Re-reading the BBC article pointed out in the comments to our previous blog posting, CCTV with audio snooping to detect "aggressive behaviour" hype, we were struck by this nonsense:
Mr Blunkett said the idea echoed the fictional authoritarian Brave New World of Aldous Huxley's novel.
Surely he meant to say George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" ?
Listening to the actual online version of the BBC Radio5 Live Weekend News interview with David Blunkett, broadcast on Sunday 26th November 2006 presented by John Pienaar and Lesley Ashmall, is a depressing experience:
"It may sound bizarre, and it's bound to be controversial, but it's something which is already being used in the cities, shops, jails and even benefit centres in the Netherlands",
The Sunday Times article, which the BBC did not bother to acknowledge as the source of their story, said "Locations include city centres, benefit offices, jails, and even T-Mobile shops". The impression given is that this technology is already in common use in the Netherlands, which it is not.
There was then a short interview with
the editor of the T3 consumer gadgets magazine, who tried to explain how the technology developed in the Netherlands actually works, again without time to mention any of the pitfalls.
John Pienaar was in full Radio 4 Today programme "waffle around the question with tangential references" mode with his questions
I've been talking to the Home.. the former Home Secretary David Blunkett,
Note the Freudian slip !
whose is generally seen as a bit of a hardliner , when it comes to security versus civil liberties
It is not a question of one versus the other, we want, and it is technically possible to have both
"and I think, anyone who's read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley,
Yes, David "Mastermind" Blunkett really did mention Brave New World, presumably confusing the dystopian world it describes ruled by eugenics and genetic engineering, with the telecreen two way audio and video surveillance and control system described in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four"
would not want to be in a world where, unlike CCTV, where you know that people can see your behaviour
They only "know" if that, if they can read clear warning signs about CCTV surveillance. That is usually not the case, especially at night, or when modern camera optics zoom in from beyond normal human visual range.
Blunkett then waffled repeteadly, but he did actually make a half sensible point about the impracticality of deploying such a system, which would need to have people "on tap like at GCHQ", with "multiple language skills".
However, the example he chose "during the Olympics", is one of the few times when there may actually be such people available, but that would mean giving access to such a surveillance system to foreign governments and police and security agencies.
Blunkett and Pienaar then confused the audience with mention of audio bugging by the Police and intelligence agencies of suspects.
Electronic audio bugging is already authorised by a senior Police officer or equivalent, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, only for specific, targeted investigations, in cases involving serious crimes.
It would be better if this were done by an independent Judge. There is an attempt at auditing the system by means of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, Sir Christopher Rose and his subordinates.
The implication was that public CCTV audio snooping might be authorised by a Police officer and checked by an independent watchdog, as if this was a new idea.
John Pienaar did manage to mention "Brave New World" and "Ninteen Eighty-Four" in the same sentence, but Blunkett kept quiet about his earlier gaffe.
Blunkett then started to witter on about intercept evidence i.e. phone calls, emails etc. and terrorism cases.
That is not what the system has been used for and it certainly is not what anyone has been arrested for, as a result of the tests in the Netherlands.
His final comment could equally apply to Blunkett himself, and to the rest of the Labour government:
Practically it is a nonsense, and in terms of civil liberties, it is very dangerous.
It really is depressing to hear such stuff on the BBC.