard the courts have used is whether a reasonable person could expect privacy in a given situation. For instance, if you're dealing crack on a public street and someone tapes you doing it, there's no expectation of privacy. If you're discussing something quietly on the street with no one around, the courts have decided that you have an expectation of privacy, similar to a telephone conversation. There are grey areas around looking into people's windows or doorways, where there may be some visibility from the street.

    There doesn't seem to be much difference in the law between a camera and a live observer. If you peek in windows or eavesdrop on others' conversations, it doesn't matter what means you use to do it.
  • Of course. But if you are going to twist them to prove whatever you want to, at least start with the right ones.
  • Wow. What a giant flaming asshole. (forgive the language.) But I'll bite.

    point 1: did I ever claim the US was better? No. It isn't. It's obvious that our nation has deep and terrible flaws. Cinci's current problems and past massive race riots in LA and Miami (just to name the worst in my lifetime) are clear evidence of that, as is our last election. That has little or no bearing on whether or not England is in good or bad shape. Sure, they aren't as bad off as we are- but they aren't in the kind of shape the original troll likes to think either.

    point 2: LOL. "resident" is the right word. In case you missed it in your quick perusal of my web page, I'm a Cuban-American from Miami who happens to live in Durham while I'm getting my education. That said, I'll point out that I've voted against Jesse Helms once and wish I could do it again. I'll also note that the state of North Carolina removed references to the Confederacy from it's flag- in 1907. It isn't the greatest place in the world, no. But (again) that's irrelevant to how good or bad the British government is. (BTW- I haven't touched a gun since 7th grade.)

    point 3: I have no clue what you are talking about. I have a few better things to do with my life than search for links, so yeah, some of those links are not the best. But they prove my point, I think, and additional research would support me.

    point 4: What does any of that have to do with anything? I'm also a history buff and political science major, if that makes you feel any better.

    point 5: Just in the past month, I've been past the Mason-Dixon twice and I'll be doing it again this weekend. Sorry; only been to Europe once. Liked it; I'll be back in January.

    point 6: LOL. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder. It's easy to think the cops are fair and effective when you aren't black or some other minority. And it doesn't matter that they don't carry guns- you can ask Rodney King and Abner Louima about that, if you want American examples.

    Look- America is no paradise, and yes, there are substantial differences in culture between the two countries. At the same time, the UK is not some kind of happy socialist paradise. They have racial strife and government corruption too, and to claim otherwise is just crap. Remember- every society has assholes: some are cops, some are politicians, and some just post to slashdot. To paraphrase... Go look in the mirror... the asshole, sir, is YOU.
  • by luge ( 4808 )
    I take it back. I said elsewhere you were possibly ignorant or naive; but clearly you are just a troll. No one could be so ignorant of their own history to not know of indentured servitude or slavery on their own soil. Slavery was not abolished in England until 1833 Link []. You get a 30 year lead there- which, on the grand scale of history, isn't much. And there was a great deal of fuss about it... sure, no civil war, but only because the numbers were smaller and the economy less dependent on them.

    White women in Britain couldn't vote until 1918 [] and for 10 years after that only women who owned property or were married to men of property were allowed to vote. Universal female suffrage happened here in 1920. Either we are two years worse or eight years better- take your pick.

    And, of course, you have to know whose idea property based suffrage was. It's not like British settlers arrived from enlightened England, bumped into classist Native Americans, and said "gee, how silly it was of us to give suffrage to everyone back in the old country. Here, only those with property will vote." Like many of our other good and bad ideas, the Brits had it first, and had had it for a lot longer than we did. As late as 1884, if you worked on a farm, you couldn't vote in the UK. [] True general suffrage was not granted until 1928. Legally speaking, the US wins by 59 years here (though obviously blacks were practically barred for another 100 years.)

    As far as the reasons for revolt... sure, taxes were a huge reason. But if the British Government had actually given the Colonies seats in Parliament instead of opening fire on protesters, maybe we might have stuck around. Maybe India might have done the same if you hadn't tortured and arrested people who wanted the right to make their own salt. And let's not get into South Africa.

    Look, America has a pretty dreadful history. But it is clear that you are just trolling when you are so willfully ignorant of your own history. Go back in your hole.
  • Or it could be used to blackmail you if you are in an affair. Or it could be used only to track and identify minorities. Or it could be used to specifically track members of opposition parties. Or to pinpoint targets for crimes. (Since I understand that private companies run the cameras, how easy would it be for a crime ring to infiltrate someone into the system? Probably pretty good, I'm guessing.)

    I understand and sympathize with the point of view of CCV advocates- additional eyes in public places can be very useful and I can see how they'd increase the sense of security (my school has them all over our parking lots.) But the naive faith the original poster places in the system is unsettling.
  • The fair, brotherly cops and respectable politicians are the source of enough institutional racism that the UN is getting involved. [] Your government has investigated the cops [] and found them guilty of pervasive racial bias. Heck, your own officers [] don't even believe that their fellow cops are fair or brotherly.

    BTW, the rate of church attendance is more like 44% in the US and 27% in the UK. [] The University of Michigan has one of the most respected social sciences/statistics departments in the world, so please don't come back here claiming otherwise.

    And as far as New Labour and the "Third Way" being responsive to the people... well, it's about as believable as hearing the same thing from Clinton. It is true that the British government isn't bought and sold as brazenly as ours is, but it is just as responsive as any other government when dollars (or pounds, as the case may be) are at issue. [] When those businesses want to start invading your privacy more brazenly, you can be sure that MI5 will be there to help out. []

    In conclusion- either you are a damn good troll or you are pretty deluded about the society you live in. Hope it is the latter... it is never too late to learn.

  • The article is right, the British have no experience of totalitarian government

    Uh, what about the Edict of Expulsion of all Jews from England in 1290? There has been plenty of totalitarian government in Britain (especially in occupied Wales and Scotland :) but it has been much better in the last few hundred years.
  • You should realize that using advertising
    as a way to pay for radio and television was
    David Sarnoff's idea, and it was greeted with
    such skepticism that he had to leave Marconi
    Radio and start his own company to set it up.
    In many other countries television owners have
    to pay a regular fee that goes to pay for the
    government stations. (Or had to..)

    However, in Israel, if they detect a TV oscillator
    from your apartment they don't bust down doors
    over it. It's not worth it.
  • Would some kind Brit please explain the whys and wherefores of "Television Licensing?" Does it include televisions that aren't connected to cable? Televisions that are used only to watch videotapes, and never pull signal from the radiowaves? How about those 2" LCD televisions? Mega-sized ones? Are there different classes and payment schedules? And how long are you incarcerated if you're found without a license?

    It's such an alien concept, for a Canadian who's used to getting several free, high-quality channels in almost any part of the country...

  • I live in the Okanagan, BC, and get BCTV, CHBC, and some French channel. Worth noting that BCTV and CHBC are now owned by the same mothercompany.

    Canada collects a fee (we call it income tax) that pays for the signals broadcast over the airwaves (ie. CBC). But you knew this.

    What I don't grok is why Britain expends a whole lotta resources demanding TV licenses and enforcing those licenses, when they've already got a tax system in place.

    Let's hear it from a real Limey.

  • You know, I'm afraid I just don't believe that the BBC, of all institutions, would be one to suck up to the government.

    I say this, because we've got publicly funded television in Canada that pretty much pillages the government. I'm thinking, specifically, 22 Minutes, with Marj the Warrior Princess, threatening to smite our Prime Minister. To his face.


  • Waaaaaiitttasec...

    This isn't a TV license. It's a BBC fee, and it's mandatory, even if you *never* watch BBC!

    And what sort of business is this, that can have the government make it a *law* to purchase their product? Damn fine sort of business to be in, I daresay. Any chance I can start up a, oooh, let's say a restaurant, and implement a dining license? You wanna eat, you gotta pay me. Doesn't matter if you don't eat at my restaurant...

    You poor buggers are being hoodwinked, and you're *gladly* going to the gallows for it!

    Britain: The land where if you're not suffering, you're not having fun...

  • by Goonie ( 8651 )
    Just remember, these cameras are not used to spy, and never will be. They are used by the police, who are famous around the world for fairness and correct, brotherly behaviour.
    Perhaps you need to read Geoffery Robertson's The Justice Game. This guy is perhaps Britain's most well-known lawyer (and perhaps the world's most famous human-rights lawyer) and is certainly not a crackpot, and check the scant respect the police held for human rights (or fair trials) at times throughout his career.

    However, you're probably not interested because you're trolling. Unfriendly to business interests, my arse! Perhaps you should explain that to Bernie Eccelstone when he donated millions to Labour and just by coincidence restrictions of tobacco sponsorship of Formula One teams were delayed.

    In any case, why do you bother trolling Yanks about socialism? It's not even fun anymore, it's like shooting cows in a paddock, something you Poms should be getting pretty expert in by now . . .

    Go you big red fire engine!

  • I go to a university that a few years ago installed a camera system, and there's a question that still bothers me, that I thought about then.

    In a perfect setup, the cameras could see everything anywhere outside. However, in reality, this is not the case, and there are areas shielded from view.

    So, Would it be illegal to produce a map showing locations where the cameras can't see?.

