back to article Lords say surveillance society erodes foundations of UK

The House of Lords Constitution Committee has warned that increasing use of surveillance by the government and private companies is a serious threat to freedoms and constitutional rights. The Committee's report said: "The expansion in the use of surveillance represents one of the most significant changes in the life of the …


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  1. David Hicks
    Black Helicopters

    Good luck with that.

    What, you think the government are just going to roll over and dismantle the surveillance apparatus they've dedicated the last decade to building up?

    Remember citizen, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Only terrorists, criminals, malcontents and other asocial types could possibly object to your friendly government watching over and protecting them!

    You're not an asocial are you?

  2. Simon
    Black Helicopters

    Best report ever TM

    In the meantime the politicians (We are looking at you Wacky Jackie) will go on TV and tell us all this is what we want! What we *Demand*!

    No we do not want to live in a country like this with all this surveillance, but the goverment won't listen to us.

    Here's hoping they read this report, yeah right...

  3. amanfromMars Silver badge

    NewSpeak v42

    "Lords say surveillance society erodes foundations of UK" and in other words.... We have lost Primary controls to Increased Intelligence and our Cushy Padded Numbers.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    May I be first to trot out the following!

    'If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear'

    Now move along people, theres nothing to see here. Some of the dear old Lords have woken from their afternoon nap a bit early and are little cranky. We cant take their inane witterings seriously, things will proceed as normal. The surveillance state is there for YOUR protection.

    A.C....... because I do have something to hide!

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Heh heh!

    Well the Lords would rule that wouldn't they?

    At the risk of exposing all of their brown envelope payments I am sure they (that is the Lords) are positively shaking at the thought of public scrutiny yes?

    Public face: yes, we do it without reward as a duty and responsibility to the country and its people

    Private face: Of course I can have the law changed for your benefit. But it isn't cheap you know. Rather than one off payments it is far better for you to appoint me as an advisor to the Board. Alternatively payment by brown envelope in cash is quite acceptable.

  6. Ted Treen
    Black Helicopters

    Good idea, but...

    Anyone think of any NuLab-commissioned "Independent Review" (Hutton etc.,) which has:-

    a) been independent


    b) disagreed with NuLab's politburo?


    Thought not.

  7. Tom Chiverton

    Take note, Miss Wacki

    "There can be no justification for this gradual but incessant creep towards every detail about us being recorded and pored over by the state"

    'nuff said, around about there.

    I'm sure your local branch of would love to hear from you, dear readers :-)

  8. Michael

    Aw diddums.

    Bet someone got youtubed and posted on


    "What's the world coming to if one can't unwind at a lapdancing club without those silly cameraphones ...........etc rant etc."

    Mine's the one with the ermine collar..

  9. Richard
    Black Helicopters

    Half the story

    Why is it with Home Office statements in response to anything like this that I am reminded of the old sitcom favourite:

    "You fat bitch!"

    <Righteous indignation> "Who are you calling fat?"

    Oh that's it! Because they always only respond to (at most) half of what's been said and hope that no-one notices the disparity.

    CCTV and DNA _are_ essential crime-fighting tools, but there is plenty of evidence that their effectiveness tapers if overused, not to mention that they don't actually _stop_ crime (well, I suppose CCTV could, if the camera fell off its mount and knocked the ne'er-do-well out before s/he did anything). So, what of all the other database bollocks? <shuffle, shuffle> Erm, it'll keep 14 foreigners out and stop maybe one paedophile per century?

    I swear, if the Home Office were ever asked about cost overruns on a Montana bunker complex they'd say something like it's very important to have enough stationery during a nuclear winter.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sea-to-sea CCTV might be a good thing...

    With the police being armed with tasers, which for some inexplicable reason are more often used to abuse and torture citizens than to "replace guns" (the ratio is about 100:1), having extensive CCTV coverage will bring the benefit of filling YouTube with more and more examples of such electro-abuse and torture.

  11. Bruno Girin
    Thumb Up

    Viva the Lords!

    They are the only one in this crooked system who have the balls to tell the government what it doesn't want to hear.

  12. Chronos
    Thumb Up

    Thank ${DEITY} for oversight

    Why is it that our elected "representatives" are determined to turn us all into soul-dead, conformist automatons while the peerage, an unelected non-democratic body of elites who one would think were as far removed from the ordinary person as one can get are at the forefront of preserving our way of life and freedoms?

    But "why" is irrelevant at this stage. That they are doing so is enough for me. The upper house continues to justify its existence every day.

  13. Simon
    Black Helicopters


    Soon you'll have Tazer equipped CCTV so they can punish you for your indiscretions remotely.

    ! Zap !

    You! Pick up that litter you just dropped! We saw that!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think we should do away with the Lords

    All this sensible, rational thinking is getting on my nerves.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @viva the Lords

    they've got to make a noise every so often (and let's face it our "surveillance society" is an easy target to make noise about), otherwise we might start wondering what they're there for.

    nothing will happen of course, the government will play their (slightly worn from use) Terrorism card and carry on regardless...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    It doesn't matter...

