Damian Green: Technology should not be excuse to erode our precious freedoms

Share
Related Topics

It is not surprising that Philip Pullman and other authors are enraged at having to pay £64 for a licence to introduce schoolchildren to literature. The way the Government has gone about this is just another in the long line of examples of reaching for a database to solve a problem when this could easily do more harm then good. These databases are presented as being for the convenience of the citizen, when the overwhelming driver is the convenience of the state.

The relationship between the state and the individual is a permanent tension in politics. The danger is that using technology in this way moves the balance too far in favour of the state. Britain used to pride itself on the individual's ability to control his own live, but today our population is more spied upon and controlled than most other democracies. Some of the underlying freedoms which underpin Parliamentary democracy are being seriously eroded.

What is even more dangerous is that they are being eroded from the best of motives, by well-meaning people who would be hurt and horrified to be regarded as anti-democratic; many of them the most senior officials in this country, holding positions of great trust. Permanent Secretaries and police chiefs can be much more dangerous to British democracy than demagogues and extremist politicians. By collecting and sharing masses of private information either to provide the public services for which they are responsible or to try to spot future criminals, they are creating the database state.

This story illustrates a serious problem, which is that to prevent crime the police want information on the innocent, on the off-chance that they will one day commit a crime. For example they will be visiting a thousand addresses in Brighton before the Labour Party conference to check the identity of those living there, before cross-checking all of them with the police national computer.

The irony is that doing this makes the police's job more difficult in the long run, because making all of us potential suspects destroys the ability to police by consent, which has always been at the heart of effective British policing.

Just because technology has transformed the way Government can use personal information does not mean that a sensible government will take that choice. In all eras of technology, the principle that the state should serve the citizen and not vice versa is a good one. The bigger the capacity to collect and share information, the greater danger there is to privacy, and therefore to freedom. It is time for the freedom fighters of the world to fight back against the controlling state.

React Now

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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently  

Shia LaBeouf to Luis Suárez: Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015