Read the item below and then answer the questions that follow.
In November 2006, Richard Thomas, the government’s information commissioner, said that fears that the UK would “sleep-walk into a surveillance society” have now become a reality. Researchers on the Report on the Surveillance Society highlight “dataveillance”, the widespread use of credit card, mobile phone and loyalty card information, and CCTV. Monitoring of work rates, travel and telecommunications is also rising. There are up to 4.2m CCTV cameras in Britain – about one for every 14 people.
According to the Report, surveillance ranges from US security agencies monitoring telecommunications traffic passing through Britain, to key stroke information used to gauge work rates and GPS information tracking company vehicles. It predicts that by 2016 shoppers could be scanned as they enter stores, schools could bring in cards allowing parents to monitor what their children eat, and jobs may be refused to applicants who are seen as a health risk.
The report’s co-writer Dr David Murakami-Wood told BBC News that compared with other industrialised Western states, the UK was “the most surveilled country”. “We have more CCTV cameras and we have looser laws on privacy and data protection,” he said. “We really do have a society which assumes we need both state secrecy and the right for the state to keep information under control. At the same time, the state wants to know as much as it can about us.”
The report coincides with the publication by the human rights group Privacy International of figures that suggest Britain is the worst Western democracy at protecting individual privacy.
Adapted from “Britain is ‘surveillance society’”, BBC, November 2006
- What reasons are given by governments or companies for so much surveillance?
- Imagine what you might do on a typical day. In how many ways could your actions be ‘watched’ during that day?