Government intrusion | AccountingWEB

Government intrusion

Some threads that have appeared on AWeb lately have given me food for thought.

We are increasingly being asked to 'shop' people, there is CCTV everywhere, and the intrusion seems to be increasing with some new government idea always being questioned. 

I am torn over the issue. On the one hand it does seem that our freedom of choice is being compromised, and 'Big Brother' is always watching, but on the other hand I think community minded individual's would accept these restrictions without question or complaint as it can help so many innocent people while curbing the actions of the less scrupulous people among us.

Is it so wrong that we are asked to report tax evasion and fraudulent accounting? How would it be discovered otherwise?

Is it so wrong that CCTV is everywhere? It helps solve crimes and makes the streets safer for us all.

I know there needs to be a balance, but how can the rights and freedom of the innocent be protected while also preventing the less scrupulous from taking advantage of the same freedom to do exactly as they like, no matter who they hurt or who pays the cost.

What are your view on this, ie. are the costs, and the intrusion, worth the benefits.



mwngiol's picture


mwngiol | | Permalink

The question was about where the line should be drawn. Other people have talked about getting the balance right.

I personally don't have a problem with CCTV etc in public places. My line is drawn with surveillance into private lives. If the authorities want to monitor emails or any other kind of private communications or activites then they should have specific reasons and should should target specific suspected individuals. Why should I be monitored on the off chance that I commune with a terrorist?

As for the 'if you have nothing to hide then what's the problem' argument, how would you feel about having someone peering into your living room window all day and night? You may well only be watching TV or reading a book and doing nothing wrong, but I bet you still wouldn't like it.

So that's where my line is. Private lives should be allowed to be private, unless the police or whoever already have a valid and specific reason to monitor activities more closely.

Tim Berners-Lee ...

JC | | Permalink


Of all internet developments, Berners-Lee said those costing him the most sleep were attempts by governments to tighten their control of or spy on the internet, which he said amounted to "a destruction of human rights". He was highly critical of British government plans to expand surveillance of communication to include emails, social media and Skype, as well as monitoring all web use by individuals.

But he also said he was worried by the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a proposed US bill that would increase the government's ability to enforce patents and copyright.

"[It] is threatening the rights of people in America, and effectively rights everywhere, because what happens in America tends to affect people all over the world. Even though the Sopa and Pipa acts were stopped by huge public outcry, it's staggering how quickly the US government has come back with a new, different, threat to the rights of its citizens."

@Hansa: Privacy & 3 Abrahamic religions Jewish/Christian/Islam ?

dstickl | | Permalink

Hansa wrote:

It seems that many here are happy to live in a police state.  JC and I seem to be the only ones to say:-  Having nothing to hide is no defence for the destruction of privacy.

The fact that the three Abrahamic religions (Jewish, Christian and Islam) ALL posit that "God is watching you", suggests to me that any suggestion that "Privacy is an absolute right that must never be destroyed" is a total nonsense.

It might be attempted to be asserted in riposte that "We are all atheists now" but, in this month celebrating the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, I am reminded of the old naval saying of a seafaring nation that: "There are very few atheists, if any, in an open lifeboat at sea"!

In addition, from the perspective of those accounting professionals who participate in markets because they believe in the efficacy of the market with transparent market forces, one of the underlying assumptions that many economists make is that every market participant should have - as far as possible -  perfect information to be transparent, which suggests to me that "Privacy is not allowed in efficient markets", a conclusion that a minority of readers of this thread might find very surprising.

You might attempt to challenge me: Do you ever draw a line for privacy, dstickl, where you would stop widespread (i.e. not just public sector) use of CCTV etc, in the fight against onerous & intrusive crime, carried out by onerous & intrusive criminals?

As I partially indicated in another thread: My primary concern is for a society that encourages "Goodness, Truth, and Beauty" (which incidentally should be more than skin deep, and which also includes good design e.g. of public buildings, typography, etc, & e.g. as sometimes as exemplified by Apple products), and for a society that discourages "Badness, Lies, and Ugliness", so I do believe that there should be some measures of privacy that protects the immature - including children - who should be given time for innocence.

Inevitably that would lead to my drawing a partial line at "the bedroom door", but I write partial because - in parts of this partially wicked world - the police and legal system should enforce the law (at the lowest possible cost to honest people) against traffickers of sex slaves, terrorists using bedrooms to make bombs, etcetera.

So have I now persuaded some or all of AWEB readers of my moderate approach to "Government intrusion", as set out above, please? Your silence will be sufficient ...

Inadmissible ….

JC | | Permalink

@dstickl - Interesting stance. Would have let it go, apart from your final paragraph ‘..Your silence will be sufficient ..’

