Citizens heading “like sheep” for total surveillance society, FIRST conference told

UK citizens are “walking like sheep, bleating,” into a total surveillance society, Bob Ayers, of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) warned today at the 19th Annual Conference of FIRST, the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams.

“People should be vocal and aggressive about what’s happening instead of placidly accepting a situation that’s getting worse and worse,” he told delegates.

Highlighting 450,000 requests for communications intercepts that were made over a 15 month period by 795 “authorised government agencies”, he pointed out that although the massive expansion of surveillance and eavesdropping was being justified as part of the battle against terrorism, organised crime and criminal conspiracies, its main victims were ordinary people who were suspected of committing minor transgressions.

“I reject the notion that ‘if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear’,” he went on. “What right has the state to violate my privacy just in case I do something wrong?”

Mr. Ayers warned that the consolidation of currently discrete personal identities onto single ID cards would open up “high potential for abuse by public or private organisations,” and added:

"I’m not sure that if you have a terrorist with a suicide bomb, his carrying an ID card is going to help us much”

At an earlier conference session Lord Toby Harris, the Home Secretary’s appointee on the Metropolitan Police Authority, said he believed that ID cards would “not [NOT] be a significant counter-terrorism tool.”

More than 450 delegates from 49 countries – the greatest geographical spread ever – were this week attending the 19th annual FIRST conference in Seville, Spain. The worldwide non-profit Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams leads the world's fight-back against cyber-crime, sabotage and terrorism, and consists of the Internet emergency response teams from 180 corporations, government bodies, universities and other institutions across the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.