(Wow, two topical posts in one day! Thanks to Anne Marie for this one.)
The UK is a surveillance state.
Issues of surveillance and civil liberty are an interest of mine, and the UK has become a laboratory for how a democracy can learn to treat every citizen as a potential criminal. More importantly, it seems like every crackpot "next step" in US surveillance has already been tried on a smaller scale over here--with often disastrous results that have exposed millions of British residents to identity theft and outright humiliation or abuse.
Of course, surveillance may be less intrusive in smaller cities like Edinburgh, as I mentioned in a previous post, but it's still pretty bad and getting worse. The justification here is the same as in the US: if you're not doing anything wrong, then you've got nothing to fear. But the problem is that the folks on the other end of the camera/search engine/government database are human, too, and thus as susceptible to the corrupting influence of power as the rest of us. And let's face it: information is power, and there's a heck of a lot of it lying around these days. Even with surveillance powers conceived with the very best intentions in mind, it's only a matter of time before they're handed over to someone who will abuse them.
Anyway, to the real point of this post: there's a fascinating film by the name of Erasing David coming out in the UK on April 25 that attempts to personalize issues of surveillance that politicians and the media are all too happy to leave abstract. In the film, David Bond tries to disappear for thirty days while a team of private investigators, using whatever information they can find, try to track him down. In the process, they try to make it painfully clear that the UK has become an identity thief's playground, and that the UK already has the infrastructure, if not the actual practice, of a police state in place.
But that's probably enough libertarian ranting for one day.