The Limitation of Information

From CCTV to the DNA database - we live in a society under surveillance.

Exactly how many CCTV cameras there are in the UK is unknown, although a study in 2006 estimated 4.8m cameras had been installed. There are, it is recognised, more cameras per citizen than anywhere else on the planet.

Our digital lives are under a watchful eye too - in 2008 the government planned to spend 12 billion creating a database to monitor and store the browsing habits, email and telephone records of everyone in UK. Given that in 2007 there were 57 billion text messages sent in the UK alone - 1800 every second, this was to be a large-scale project.

The scale of the state's prying was revealed last year when the government admitted that there were 504,073 requests by the police and security services for communication data - 1,381 a day - one request for every minute of last year. Such requests for digital communications information have increased by 44% since 2006 and accounts for state-sanctioned spying on one in every 78 adults every year, yet only 9% of such surveillance helps with convictions.

The argument in favour of a surveillance state is always that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear - but surely free citizens should not have to justify themselves to the state, the state should serve the citizen.

Lawrence Zeegen / Sept 2010