Nothing to fear? by Barbara Nadel

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By the time you read this I will be ensconced in a cave house in the middle of Anatolia. Hopefully, much of my research will already have been done and I will be having a few days to myself relaxing with family and friends. I am actually writing this just before my flight to İstanbul and so I will of necessity, keep this short.

The United Kingdom is, as I am sure many of you know, the most watched nation on earth. There are cameras everywhere. Go to the bank, there’s a camera, cameras line our roads, stare unblinking along our streets and follow our every movement in city centres. There is some evidence that CCTV technology can and does help to prevent crime. Provided the cameras are actually working, film taken by them can lead to the conviction of those are seen brawling in the street or committing criminal damage. But they can, I fear, be put to more sinister use. Evidence is emerging of some local authorities using CCTV to watch people they just simply suspect of wrong doing. At present such actions are frowned upon and usually, when discovered, are curtailed. But for how long? Once surveillance apparatus is put into place, it is very rarely dismantled or removed. The argument for CCTV technology runs along the lines of ‘if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear’. This assumes we all live in a benevolent democracy. But what if one day we find that not only do we not live in a benevolent democracy, we don’t live in any kind of democracy at all? What will the cameras mean and be for then?

Life changes all the time and the law changes with it. What was yesterdays legal act, can become today’s misdemeanour and tomorrows criminal offence. Sometimes legislation is introduced so quickly, people don’t even realise that such changes have happened. I do a lot of driving up and down the highways and byways of the UK and I can tell you that sometimes I have to shove the anchors on pretty damn smartish because a speed limit has just been downgraded. I am not in the habit of speeding but I know that one day I will get a conviction for just this offence because as sure and night follows day, the cameras will get me in the end.

Why am I harping on about cameras on the eve of my flight to İstanbul? Well it is because friends over in Turkey tell me that the cameras have started to appear in their lives too. How far down the path they are, I don’t yet know. But I am bracing myself for a bit of a shock. Sadly, it would seem that the example set by our ex-Prime Minister Mr Blair, who championed CCTV, is being followed. Oh, yes, Mr Blair, the man who took my country to war with Iraq – against the will of the British people. The man who, it is rumoured, may one day be President of the European Union.

I’ve done nothing wrong, but that frightens me.

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