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Surveilance Subjects Must (eventually) be Notified

Comment 12th July 2010

Identified subjects of official surveilance should, in the long term, be notified of which of their communications where intercepted, the justification for doing so and the conclussions drawn.

Obviously it would not be sensible to do this while the enquiry was in progress. A time limit should be set, say five years, by the end of which such notification must take place.

Meanwhile the amount of surveilance being conducted should be published regularly and in detail. Number of phone calls tapped. Number of numbers traced, number of e-mails read and so forth.

Why does this matter?

With advancing computer power, the potential for a run-away surveilance state is an increasing threat. Contact network analysis could bring any degree of guilt by association. Automatic numberplate recognition and, eventually, the capacity for roadside cameras to recognise faces of pedestrians and vehicle occupants create the possibility of tracing every movement we make.

Some degree of surveilance is undoubtably necessary, but if it's to be kept under control public scrutiny is essential. Governments will always be tempted to use power intended for use against terrorists and criminals against political dissent.

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