New U.K. Coalition to Roll Back Surveillance State

The Government believes that the British state has become too authoritarian, and that over the past decade it has abused and eroded fundamental human freedoms and historic civil liberties.
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British bobbies may not have as many CCTV videos of blokes brawling outside the pubs under the newly formed coalition government. In a sweeping set of policy statements, the freshly empowered ministers Nick Cameron and David Clegg smacked down Britain's world-renowned network of hundreds of thousands of CCTV cameras, license-plate recognition and vehicle tracking devices, and other methods of collecting data on the everyday activities of people not suspected of any crimes.

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David Cameron and Nick Clegg are now atop the British coalition government. "The Government believes that the British state has become too authoritarian, and that over the past decade it has abused and eroded fundamental human freedoms and historic civil liberties," the new leaders said in the 36-page Unified Policy Statement. "We need to restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power, in keeping with Britain’s tradition of freedom and fairness.

The massive turnaround comes just after New York authorities including Mayor Mike Bloomberg went to London to check out their surveillance apparatus, following the failure of some 80-plus cameras in Times Square to spot the failed SUV bomber, and after New York authorities touted a video of a man who turned out NOT to be the bomber.

It also follows an embarrassing moment of defeated Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was captured on audio bad-mouthing a constituent, and then captured on video holding his head in his hands after hearing his own words on the radio,

"We will implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties and roll back state intrusion," the statement says.

Clegg and Cameron promise to introduce a "Freedom Bill" and establish a commission to check into creating an actual bill of rights--something long missing from British law. They will also scrap the country's ID card scheme, National Identity register and next generation of biometric passports.

However, the promises remain broad and general, and the coalition can expect major pushback from British law enforcement authorities and security apparatus vendors.

Britain has been way ahead of the United States in surveillance of public areas and everyday activities, in part because of the kingdom's longer history of terrorist attacks and the lack of a cultural and legal tradition of privacy and individual rights. Some American cities, notably Chicago and New York, have been working hard to emulate the British model.

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