The home of free speech closes down for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden

If you care about privacy, try self-censorship

Share

The news that the Government is trying to prevent whistleblower Edward Snowden from travelling to this country by telling airlines not to accept him as a passenger has made me furious.

Initially, his revelations about online spying made me upset and angry and I applauded his bravery in speaking out and alerting ordinary people to the scale of secret surveillance. The idea of mass eavesdropping, of a government agency monitoring hundreds of thousands of innocent people's emails, seemed worrying, especially as – as usual – our leaders were quick to point out that this kind of thing is "essential" if we want to fight terrorism.

Let's be clear, it was politicians who decided we were fighting a "war on terror", but in the internet age it's a battle you stand little chance of monitoring in any meaningful way. Modern wars are not won in a single battle; they drag on for decades, and morph into other conflicts. Cyberspace is like a huge soup, and the chance of snaring anything really important is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.

Over the years, I've campaigned against ID cards, and I used to believe that personal privacy was a highly prized right. Now, in the age of emails, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, why get exercised? We routinely offer up far too much information in the name of making friends and expressing our opinions. Every time you buy something online, your privacy is compromised. Online banking is another vulnerable area. Spam is a plague, the pernicious by-product of any online activity.

My generation wants passwords, privacy, the right to remain silent and deny access to all but a select few. But young people today are willing to confide in total strangers. The world is their club, and over the past few months I've come to accept that this is a far better way forward.

Use the internet and accept you're being monitored. Send a text and expect it to be hacked or read by a stranger. If you really care about privacy, try self-censorship. Mr Snowden's revelations, while a shocking confirmation, don't contain anything we didn't already suspect.

When criminals wise up to the fact that their emails are being monitored, they will just choose another form of communication. I am not at all confident that MPs can be trusted to allow monitoring only when it is "in the national interest". These are the same people who accept dinners and freebies from lobby groups; the same people who accept party donations from companies that lend money at crippling rates to the poorest in our society; the same people whose personal standing in the community has never been so low – a new survey shows that only one in five of us trusts MPs to tell the truth. In short, we distrust most politicians, so whatever they say about protecting our interests you can take with a pinch of salt. The least they can do is let Mr Snowden visit Britain, where freedom of speech was once cherished.

Bedazzled

It seems extraordinarily unfair that Michael Douglas will not win an Oscar for his portrayal of Liberace in Behind the Candelabra, because it went out on US television, after movie chiefs thought the subject material too risky. Steven Soderbergh has said that this is his last film, but I hope he can be persuaded to change his mind, because I don't think I have spent such an entertaining couple of hours in a cinema for a very long time. Matt Damon is equally impressive as Liberace's lover, and the film invites us into a world of cruelty, manipulation and gloriously kitsch excess without ever being judgemental or patronising. It's a shame that the Liberace museum in Las Vegas has closed. It would have done well out of this excellent movie, and the replicas of Liberace's rhinestone-encrusted rings were very good value. Michael is said to have made silly remarks about catching throat cancer from oral sex, but after this performance, I'd forgive him.

Animated opera

Walt Disney couldn't draw and even his signature was created by studio artists. Does that matter, when he was responsible for some of the most memorable storytelling of the 20th century? Philip Glass's disappointing new opera at English National Opera focuses on the last months of Disney's life when he was dying of lung cancer, and Christopher Purves sings beautifully in the leading role. The Perfect American is engrossing, in spite of Glass's score which contains nothing on a par with his music for Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast or The Hours. The staging, projections and costumes are of the highest order, a miracle considering all the copyright issues preventing the use of Disney animation. So while we learn nothing new, there's plenty to marvel at.

Doing thyme

Home Secretary Theresa May should eat dinner at the Clink Cymru restaurant, inside Cardiff prison. She could enjoy seasonal dishes like wild boar ragoût and pick up food for thought about how to reduce reoffending rates, currently about 47 per cent nationally. But a year after release from Cardiff jail, only 12.5 per cent of the prisoners who worked in the Clink Cymru had got into trouble with the law. As well as learning practical skills, prisoners work towards NVQ qualifications, and are paid £14 for a 40-hour week. On release, they are helped to find work and mentored for up to a year. A recent survey shows that 44 per cent of us cannot cook five different meals by the age of 18. Learning to cook teaches so many valuable things: maths, literacy, the ability to work with others and self-esteem. Why aren't cooking classes compulsory from the age of eight?

Healthy profit

When my sister was dying of cancer in 2006, struggling on a mixed ward in Hillingdon Hospital, emollient Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt went on television and radio promising that Labour would prioritise the phasing out of mixed wards. She ordered a review, which revealed that 31 out of 172 NHS trusts were still operating them, in spite of government pledges. Andrew Lansley was still trying to deal with the problem in 2011, when it emerged that 11,000 NHS patients were treated in mixed-sex wards in one month alone. He introduced fines of £250 per patient per day in April that year, but critics wondered if fines would change a management mindset that often put the patient last. Now, Patricia Hewitt has landed a lovely new job as a board member of private healthcare provider Bupa, and will earn £52,000 for 10 meetings a year. During her time in office, she allowed creeping privatisation of the NHS. Why should she earn a living out of knowledge she acquired while on the public payroll? Ministers should be banned from cashing in on contacts they made while in office.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour and the Liberal Democrats would both end winter fuel allowances for pensioners with enough income to pay the 40p tax rate  

Politicians court the grey vote because pensioners, unlike the young, vote

Andrew Grice
US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a drink after agreeing a deal on carbon emissions  

Beijing must face down the perils of being big and powerful – or boom may turn to bust

Peter Popham
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable