Smile, you're being watched. We live in a global village that's saturated in technology where security is paramount. Here in France in the 1970's the revelation that every citizen had been given a secret number under which all their administrative files were stored led to the creation of a public body called CNIL. Their mission is to try and ensure that legally our private lives are not intruded on by information gathering of any kind. Its president Alex Turk says the organisation is watching those who are watching us.
“Today, the problem we have is tracing. You can trace someone using biometry, by Geo-satellite tracking, through video surveillance cameras, etc....For example with GPS receivers you can follow someone from a distance. For instance in the work environment - a company boss can under certain conditions follow the movements of one of his workers. He has to tell his employee, it must not last all day, and there must be a justifiable reason for doing it. But of course - there's a big difference between following someone to see if he's lunching with a certain lady at noon....and making sure that a delivery can be in such and such a place during the working day to limit travel time.”
Has there ever been a case where you've advised against equipment because you've considered it too intrusive?
“Yes, to give you an example, an insurance company suggested a system where, in exchange for a 40 percent reduction in their insurance premium...young drivers would have had to have agreed to be followed by GPS receiver. But we thought, that consent given by a young person who's offered a forty percent cut in price, was no longer consent clearly and freely-given...because that individual is under financial pressure and says, I'm going to do this to save forty percent.”
If we use a credit card or buy something online our movements are recorded and information shared, often for commercial purposes. But says Jean-Pierre du Bois of the Human Rights League, there are other national data bases that are more disturbing.
Records of telephone calls are kept for six months in France - it could be just a wrong number - but as the content of a call cannot be logged only the connection is. So, if a member of a criminal gang calls you by accident, that contact will be logged. Computer logs from data bases which store such information, says Jean-Pierre du Bois, is wrongly believed to be fail-safe.
“We had that in a very important terrorist case, the Shalaby case. A huge mass case five years ago. They arrested a lot of people about the idea of an Islamic plot with terrorist actions and so on. About 250 people stayed in jail for…two, three or four years….which is very long, before being judged I mean, which is incredible; and in numerous cases, I would say a dozen cases if I remember well, something like that, you had only for evidence, that you were at the same restaurant as a terrorist was at the same moment of the same day.”
“Our concern is that the identity card in the electronic version will be enriched. The police will have instant access to a lot of things about your personal life.”
All things considered, is there really such a thing as a private life anymore? Could I walk in Paris from the office to the metro for a 30 second period without being filmed or tracked in some way?
"Today in France....yes, thank God, you could still go 30 MINUTES without being tracked. But obviously that's being chipped away...and a lot depends on exactly where you are, of course.....But in a capital like Paris it's still possible to walk in a street without being watched electronically.... It's true there is some pressure on us to move towards the model of other countries. We're not there yet, but times are changing."Listen to the report:
Europe’s Roma often live on the margins of society, suffering a variety of problems from high unemployment to relatively low life expectancy. In the Czech Republic a new report highlights what seems to be a disturbing trend – the creation of Roma ghettos. The study, ordered by a Czech government ministry, shows that more and more Romanies in the Czech Republic are finding themselves literally living on the edge of society.
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