In accord with a lot of your comments, however disagree with your conclusion on the basis of the underlying argument

To start let’s address this on two fronts

Area 1 – factual (legal?)

Look at the current EU Human Rights position on this -

Article 7 - Respect for private and family life

‘.. Everyone has the right to respect for his or her private and family life, home and communications ..’

Area 2 – rather more abstruse

Like so many things in the scripts, everything is open to interpretation and certainly in debate people will read whatever supports their argument at the time

The whole thing about any faith is just that – faith. A belief that does not have to be tangible or provable – just faith in its veracity. Can you ‘prove’  that ‘.. God is watching you ..’; of course you cannot, but in no way does that decry from ones faith. However, it does make the assertion questionable when forming an argument – after all without proof anything can be introduced into a debate to support ones point of view

The real benefit of faith is that encourages people to live their life by a code of standards (presently sorely lacking) and your comments ‘.. My primary concern is for a society that encourages "Goodness, Truth, and Beauty" ..’ are very apposite in this context, however it is intangible and can be interpreted by each according to their needs – as your posting demonstrates.

Nevertheless, one can prove more mundane things such as Government snooping

In conclusion, whilst I agree with a great deal of what you say regrettably in today’s agnostic world it cannot be used to support a reasoned debate on privacy issues.

@JC:Article 7 doesn't rule out legal respectful surveillance ...

dstickl | | Permalink

In my humble opinion, the Article 7 phrase "Everyone has the right to respect for his or her private and family life, home and communications" does not rule out any legal form of surveillance - such as CCTV (where apparently Great Britain shows world leadership) etcetera - so long as it's done respectfully.

@JC: Area 1 knocked down, here goes Area 2!

dstickl | | Permalink

Hi JC! Now that I've knocked out your Area 1 with my view that legal respectful surveillance is OK, here's my counter to your Area 2:

* You asked: Can I 'prove' that "God is watching you"?  However, in my earlier post, I merely stated that ALL three Abrahamic religions (Jewish, Christian and Islam) posit that "God is watching you", which is slightly different!  In addition, you did not persuade me that "God is NOT watching you".  So it seems that we are left with indirect 'methods' in this Area 2, for example:

* Apparently, at the time Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he was asked the question: "What made it possible for the Russian Revolution to take place and for Communism to rise to power?"  Solzhenitsyn's reply was simple & direct: "Men forgot God."

So have I further persuaded some or all of AWEB readers of my moderate approach to "Government intrusion", as set out above?  Again, your silence will be sufficient ...

And God’s relevance to privacy is ? ……

JC | | Permalink


Article 7 - '.. so long as it's done respectfully ..'.  Time will tell about legitimacy but this phrase could justify breaking any rules

and to be slightly flippant - sounds awfully like Kenny Everett '.. in the best possible taste ..'

Area 2

Again we seem to be getting into the realms of ‘Miracle on 34th Street (1994 film)’ -

Probably best to disagree in this area and call it a day because it could run and run – and no – silence does not acquiesce, just no point in taking this one any further

@JC:Thanx 4 confirming CCTV etc is allowed by Article 7 COFROTEU

dstickl | | Permalink

Hi JC! Thank you for confirming my opinion that legal surveillance - so long as it's done respectfully - by CCTV and/or etcetera is allowed by, and does not transgress, the printed words in English of Article 7 of the CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION (2000/C 364/01) as set out in this link:-

Thank you also for confirming (by your filmography, etc) that your "address", on your second front of your Area 2, was rather more abstruse [& also too abstruse for me!]

Here's my answer to your question of: "And God's relevance to privacy is ? ......";  IF you are mature enough to accept that God may be watching you, THEN respectful surveillance by mortals should be no problem at all for you, because you would be mature enough to accept the consequences of your actions, unlike some criminals.

mwngiol's picture

Is this reply flippant?

mwngiol | | Permalink

I disagree that YOUR faith justifies intrusion into MY privacy.

Old Greying Accountant's picture

My view is ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... God is watching me so CCTV doesn't need to!

Also, and more importantly, God knows your mind, which is far more important than your actions, the viewing of which on grainy distorted images can be very subjective.

@OGA: Panorama on BBC1TV 2nite is planned to show OLD people ...

dstickl | | Permalink

Old Greying Accountant wrote:

... God is watching me so CCTV doesn't need to!

Also, and more importantly, God knows your mind, which is far more important than your actions, the viewing of which on grainy distorted images can be very subjective.

Hi OGA!  Panorama at 08:30pm on BBC1TV tonight is apparently planned to show an OLD person/people being allegedly abused in a care home - that was allegedly assessed by the CQC (Care Quality Commission) as an "excellent" grade - and the crime(s) were recorded through surveillance, by the patient's daughter!