    It could be argued several ways:
    1. It's showing people where to walk to be safe from criminals
    2. It's aiding and abetting criminals in breaking the law
    3. It's just freedom of expression.

    I'd bet that 2) would be the response in the UK, and a combination of 3) and 2) in the USA.

    According to some, I don't have anything to fear from walking in view of the cameras (or sitting, or running) if I'm not doing anything illegal.

    I also say that the operators of the cameras shouldn't fear methods to evade the cameras being published. If they do, and it's illegal to evade the cameras, then it's a police state already.
  • People who desire their privacy are not maniacs.

  • Just remember, these cameras are not used to spy, and never will be. They are used by the police, who are famous around the world for fairness and correct, brotherly behaviour.

    CCTV is an excellent criminal deterrance.

    They may befamous in the last 100 years or so for their brotherly behaviour. But not though recorded history. Try reading a little history what it was like for Trade Unionist in the 1800s or people of other relgions in th 1700s, and say that agin. In fact though most of British History the police have been used as an oppresive force, just becuase they are not lately doesn't negate this fact, or mean they won't again, see the police in the US during the '60s.

    and in closeing the obligitory reference to Tomas Jefferson, Frankeln and Voltare.

    Those who would give up libertry for freedom will get neither.

  • by Grey ( 14278 )
    The right not to have the police following you around all the time, waiting for you so commite some crime so they can arrest you. This may seam a little odd to you since the police are such nice fellows at the moment in england. (Or at least aren't after you) But as a tool of an oppresive goverment CCTVs every where are great, they can follow anyone and every one and take notes. Check out what happen to Jim Bel [] rty/library/weekly/aa041101a.htm esentually the policy state of the IS decided they didn't like what he wrote and investgated until they could arrest him on a trumpted up charge.

    Ubiquitous camars give more power to the police which is allmost allway though out history a bad think for people.

    As a right how about the right to be free of police harrasment? But then lots of people have the opion that if you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to hide. Please make sure that your havn't done any of the following.

    • used or posesed any illegal drugs
    • broken trafic laws
    • Payed all you taxes (including on mail orders)
    • Informed the police about all knowen felloies (Its a crime not to here in the US
    • never been involed in a physical altercation
    • Always put the correct Identfication on offical forms
    • ...
    If you can say yes to the whole list then you ahead of 99% of the general public in any country.
  • This is a wonderful piece of UK legislation, which allows you to demand any company/organization which holds information about you to give you a copy (with certain exclusions ie some government agencies). So you can walk into MacDonalds, fill out a form while you eat your burger, giving the time, date, a description of yourself, the clothes you are wearing, etc, then hand it in before you leave forcing them to send you a copy of the footage of you sitting there filling out the form.

    Egad. I wrote a story [] about this a while back. The difference in the setup is that surveillance was a little more pervasive and the corporations could charge you for info/footage.

  • All this means that our government is much less scary. We can trust it to set up CCTV systems and not use them to spy, but only to deter criminals.

    Neat! I've got this great new technology that scans internet traffic, but don't worry, it won't be used to spy, just to deter criminals. Like people who trade MP3s, or DeCSS, or sell items from 1940s-Germany.

    And i've got this new device to put in cars - it calls the cops when you go above the speed limit. But don't worry, only criminals have any reason to be afraid.

    And we're going to institute a new program in bars, to make sure nobody under 21 is drinking. If they are, the authorities are notified immediately. But don't worry, non-criminals like ourselves have nothing to fear.


  • You Sir, are an...

    The point in the article regarding the Television Licensing Authority is that they have the right to check your home for a television.

    The reason for this?

    The BBC, instead of using advertising on it's channels charges an annual fee to viewers (around £80 per household). The methods they employ to enforce it, from my experience are as follows:

    The Send a letter stating that they don't have a record of a license to each address. In the letter they include the application form for the license and a reply-paid form which allows you to state that you do not own a television at that address.

    Those who state that they don't have a television might have a "television detector van" pass down their street more often than not or they might get a doorstep visit from a TLA agent... (I had one of these, when I didn't have a television... you can just turn them away.) I've never known of a case where they broke into a home to check. I did, however, hear of someone winning a case by stating that although he had a television he refused to watch the BBC channels - could just be an urban legend.

    I do think that you extrapolate too far.

    The point of the article is that, in Britain, we don't seem to care too much. I suppose that if a right-wing dictator were to get into power in the UK then we'd have a real problem, because the surveilance infrastructure would already be there for it's abuse, but then we have the oldest democracy in the world yet still have a monarch with the technical authority to overturn government.

    Your assertion that Britain is one race is seriously flawed, come to the UK sometime. We are three countries each with distinct cultures, we have many naturalised British who originate from many areas of the former British Empire. We do have racial problems. We have had a few riots in the past ten years, because of racial tensions.

    We've come out of a weekend where there was another suspected RIRA bomb in North London [] and you ask me how this CCTV puts me at ease?

    The RIRA wouldn't be able to bomb the City of London, because of CCTV... I'm sure they would have rather bombed Mount Pleasant (The Main PO) instead of the small sorting office that they eventually targeted.

    I do feel safer, because of this.

  • by GC ( 19160 )

    Some of our most senior police chiefs in Britain have campaigned for the legalisation of Marijuana...

    Their justification?

    They want to spend time on real crimes.

  • I only visited Manchester (and Cumberton / Sellafield, beautiful country, by the way) once, but I didn't see much evidence of cultural diversity in the streets of elsewhere, i.e., I saw 95% white people.

    You obviously never went to Rochdale (near Manchester), Brixton (in London), Southall (near London), St Pauls (in Bristol).

    Hell in Southall the street signs are written in Urdu, for crying out loud.
  • by GC ( 19160 )
    Northern Ireland is a province, not a country.

    Sad, but true.
  • Actually Direct Debit

    and the amount is so small that I don't really notice it...

  • So there is an army of typists translating and typing in captions so all those deaf monitoring agents back at the station can read what everyone is saying?

    You mean Closed-Circuit, I believe..
  • Godwin's Law: As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

    There's nothing in there about losing an argument.

    There are people who would say that unwarranted comparisons to Hitler or Nazis would lose the argument, but in this case, the Hitler reference was on topic.

    ".. no history of totalitarianism, unlike much of the rest of Europe."

    ".. Hitler would have loved this." (To paraphrase)

    Yes, he would have. That's the point the original poster made when they said that England had a different view than Germany, or Poland, or France, might have on this subject. To say that Hitler would have liked this would be like saying that Stalin would have liked it - factually accurate and on topic.

    Wasn't it in France where the Nazis used the gun registrations to round up the weapons from the locals? Think of how innefective the resistance would have been if there'd been CCTV cameras everywhere with facial-recognition AI.

  • The idea that the people should support public broadcasting, something without a strong commercial slant is a good one. A tax on TV purchases and imports seems a reasonable way collect that. (IMHO, I favor using regular taxes, because like education, I think it benefits the whole country, but...)

    What isn't at all reasonable is the TLA vans patrolling the streets, the automatic search warrants...

    The *only* time I see automatic right-to-enter being reasonable is in "hot pursuit". If a police officer sees someone they are pursuing enter a building, they should be able to follow. But there are no other reasons in my mind that they should be able to enter without the owner's permission, or a judicially granted warrant. And I mean something a judge really investigates and approves, not something they rubber-stamp.
  • Any type of taxation can be automatic. The BBC could get an automatic $100/citizen, or %.02 of income tax, or anything else. As long as the BBC doesn't employ the actual TV-Tax collectors, it's still in the position of dealing with the government for its money.

    If you can turn a TV Licensing Officer away, why do people ever pay the fines? While I don't believe some of the stories in this thread, the officers must have some power to enter and search the homes of unwilling people.

  • Government surveillance makes Americans uncomfortable. I understand this is a cultural difference between Britain and America, and people can vary a great deal in the degree of personal discomfort surveillance causes. For that reason I don't expect that we could come to any agreement on this point.

    The second concern, which really undergirds American's concerns, is political. It's the question of whether government can and should be entrusted with using this power impartially.

    This is probably not within memory of most slashdotters, but here in the US, we have had examples of egregious abuses of government investigatory powers for political ends as recently the Nixon era. Of course, the Watergate break-in brought down Nixon, but in some ways the break in and the subsequent coverup were not the greatest of the Nixon adminsitration's crimes. In the same 1970 election, the Nixon Whitehouse ordered Internal Revenue Service investations to dig up dirt on George Wallace and his family.

    The investigation found crimes by Wallace and his brother, but the administration announced it was not going to pursue the matter. Less than a day later, in a separate and ostensibly unrelated announcement, Wallace retracted plans to start a third political party to challenge Nixon for the presidency.

    Wallace was a populist demagogue who had the potential to split the right wing vote and throw the election to the left. much more dangerous politically to Nixon than George McGovern (the Democratic candidate) was by himself. McGovern would have very likely been buried by Nixon without the aid of dirty tricks. Of course, Wallace might equally well have siphoned McGovern support from the then solidly Democratic South. Nixon made sure, very sure, that any possible political scenario leading to his defeat was squelched by blackmail, bribery, and if necessary burglary.

