Jamie Grace wrote this article.
I’d like to put forward the idea that by using surveillance and monitoring in our society as we progress through the Information Age we are creating new ‘information minorities’ – not those who are the least monitored and overwatched, those who are subject to the most surveillance and scrutiny, for whatever reason: state security, criminal justice, politics or ‘research.’
These individuals will, I believe, make up a numerical minority in our society, but will have the most restricted civil liberty or privacy.
For this new ‘information minority’, things will get a lot worse
before they get better. People in the UK are today waking up to the
notion that their privacy will be increasingly compromised over time.
But once this process is begun, it will take 50, 60, or however many
years to reach its political or social nemesis. After some kind of
sociopolitical crisis for the governing State, a road back to civil
liberties – this time for the Information Age – will be begun. But by
then many millions (if not billions) will have lived with compromised
civil rights for decade.
To give an example of this arduous ‘it has to get worse before it
gets better’ view, I’ve been reading the excellent work by Michael J.
Klarman on the legal road from racial segregation in the USA to the
notion of the superiority of civil rights: From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality (2006, Oxford University Press).
Klarman notes how the justices in the landmark decision in Brown commented
on the “spectacular advances, the ‘great changes’, and the ‘constant
progress’ being made in race relations. In the absence of such changes,
Brown would not have been decided as it was, as the justices themselves observed.” (p.443)
Klarman continues to elaborate: “In 1896 most white Americans
approved of racial segregation, and most of the justices of the Supreme
Court thought that it was plainly constitutional. In 1954, the justices
unanimously invalidated segregation. How should we understand this
dramatic shift in popular and legal opinion? How much of it is
attributable to extra-legal factors and how much to law?” (p.443)
To make his point clear, Klarman concludes: “I have tried to show that Brown was a product of judicial values and sociopolitical context. I have not argued that this makes Brown an illegitimate judicial decision.”
If we can take any lesson from Klarman’s analysis of the road to Brown it
is this: We cannot rely on our politicians or lawmakers to protect us
from encroachments into our civil liberty; we must protect ourselves:
and when the worst has come to pass, the road back to freedom from
observation and scrutiny will be a long, difficult and fundamentally
legal and political one.