Oh for the good old days of fun!

STASI – Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (Ministry for State Security), common abbreviation Staatssicherheit (State Security), the infamous official secret police of the former East Germany. Not much liked.

CLOUD COMPUTING: A paradigm in which information is permanently stored in servers on the Internet and cached temporarily on client hardware. Very much liked.

GLOBAL NETWORK INITIATIVE: A global code of conduct which promises to offer better protection for online free speech and limit official intrusion. Very much hoped for.

Everywhere you turn these days there seems to be constant references to ‘Stasi Britain’, either verbal or written, as the Government tries to turn the country into a nation of spies, neighbour informing on neighbour, friend informing on friend.

There are tradesmen, with a half day training (and backroom staff with even less!!), being used as spies to try and spot cases of child abuse using criteria such as ‘are they pregnant?’, ‘are they wearing long sleeves when it’s not cold?’ and ‘are they walking funnily?’. It can take properly trained medical staff years before they are able to recognise cases of child abuse with any degree of certainty.

The idea is laudable, the protection of children is paramount, but to unleash an army of ill-trained spies is just going to lead to problems. It’s open to error and abuse of all kinds, from vendettas to target (or performance indicator) manipulation.

Almost half the councils in Britain are using the rather vaguely worded anti-terrorism laws as a pretext to carry out all sorts of operations, including the placing of surveillance cameras to spy on people putting out their rubbish bins!

Opposition MP’s homes, and parliamentary offices, are raided and an army of jobsworths attempt to take all the pleasure out of life by banning pantomimes, playing on the beach, games of conkers, games of cards by groups of pensioners, ballroom dancing on wooden floors…the list is endless, and all in the supposed name of Health and Safety.

People are fined for dropping a crumb, letting go of a balloon, flying a flag, putting the wrong coloured bottle into the wrong rubbish bin even when all the rubbish is subsequently bunged into one single container anyway….

The only ones who don’t seem to suffer are the real criminals, they just get a caution, a slap on the wrist at most.

There are those who blame the EU, at least in part, for this killjoy attitude, but that has to be nonsense. In many states, Spain being a prime example, councils actually spend money to stage events, festivals and other celebrations as part of a SERVICE to ENTERTAIN and keep the population HAPPY. You get the odd health and safety concern, but it is usually suitably and amicably resolved so that the show can go on and people can continue to ENJOY themselves.

One of the great benefits of modern computing and the internet is to be able to access your information from any computer, anywhere in the world where there is a suitable connection. As well as, or instead of in some cases, storing all your personal data on your home PC, you store it on servers so you can access it whenever you so desire.

The so-called ‘cloud computing’ seems to be the general direction in which everyone appears to be heading. It makes life easy. But, you want to be sure your personal information is safe. After all, it is personal data and should only be available to those people you decide should see it.

There are plenty of people whose sole purpose is to try and get at your personal information for whatever reason, mainly for fraudent activities. There are also certain governments, China being a good example, where the use of the internet is monitored and censorship occurs on a regular basis. They even demand that servers hand over certain data, not a healthy situation at all.

There is a move by some of the major internet companies, the likes of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, as well as other large telecommunications firms, to introduce a global initiative whereby online free speech is protected, data is kept safe and political intrusion is severely limited. This initiative is till in its infancy, but must be a step in the right direction.

So how does this fit in with rumours of government plans to monitor all phone calls, text messages, emails and websites visited by every member of the population? And the pretext for this action? Anti-terrorism.

The ideas being proposed are either a huge government database to store all this information, an expensive task, or requiring that servers maintain these records and hand them over ‘on demand’, a cheaper option.

The idea of a government database containing all this information is frightening. Not only has Mr Bean already admitted that it would be almost impossible to keep this information secure and safe, you had the recent situation where the Tax Office computer had to be closed down after some dickhead left a memory stick containing the tax information and personal details of millions of people in a pub car park!

Personally, when it comes to my data being in safe, and trustworthy hands, I think Google is probably a far safer bet than Government! Let’s just hope the Global Network Initiative gathers momentum!

New Year is just around the corner, so let’s also hope for a return to Councils serving the interests of the people, which is what the taxes are actually for, rather than vice versa, a justice system whereby the criminal is deemed to be the wrongdoer, not the victim, an independent police force unhampered by performance indicators and where flexibility and common sense prevails, a return to a situation where the indigenous population have at least some rights, a practical and sensible approach to Health and Safety and lots more enhanced chests on ‘I’m a Celebrity’….

A no-brainer as to which of those we’re likely to see first!!

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