    Your touchingly naive lionizing of Labor politicans leads me to suspect you might be a Tory in red clothing. But supposing you are who you purport to be, doesn't your parliamentary system with its numerous parties lend itself to even more to the temptation to misuse surveillance for political ends? It seems to me that under your system, sometimes only a soup&#231on of skullduggery may be enough to prevent your enemies from forming an effective coalition.

    I don't mean to start a debate about the virtues or pitfalls of parliamentary democracy -- it certainly has both. I just want to point out that temptations exist in every system, and that in a parliamentary system you might not have to blackmail many people to throw control of the government one way or the other.

  • what CC means on your TV isn't what it means in surveillance.
  • Probably arguing from different viewpoints here. The population of the UK is about 60 million. The weekly attendance at an Anglican Churchs is Church of England (which is the Christian denomination that Anglicans worship in) is the "state" religion. The state in this case being the monarchy rather than the Government - although there are rather bizarre rights of the Prime Minister in selecting Anglican Bishops - who incidently sit in the Upper Chamber of the British Parliment.
  • Can someone please explain to me why the hell I should care?

    Sure. Read on.

    First of all, if the goverment ever went bad (ie became undemocratic) then I don't think it would take them more than a week to set up whatever surveillance they wanted, no matter what their starting point.

    Yep. This is why it is absolutely essential that the citizenry watch the government like hawks, to ensure the government doesn't go bad.

    But that doesn't always work, either. Read on.

    Maybe I'm being naive and ignoring history

    You are.

    but I find it hard to even consider this possibility because I just can't see how, in this time, in this part of the world, our goverment could be displaced or changed to something undemocratic

    Check out recent history--very recent, actually. A lot of people forget this, or choose to ignore it, but the Weimar Republic of Germany had a well-educated public and a vigorous democratic tradition. However, in the 1930s this educated, literate public elected, by an overwhelming margin, Adolf Hitler to the position of Chancellor on a platform of racial hatred.

    People knew he was going to turn Germany into a dictatorship. They didn't care. They liked what he was promising, and they liked having the Jews to blame for their current problems.

    If you think that it can't happen in England, think again--it can happen anywhere. Even the United States, which in World War Two casually violated many of the most important precepts of our own Constitution in order to appease a citizenry which was panicking and demanding action. General DeWitt decided that sending all Japanese-Americans to detention centers would reassure the public, so he issued the order. Despite the fact that General DeWitt's order was blatantly, flagrantly unconstitutional, the Supreme Court of the United States declared this to be legal in Korematsu v US.

    Do you think the United States, the self-described bastion of liberty and freedom, actually gave a damn that we were violating our most sacrosanct principles?

    We didn't.

    In fact, we didn't give it a second thought.

    If Weimar Germany can throw everything away and walk headlong into oblivion after an insane dictator bent on destroying his nation as he attempts world domination...

    ... If the United States can piss on its own highest law, merely to appease a panicking populace...

    ... then it can happen in England, too.
  • In a democracy, is it not true that the people are always right?

    Was it right for seven million Jews, gypsies, political dissidents, homosexuals and the like to be sent to the furnaces? After all, the people decided they wanted a leader who would decisively stand against the Jewish menace, who would eradicate the Jewish faith from Europe.

    Short answer: of course it's not true.

    The people are not always right. If they were right, Hitler wouldn't have been elected, nor would have Neville Chamberlain, nor would Korematsu v US have been decided the way it was.

    As was pointed out in the movie Men in Black, a person is intelligent, compassionate, open-minded and often brilliant. But put ten of these persons together and what you get is people--a panicky, irrational, closed-minded animal.

    Democracy is not built on the principle that "the people are always right". Democracy is build on the principle that "what the people want, they ought to get--and they ought get it good and hard!"

  • So there's some absolute notion of what is right and the people sometimes get it wrong?

    At this point, you're just trolling. Stupidly, too, might I add.

    The majority does not decide right and wrong. They decide what to do, and the right or wrong is decided by history.

    Grow up.
  • Ah, but we dont have to suffer adverts on the BBC TV chans, or radio stations. After seeing how American cable TV is I'm damn glad we pay not to suffer things like that.
  • I have heard several arguements like this before, and from reading the comments I see that a lot of people belive that CCTV is evil (or something like that).

    CCTV is not some massive invasion of privicy. I cant walk down to my local pub without being 'seen' by the CCTV systems, but lets face it, do I care if Dave at GCHQ knows I've gone down the pub? Personaly I rather like the fact that the two guys that then jump me for my cash also get caught on camera. Dont take this as meaning Britain has a massive crime rate, because it doesnt, I've never been mugged and I suspect this is partly down to CCTV as mugging someone in front of a camera is hardly a great idea.

    If the cameras were pointed into your house, or fitted in your bathroom I could see the problem, but they're not. They're in public places covering parks, major shopping areas, etc, not often do you see them in residential areas unless the area has a crime problem.

    Much of the security network that's in place is due to the problem the UK has with the IRA. When a terrorist group spends most of it's free time blowing up chunks of your major cities you tend to get a little parrinoid about it. Anywhere that is likely to be bombed is covered with CCTV equiptment. Anyone who's been to London may have noticed the lack of any litter bins on the London Underground, they've all been removed as they were too easy a place to put bombs.

    I'd far rather the police know I go to the Elm Tree for 3 pints of bitter every Thursday, have an email address for my dog and make mobile phone calls to people less than 2 metres away from me, than to find myself vapourised when a terrorist group decides my road would look nicer as a crater and no one notices them [plan to] leave a large quantity of Semtex lying arround.

    If I'm not making much sense I appologise, it's 0200 and I've had a hard day :-p
  • >> You were at home sleeping alone when the bomb went off, and have no alibi.
    > What? No cameras at home?

    You're right. We need to bust a few innocents like this. Only then will our subjects will beg for cameras in the home - to prove their innocence - like the masocthis begs for the whip.

    • Note: And before you dismiss me as a dumb yank who knows nothing, I spent 6 years living in the UK (4 in Scotland, 2 in London), and originate from Dublin, Ireland. I even went through 6 months of police training in Scotland before deciding that the police wasn't for me.
    The original post was about cultural differences. Do you not think that the fact that you were (by the sound of your post) born and brought up in the US may contribute to the fact that you feel this way?

    Eg, I am english, and I believe in gun control. If I had been brought up in the states I would probably believe in the right to bear arms. But I wasn't so I don't.

    I am not trying to say you are right or wrong - just that people in this country are different.

    • but lets face it, do I care if Dave at GCHQ knows I've gone down the pub?
    Lets face it, does Dave at GCHQ care if you've gone down the pub?

    It seems that using CCTV to spy on the general public would be both amazingly man-hour intensive and amazingly dull and pointless, as exercise for GCHQ/CESG/NSA.

    • Ahh the police aren't watching you, so its ok then? It a contraced private company so that's better? I think that it's worse esp, since now you have a company that isn't even marginally beholden to the public like the goverment is.
    Whoa - this paranoia is going to kill you, I'd hate to have your blood preasure. Now lets slowly put down the crack pipe and talk about this rationally.

    CCTV was fitted in an area I used to live in. Not a high crime area - cameras were really fitted for the peace of mind of the elderly (who made up a large slice of the population), but street violence was halved over the first year. The cameras were paid for and fitted by the local council. A friend of a friend was hired as an operator - a bored 17year old kid, working for minimum wage (well, this is before a minimum wage was enforced, but you get the idea). He would go along and sit there, bored out of his little mind, twiddling the joysticks or reading a magazine, just sitting it out. He said that there were only staff rostered to man the cameras half of the time, due to costs.

    Okay, so the guys as CESG monitor our comunications. So what? The guys at NSA are monitoring yours - it's all the same thing. Be serious - beyond echelon, there is no great government conspiracy - and the man-hours it would take to spy on the general population with these cameras would be a poor way for the spooks to spend their time.

    • How does using the Data Protection Act to force a fast-food chain to hand over CCTV footage of you achieve anything other than pissing people off?
    Oh sure, I mean, I'm not advogating that anyone reading this should go out and do this. But Mark Thomas's show is funny, and by being funny it gets viewers. To directly answer your question:
    • "It gets people to watch a show which then puts the DPA to proper use, exposing the questionable behaviour of public servants, and explaining to people a set of civil rights that they may not know they have."


  • Yeah, okay. But don't dismiss him.

    First of all, "There have never been slaves on British soil", seems particularly ironic, since (IIRC) a large proportion of slaves destined for the new world passed through Liverpool docks. Of course his statement is plain wrong; I'd go along with ignorant too.

    His post was a little flamey, and he does jump to conclusions a bit too easily, (eg. "It must be because America is so religious..... This almost wholly explains...". But I felt that despite all this the post was the most insightful and informative post last night - in drawing attention (in a somewhat clumsy manner) to the fact that this is not a black and white issue, and that intelegent human beings brought up in the UK are predisposed to react differently to these kind of actions than a US citizen would.

    I don't want to get into the subject of religion (big topic, much danger of flames occuring) but the Michigan figures you quote (eg. here []) are taken from two surveys, and half of them are taken a decade ago (including the UK figure). Chuch attendance rates in the UK are in an ever accelerating decline, eg see this article [] giving a figure of 7.5% weekly church attendance. Your figure of 27% does not truely reflect the current situation in Britain, and is badly out of date.

