Jamie Grace wrote this article.
On Saturday the 28th of February at the Institute of Education in London, the UK consensus on a fight-back against intrusions into privacy finally gets going with the inaugural Convention on Modern Liberty.
The Convention is a bringing-together of notable speakers, organizations,
bloggers (and perhaps most importantly, 1,000 members of the public)
for a one-day symposium on the contemporary issues that face our
society of surveillance. The aim of the Convention is to prompt real
change in UK Government policy on key topics.
The notion of ‘modern liberty’ here is plainly one defined by a coalition
of campaigning groups; each concerned with a specific issue or civil
right concerning inroads into privacy.
The existence and organisation of the Convention reflects the way that
disparate groups concerned with discrete issues can be motivated and
organised along the lines of generic morality – here the concept of
‘modern liberty’ that unites them all and underpins their separate
calls for action in changing policy and practice with regard to
questions of privacy.
This is somewhat ironic – each separate group is broadly concerned with some
aspect of State (or private) surveillance of individual use of modern
technologies such as the Internet, or the compulsory interaction by
citizens with the sorts of e-governance initiatives that are now
empowered and facilitated by those selfsame technologies (such as the
National Health Service patient records project, or the National ID
And yet it is chiefly the use and rise of the Internet as
a medium for politicized protest and demonstration – not to mention as
the most speedy and therefore vital forum for public debate and
information – that allows an event or phenomenon such as the first
Convention on Modern Liberty to be organised across several locations
simultaneously across one nation.
We could be seeing the emergence of a new sectarianism that is driven by
millions of voices all frustrated with similar problems; and with so
much political opinion harnessed so quickly and efficiently, this is a
democratic, peaceful sectarianism for a century of fundamental change.
It appears that Britain is learning quickly from the Internet-driven,
‘grassroots’-participation model of political pressure harnessed and
mobilized by President Barack Obama.
I hope to be able to attend some of the plenary sessions of the
Convention – and I hope to report on any future impact the Convention
makes in the form of affecting policy changes here in this Panopticonic