My respect for Inspector Gadget wavered just a fraction when he appeared to question whether the Police need to follow the law – at least when it comes to searches. His post drew a lot of comments, many saying “of course they do”. We give the Police the job of invading our privacy on occasion : someone else must decide if a given level of invasion is excessive or is justified. “Section 44”, explained in the BBC story which Gadget picked up, is there to ensure that happens.
What about other invasions into our privacy ? I’ve fretted public about government bodies keeping Stazi-like files on all of us; although the British government can’t keep the police on side which would be seem to be step one in creating a Police-state. Their competence to hold information about us is called into question frequently these days, one party leader has long been against ID cards on cost grounds, and another is calling them “invasive” and has made campaigning against them his priority for 2008. The government uses the word Terrorism as an ace against these arguments – (one that it is trumped by “Explain how they would have prevented any past terrorist bombing”) – but “not giving in to terrorists” means not being scared into a national loss of liberty… see We’re not afraid.
Talking of not being afraid I’ve got to hand it Benazir Bhutto’s son. Politics led to the deaths of his grandfather and two uncles before his mother (Gadget has a professional perspective on that). National loss of liberty is one thing, but family history is a major factor in life expectancy: in his place, I’d one look at that information and vow to spend many, many years quietly studying actuarial sciences. Not him – he’s chosen a life as one of the worlds top assassination targets. But he’s going to finish his studies at Oxford university first.
Oxford’s famous policeman, Morse, was a fiction, of course. There may be Oxbridge dropouts on the force, some may do crosswords or love opera. These days I doubt many could afford a 1960 Jaguar, never mind drive one on Police business. If nothing else Morse’s view of paperwork would have meant he couldn’t live in a modern Police force. I pass by Oxford Police station most weeks, and I doubt the reaction on hearing the news from Pakistan was a metaphorical “send for Morse”… Thames Valley Police have more appropriate experts anyhow, with Chequers and Windsor castle on their patch; but those locations are properly secured. Monarchs and Prime Ministers have a protection budget; conjuring up what is needed to protect Bilawal Bhutto is a tall order. Doing the job in a diverse city like Oxford without intruding on the public unreasonably – not searching everyone of Asian ancestry “just in case” … that’s a bind too. And I think the complex dance between the state and the citizen that characterises modern democracy is where I came in.
Update. A spooky thing. Gadget has re-posted his post “An Army of one“, read it. Then read his post The rich girls are weeping. When you’ve done that, assuming you’re an IT professional, ask yourself if the ID-cards scheme is (a) Great because that’s work for you putting in the kit to ensure your company complies with the law, or (b) A waste of money that could be used to honour the Police’s pay award.
Don’t just carry on reading here, click those two links.
This post originally appeared on my technet blog.