    On the subject of race relations, your CIA World Factbook is a little out of date - Britain's population was composed of 5-6% ethnic minorities back at the 1990-1991 census, and has a high immigration rate. There are a couple of UK cities currently on the brink of reaching a white minority, and it is predicted that in 15 years time 40% of the youth population will come from ethnic minorities. I think it is fair to say that Britain is one of the most ethnicly diverse and integrated societies, compared with other developed world countries.[*]

    Politics is a big topic and I've written too much already, and is very difficult to discuss in these terms (I mean, I've lived in the US, and it is difficult to come up with a metric to compare the level of trust that UK/US citzens feel for their own government. Lets just file this one under cultural difference. From where you stand I am too trusting. From where I stand you are too paranoid. Again, no objective comparison: no black & white situation.

    To be brutally honest, I attacked your post because you had hit a score of 5 and called his a troll - and I think seeing this a few too many dumb moderators could have modded his post down to a 2 or less - which I think would have been a shame. The score of the original post currently stands at (Score:4, Flamebait), and I think this is probably an accurate reflection.


    [*] please note, I used the term 'one of', and that this is a relative statement, not an absolute one.

  • by barracg8 ( 61682 ) on Sunday April 15, 2001 @05:24PM (#289715)
    • Is that so clever?
    Yes it is - using humor and entertainment to put across a serious and definitely non-mainstream political agenda is a very good idea.

    Mark Thomas would not get the audience and the platform to speak from if he did not play around and do silly stuff like this. But at the same time he demonstrated the power of the DPA, for example forcing a government department to hand over all the emails on their systems mentioning his name. He exposed a minister requesting a civil servant try to dig up dirt on him (MT). Not exactly the way you would expect a government ministry to spend taxpayers money - launching smear campaigns against stand-up comics.

    infotainment has its place.

  • by barracg8 ( 61682 ) on Sunday April 15, 2001 @04:50PM (#289716)
    • The right not to have the police following you around all the time, waiting for you so commite some crime so they can arrest you.
    First of all, the police are not watching you - for the simple reason that it would cost too much. Councils contract private security companies to staff CCTV systems, since the police are already over streached - and the CCTV operators will only bother calling the police if they see a crime in progress.

    Secondly, some people do want to be watched. For example, I heard of a pilot scheme in one city in the UK, where there is a phone number that a single woman walking home alone at night can ring. She can leave her description, a time, and roughly what route she will be following. Now, rather than walking home alone in the dark afraid of being attacked, every time she turns a corner she will be greeted by the sight of a CCTV camera turning to focus in on her. Having a big brother to watch over you is not always a bad thing.

    • used or posesed any illegal drugs
    To quote the subject at the top of this thread, "CCTV is a reflection of cultural differences." Please bear in mind, that in this country, if you are caught smuggling 5 grams of pot into the country it is assumed to be for personal use and you will be given a £70 on the spot fine. Compare that to the US view on drugs smuggling. Cultural differences.
  • by barracg8 ( 61682 ) on Sunday April 15, 2001 @04:27PM (#289717)
    • Don't you ever watch any Mark Thomas?
    Note for non-Brits:
    Mark Thomas is a politically motivated comedian-slash-borderline-terrorist (that's meant as a compliment) and probably one of the biggest pains in the government's ass.

    One thing that he had great fun playing with in his recent series, (not what prev. poster was talking about, but relevant to CCTV), was the Data Protection Act.

    This is a wonderful piece of UK legislation, which allows you to demand any company/organization which holds information about you to give you a copy (with certain exclusions ie some government agencies). So you can walk into MacDonalds, fill out a form while you eat your burger, giving the time, date, a description of yourself, the clothes you are wearing, etc, then hand it in before you leave forcing them to send you a copy of the footage of you sitting there filling out the form.


    This is all wonderfully silly.

  • CCTV stands for "Closed-Circuit TV", not "closed caption." It means the signal is generally carried by wire to a monitor or video switcher (although sometimes sent via short-range broadcast), where it is viewed by a Watcher (rent-a-cop etc.)
  • Ummm... I create custom software for companies, you know, workflow apps, maybe a web application. No privacy infringement necessary for me to make my mortgage payment. In fact, one of the reasons I no longer work for the last company I was employed at was that one of the VPs was a bit too eager to have me break into other employees mailboxes. The stupid idiots hadn't even cleared the low hurdle that US law provides so I wouldn't do it except for one case where they suspected theft from a branch that was losing money hand over fist.

    As for France, why do you think that I would like my government idiocy in even bigger doses?

  • Since privacy has been eroded under both Tory and Labour governments, it's a bit pointless to choose between them on privacy grounds. Or are you one of the few, the clueless, the Liberal Democrats?

  • Brin deals with at least three issues about cheap and therefore ubiquitous cameras
    • Citizens running cameras themselves. Cameras are already cheap enough that anybody with net access can run a webcam; as wireless bandwidth in various forms becomes affordable, we can build things like a "Rodney King" shoulder camera that transmits back to your home site - you're not only protected against thugs because you've got your camera, but also against police. Cheap enough technology makes this increasingly unstoppable.
    • Cameras with public access wherever governments are doing things - court rooms, parliamentary and bureaucratic offices, police stations. This has mixed success so far - we've got CSPAN on the US cable TV networks (not that BBC would devote two of the four legally authorized TV stations in the UK to actually seeing government in action), and police car video cameras are increasingly used as evidence (and also help remind the police to behave properly, because defendants can get access to them), but courts are generally resistent to cameras, bureaucrats don't like the things, and forget taking them onto military bases. There are the usual mixed-value cases - cameras in police stations not only catch misbehaving police, they violate the privacy of the accused (who sometimes want their arrests to be known, sometimes not), both innocent and guilty, and may violate the privacy of complainants, which can be dangerous to them, and of innocent bystanders (the passenger in the car that got pulled over for speeding or Driving While Racially Challenged.)
    • Public access to the cameras the government is running. The Internet makes this increasingly possible and inexpensive, to the extent that governments are willing to let it happen. Part of it requires a change in public mindset - making the public-space cameras be that "fifth utility" rather than the Big Brother Police Tool, which may require having the cameras run by the civil-service side of the local government and police just getting access to it, and turning the police back into the Neighborhood Watch rather than an occupying army. I've mentioned police-car cameras above. In places that have made access to police-run closed-circuit TVs available to the public (at least to occasional reporters), there's been a tendency to find that the police are watching Suspicious-Looking People (pick your usual stereotypes of race and youth) or alternatively Hot-Looking Women. Real-time public access would help this problem.
  • Perhaps it makes the pissed off people question the point of the CCTV in first place. After all, if the cameras weren't there they wouldn't have to worry about fulfilling DPA for CCTV footage...
  • The argument would be irrelevant not redundant you troll. But just for the fun of it I'll respond.

    Two truths in symmetry:

    There can be no ownership without freedom (DeCCS/DVD is a perfect exaple.)

    Likewise there can be no freedom without ownership. Jack Valenti himself stated that privacy is a matter of property.

    It's why people own land. Did they make the land? No

    The liberty to be alone is what is missing. If you cannot be alone you have no safety nor freedom to speak of.

    Tell me what is the difference between a prison and the outside world if you're always watched?

    What is the difference between a prisoner with a tracking bracelet and cameras everywhere?

    Why bother maintaining pride, integrity, and character if your life is to be constantly judged at all times according to the stinking broth of the collective court of pubic opinion?

    If steal something in front of cameras available everywhere am I truly caught or am I just going to be given a different place to continue stealing?

    Remember society is recycled every 30 years (the average population doubling rate).

    You claim Americans see the cameras as being foreign and unusual. I claim you see them as being external as well though in a positive light.

    What will you do when your next generation sees them as normal as furniture. And the next have no innate fear of them and completely ignore them?

    Sir Churchill would be disgusted I'm quite sure of it.
  • Make sure that we can watch our leaders and police as easily as they can watch us.

    And this is, I think, the key point. Even with my rabid distrust of any government, I would be willing to at least consider allowing such surveillance if my government had to be under my constant surveillance as well.

    Unfortunately, that's not how it will ever work. Like every other conversation about government and the governed, it is a basic matter of balance of power. The side that has the greater ability to gather information has more power than the other side and will never willingly give up that advantage. And as far as I know, it has never been the case that citizens in any country have won out in this balance of power, so we are always talking about government surveillance of citizens, not the other way around.

    It would be a happy day if we were discussing the constant erosion of some government's operational privacy.

  • sure, well, the license is obligatory for anyone who runs any TV. It's actually tied to the building/apartment/office, and, yes, you have to have one even if you promise to watch only Sky.

    It is a government collected levy and goes entirely to pay for the BBC. Even if you only watch commercial channels this still counts.

    This isn't odd: you must remember that the UK is actually quite small geographically: terrestrial broadcast covers the entire country, cable is pretty rare (at least in uptake) and satellite is commercial and subscription based. Everyone can get the BBC, so it's easier and cheaper to enforce it this way. Even cable carries BBC1 and 2 and the cable-only News24, Parliament, Knowledge and UKGold.

