‘The innocent have nothing to fear’. How often have I heard that response at public meetings when the state is criticised for over-comprehensive surveillance? A journalist has now described that as ‘the police state defence’.
Just imagine the following scenarios:
Your cousin is a member of an extremist nationalist group. Because of your relationship with him, the security services put you under total surveillance as a suspected sympathiser.
You go on a blind date arranged via an internet dating site. The person you meet is a spy for an unfriendly country. You are now suspected of being a spy.
You download a copy an Al Qaeda training manual for a friend who is a post graduate student studying the literature of terrorist groups. You lose your job and cannot find work in any other university
You are employed by a university and were charged with terrorism in the past but the charges were dropped for lack of evidence. This is leaked by the security services and becomes public knowledge. You are sacked from your job
Some of these examples are real. The innocent do have reason to fear if the state is prepared to misuse this information.
Nobody in Germany thought too much of having their religion identified on their identity card - until the state started rounding up Jews. Nobody worried too much at being identified as a member of the Communist Party – until the state started rounding up Communists, gays and gipsies.
So please don’t claim that it doesn’t matter that we have the highest density of CCTV cameras in Europe, that we are using meta data from intrusive US surveillance, that our own security services can bug and film at will because ministers won’t stand up to them. It did matter in Germany in the 1930s, it matters in the UK now.