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Investigating leaks, privacy of movements in common or public spaces

  • June 28th, 2013

My office is having a heated debate about the propriety of the investigator's access to records of Andrea Vance's movements through security points in Parliament. I'll record my thoughts here to avoid being distracted into joining the debate (because I am too busy at present).

I regard the protests as a non-issue. I always assumed while in Parliament that if I was involved in anything underhand, or even with people who were so involved, investigators would use the security system's records of my movements (if they were material).

In my opinion it is pointless for law to try to create privacy for actions that are public. Movements in non-private places are public. It is lawful to record comings and goings, or to photograph them (absent harassment). It should remain lawful, lest the power to suppress such attention be used by the powerful to punish and block legitimate private investigation of their actions.

I thoought all MPs assumed that the many security cameras around Parliament were recording us at all times. We joked about the risks unknown to previous generations, of attempting late night Speaker's Chair stunts. We knew the messengers gossiped with security staff. They were professionally discreet, but from occasional comments after a party, or a conspiratorial smirk, one suspected that embarrassments in Parliamentary precincts were liable to be known slightly more widely than one might hope.

And that is how things should be. It is idle trying to try to suppress knowledge of things that are in fact public, simply because they have been captured with recent technology, instead of old means. Movements can be reported and recorded without a security system, if there is a will, without committing any offence.

Most people in our country once believed that everything they did was seen and recorded by God, or angels. It may have contributed to lower crime rates and higher interpersonal trust. That is no reason to permit any authority now to spy on private places, or to record conversations and activities that are genuinely private. But I see nothing wrong with supplementing the all-seeing eye of God with technology to increase the risks of detection and punishment for offences in public places.

Perhaps such records should be available publicly in specified circumstances, to reduce the risk of selective abuse of power by those privileged with access to the public information.


  • Brendan
  • June 28th, 2013
  • 3:12 pm

As you suggest, it seems that with the introduction of pervasive survalence, agnostics and athiests get to share the angst that was once the sole domain of believing Christians.

Personally, I’d rather trust myself to the mercies of God, than rely upon the ‘good will’ of the Survailance State should my actions ever be called to into question.

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