Friday, January 9, 2009

WWWait A Minute Mr Postman

The small ‘plane is descending toward the neatly-razored landing-strip… abruptly, it pulls away, rocketing skywards. Through the small oval window to my right, I can see goats grazing on the runway far below… the twin-prop buzzes like a moth around a street lamp round the tropical island, slicing silently through milk-sopwith-camel-clouds before one more time banking steeply, dipping worryingly, lurching forward and touching down with the smell of burning rubber from a Brooklyn Heights flat-bed-truck of a roof; five floors up with only a small parapet to protect the incautious or unsteady.

Hey, look… there’s The Carlyle, that’s where the Kennedys stayed; their world and our globe shut-down in slow-motion black and white, Jackie’s neat hat and his razor-sharp creases are flattened as the bullet was fired by a gun that didn’t make any noise.

Stepping into the lean-to shack with floorboards of scorched earth, I pause before handing over my passport … there’s a man seated over there… where? There, in the spotlight… He’s reading a biblical text; looming behind him on the wall is a large poster – emblazoned upon which in dripping plasma-red letters is the phrase: know your sharks.

This morning, Conservative peer the Earl Of Northesk – fifty-four years on from his first nappy-change – has been spluttering into his kippers, his marmaladen-toast on hold, suspended expectant animation between fingers and false-teeth, his milkless Earl Grey growing cold in its bone-china cup.

I shall write to the The Times about this he silently mouths … no, better still, I’ll speak to the BBC. My great-grandfather won an Olympic bronze medal for tobogganing in 1928 don’t you know. Hrrrmmmmph, what’s the world coming to now..? Can’t have this…. Hrrrmmmmph. A distressed and somewhat startled Scottish Deerhound called Greta scuttles to her bed under the kitchen table.

And David Carnegie (the 14th in that noble Highland line) did his interview with Auntie, telling them: This degree of storage is equivalent to having access to every second, every minute, every hour of your life. People have to worry about the scale, the virtuality of your life being exposed to about 500 public authorities.

What exactly, I hear you enquire, has tipped the gracious wearer of Ermine’s trilby?

From March 15th, all ISP’s (that’s your… or my… or anyone else’s Internet Service Provider; in essence whoever you sign-in with to get online) will have to – by law – store information about every e-mail sent or received together with every web site you or I or anyone else has accessed for… an entire calendar year.

The belted Earl is a member of the Science & Technology committee of the House Of Lords and he may well have a point.

From my little grassy knoll on the Voltaire prairie, I’m also wondering – just as an absolutely miniscule example of contemplation you understand – if this isn’t a Dick Darstadly offensive against collective privacy… and… I’m also wondering... is this a really high priority because, with a leg on each side of the depression, is it really wise for this Government to allow the bulldog to bite its dangling balls even harder – by sidelining millions (between £25 & 75m is the reported figure per ISP) for this exercise in… invasive intrusion?

Well, of course I’d be wrong there and my real name is obviously Canute and not Holmes. The Home Office’s incoming tide states that the data they’ll gather would be a vital tool for investigation and intelligence gathering.

Even Dr John Watson has worked out that Osama Bin Laden is, in fact Scottish and hiding out near Inchnadamph – his real name being Osama Bin Laddie.

It matters not because, quite clearly, Big Brother has now decided that we are all guilty until we prove ourselves innocent.

As public enemy #69, I’ll beware Greeks bearing gifts, thank-you ever so much.

They – the governmental bullies – are now saying: It will allow investigators to identify suspects, examine their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time. Implementing the EU directive will enable UK law enforcement to benefit fully from historical communications data in increasingly complex investigations and will enhance our national security.

Suspects… contacts… relationships… conspirators… locations… law enforcement…law enforcement… oh fxxk, they’ve just uncovered the Gunpowder Plot… what fxxxxxg year is this exactly?

Sleepers… awake; the world of Richard Hannay and The 39 Steps (and yes that and Robert Donat were the answers to the riddle in the previous Voltaire) is wide awake and… I’m not sleeping.

I’ve learned that Big Brother’s Little Sister has just cut her first teeth as reports I’ve also idled over are suggesting that there are even wider plans for data retention (the Interception Modernisation Programme) in the wings which would involve one central database, gathering details on every text sent, e-mail sent, phone call made and website visited.

Scared..? I should say so… its like being padlocked in a cell naked, behind bars that do not a prison make with a line of voyeurs queuing up.

Althea, where are you… when I needed Randy Van Warmer the most..?

