Government Security and Privacy Issues
The right to privacy is a fundamental human right that should be respected not just by other individuals but also by governments. However, the increase in security measures implemented by the government does seem to be eroding the privacy of British citizens.
The Government and PrivacyBritain has one of the worst records of any western democracy when it comes to protecting the privacy rights of its citizens. According to a report by human rights group Privacy International, Britain is in the bottom five western countries when it comes to widespread surveillance. The common perception of the British government is that they have a record of keeping state secrets while demanding to know more information about British citizens.
Controversial New Security MeasuresThe laws regarding privacy and data protection in Britain seem to be ever changing. Although the government does recognise the individual’s right to privacy there seems to be more security measures that take away privacy rights. The new British identity cards are due to be rolled out in 2009 to British citizens. These cards will hold biometric information such as fingerprints and this information will be held on a National Identity Register.
Fees and FinesThe new identity cards are expected to cost around £30 each to be paid for by British citizens. Fines of up to £1000 can be applied if the details on the cards are wrong. This can include a fine if a woman fails to notify the government of a name change after marriage. Giving false information when registering will be regarded as a criminal act. Many rights activists have stated that this card gives the government more rights when it comes to gaining information and keeping track of British citizens.
The Surveillance SocietyThe increase of Close Circuit Television cameras (CCTV) is considered by many to be an infringement of the right to privacy. There are around 4.2 million CCTV cameras operating in Britain; this equates to one for every fourteen people. British citizens are spotted on CCTVs up to 300 times a day as they walk around cities. The amount of CCTVs is set to increase due to the perceived increase in terrorist activities.
Government Email DatabaseAnother controversial government security proposal is the new email database. The government does want to hold a database of every email, telephone call and text made by British citizens. These records will be held in a central government database and will be accessible by the authorities. The government states these measures are needed to fight terrorism. If this plan does go ahead it will mean another step towards the erosion of the British people’s privacy while the government increases its citizen information.
The Internet and SurveillanceGovernment tracking of citizens over the Internet is playing a huge part in the erosion of British citizen’s right to privacy. Since the introduction of “terror legislation” the British government has increased its surveillance procedures and intends to increase them further. According to human rights activists the British government systematically attacks the rights of British citizens with every new security measure it imposes.
Protecting your RightsThe erosion of privacy rights by the British government is a serious matter. Human and civil rights campaigners have already mounted campaigns against the introduction of the new ID cards. Joining activist organisations such as Amnesty International and Liberty can help to stop the erosion of human and civil rights. These organisations have made real headway in campaigning for citizen’s rights and changing government policies and laws.
If rights to privacy are continually eroded without protest then the government and authorities such as the police will have much more power in the future. Many of the rights to privacy that we take for granted at the moment will no longer exist if these new security measures are brought in. It is the responsibility of every British citizen to fight for their rights to freedom and privacy if they are under threat from the government.