The Sunday Times published a front page report today noting that: ‘THE government is building a secret database to track and hold the international travel records of all 60m Britons. The intelligence centre will store names, addresses, telephone numbers, seat reservations, travel itineraries and credit card details for all 250m passenger movements in and out of the UK each year. The computerised pattern of every individual’s travel history will be stored for up to 10 years, the Home Office admits. The government says the new database, to be housed in an industrial estate in Wythenshawe, near Manchester, is essential in the fight against crime, illegal immigration and terrorism. However, opposition MPs, privacy campaigners and some government officials fear it is a significant step towards a total surveillance society.’
This is yet another example of the ways in which the state is using technology to gain unprecedented information about its citizens. What right does it have to do so?
Even those who believe that the state can legitimately gather such information should be careful – given the dismal failure of the state so far to keep such information from being ‘lost’ or ‘falling into the wrong hands’, what reassurances do we have that these data will be secure?
We need to encourgae a vigorous and participatory debate about these issues.