Because, of course, recent history has shown us all just how truly safe our most private information is in the hands of the ‘authorities’.

However, to lull us all into an even greater sense of security, from this March the ISP’s will have to make the information on us that they’ve stored available to any public body that requests it – and that would include the police, the local councils, the DVLA, debt collectors, health authorities, shaven headed bullies and more. As well as probably anybody with the right ‘credentials’ that, in themselves, aren’t that hard to acquire.

Personally I feel a lorry load of sand and cement safer knowing that any e-contacts I may have with high-grade-ganga smoking civil servants together with the http addresses of the various cycling-related web sites I trawl on a far too regular basis added to my frequent forays into the world of Hob Nob Anyone will all be logged into some alien-central toyz-r-not-meant-for-playing-with-us depot; the repository on the hill.

And what about the blaggers..? Highly probable that March 15th will become their very own Glorious 12th – blaggers are the people who’s sole purpose in life is to elicit confidentially held information for people with not just ulterior but highly dubious motives. For cash.

Private life..? Article 8 within the European Convention on Human Rights states that privacy is a fundamental right – is that for hedgehogs or humans?. It may well say that but, the concept is a perception that doesn’t seem to exist in these shadowy beginnings to the 21st century.

Watchers from the skies… I count my seven stars each night and what do I dream of..?

While I slip-slide along icy streets there are CCTV cameras by the yard recording my every step; as I drive along any suburban road the car’s suspension is rocked by speed bumps which are more properly called – traffic calming measures – yet all they do is irritate otherwise calm drivers; along almost every highway and byway there are speed cameras hidden in gantrys that flash and automatically fine me if I am clocked at a single kilometre an hour over the designated limit; I get spam text messages on my ‘phone even though my number is pay-as-you-go as I’m not locked in to a contract; I log onto to Google Earth and can zoom in to my daughter’s back garden where the image is so sharp that I can see her children’s shadows in their paddling pool.

I’ve heard that there is a recently-invented gadget being trialled at present that is able to measure the depth of your tyre-tread and, should it be insufficient, then it won’t take long before the nasty-brown-envelope appears through your door; there’s another device recently introduced which monitors your home recycling on behalf of local authorities – get it wrong and the refuse Stasi will have you banged up a dark Moscow alleyway – more Warsaw Pakt than Butlins’ Red Coats. Park in the wrong place even though there is absolutely nowhere to park and you’re clamped; park at a meter that’s out-of-order and you’re ticketed – the small print says it is the driver’s responsibility to find a working meter, not Rita Meter, Meter-Maid.

Wouldn’t it be better – its just a thought this – but, wouldn’t it be better (perhaps even more cost effective) if more Police were recruited to patrol the electronic beat instead of this ghastly Snoop Doggy Dog spy-v-spy Mad comic-book-techno-intrusion on the basis that someone, somewhere out there might be a criminal?

Because… with this new law in place, the really nasty people – the paedophiles, bank-account hackers, identity thieves, scammers, internet fraudsters, ticket touts – all of whom utilise the anonymity of the web in various guises will simply go deeper underground and find different ways to subvert authority.

Someone far wiser than I said this: it is important to protect the principle of privacy because once you've lost it, it's very difficult to recover.

If we succumb to this, it’ll be yet another case of the stable door and the bolting horse.

As we lurch unsteadily into an Iceland buying of derelict Woolworth stores, M&S imploding, interest-rate dropping, Euro rallying, Reading ahead and winning against Watford, Chris Hoy being knighted this second week of a New Year; compilations archives and Project-X are, once more, deep within my radar… not the Catesby plot or Alistair Darling’s peculiar eyebrows (there are chillingly creepy parallels).

There’s little I can do about the latter and a great deal I can achieve with the former.

(Sir) Steve Coppell will cope with the other importance.


Drew. said...

Government would tell you different, but the information gathered from all-manner of tele-communications for decades, via the ECHELON system at sites like Menwith Hill and Bude in the UK, has long been used for similar purposes to what Jacqui Smith now claims this new national security measures are for.
Beginning in Australasia, then running west through the continents until it reaches the far coast of the US, ECHELON has formed quite an effective data-gathering belt around the globe, and with a very long list of 'alarm words' to alert the listeners to the marauding terrorists amongst us, even the shortest text is not beyond the net.

It makes the otherwise ever-relevant Orwell look completely out of date.

Anonymous said...

perish the thought people might have to start speaking to each other again