    It must also be remembered that the LF pays for BBC radio (which is very extensive, with 5 national stations and hundreds of regional ones, the blessed World Service and (controversially) the BBC's websites.

    It costs about £100, and you get £3 off if you are legally blind. (honestly) Don't pay and you get a £1000 fine.

    IMHO, it's not so bad. The BBC is mostly good on tv - it's commercial free for a start. But it really makes the LF worthwhile with and the World Service. I'd pay for that alone if I had to.

    Oh, and Test Match Special - but you'd never understand that, old chap.

  • by BenHmm ( 90784 ) <[moc.yelsremmahneb] [ta] [neb]> on Sunday April 15, 2001 @04:21PM (#289742) Homepage
    the liberty to *not*get*caught*


  • Government: If it's powerful to give you everything you need, it's powerful enough to take everything you got.

    The question shouldn't be, "How much good will this law do if used properly?" It ought to be, "How much bad will this law do if abused?"

    I have zero tolerance for zero-tolerance policies.

  • There is no reason to have cameras on streets or driveways. There is nothing to steal on the street. Hey, criminal put that burnt out cigarette back on the ground it's not yours

    Well, there's cars to steal. And there's people to assault/mug/rape. There's the opportunity for vandalism. I guess you'd feel relaxed about your freedom knowing that whoever stole/vandalized your car parked on the street got off scott free because nobody saw him?


  • "People who desire their privacy are not maniacs"

    People who desire piracy so desperately that they can't bear being caught on camera in a public place should stay home and live a DotComGuy kind of life. See? There's an option for paranoiacs too.

    Oh, and, um, let's face it, whenever you show you face in public, even if there aren't cameras, there are PEOPLE, each with two eyes (in most cases). Gee, I guess, the only option there is invisibility. Good luck.


  • What is it about these "paranoiacs" scares you so much you wish to see them forced into home-style prisons?

    Mm? I'm not scared of them. I have absolutely no problem with them - it's they who seem to have a problem with adjusting to a way of life that is at odds with their ideal imagined lifestyle, in which "privacy" seems to mean that nobody ever sees them.


  • by Deluge ( 94014 ) on Sunday April 15, 2001 @08:16PM (#289748)
    the liberty to *not*get*caught*

    Yeah, I know there was a smiley there, but then again some dweeb moderated it as "Insightful".

    If you're a wanted criminal and they catch you as a result of seeing your mug on CCTV, good. If you're committing a crime and you get videotaped doing it, and locked up as a result, good. Fact is, when you break a law you're giving up your liberty under the system that enforces those laws.

    Before you say anything about silly laws - they can't use the CCTV system to bust you for having a stash of MP3's or warez'd games unless they point the camera in your room, which they don't. Obviously the crimes that this deters (And gets people caught for) are clear-cut crimes such as assault, vandalism, theft, etc.

    And if, by chance, this system DOES get you busted for a bad law, one (for example) pushed through by moneyhungry corps, then it's a whole other discussion about why those laws shouldn't exist in the 1st place.


  • Okay, I admit it, I'm a dumb Brit who finds security cameras mildly re-assuring. I don't care if I'm being watched or that the goverment can read my e-mail. Can someone please explain to me why the hell I should care?

    The primary arguments for privacy seem to be that if the goverment went bad all of a sudden we'd be fucked and that I could be accused of some crime I didn't commit. First of all, if the goverment ever went bad (ie became undemocratic) then I don't think it would take them more than a week to set up whatever surveillance they wanted, no matter what their starting point. Maybe I'm being naive and ignoring history, but I find it hard to even consider this possibility because I just can't see how, in this time, in this part of the world, our goverment could be displaced or changed to something undemocratic. Secondly, I trust in the legal system. If I am ever wrongly accused then I trust in the courts to decide that I'm not guilty. There are, of course, miscarriages of justice, but it seems to me that the fact of the surveillance would not make any difference to the number of times this occured (except that it could instantly disprove many accusations). I think that the issue of privacy also brings up the question "should we break the law if we disagree with it" which is I think an interesting question, and one which I admit, has been bothering me for a while now.

    Of course, it seems that in this forum, I'm in a distinct minority in holding these views, and I just don't understand why. Why is it that politicians let these things happen if they're so bad? So please, dispute my points, because I've looked and I still don't feel I've read a persuasive argument about this.

  • Just think, now parents in Britain with sons in MI5 and MI6 can tell their little kids that "Big Brother is watching you!"
  • by BiggestPOS ( 139071 ) on Sunday April 15, 2001 @03:49PM (#289789) Homepage
    Does this sound odd to everyone else outside of England? To me it sounds insane. Like issuing a license to own a computer, or a phone. Please tell me the British government doesn't require a license for a fucking toilet, cause that would suck.

  • This topic seems to be rapidly filling up with racist rants from Americans who don't seem to have visited England and English folk who know nothing about America. None of which is "News for Nerds" or "Stuff that matters". So let's get to the NUB!

    What can we nerds do to reduce our exposure to this problem?

    To take my own case:

    • Mobile phone - Don't own one.
    • Groceries - No loyalty card. Pay with cash.
    • Email - I'd like to encrypt it, but I need to persuade my non-technical friends to also do so. Experiences?
    • Web - There are lots of anonymisers around. Are they any good? Is it worth paying for one?

    So come one guys. Get a grip and address the real technical issues!

    Oh, and regarding the USA and UK? All I can say is that if I could learn the language I'd move to Finland and go dogsledding every weekend :-)

  • no comercials either

    I don't consider any channel that spends 10 to 15 minutes out of every hour showing people saying "Send us money" to be 'commercial free'.


  • I'd rather we do everything in our power to prevent drugs from ruining those people's lives in the first place

    Really, the last thing I want or need is to be protected from myself, least of all by a government to whom I am just a number and a source of income. I mean, how is it I'm allowed to drink my liver into oblivion, smoke cigarettes until my lungs have more asphalt in them than the road outside, or throw myself out of an airplane and hope the parachute works right, but getting a buzz from a joint is just too dangerous to me? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard, made even more stupid by the fact that it's the reality I have to live in.


  • I've read the book. Thought it was an excellent piece on the future of privacy.

    Public access to the cameras the government is running

    Indeed. This, really, is the only problem I have with public surveillance systems like this. I'm perfectly willing to tolerate it so long as guys in uniforms are not the only ones allowed to see the tapes. And that's a very astute observation: it can either be a true utility or it can be police tool, subject to unaccountable abuse.


  • 15 gazillion cameras in the city of London, and when my work laptop got stolen at London Charing Cross train station last week, I immediately went to the help desk thing, waited for the guy to get through to the cops, only to be told that if one turned up, they'd give me a call. WHAT THE HELL?

    I have zero privacy while waiting for a train, but nobody gives a crap enough to check the goddamn tapes?

    What's the use of giving up rights for temporary security when you don't get any goddamned temporary security?!?!?!?!


  • Yes, I suspect that my perspective comes from being in a country that recognized some of the excesses of power, as wielded by the British over its colonists, as an evil.

    I do not extrapolate from the TV license issue, I rather interpolate from Echelon. The article in question is broader in scope than that, and I am asking you if Echelon sits as well with you as CCTV and other invasions of privacy.

    Is it true or not that simply not having a TV is tantamount to allowing the police to search your premises, a search warrant being a mere formality, as was suggested in the article, and does That sit well with you?

    I understand that CCTV makes You feel better, but do you have any empathy for those for whom it is a source of harrassment, or do you believe that it is not used to spy on 'suspected' criminals before they commit a crime?

    Orwell painted a picture of the Englishman as someone for whom party loyalty superseded love, even. Do you think there was perhaps a basis in fact for this? I understand that fifty years ago there was a war going on, but now that there is no war, I find less of a need for the abrogation of social contracts between the government and its people. But you remain loyal.

    I only visited Manchester (and Cumberton / Sellafield, beautiful country, by the way) once, but I didn't see much evidence of cultural diversity in the streets of elsewhere, i.e., I saw 95% white people.

    I contend that you would feel much safer if your Parliament conceded to some of the Irish demands for Home Rule; there was a glimmer of hope there for a time, but that seems to have died. I suspect that many in law enforcement use the 'Irish Problem' as a rationale for bigger and better weapons, spy gadgets, and techniques. I understand it's a big problem, but suggest that there are other approaches; ones that respect universal human dignity and rights.

  • Oh, no, please don't get me wrong. I am not arbitrarily anti-British, and I suspect that we would tend to agree more than disagree about this.

    I actually respect the English for many of their accomplishments, and, who knows but that the trust the citizens put into their govt isn't something to be applauded for the most part. But no one should defend internal spying as a general principle; it is too dangerous.
  • I agree, US citizens are not free anymore, since about the 60's revolutions, possibly before then. You will notice that I don't defend Carnivore, and I agree that the cops in this country are way too powerful, but I think you miss my point. My question had to do with why the Brits put up with all that, and actually seem to rationalize it as a service to their government.

