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.

10 Comments

  1. Great article, Jamie, and I love how you enhanced Nicola’s previous work. Well done!
    The end of your article is where your next story must begin: How does the minority fight back? How can we hide in plain sight? Where are the new lines drawn between public and private?

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  2. I’m actually thinking of writing next about ‘a new sectarianism’. It could be that a contemporary sectarian group(s) could revolve around benficial but discrete agendas for society. The term ‘Sectarianism’ needn’t mean antagonism and violence in the digital age, just commitment and passion about shared concerns, that affect a particula group or minority.

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  3. Spot on Jamie …….
    As a member of all too many “minority” groups I am already aware of how much scrutiny I come under.
    I have been watching how those various groups are dealing with the issues – they are all reacting in different ways.
    I look forward to your ideas on how to fight back.
    And as I know someone is bound to ask – here is a list of minority groups I “fall into” and the reasons I have been discriminated against.
    Female
    Divorced
    Single Parent
    Rural (as opposed to urban)
    Over 50
    Alternative religion
    Alternative sexuality
    Smoker
    Overweight
    I sent my kids to private school
    I do not save
    I do not have a mobile phone (joke)
    I do not drink alcohol
    I have MRSA
    I have Lyme’s Disease
    oh and I don’t dress or act my age 😉

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  4. I think on reflection that certainly you would/must fall under scrutiny from different parts of our society who hold different values to you, or have different experiences. My own opinion, at least, is that our current government, and legislative system, is positive with respect to ‘diversity’ – and rightly so. If anyone in the UK discriminates unfairly against a person, then they have in all likelihood acted both immorally but also illegally. We only live, I think, in an intrusive state with regard to a few big topics – ‘anti-social behaviour’ as a precursor to crime, crime itself, and taxation. But if a politically-oriented minority were to try and galvanise public opinion, it would do so with great difficulty or even never. Our politicians use new media as effectively as groups that lobby against them, and certainly can exercise more control over those media.

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  5. It is a fact of life for me – always has been.
    Some of the discrimination can be dealt with legally – blatant sex discrimination and ageism can be dealt with through the courts.
    A lot of Pagan groups are also now successfully using the courts as well mainly under the auspices of European Law.
    The BDSM community is divided – some are going back underground – some are fighting the laws using the EU – right to private life clause.
    Ironically the MRSA discrimination is positive – IF I ever have to be hospitalized it guarantees me a private room!

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