Friday, 25 July 2008

Clean flour in the bag… A Miller’s tale?

A phrase you see a lot in the debate here on state surveillance is ‘jag har rent mjöl i påsen’. I have clean flour in my bag… so please go ahead and keep watch on everything I say. It’s a phrase and an argument that makes me want to scream NOooooooo!!!! every time I hear it.

The corollary to the argument is ‘If you’re against this law, what have you got to hide?’. It’s an argument I find extremely offensive. Privacy is a recognized right. I don’t need to defend why I want privacy, it is for those wanting to remove that right to demonstrate that that is justified.

What I find most offensive with this argument is the arrogant and selfish supposition that says that because surveillance is acceptable to me in my life as it is here and now today it must be acceptable to all other people regardless of their views and circumstances. Together with this is the equally offensive nationalist assumption that if we can protect the communication and rights of swedish people then it doesn’t matter what we do to others.

One of the misconceptions that often underpins this blind faith in the system is that surveillance is looking for people committing crimes. It isn’t. The FRA is looking out for external threats to Sweden - which mostly has nothing to do with illegal activity. Agitating against government legislation for instance is quite legal but (certainly in some other parts of the world) could see you classed as an enemy of the state. So if you’ve not done anything wrong and it’s not illegal why are you being monitored? And why are they monitoring you if they are not going to actively use that information?

The other thing that people don’t seem to understand is that it’s not you that decides what ‘clean’ means. Is your life organic wholemeal, or plain bleached white? Are you gluten free??? Which one fits (or more to the point doesn’t fit) the political agenda of the day???

And remember, in an environment where Sweden is trading or selling intelligence to other powers, it’s not Sweden’s nice likeable trustworthy politicians that are deciding what clean is either…

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