Who is watching you now? (Prospect)

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Editor-in-chief of Index on Censorship magazine Rachael Jolley writes in Prospect about the impact of surveillance technology, ostensibly employed to combat the spread of Covid-19, is having on people around the world, and how it might be shaping the future of privacy.

“A desperate need to adapt to Covid-19 has meant a whole set of tools has been introduced or expanded in both public spaces and in our homes. Apps, drones and facial recognition are all lined up to find out more about us, but sometimes we are giving away far more than we want to, without even knowing.”

Read the full article here[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

"My Tram Experience" and the rise of the citizen Stasi

The web has been awash with outrage this week after video emerged of a woman engaged in a racist rant on a tram in Croydon.

The woman has now been arrested for a “racially aggravated” Public Order offence. The specific charge falls under section 4a, “Intentional harassment, alarm or distress”. Convictions can carry a prison sentence of up to six months.

Let’s leave aside for a moment the problematic nature of the Public Order Act, which it can be argued has its practical uses (allowing police to arrest people before violence breaks out), but can be used to censor “offensive” behaviour such as preaching or protest.

There were two things that were fascinating and troubling about the whole “My Tram Experience” experience.

The first is that the woman seems quite unwell. This does not necessarily excuse her behaviour, but in the rush to condemn her behaviour there seemed to be a hell of a lot of opprobrium and very little sympathy.

The other element was the fact that this was filmed and released on YouTube at all.

I tried to imagine how an incident like this would have played out 10 years ago, pre YouTube, pre Twitter. The woman may or may not have been kicked off the tram. People would have got off the tram and told a few people about the weird woman on the bus. That would probably have been the end of it.

Remember when everyone used to worry about CCTV cameras? It was at the height of paranoia about the Labour governments “authoritarianism”, when campaigners such as No2ID warned that the UK’s state surveillance apparatus was worse than that of the Stasi.

That panic seems to be over, perhaps due to many who made the argument being willing to give the Liberal Democrats a chance on civil liberties.

But it’s also perhaps due to a change in thinking. In the age of cameraphones and YouTube, do we now take it for granted that someone’s filming? Are we willingly becoming a citizen Stasi, happy to record and report each other’s behaviour?

Andy Gray, Sky Sports and citizen surveillance

Farewell Andy Gray, the former Scotland international with a penchant for dull jokes about women and the offside rule.

Gray has been sacked by Sky Sports after videos of him emerged on the Internet speaking off air: more than once, apparently, Gray had questioned assistant referee Sian Massey’s understanding of the offside rule.

After journalist James MacIntyre unearthed footage of Gray making a slightly off colour-joke today, the writing was on the wall for the former Everton star.

The reaction seems, so far, to be pretty unsympathetic. But one can’t help feeling queasy about the dismissal. Were Gray’s comments made on air? No. Has anyone at Sky Sports ever complained to human resources about Gray before? We haven’t been told. Will Richard Keys and others who took part in these conversations also be sacked? We’ll see.

But at the moment, Gray looks like a victim of Sky brand management. More worryingly, this adds to a culture where the internet has moved from a tool for popular free expression to a tool of citizen surveillance. Be careful what you say: it’ll probably end up on YouTube.