4 minutes reading time (809 words)


In our day to day lives it is very hard for most of us to function properly within our respective societies without giving up some degree of privacy.

Bank accounts are a prime example, with proof of identity and proof of address needed. Now, in the UK, you have to be 'interviewed' by the bank manager to prove that you are a legitimate customer. This has been shown to be a complete nonsense as those people with ulterior motives have been able to open accounts using fake European Union IDs and forged utility bills. The banks are simple ticking the boxes and have no obligation or motivation to check the veracity of documents presented. They just want your business. So all the probing questions by the bank manager into people's private lives are a pointless invasion of privacy.

Ever tried renting a house or an apartment in the UK? You have to prove to the landlord or property agent that you have the right to live in the country. This decidedly bizarre form of outsourcing has placed the obligation of policing immigration matters onto the shoulders of private home owners. So just to get a roof over your head you'll be facing some very invasive questions about your residential status.
 Well if you think that's bad, how about this. Millions of UK newborns have had blood taken from heel pricks and tested for disease. No problem with that as such but the DNA results are then being stored for 'medical' reasons and future use! Parents are not be asked to give their full consent and the information could eventually end up on a police data base.

Whilst we are very much in agreement with locking up the bad guys, mass garnering of information at birth is frightening to say the least. This has been going on for quite some time with certain hospitals keeping records for over 20 years. Whilst government guidelines suggest they should be destroyed after 5 years, there are fears that a database is being created through the backdoor. Simply handing out leaflets to new mothers cannot be considered informed consent.
 At the other end of the scale, in that bastion of individual freedoms, free speech and human rights, Russia's President Putin is enthusiastically developing 'genetic passports' for military personnel. The reason, apparently, is to properly orientate soldiers into their specialities according to their genetic predispositions. Not wanting the general populace to miss out, Putin is floating the idea of these passports for all citizens. Hitler would be proud.

However, the Chinese cannot be outdone when it comes to shafting their own citizens in terms of privacy as the government has now masterfully managed to put itself at the top of the shit list. Not content with the record breaking number of surveillance cameras in the urban areas, it has recently introduced mandatory facial recognition if someone wants to buy a SIM card for their phone. The hapless citizens have no option but to comply unless they want to find themselves floating ass-up down the Yangtze. State control in China seems to know no bounds and it is a true reflection of the paranoia which exists at government levels in that country today.
 We take a lot of things for granted in our modern world and complain, quite rightly, about the endless intrusions into our privacy. But what about those less fortunate people who live in developing or underdeveloped countries? The majority don't have proof of address to enable them to open a bank account or, if they can afford to travel, obtain a passport. This inability to provide such basic information puts up barriers which at first appear insurmountable.
 Yet, the technology of smartphones has become a vital tool for those many millions of people who actually want to leave a trail and have their whereabouts known to all. Google location history which many of us switch off (is it really off?) can provide a clear record of where smartphone users live. In the slums of India this data allows people to register their addresses and obtain important government ID's. The Tanzanians on the other hand, have harnessed their data by using their mobile payment histories to build up a credit score. These are very positive aspects of data usage in sharp contrast to the exploitative type.

So it is just not the big corporations which, like it or not, will make use of our data. It is also those on the lower rungs of the social ladder who can take advantage of it in order to better themselves. But having the choice to manage your own data is critical and we should not allow the likes of Google and Facebook to ride roughshod over us all.

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