    ...what the Lords pontificate on, or what conclusions they might reach, NuLabour will, as they have shown time and again, go right ahead and completely disregard it in their ceaseless push to create a 'benevolent dictatorship' here in the UK. This is a very simple construct and works on a few proven basics: whenever the proposed erosion of civil liberties looks like it might be running into the sand, just get a few Government Ministers to pop their heads above the parapet and whisper the magic words 'terrorists' and 'child pornographers' to representatives of a suitably pliant, craven and uncritical press. Job done.

    This is why they will win every time - over CCTVs, ID cards, online censorship and huge central government data stores. This is why they will win the legal right to snoop on everyone, all the time, and why they will ultimately decide what the individual citizen will read, write, watch and play. They built their edifice of 'terror' and 'indecency' so it couldn't be argued with. They built it so it was enshrined in law. They built it to reject criticism on pain of imprisonment - or so that at the very least its critics (if there are any) are reduced to no more than 'terrorist sympathisers' and 'latent kiddie fiddlers'. And they built it slowly, so that we might not notice the edifice going up around us.

    Paris - because, like all of us, she's sinking like a bug on peach.

  17. Tawakalna
    Black Helicopters


    "Inpartyobs access is limited to Inparty members exclusiwise. Unauthoaccess is considered capital thinkcrime punished by execute. Unauthoaccess indication must be reported to nearplus Thinkpol office. Conform is doubleplusgood!"

    I s'pose something like this is why the 'Ouse of Lords was abolished during the Revolution that brought BB and the Party to power.

    ownlife, thoughtcrime, sexcrime, telescreens - all there innit?

  18. Luther Blissett

    XXXlating amanfromMars

    ""Lords say surveillance society erodes foundations of UK" and in other words.... We have lost Primary controls to Increased Intelligence and our Cushy Padded Numbers." and in other words.... They have gained Primary controls to increased stupefaction and their Cushy Pads with numbered entry, and their Cushy Padded Numbers racket.

  19. A J Stiles

    @ Simon

    Tasered by a CCTV camera for dropping litter? Actually, I wouldn't mind that one bit. People drop litter in CCTV-covered streets and they don't get arrested. Other people see the litter and think it's OK for them to add to it. And we are all drowning in a sea of filth.

    There is no excuse for littering. If you can be bothered to bring it with you, you can be bothered to take it away with you.

  20. Mowds

    I didn't know...

    that NO2ID had raised enough money to hire a lord. What's the going rate for one of them these days, anyway?

    Mine's the one with ideas for Bill amendments in one pocket, and cash in the other.

  21. John

    Something about Rednecks?

    It's amazing to see that somebody in the UK actually has a brain and is willing to comment on this mess of survalence going on.

    Regarding the redneck holding the rifle and all the ranting/bashing Yank/UK humor that it has generated. As long as the Constitution stands, this sort of thing will not be tolerated on the level that is seen in the UK. It is growing to some degree here, but before it gets out of control people will take notice and it will more than likely be deemed unconstitutional. And if not? Well, thats why we retain the right to bear arms, and the government knows this. Remember, kiddies, wack jobs who go on shooting sprees aside, we are allowed to carry firearms to protect ourselves from our neighbors (said wackos or crooks -but not poloticians), invaders (yeah right) and most importantly, from our OWN government. Thats why it was written into the constitution and why, no matter how hard the libs try, it will always remain in the constitution.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The unseeing eye.

    In my own personal and very painful experience (I still carry scars) CCTV is fairly limp at prevention and no use in detection, In my case, the local authority cameras festooned around a shopping precinct were out of order... the Shop where the 10 strong gang of chavs had been buying thier drain cleaner all day claimed the cameras had been facing the wrong way when the offenders were in there buying the hooch that fueled thier brave assualt on a lone pedestrian.

    Less cameras More Coppers, cameras often dont prevent crime (witness the rise of cctv based crime shows) and they cant intevene to prevent crime - often the fact that a beat patrol spoke to a group is enough to head off problems. Cameras seem to be more about assisting "detection", but then I guess they need to fund the state "revenge system" somehow and its a nice earner for barristers and solicitors, speeds throughput in court too. Id sooner see more blue clad bodies on the streets.

    My belief is that the database state is about control of the populace by an elite class who realise that one day we could very well snap and painfully remind out overlords that a country is about its population not the businesses who buy political favour - we are citizens, not company assets. The power of the politicians is supposed to come from our mandate, it is time they all listened to their real paymasters - Us

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    re sea to sea CCTV

    "Sea-to-sea CCTV might be a good thing...

    By Anonymous Coward Posted Friday 6th February 2009 13:09 GMT

    With the police being armed with tasers, which for some inexplicable reason are more often used to abuse and torture citizens than to "replace guns" (the ratio is about 100:1), having extensive CCTV coverage will bring the benefit of filling YouTube with more and more examples of such electro-abuse and torture."

    fat chance... the cameras that cover such incidents will suffer mysterious failures...

    just like the ones in that Tube carriage where the guy had his brains blown out... funny that

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    The Home Office rejected much of this.

