In another of my semi-serious political concept explorations below (that I imagine must have been considered/discussed?), I lay out some thought around a slightly differing perspective regarding the topical, surveillance and privacy debate.
What would you think about a system that improved the popularity of politicians, engendered a degree of trust in them from all areas of the society they represent and encourages morally rounded and principled people to stand for government in higher proportions than could ever currently be expected?
One real benefit when considering this idea is that current politicians, ‘security’ and law enforcement officials have removed any possible argument against this proposal, yet I wonder if they will agree that it is far more important for such a system be applied to them than the average citizen.
The idea then.
24 hour video and sound recording of all elected government officials, senior civil servants and senior members of the police to be held in an ultra secure location against the need for any inquiry or legal requirement. (Applicable to similarly ranked people in your given local political architecture)
Why not? Surely the same argument holds water and with far greater importance as these people are considered to be in some of the most influential positions in our societies.
“You have nothing to fear if you if you have nothing to hide” is the clarion cry from those increasing surveillance in every form as a justification for intrusion into the ever decreasing levels of privacy that are available to the average person.
Therefore there can be little room to manoeuvre given, if you will excuse the repetition for emphasis, these people are considered to be in some of the most influential positions in our society.
The media is full of reports on how surveillance is being used by all sides in conflicts, citizens holding a camera up to the regime they live under has become a regular topic of debate. Recording from the roads, buildings, airwaves and sky proliferate so why not here?
So, to explore some of the aspects of implementing such a system into a government in, say the UK (Given our seeming aim of 50 cameras per capita per mile).
1. Security of recordings.
In this world of ever connected global sharing and potential leaks of video or sound images, the security of recordings would be the highest priority. Whilst transmission of such recordings may fall foul of the security protocols followed in the UK, the facility to locally copy recordings to secured devices that are then transferred following physical security procedures, would be acceptable and feasible.
2. Security of Government.
Of course the principle of this entire concept is to affirm the probity and standards that have long been held up as the realm of people who are deemed beacons of respectability. Monitoring and recording would not be acceptable in meetings covering privileged parliamentary processes, diplomatic meetings and or matters of security or state for example.
Of course this would open up to the flexibility of the corrupt who could easily arrange extending of ‘parliamentary meetings’ or ensuring foreign diplomats are present for ‘discussions’ whilst sorting out a deal at the golf club. Given the impositions of surveillance on such people, it is not likely that this form of abuse would constitute enough time to fit in many dodgy deals though.
Further, visibility of official government meeting schedules to the degree that FOI requests could determine if 90% of all surveillance was blocked for ‘matters of national security’ meetings, the questions surrounding the proportion of governing being hidden as such would fast become visible.
3. Security of the nation.
Given that any security system is only as secure as the people in control of it, ensuring politicians are not working against their own country could also be an offshoot of this concept. While it may be a rare occurrence as far as treasonable offenses are concerned, it is not beyond belief that money could be made by putting another country’s interests above one’s own, given the right incentive.
4. Privacy of the Party and their family.
Hmm, well I think this one answers itself with the nothing to fear if doing no wrong aspect. Also, goodbye to the tense surreality of the photo shoot of another loyal spouse standing beside their wayward partner after a scandal. Besides this, if only the most trusted of security staff restricted by judicial process have access to the recordings, then what privacy is being invaded?
It is no different to you or I being recorded in a dozen differing locations through the day as we move around our country or just sit in our garden now. If you nominate yourself to represent the people of your country, you should expect to lose a good deal of your privacy for the term you are in that position.
I am reminded of another theoretical system whereby politicians would be nominated by random, similarly to jury service and would be let off from being a politician after a period defined by their good behaviour in the position (the ‘good behaviour’, although part of the jocular concept, left me wondering on how that could be defined!).
5. Trust and Respect.
Perhaps the consideration that it would be nice to trust and respect those in a position of governing is incredibly naive of me and harkens back to my rather odd interest in political history when I was younger (reading 100 year old copies of Punch magazine in the school library). If this surveillance system were applied it would begin to attract the sort of person whose confidence in either their own probity and capabilities or with the honesty to openly admit to their failings on the principle that having a wider experience one could appreciate more perspectives. The passionate crusading politicians that still do occasionally surface would, I hope, similarly welcome the availability of proof that their principles are not just a blind to seek publicity or power.
Considering the many in this world without the luxury to consider their political position due to the challenge of surviving, those who are more fortunate owe a debt to improve society and reduce that number.
One way to engender a comfort factor in a society is to reenforce the sense of community. Those who feel more of a part of their community will then join with growing cells of advancement. The internet has begun to pave the way for those many who still aren’t aware, towards the understanding that wherever we are in this world, we face very similar challenges, feelings and experiences.
If those being governed feel that there is a parity in the open nature of surveillance for the common good, a good deal of social paranoia would be reduced and extremists who continue to destabilise entire societies whether by religious, political, physical or financial means would gather less support from those who currently fear or hate their government.
There are many steps to lay in the pathway to evolved democratic government. This is an example of one of the many enablers that could be overlaid on existing procedures to begin that journey. It is also one of the more concise(worryingly) and topical that I’ve been toying with and could more easily finish.
And yes, for those media hungry out there, I have considered that archive recordings, approved by the parties recorded could latterly be released to satisfy another form of ‘reality’ TV demand or post-political career income! There’s always another angle.