All telecoms companies and internet service providers will be required by law to keep a record of every customer's personal communications, showing who they are contacting, when, where and which websites they are visiting. Despite widespread opposition over Britain's growing surveillance society, 653 public bodies will be given access to the confidential information, including police, local councils, the Financial Services Authority, the Ambulance Service, fire authorities and even prison governors. Ministers had originally wanted to store the information on a massive Government-run database, but chose not to because of privacy concerns. However the Government announced yesterday it was pressing ahead with privately-held "Big Brother" databases which opposition leaders said amount to "state-spying" and a form of "covert surveillance" on the public. It is doing so despite its own consultation showing there is little public support for the plans. – Telegraph UK
Dominant Social Theme: Unearth every byte?
Free-Market Analysis: The glass is either half empty or half full. If one believes – as we do – in the liberating and empowering aspects of the Internet, then one is not apt to be overly pessimistic about those who seek to abuse it. Yes, what the UK plans is an enormous abuse of civil liberties, but civil liberties have been declining in the West for years and would have continued to decline with or without the Internet. The EU was planned by the monetary elite long ago, and its socialist leaders have implemented its gradualist plans with admirable enthusiasm.
We think, in fact, that part of the trumpeting of these sorts of plans may be for the purpose of cowing people and making them miss the point about the Internet. It is an enormously powerful tool of education and over the long term, the power of a good idea wins out over excessive cataloguing of everybody's intimate communications. If one tends to look at the Internet as this force for governmental abuse of civil liberties, then the Internet goes from a tool that people use with enthusiasm to cutting edge technology that people fear and dread.
Is that perhaps the point? The idea that government, which cannot run a train on time, is going to collect, categorize and make accessible to appropriate authorities every single point of contact of every individual in the UK, beggars logic. Perhaps those in charge of these programs will try their best. Or maybe they won't try very hard at all. In any event it is likely to be a great big mess and will generate more antagonism than security or increased respect for the law.
The law, in any case, has gone far afield of what people conceived it was several hundred years ago or longer. We read today about duels and the code of honor that people lived by in the past. This was necessary because individual families and clans enforced the law in free societies. There was no real concept of a state-run court. If you offended someone, or did something to harm some one, you could easily find yourself on the other side of a sword or one of a pair of dueling pistols. This was partially the reason for the exaggerated politeness of pre-industrial age societies.
Of course, it is held that such rituals were barbaric, and that society has traveled a long way since then. But last time we looked Britain (and the decay of real justice is writ large in the UK) had several people in jail for trying to defend their own homes against burglars. Use a weapon in Britain, even a knife, and you are liable to find yourself in the pokey for decades. Indeed, the tendency in Western society is for jail sentences to get longer and longer.
We will not deny that the limning of a fully authoritarian state can be seen in the combination of "rationalized: EU laws (we've covered this previously) that will take precedence over national law plus huge communications' databases. Marry endless snooping to endless lawmaking and you have what is obviously intended to be a condition ripe for the gulag.
We would point out that 60 years ago, China was slaughtering anyone who could read and 80 years ago, Stalin was shipping the Russian intelligentsia off to Siberia to be worked to death. These spasms of fascism are neither efficient nor, often, long-lasting, though if you ask anyone who lives through them they seem endless. They are a blight on lives and hopes of those who are caught in their webs and the people who plan them ought to be named for what they are: evil.
But, as we try to state on a regular basis, we are optimists. We think history is our on our side. The Internet is merely a tool and people will determine its outcome. If those in power have their way, it will be a tool for repression. But we think the power of the ‘Net is such that it is changing the way people think about their lives and how they relate to the powerful forces around them. That's why we see the evolution, eventually, of a market-based gold-and-silver standard, as the Internet changes the way people view money – honest money. That's only one part, though an important one. It won't stop there. Even more exciting and fruitful chapters in the history of the Internet await to be written. Hopefully, they'll get the same attention as the best stuff in the alternative media.