What actual use to the public, are Select Committees of the House of Commons, and the Reports which they publish ?
The Labour Government invariably cherry picks a quotation from the summary of such a Report, especially if it was written by a Labour Chairman of the Committee e.g. Government Response to the Home Affairs Committee: A Surveillance Society? (.pdf) leaped on the phrase ,
We reject crude characterisations of our society as a surveillance society in which all collection and means of collecting information about citizens are networked and centralised in the service of the state.
This allowed the Government to claim:
The Government welcomes the committee's rejection of the characterisation that we live in a surveillance society where the state is engaged in a centralised network of collecting and analysing information on the individual.
Anyone actually reading though the detail of the Report, will see that it really supports the premise that the UK is already a Surveillance Society.
Incredibly, it seems that such Select Committee Reports, published in public, cannot be quoted, even in passing, in a Court of Law or a Tribunal, because that somehow infringes on the freedom of speech of Members of Parliament , according to the 1689 Bill of Rights - see:
Increasingly, the contents of the Select Committee report are leaked or briefed to the mainstream media, before its official publication. Such favoured media outlets are then either fed a line, or manage to draw the wrong conclusions.
Yesterday, for example, The Daily Telegraph managed to claim that
Internet users will be protected from abusive bloggers and malicious Facebook postings under proposals to set up an independent internet watchdog, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
By Nicole Martin, Digital and Media Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:27AM BST 30 Jul 2008
The body, made up of industry representatives, would be responsible for drawing up guidelines that social networking sites, the blogosphere, website owners and search engines would be expected to follow
Naturally, any suggestion of Yet Another Government Quango to attempt to suppress the free speech of bloggers, has understandably provoked a reaction against this stupid idea.
- Iain Dale - New Attempt to Regulate Blogs Won't Work
- Longrider - Here We Go Again
- The Landed Underclass - ...and another
- UK Liberty - Oh f&@% off
However, when you actually read the Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Report into Harmful content on the Internet and in video games, it only mentions "blogs" once, in passing, concentrating on various worthy Child Protection chat forum monitoring schemes etc.
135. Mobile network operators may exercise a fairly high degree of control over their customers' access to social networking sites and interactive sites which they host. Typically, chatrooms for under-18s and blogs are fully moderated.
155. We considered whether the UK Council for Child Internet Safety should, in time, take on a wider role in leading self-regulation of Internet service industries. Our conclusion is that this would be inappropriate, as the Council has been established as a forum in which Government departments, the industry and relevant voluntary sector bodies can work together in developing a strategy for child Internet safety.
There is, however, an evil, ill thought out recommendation in the Report, which should be thoroughly condemned (emphasised text as in the original):
Controlling conduct-based risks and cyberbullying
138. We note that mobile phone call records would make it possible to establish that a particular phone had been used to upload content onto a video-sharing website at a particular time but would not necessarily identify the images uploaded or the person who had used the phone to upload them. Given that images or videos taken by mobile devices may be uploaded to social networking sites or video sharing sites on impulse, it would seem important to be able to have a record of the nature of content handled, should it be offensive, harmful or even illegal. It may be that the mobile phone industry could develop technology which would allow images uploaded by mobile devices to be viewed, thereby helping in the process of assembling evidence if inappropriate conduct has taken place. We recommend that network operators and manufacturers of mobile devices should assess whether it is technically possible to enable images sent from mobile devices to be traced and viewed by law enforcement officers with the appropriate authority.
What happens when the images uploaded from a mobile phone etc. are not from the relatively few "happy slapping" assaults, and the even fewer murders, or gang rapes which have been photographed or videoed on mobile phones ?
What if they are evidence of of Police brutality when arresting someone, or when there is any sort of violent public order incident ?
If such currently non-existent technology is developed in the UK, presumably by magic, since the Committee has not come up with any research and development funding, what will prevent this selfsame mobile phone image tracking technology from being abused, in say, China, Russia, Zimbabwe, Burma, Pakistan etc. to hunt down political dissidents and opponents of those authoritarian regimes ?
Innocent photographers in the UK already suffer from illegal harassment by Police Constables, Police Community Support Officers and Private Security Guards. Why should they welcome their mobile phone retained Communications Traffic Data being trawled, just in case their copyrighted images might of interest in a Police investigation ?
Why should mobile phone photographers be hunted down and identified, if the Police or shyster lawyers representing rich and powerful people or organisations, try to suppress their images ?
The dreadful dictatorship appeasing commercial monopoly of the International Olympic Committee springs to mind. They already seem set to inflict Beijing 2008 style monopoly enforcement on the London 2012 Olympic Games.