    As far as your last sentence, feel free to be offended. I will admit I got a little hot under the collar while typing the post, but it was in reaction to the parent post which was a little condescending. I maintain that I am not wittingly a racist, and I also struggle to be non-hypocritical. But ad hominem attacks are weak arguments in any case.
  • Can you even imagine why you are getting the crap bombed out of you? Has your Parliament no hand in all this? Do you not see that you are reaping what you have sown?
  • I must ask you, since you are obviously an apologist for the TLA system, and by linear extrapolation, an apologist for Echelon, CCTV, the loss of the ability to protect the citizen from governmental intrusion into their privacy.

    Why do you think these policies are good? Do you really believe - as I assume such a highly-homogenetic society must of needs become xenophobic to a degree - that people who are not exactly like you are (British) Should be watched carefully?

    Because, as you know, your elected officials use this system to spy on their people for no reason at all other than they are not proper British citizens, i.e., if they are Irish they are members of the IRA, so they get spied on, if they are of Middle Eastern descent they may be terrorists so they will get spied upon, if they have long hair or go-go boots they are likely drug dealers and so they get the Big Eye.

    Orwell was a Brit. I would prefer that you folks just lionize the hell out of him for what he was: a man who ushered in the glorious world of today with all its wonderful spy gadgets that keep Mum and Dad safe at night, rather than a prophet of Doom, which you all should have taken him for. You Brits act like you all prefer it that way. You talk about how you can trust your government, unlike us Yanks, but I contend that that is only because your government hasn't come after you like ours goes after minorities, or Abbie Hoffman, etc.... And that is because you are all one race, and no other reason.

    Don't you see that you are to become un-free? Already you are not free to do what you like, because it will leave you exposed and vulnerable to the long arm of the Bobbie. Oh yeah, but you don't carry guns so you are better than us Yanks.

    Please try to see what the general implications of all this internal spying are, and then, do write back, old chum, and tell me why it is that all this sits easily on your mind.

  • In the UK, if you have a TV card in your PC, does it count as a television?


    Anything that demodulates TV signals counts (VCRs, TV tuners, etc). But you only need one licence per household

  • The original poster was not trolling - just pointing out this cultural difference.

    The original poster claims that its only Americans and other foreigners that find the uniquitous camera situation unusual. This statement was made in response to a Slashdot article that consists primarily of a link to a UK news article talking about all the standard privacy errosion problems.

    I won't disagree that there are cultural differences, but the original poster used it as an excuse to include a number of downright ludicrous claims. To create a somewhat analogous American example (with editorial notes):

    We Americans value our free speech (true enough). We believe people should be able to say anything and everything (a bit of an exaggeration -- slander is still a crime, for example). Institutions such as the National Enquirer and Howard Stern are beloved as being noble protectors of our rights (mostly false -- while it's true they help engender free speech, they're still mostly entities that exist to entertain).

    Likewise, the original poster used the notion of "cultural diffferences" to argue that the residents of the UK accept the cameras, love their politicians, and trust the policemen. While there might be some truth to these claims, the entirety of them certainly exceeds my bullshit-detection threshold, especially in light of the original poster's posting history.

  • Privacy is dead. We are watched by 1.5m closed-circuit television cameras, more per head of population than any country on Earth. Our government, police and intelligence services have more legal powers to poke around in our private lives than those of communist China. And thanks to new technologies from mobile phones to the internet, they can use those powers to find out where we are, whom we talk or send e-mails to, and what websites we click on. According to most experts in the field, a police state with powers of control and surveillance beyond the wildest dreams of Hitler or Stalin could now be established in Britain within 24 hours. And guess what: MI5 probably read this article before you did. It was delivered by e-mail, a hopelessly insecure system. It is full of the sort of security-sensitive words the spooks look out for, and, as I shall explain, I seem to be an MI5 target.

    But the weirdest thing of all is that we really don't care. To take an example that may sound trivial but isn't, the Television Licensing Authority is currently running an advertising campaign boasting of its ability to invade our privacy. Hoardings show a local street sign with the caption that declares, four people in this street don't have a TV licence and the TLA knows who they are.

    Duncan Bennett, a systems administrator with the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, knows exactly what this means. He hasn't had a TV in 10 years and yet, annually, he gets threatening letters from the TLA. He has now discovered that, with no evidence against him whatsoever, they can get a warrant - always automatically granted - to break into and search his house. He is assumed to be guilty until proven innocent, a terrible inversion of ancient common-law tradition. He has struggled to find anybody willing to take up his campaign on the issue. Bennett is not suspected of drug-trafficking, terrorism or subversion. He is suspected of having a TV without a licence. Only in Britain would such an abuse of power - or even such advertisements - be tolerated.

    We seem to have such fear of crime, and such a mute acceptance of the seizure of power by the authorities, that we are actually comforted by the thought that we are being watched all the time. This, in the current climate of paranoia and high technology, is dangerous. Our right to live a law-abiding life without interference is now utterly compromised. The Englishman's home is no longer his castle, it is his virtual interrogation cell.

    How did we get here? The story begins in a bedroom in Cheltenham in 1969. James Ellis, an employee of the Government Communications Headquarters, Britain's global listening post, had been working on the problem of coding, more accurately known as encryption. Thanks to our cracking of the German Enigma code during the second world war, the British were regarded as world masters of this art. Since then, GCHQ had been working closely with the American National Security Agency (NSA) to ensure that the good guys - us - would always be able to crack or write codes more successfully than the bad guys - primarily the Soviets.

    In his bedroom, Ellis had an idea for a system of encryption that would be utterly unbreakable. But his system was so completely at odds with prevailing wisdom that it was at once rejected by almost everybody in the code business. Ellis died in 1997, professionally anonymous to the last, and just a month before his brilliance was generally recognised when GCHQ finally published his papers on their website.

    Until then, everybody thought the first man to have this idea was an American named Whitfield Diffie. In 1975, Diffie had independently experienced the same eureka moment as Ellis, but his insight was made public. At that moment, both GCHQ and NSA, not to mention every other security and intelligence service on the planet, suffered a crisis from which they have yet to recover, and the issue of individual privacy leapt to the top of the political agenda, where, almost everywhere except in Britain, it remains.

    The Ellis/Diffie invention was what is now called public key cryptography (PKC). It is the most powerful coding system that has ever been devised. It's what you use if you bank or buy on the internet. You don't know you're using it: your computer does it for you. It offers everybody the power to communicate in unbreakable codes. As a result, it's easily the worst thing that has ever happened to the spooks and the police. Beside this, Kim Philby was a minor hiccough.

    This is how it works. Normally, if one spook wants to send a coded message to another, he does so in a code that can be unlocked by a key - a string of numbers - known to both of them. The problem is, they have somehow to give each other the key. Diplomats going through customs handcuffed to briefcases are one way of passing on keys. But you can mug a diplomat and, as the British showed when they seized a German Enigma machine, you can intercept keys transmitted by any other means. Either way, the spooks lose their secrecy.

    In PKC, one party makes his key completely public; anybody can have it.

    This public code allows anybody to encode their message and send it. But the public key can only encrypt the message, it cannot decrypt it. Only the secret key possessed by the recipient can unscramble the message. As long as he keeps his key secret - an easy task, because he need never share it with anyone else - then his code is unbreakable.

    The one flaw in this might be the use of supercomputers simply to run through all possible key combinations - a so-called "brute force" attack. Keys are just sequences of numbers, after all. But now that more powerful personal computers and software accept much longer keys, it would take billions of years for a brute-force attack to succeed. Rumour has it - there are only ever rumours in this area - that the NSA has spent $5 billion trying to crack the strongest contemporary codes and failed.

    Since both the NSA and GCHQ are founded on the principle that they should be able to read any communication anywhere in the world, this is their worst nightmare. Since 1975 they have been battling to find ways of ensuring they can still eavesdrop on anything. And, because Diffie's trick was already out there among the nerds and hackers of the world, this battle had to take place in public. Essentially, both the British and American security services wanted copies of all keys to be lodged with government agencies - so-called "key escrow" - or, as in the system we now have in Britain, they wanted to be able to demand the surrender of keys.

    But the libertarian nerds, known in this field as "cypherpunks", fought back in the name of freedom from the all-seeing eyes of Big Brother government. In the United States they have had some success, thanks to the native distrust of government; in Britain they have had almost none.

    After the collapse of communism in 1989, this issue became even more urgent. The primary targets of the security services were no longer the Soviets. Now they were organised criminals, drug traffickers and terrorists. This meant they wanted to watch their own citizens rather than just foreign spooks. The possibility of the high-tech, constant-surveillance Big Brother state was threatening to become a reality.

    PKC had become much more than a brilliant mathematical trick: it was now the centre of a bitter philosophical and political debate about the privacy of the individual. This has now spilt over into just about every area of public policy. Before PKC, the spooks could watch and never explain anything. After PKC, they had to come out and argue their case.

    The big questions are obvious. How much should the government be able to find out about me and the things I do? Should it be able to read all my private messages, my bank accounts, my health records? Do I have any right to privacy at all, or does the public interest in the possibility that I might be a terrorist, paedophile, criminal or spy overrule all other considerations?

    Cryptography was only the beginning of this debate. Technology - whether in the form of computers, mobile phones, credit cards, store cards or closed-circuit television cameras with sophisticated face recognition systems - means that people can now, if they like, know almost everything about anybody.

