The Surveillance State – Peace and Security at What Price?
Hitherto most of our freedoms and rights in Australia and were actually anchored in the British Common Law evolved over centuries and the culturally grounded respect of those in our institutions and agencies for fairness and the intrinsic rights of people. However statutory law overrides Common Law and lately has seriously eroded those rights. Nightmarish scenarios like arbitrary and secret arrest and continual judicially unsupervised widespread surveillance of the everyday contacts and the location of every person on a minute-to-minute basis are now fact.
Just turning off Location Services and the GPS on your devices does not stop the tracking. Because cellular services automatically compare signal strength at all nearby cell towers to determine the best connection, the recording & remembering of those attributes every few moments for every mobile means position can be deduced with surprising accuracy. The source & destination of every communication together with participants’ exact location and that routine powerful data mining and matching can work out everyone’s network and aims.
Of course this only matters to those who are up to no good – right?
Well no – the universal implementation means the bad guys are now totally alerted and they either leave their devices off or on and somewhere misleading. The encrypting of messages embedded in the noise of photos or media files means that only the sophisticated bad guys are not intercepted so personal privacy is compromised to no useful end.
Similar Statutory Law in the United Kingdom to Australia’s was recently overturned by their High Court as inconsistent with the right to privacy enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Australia has no constitutionally guaranteed set of basic rights like that charter or the US Bill of Rights or the German Basic Law. It is about time that we did. If we are to change our constitution to remove race as a criteria in legislation, why not simply incorporate that Charter in our constitution exactly as is? It would implicitly achieve that aim and numerous others with negligible unintended consequences.
Police States have always cited preserving national security to justify widespread surveillance… “Just trust us!” – the trouble is who is watching the watchers when it happens on a vast scale? Who determines just what constitutes a threat to National Security? Pol Pot thought having an education was a threat. Bring back Judicial Oversight and institute a constitutionally entrenched Charter of Rights or you loose my vote. I am uneasy too about agencies trawling though our social media posts – it is a small step from there to having mandatory internment of anybody with ideas that might predict the possibility of a crime.
The propensity of our Government to take our country to war without a Declaration of War and a vote of the Legislature to ratify that is also dangerous – it means the Executive can essentially deem opposition to a political position as Treason.