    I'm quite surprised they didn't take the ball and run with it. Everyone knows they are just trying their very best to protect all the good citizens from themselves and their numptiness. That's right now. Nothing more to see. Papers, citizen!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slip 'em a tenner

    According to the news lately, maybe slipping a couple of quid over a cup of coffee is all it needs to perverse the course of a bill in the House of Lords. We are Doooomed!!!!

  26. Nicholas Ettel

    Privacy erosion

    "Mass surveillance has the potential to erode privacy."

    Perhaps that should have read something more like, "Mass surveillance will erode privacy." Or "Mass surveillance does erode privacy."

    But, hell, that's a rather striking breakthrough. Would you Britons kindly like to export some of your House Lords to the US Government? Please? No? Well, it was worth asking.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Methinks the Lords tend to foistiness

    It would be far better if the Lords observed that observation, surveillance and the like seem to be a break with tradition. However, these things are not introduced without need and seem to evolve as a reasonable solution on some perceived necessity usually crime reduction, protection of the public, ... with a view to protecting a quality of life of the many challenged by the actions of a few.

    Therefore as it seems on the face of it to be a shift from tradition (UK policies always tended to favour the rich, wealthy and landowners) it is important that the shifts are dealt with with a degree of professionalism that will not compromise the privacy of those people the changes seek to serve most of all and at the same time apply professionalism to the few people that compromise public safety and public good.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    As a ps:

    Historically English landowners were always fearful of the headstrong commoners but had insufficient strength to combat such things as the Peasants Revolt. Things over the Channel with Royalty losing its head usually by rapid descent of a very sharp edge also invoked fear amongst English gentry.

    Having a court for the headstrong commoners balanced by a court for the fearful gentry sort of balanced things out for a while.

    Democracy it ain't, pragmatic compromise it is, dated it also is for sure.

  29. David Pollard
    Thumb Up

    But will public opinion back them up?

    "Peers recommended judicial oversight of surveillance by public bodies and even that the targets of such investigations should be told about them once they are over if no charges are going to be brought."

    When the police ran a re-investigation of the murder of my girlfriend, I realised that my 'phone was being tapped. How much further the surveillance went I don't know. But it's a disconcerting experience, to say the least, to be on the wrong side of such an investigation in all innocence. It would have helped to have had even a partial explanation afterwards.

    All credit is due to the Constitution Committee for recognising that contemporary practice could be improved here.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    One can only offer deepest respect David.

    I think the point you mention shows that any observation or surveillance needs to be carried out with the utmost professionalism.

    With government cost cutting (possibly under the Tories?) I think we can all rest assured that any data handling will probably be handled by minimum wage earners on an agency basis.

    If the above fear is manifest then that would be a good time for the Lords to wake from slumber.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    re: But will public opinion back them up?

    Public opinion is so tiresome to discover. Its so much easier just to read the Daily Mail front page to find out what people want. Plus, it allows the govt to remain further to the Right than the Tories.

    Let's hear it for the Lords!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    No kidding!

    Seems though that the people enjoy being ruled over, or at least the government thinks they do.

    Very few free countries in the world would have posters like these on their streets. Not to say there isn't plenty of people uncomfortable with them, but there must be enough support to get them up in the first place.

  33. Paul

    Lords a leaping

    I have been against the Lords, morally and logically for as long as I remember knowing of them.

    However, this is the second time I have thought that I am glad to have them. The first was when that little girl, Sarah Payne, was murdered in July 2000. A sickening case that brought the tabloids out in a frenzy and had a mob of idiots (concerned citizens) attacking a pediatrician's house. Anyway, Sarah's law was proposed that basically said every man should be castrated unless he can prove he's not a kiddie fiddler. The public agreed, the representatives of the people agreed, but the Lords dissented. After the nation calmed down the law was never brought up again, but for the Lords we'd be living with it now.

    Sometimes they earn their keep.

    I still say get rid of them though. And the government too. How dare a LABOUR government make the TORIES the party that are looking to reduce police powers???

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Democracy - not all its cracked up to be

    Funny (in a humourless way) that the very much unelected and "anachronistic" Lords is the only (very thin) defence we have against growing oppression by the supposedly democratic government and the supine commons.

    If we ever dig ourselves out of this hole, it would be a wise idea to pay very, very close attention to what is being passed off as democracy. What we currently have in Britain is "voting" and little more, with the 'democratic' bit only as strong as the government of the day chooses to allow.

    We take democracy for granted at our peril.

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  36. David Kairns


    Let's see here.

    Walk up to a psychotic police state rat baboon and "call" for him to get straight.

    "Leadership" comedy at it's best.

    Anyone wanna buy some great space vacuum? (cheap)

  37. Anonymous Coward

    @john - rednecks?

    "and most importantly, from our OWN government"

    Have to smile when I read comments like this from American's on gun ownership.

    Any oppressive government will have far bigger more powerful guns than even you can aspire to, and the manpower to back it up.

    You can bet any potential oppressive dictator is really scared of you and your buddies with their AR17's when all he's got are Abraham's tanks, apache gunships and lots of trained soldiers armed with the latest fully automatic weapons!

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