If it were only this simple

In the FT this morning I came across this

While declining to discuss specific cases, Leppard, who was commissioner of the City of London Police until 2015 and was awarded a CBE for services to policing, defended the use of deception and undercover surveillance as necessary tactics. “It’s quite lawful to deceive people if you’re doing it for the greater good,” he said . . .

The problem, of which Leppard seems wholly unaware, is who gets to decide how you define ‘greater good’ – and whose.

But then he was once a policeman . . .

Big Brother is still with us, but for how long?

The Telegraph had another story this morning about RIPA and CCTV intrusion (probably serves me right for reading this particular title). But like John Naughton on Memex 1.1 yesterday, I too wonder whether our new government will “deliver on the rolling back of the national security state”, standing by its commitment in its policy document “to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour government and roll back state intrusion”.

The last government never admitted that it presided over the most authoritarian government this country has seen outside of wartime. Commenting on the plans to scrap ID cards, the National Identity register and the ContactPoint database, regulate CCTV, and restore rights to non-violent protest, a Labour spokesman continued to trot out the fiction that Britain was not a surveillance society.

The problem, as so often is the case, is the gap between intention and reality, and the insidious effect of policy creep.

A Surveillance Society? – The Government Reply to the Fifth Report from the Home Affairs Committee, given in July 2008, recognised the issues,

Ensuring the application of proportionality and maintaining the appropriate balance is key to providing the right level of safeguards for the public and providing the right level of service to the public. That approach will continue to be adopted in all that we do. The Government acknowledges concerns raised in some quarters that this balanced approach always starts out as the ideal but gradually, the balance between the rights of the individual and the powers of the ‘centre’ is severely tilted. That is why in successive pieces of legislation we have made it clear on the face of the Act exactly what can and cannot be introduced by secondary legislation and why there is a requirement for such secondary legislation to be put before Parliament for approval.

But what the Government said, and what it and its agent did, were very different. Will this government avoid this?

As John Naughton says, “I’m not holding my breath”.