    We all leave an electronic trail wherever we go, whatever we do. This trail is impossible for the individual to eradicate or control.

    Much of this trail may seem innocent - what you buy at Tesco using your loyalty card is hardly likely to be a sensitive matter. But the point about computer memory and processing power is that it is expanding at a rate few of us can begin to understand. As a result, thanks to those loyalty cards, it is perfectly possible to trawl through everything you have ever bought at Tesco, and that can produce a startlingly detailed picture of your life.

    "I'm not embarrassed about my shopping," says Ian Brown, a researcher into mobile multimedia security at University College, London, "but the insidious nature of this is that it's not the day-by-day information, it's knowing about all your grocery for the last five years. It's amazing how much you can tell about someone from the pattern of their buying." Furthermore, information breeds information. Once I know one thing about you, I can generally find out another. Using a technique known as 'social engineering' - essentially a simple con trick - armed with a few details like your date of birth and post code, I can easily convince some lowly clerk on the phone that I am you and seduce him into parting with more sensitive material.

    When you add into that mix internet usage and e-mails - neither of which are remotely secure unless you go out of your way to make sure they are - it becomes easy to build up staggeringly detailed pictures of the lives and habits of almost anybody. Indeed, there is an automated global system code-named Echelon, operated by the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which is believed to intercept up to 3 billion communications a day, trawling through them for sensitive words that might indicate a security threat - it may well pick up this article in transit. Some claim that 90% of internet traffic is scanned by Echelon. The exact figures are unknown, because the system is top secret. Indeed, Britain, alone among these countries, does not even admit it exists. Simon Davies, head of the pressure group Privacy International and a self-confessed cypherpunk, describes Echelon as "black-helicopter, Mulder-and-Scully stuff". As in The X Files, the truth is out there, but so is somebody who doesn't want you to know.

    Even by just collating all the addresses of your e-mail correspondents, the security services can construct "friendship trees", patterns of association that, whether you are guilty or not, may connect you to terrorists or criminals.

    Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are the final turn of the screw. There are now 1.5m of these operating in Britain, and some, as in the London borough of Newham, use facial recognition software that automatically identifies target individuals. Some of these cameras are visible, but many, in pubs and clubs, are not. In time, it is thought these cameras will be linked in a nationwide web. They will become, as Dr Stephen Graham of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne has suggested, the "fifth utility", after telephones, water, gas and electricity. "These networks," he writes, "have long since merged and extended to become technologically standardised, multipurpose, nationally regulated utilities, with virtually universal coverage. I would argue that CCTV looks set to follow a similar pattern of development over the next 20 years, to become a kind of fifth utility."

    "We have far more of these cameras that any other country," Graham tells me, "though Germany and the US are now catching up. Why? Well, I suppose we have fewer constitutional and political fears about invasions of privacy.

    We have a huge fear of crime and we have no totalitarian past like almost all the other countries in Europe."

    Graham believes the key to the future, networked power of CCTV is automation. "The key to the limitations of their use was the human operator, who just got bored. Soon, software will be able to do all that, and then the power will be in the hands of the software writers to decide what is abnormal behaviour. It will all be hidden - there will be no accountability."

    And, in their book The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV, the academics Clive Norris and Gary Armstrong write: "The architecture of the maximum surveillance society is now in place." Their point is that the hardware of CCTV is so firmly in position that enabling it to watch everybody all the time is now merely a software problem.

    Meanwhile, other surveillance technologies are springing up all the time. Police in the US, and some private agencies here, now have machines - called IMSI catchers - in their cars that fool your mobile phone into thinking they are base stations on your network. They can even tell your phone not to use any form of encryption. So they can listen to every mobile call you make. In addition, all big companies in the City of London routinely have to attach devices to their windows to prevent sensitive meetings being overheard through remote sensors that pick up voices from vibrations of the glass. Or there are Van Eck devices, which can read everything on your computer screen from a street away from your house. It is rumoured that one of these machines has been refined to the point where it can pick out one computer screen at the top of Canary Wharf from street level. Or tiny airborne devices the size of butterflies are being developed that can watch every move you make. And so on and so on. "It is plausible," writes Bruce Schneier, an American security consultant, in his book Secrets & Lies, "that we could soon be living in a world without expectation of privacy, anywhere or at any time."

    Soon, some have suggested, we shall have to record our entire lives on audio and video just to establish an alibi, in case we are implicated in a crime. Indeed, not to make such a recording may one day be treated as a cause for suspicion.

    Do we care? In Britain, apparently not. We accept CCTV cameras out of fear of crime, and as a result we have more than any other nation in the world. Meanwhile, a study by the Economic and Social Research Council's Virtual Society programme has found that employees do not regard surveillance systems in the workplace as invasions of privacy. And finally, in the form of last year's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIP), we now have, according to many observers, the most invasive legal apparatus anywhere in the world. China, it has been pointed out, has nothing as draconian as this on its statute book. It has been described by the constitutionalist Anthony Barnett as "the most pernicious invasion of privacy ever imposed by a democratic state". Among other things, the act ensures that all internet and mobile-phone communications will potentially be interceptible by the police and security services. Furthermore, even if you are not suspected of any crime, you can be imprisoned for two years if you fail to disclose a computer password. The communications of UK citizens can now be trawled by GCHQ to investigate any "large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose".


  • by LionKimbro ( 200000 ) on Sunday April 15, 2001 @04:41PM (#289822) Homepage

    David Brin was right; the cameras are coming. [] Make sure that we can watch our leaders and police as easily as they can watch us.

  • Many highways you travel on have cameras that go back to the Department of Transportation, where TV stations, etc., get their live feeds for their news shows. In fact, states like New Jersey are starting to put these camera online []. I believe Atlanta and a few other cities have extensive survailence networks; one tiny piece of New York City [] has so many public and private cameras it isn't funny.

    Now IANAL, but I belive the laws in the United States at the moment do *not* cover video survailance. Prosecutions of people spying on other people are normally because someone performed *audio* survailence (i.e., left the microphone running on the camera). There was a case where landlord put a camcorder in a couple's bedroom behind a two-way mirror. The landlord would have actually been within his rights to put a camera there except for the fact he left the microphone attached.

  • Stupid question - how do they catch you?

    This is all very freaky to me, I do not have a TV, and I would hate to be suspected of being a criminal just because I don't care for TV....
  • I visited a old friend in Southern California this winter. He lived in a "gated community" where security cameras watched all the areas inside the complex.

    My friend had to return to work the day I arrived, so I spent the afternoon relaxing at his place. Having come from Minnesota (4 ft of snow when I left) I went outside and wandered aimlessly around the complex, enjoying the ability to wear shorts in January. I took pictures of interesting things, like Christmas tree lights on tropical trees and ponds filled with liquid water. In retrospect, this does seem awfully suspicious/crazy.

    After about half an hour in this paradise, a security guy told me I had to come with him. I didn't live there, my friend was out of his office, and I had no way to prove I wasn't some crazy Minnesotan intent on photographing the area before I killed everybody. I'd done nothing wrong, just acted a little weird. But I spent the rest of the afternoon in the security office until my host could verify I was indeed a legitmate guest. It was not a pleasant experience.

    One would hope that real police would do a better job and find something better to do than harass law-abiding people. But I wouldn't want to bet on it.
  • And? I still dont see the problem. The only people who have anything to fear from these systems is the criminals, and I fail to see how that can be a bad thing.

    Criminals, ah, ok. Then it's all well and good. You therefore won't mind, of course, when added legislation describes the things YOU do as criminal, and the monitoring cameras gather evidence on you doing it before the fact, will you? By your own words, this will be perfectly all right, since god knows only true criminals are EVER accused of being criminals, and their privacy violated.

    Give me a break. No government is all-wise and simon pure. They should not be wielding this kind of power, at least not without severe checks on their ability to use it, and monitoring of THEM (the monitors) available for public scrutiny.

    But the way this will enter private lives will be very simple: Subtle threatening and social pressure. "What, you don't have a telescreen in your house?! You must be one of those terrorist hackers!" (shun shun shun shun shun). And eventually, NOT having a telescreen in your home will be declared illegal, once the situation is ready for that. More and more, I see citizens of supposedly democratic nations sitting idly by and letting their governments usurp powers they should not have, and these "law enforcement" agencies get away with it through subtle threats, claiming that the only people who need to fear this are the bad guys. Well, let me tell you, in an authoritarian government one of the main goals is to make it impossible for ordinary citizens to avoid breaking the law, so the police forces will always have an excuse for anything they do.

    Privacy is doubleplusungoodthinkful, Winston.

  • Please explain what liberty I am giving up. CCTV cameras do not infringe any liberties, so your argument is redundant.

    KTB:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Programmer.

  • The liberty to be alone is what is missing. If you cannot be alone you have no safety nor freedom to speak of.

    CCTV cameras do not affect this liberty. CCTV cameras are only put in public places. You don't have the right to be alone in your local highstreet, supermarket or motorway, where the vast majority of these cameras are placed.

    Your argument would hold water if the cameras were being placed in peoples homes, or something outrageous like that. But they aren't.

