I have always felt a little uneasy with much of the predictable criticism and scare-mongering of certain members of the “Big Brother Brigade” whenever our civil liberties are apparently threatened by the latest government initiative.
On the whole, for example, I see the positives of CCTV far outweighing the negatives. Personally I don’t feel intimidated or that I’m being spied upon as I walk through my local town centre. On the contrary, there are times when I get twitchy about the fact that there are no cameras in evidence.
I’ve often thought that CCTV is a soft target. There are far more worrying incidents where our civil liberties are being eroded which the camera bashers appear to ignore.
The interpretation of recent legislation, designed to crack down on terrorism and security threats but used in a heavy-handed way to come down hard on small-scale peaceful protests, is far more worrying than the advent of CCTV.
However, the latest developments in finger printing are undoubtedly a cause for concern.
First there was the revelation that a new project was being piloted at Stansted Airport where everyone attempting to hire a vehicle from any operator would have to provide an electronic finger print before they are allowed to drive away. The scheme is designed to crack down on those who use hire cars in connection with criminal activity.
Now we are told that police are to get mobile finger printing units that will enable them to take and check the prints of those they have reason to stop. The portable device is similar to a pocket PC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6170070.stm) and we are told it will be linked to a database of 6.5m prints
There is something deeply unsettling about both of these schemes, particularly the car hire initiative.
The scheme (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6129084.stm) is compulsory, everyone has to take part if they want to hire a vehicle.
Of course, there is the argument that if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear. But the use of such biometric techniques is becoming increasingly prevalent in society and it is the manner in which they are stored and possibly kept on file that raises the alarm.
I feel disntintly uneasy about the fact that such information is being electronically stored somewhere. The rise of electronic identity fraud is well-documented and criminals are becoming ever-more sophisticated in the ways in which they hack into the sensitive personal information of unsuspecting members of the public.
The difficulties experienced by banks and building society with so-called “phishing” attacks shows that no system is 100% foolproof.
My concern is that the biometric finger printing devices now being deployed for everyday transactions, such as hiring a car, are open to abuse by those with criminal intentions.
There is also the even more basic concern about the “authorities”, whoever they may be, having such sensitive information at their disposal. Little wonder that the likes of Liberty (http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk) and The Freedom Association (http://www.tfa.net) are currently so vocal in their concerns.
I have done nothing wrong and I don’t have anything to hide.
But it doesn’t stop me feeling intimidated and persecuted by these latest developments.