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The EU is out to get you, after all

Watch your liberties, Statewatch warns

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Apologies - from The Register, no less - for appearing to give the impression that the latest piece of Euro-surveillance was not actually part of an ongoing dastardly plot to have each and every one of us "pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed and, er, numbered".

Half an apology, perhaps. We reported recently that the European Parliamentary Transport Committee plans to put in place a scheme to pass data back and forth across national boundaries. Trojan horse for future spying? Or just reasonable concern over road safety?

We opted then, and still do, for the latter. However, a report, The State of Things to Come (pdf), published last week by Statewatch, suggests otherwise. Statewatch is a voluntary organisation committed to monitoring the state and civil liberties in Europe, which it has been doing since its establishment in 1991.

The Statewatch report is a formal response to a report (pdf) by the EU "Future Group", billed as the work of the Informal High Level Advisory Group on the Future of European Home Affairs Policy. This outlines a five year EU strategy for justice and home affairs and security policy for 2009-2014.

The proposals in the EU report include a range of extremely controversial measures including techniques and technologies of surveillance and enhanced cooperation with the United States.

The Shape of Things to Come examines these proposals in some depth. Their focus, however, is on three highly worrying aspects of what might be described as geek-driven policy making.

First is that one of the drivers fundamentally altering the balance between state and individual is technology itself. As we has previously noted - in the area of CCTV, for instance - the fact that we can carry out more accurate surveillance and monitoring is argument enough for doing so.

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch director and author of this report, gives the example of a recent debate about the age at which children should be fingerprinted for passports.

"This debate," he explained, "was carried out in a committee that deals with technical issues. It was totally devoid of any moral or political input."

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