    Why bother maintaining pride, integrity, and character if your life is to be constantly judged at all times according to the stinking broth of the collective court of pubic opinion?

    That it what the 'Closed Circuit' part of CCTV means. The camera data is readily accessible to everyone through the data protection act, but the fact remains that they are used publically only.

    What will you do when your next generation sees them as normal as furniture. And the next have no innate fear of them and completely ignore them?

    That is the situation now. CCTV cameras have been used here for years, to great effect. My local city, Glasgow, has seen a huge crime rate decrease in the city centre thanks to the use of CCTV. The system even has a computer face recognition system that can highlight known criminals and also pinpoint suspicious behaviours completely autonimously. This saves manpower and cuts crime.

    CCTV cameras are welcomed by the populace. If I am walking through a bad area at night, I feel much better about it if there is a decent CCTV system in place.

    In the end, these systems are just another legitimate policing tool. If you don't think the police force is trustworty enough to handle them responsibly, think of all the powers they already have, and be scared. CCTV is not some big brotherish, revolutionary concept. It has been quietly and successfully used here for many years now.

    KTB:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Programmer.

  • Funny you should mention the House of Lords. I think it highlights the difference in attitude very well indeed.

    The House of Lords was a truly excellent institution. It served the function of scrutinising legislation passed by the House of Commons. It was composed of normal people, or at least people a lot more normal than politicians tend to be. People who have careers and then subsume themselves into the Lord's at age 80 or so. It acted as a resevoir of common sense, and a bastion of conservatism (note the small 'c'). The fact is that it did its job very well indeed, and for a very cheap price.

    The difference in attitude I am talking about is that principles should not get in the way of good government, and that good government should be above principles if said principles get in the way of good government. In other words, a certain degree of expediency.

    Noone has ever made a case for the House of Lords being bad at what it did, for there is no case to be made.

    The simple fact is that it was replaced by a system much worse, and even less democratic, that of an Upper House chosen entirely by the government, and shorn of independence. This is why the government of Blair is so dangerous, IMO - because it is willing to throw the constitution into the air without regard as to where the pieces fall.

    This difference is fudamental.

    KTB:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Programmer.

  • ...because if it came out of Income Tax, it would be funded by the government. That would mean that the BBC would have to go to the government on a regular basis to beg for money to cover its budget, and compete with services like healthcare and transportation.

    There are two things you definitely do not want a government to do, whether you stand on the left or right. The first is force everyone to subsidise a luxury service, and television ultimately is. The other is to make a substantial element of the media answerable to government, and at risk of losing any semblance of impartiality in order to placate a hostile government.

    So Britain chooses to keep the TV licence fee. Only TV owners need to pay it, so it's a voluntary tax - don't want to pay it, don't watch TV. It keeps the BBC healthy, both financially (Birt reforms notwithstanding), and ideologically (generally pisses off both major political parties so it has to be doing something right!)

    Personally, I support it, not because it's perfect, but because the alternatives are, IMO, worse. I'm currently suffering US TV, and miss the innovation and intelligence the BBC offers - even though 2 and half years ago when I left it was at its Birtian worst. Even the better alternatives, such as Channel 4, would arguably be poorer for lack of a quality BBC competitor. The only objection I have is that the licence fee, at around USD160/pa, is expensive.

  • Erm, is this a troll? TV ownership is clearly voluntary. Eating food is clearly not. You will die if you do not eat food. You will probably be better off though, if anything, if you don't watch TV. Even in Britain. Where TV isn't crap.

    Hoodwinked? I don't know. Here in Port St Lucie, Florida, I'm paying my local cable cartel $40 a month for absolute crap - even the above average programs, already diluted by largely being clones of one another, tend to be sliced into so many between-adverts portions the overall sense is of being commercialed-to-death. When subscription alternatives have been available, the fees have been as high as the licence fee for programming that's usually comprised of a limited range of movies played repeatedly day after day, week after week, with perhaps an hour of "real programming" inserted inbetween.

    I'd gladly chuck it in for a feed of the UK terrestial 5 at any time, for the same amount of money. If the BBC is a con, hoodwinking unwitting Britons, what the hell does that make the US cable networks?

  • Sigh.... It's called a joke dude, there isn't really a test.

    Yes there is, I've got one here. I can't be caught out like that!

    That is a dog license with the word dog crossed out and the word cat written in crayon.

    Man didn't have the right form

    Yes, the other poster is right, there is absolutely nothing that the BBC has contributed to world culture and the fact that so many US citizens give money to PBS to watch reruns of Dr Who and Are You Being Served is because they are ignorant lefties who ought to be shipped off the Russia where they belong (and where they would be unable to watch the BBC).

  • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Sunday April 15, 2001 @08:24PM (#289859) Homepage
    Since so many have asked, yes you do need a license to watch TV in the UK. The program has a two fold purpose, first to raise revenue for the BBC (apart from the World service which is funded by a foreign office grant).

    The other purpose of the license fee is to set minimum standards of competence for television viewers. It is quite a while since I passed the test but I still remember some of the questions.

    Q. Who played Emma Peel in the Avengers before Diana Rigg?

    Q. True or False, Reginald Bosequett's hair [False]

    Q. Why is Star Trek the most commonly shown US TV series A: The BBC purchased the UK rights outright for $80 per episode during the initial runs

    To pass you had to score no more than 5 out of 10, thus demonstrating that you were not a total couch potatoe.

  • by xDe ( 264660 ) on Sunday April 15, 2001 @04:47PM (#289861)
    What if you don't want to watch BBC? Why doesn't BBC just run a subscription model like HBO or use advertisements?

    Yep, this is how new channels are funded. But the license fee is a historical artefact... when it began, the BBC was the only channel. If you bought a TV, you were going to watch the BBC on it because there was nothing else to use it for, so it made sense for the license fee (read as 'subscription fee') to be compulsory for anyone who bought a TV.
    Why not use adverts? Firstly, because people don't like watching ads and complain at every suggestion that the BBC should be funded this way. Secondly, the BBC historically has the aim of producing quality public service broadcasting, which would be compromised by the need to pursue advertising revenue. (Of course, the extent to which the BBC achieves this is debatable, but that's the theory.)
    Why not subscription? Well, the license fee is effectively a subscription. The only problem with this interpretation, as you say, is that you are forced to pay wether you want to watch the BBC or not - but in practice the number of people who own a TV without ever using a BBC service is extremely small (I'd be very surprised if it was as high as 1 percent). Not really fair on that small number, of course, but the license has been in place for fifty-odd years now; people are just used to it.
    In short, the license fee is a typically British solution of the form, 'it's only slightly broken so don't bother fixing it'.

  • When you add into that mix internet usage and e-mails - neither of which are remotely secure unless you go out of your way to make sure they are - it becomes easy to build up staggeringly detailed pictures of the lives and habits of almost anybody.
    One of the things I think many people often forget, or may not even realize, is that emails can also get you into legal trouble. PGP should not only be used to encrypt data, but many should use it to ensure that they are the persons sending out their own email, to protect themselves should a situation arise.

    Sure reading through someone's email "may" give someone insights into their habits, but so can cookies, so that statement I guess was thrown into the story to make it jucier I guess.

    Indeed, there is an automated global system code-named Echelon, operated by the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which is believed to intercept up to 3 billion communications a day, trawling through them for sensitive words that might indicate a security threat - it may well pick up this article in transit. Some claim that 90% of internet traffic is scanned by Echelon. The exact figures are unknown, because the system is top secret. Indeed, Britain, alone among these countries, does not even admit it exists. Simon Davies, head of the pressure group Privacy International and a self-confessed cypherpunk, describes Echelon as "black-helicopter" Mulder-and-Scully stuff". As in The X Files, the truth is out there, but so is somebody who doesn't want you to know.
    If someone is extremely concerned or paranoid about these things, then one method to avoid them is to halt using digital communications. Sure we all use things digital to facilitate our lives but its not a neccessity and no one is going to die from not using the Internet or digital related equipment.

    For those who are concerned with ECHELON or others, then encryption is the only route to go unless you plan on reverting to morse code or something.

    Even by just collating all the addresses of your e-mail correspondents, the security services can construct "friendship trees", patterns of association that, whether you are guilty or not, may connect you to terrorists or criminals.
    Thats sort of a dumb comment to make. Being a member of a mailing list with some bad apples would not constitute you being a bad apple. Thats like saying because a criminal lives on your block you too may have criminal tendencies. Thats again something I see that was probably added to spice up the article.

    "We have far more of these cameras that any other country," Graham tells me, "though Germany and the US are now catching up. Why? Well, I suppose we have fewer constitutional and political fears about invasions of privacy.

    We have a huge fear of crime and we have no totalitarian past like almost all the other countries in Europe."
    Well instead of whining about it, all the people who are concerned have whats called voting power, and if nothing is done other than bitch, then what could you expect.

    I've read studies which stated that these cameras haven't even lowered the crime rate anyways, so who's fooling whom over in the UK.

    And I will restate this from a prior post, installing more cameras might deter crime, but it won't stop it, its only a matter of time if it hasn't happened yet, that criminals will just get sneakier. All it would take is one smart criminal creating a nice EMP [] weapon and zap all those little monitors' insides.

    G.I.T.S. []

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.