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Europe’s own surveillance state

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Stephen Booth
London Guardian
Monday, Nov 2nd, 2009

As eloquently expressed in this forum before, the defence of our civil liberties is now a war on two fronts. While the UK government pushes ahead with new ways to stockpile our personal data and watch us at every street corner, the European Union is quietly getting on with establishing its very own Europe-wide version of the surveillance state.

Despite the stalwart efforts of groups such as Statewatch, most people, including in the media, have not yet woken up to this. Perhaps it is the sheer scale of the erosion of citizens’ freedom in the UK that leaves the majority numb to anti-privacy developments that are already well underway in Brussels.

Through the use of CCTV, UK citizens are among the most surveilled in the democratic world. Our DNA is collected and stored by the state at five times the rate of the next highest EU country (Austria), and telecoms service providers are obliged to hold records of our phone calls, emails, and text messages for 12 months.

But it is precisely because of the UK’s advances in this area that we must now pay better attention to what is happening in the EU. The bigger the UK’s DNA database, for instance, the more information available to authorities across Europe, since the UK has now agreed to grant EU member states access to it. The EU is also due to create its very own central database designed to store vast amounts of biometric data and, in the commission’s own words, the “largest 10 fingerprint system in the world”.

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This article was posted: Monday, November 2, 2009 at 11:40 am

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