I feel sure that - on reflection - you'll agree that (even though "God is watching") that surveillance/CCTV is also needed, in order to catch the alleged criminal(s).

Perhaps - if you watch Panorama - you would care to let me know after the TV programme, how you would feel, if CCTV had NOT caught the abuse(s)?

@mwngiol:CQC only acted on CCTV evidence @ Ash Court of Jonathan

dstickl | | Permalink

Hi mwngiol!   Panorama at 08:30pm on BBC1TV tonight showed me that:

* CQC allegedly only acted on CCTV evidence at Ash Court (run by Forest Health Care) of young Jonathan Akino assaulting an old lady - while allegedly washing her - without a chaperone.

* Jonathan Akino was subsequently charged by Met Police for assault, and subsequently sentenced to 18 months jail.

* There were allegedly at least 4 other sackings of staff at Ash Court, following televised misbehaviour.

Now mwngiol, this was a situation where - contrary to your so-called "Balance" posting above - the police [or Government, as per topic] did not, and here I quote your actual words, "already have a valid and specific reason to monitor activities more closely", partly because, and I'm guessing here, CQC had previously given Ash Court an "excellent" rating.   Consequently, it seems to me that the police [on behalf of good Government] should respectfully be able to use CCTV [or any other form of surveillance] anywhere they choose, public or private as in a care home bedroom etc, perhaps starting with those apparent high profile risks of people - like you - who write that they disagree that faith or economics of markets (and reasons in my later posts to come) justifies intrusion into privacy. 

Regarding your Question of Tuesday 17 April: "How would you feel about having someone peering into your living room window all day and night? You may well only be watching TV or reading a book and doing nothing wrong, but I bet you still wouldn't like it." Here is my Answer: So long as I had what I personally regarded as adequate peace and quiet, I'd be delighted 'to have someone from police and/or Government respectfully peering through my living room window all day and night', because if a burglar entered my home there'd be sufficient evidence to prove that I'd taken all reasonable steps, if there were to be a "Tony Martin" situation.

Finally mwngiol, I have this question for you: Can you advise me what specifically is your rationale / justification for your privacy, please, and its non-intrusion by Government in UK?  

mwngiol's picture

That wasn't CCTV

mwngiol | | Permalink

Maybe I wasn't paying sufficient attention to the programme but I was under the impression that this was not an example of CCTV but a deliberately placed hidden camera being used as a result of specific suspicions of abuse.

My justification for my privacy is that I am entitled to it. I believe it a basic right to not be treated as a potential criminal in my own home. Surveillance of private activity should be limited to cases where suspicions of illegal behaviour already exist and should ALWAYS require the existing evidence to be taken to a judge before permission for closer surveillance is given.

I object to living in a police state and any steps towards the routine surveillance of the private lives of citizens, as part of a scattergun approach which treats every individual citizen as a potential criminal with no reasoning or evidence, should be resisted.

Maybe that is where we differ. Your allusions towards religious justification shows that you are comfortable with having faith in the absence of evidence. I do not share that faith.

Old Greying Accountant's picture

I'm not saying ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... all cctv is poor quality, but much is.

Also, as an interim, yes it has its place, but surely we should be bringing people up with common respect and decency so they don't commit these crimes in the first place? (which is in essence what Christianity is all about).

It also widens the debate to whether we should be caring for our own families and not abrogating our responsibilities by palming them off on others. These are after all our parents, who made many and great sacrifices to provide for us, their children - and many probably now regret those choices when they see the selfish, spoiled brats spawned by today's me Me ME! culture.

EDIT - BTW, don't make the mistake of confusing Christianity with the "Church" (whether CofE, RC etc etc) - it is not the same thing, although thankfully we can now say this without getting burnt at the stake for heresy!

Gotcha: Mr loophole used police CCTV to prove that policeman ...

dstickl | | Permalink

Just started to read "The Art of the Loophole" e.g. p71-2:

Apparently client told police at station that he suffered various ailments & had difficulty providing blood.   IF this were the case THEN officer required to call p surgeon 4 expert opinion. But no p surgeon was called, & p statement didn't mention health issues.

Q in court: Why didn't you record my client's ailments either in your pocket notebook or statement?

Police A in court: I didn't mention any ailments because the defendant didn't mention any.

After all prosecution evidence had been given, the prosecutor was asked if there was a CCTV recording of what happened in the custody suite that night.

The CCTV record was produced almost immediately, and showed the defendant standing @ the desk, disclosing all sorts of medical problems!   Trial result: Not guilty.

LESSON: IF you ask for a video at the start of a trial & one exists, THEN the officer knows about it, and it may affect the way he gives his evidence!

CONCLUSION: Contrary to some assertions on this thread, the UK is not a "police state" even with CCTV, because the rule of law is practised by some professional lawyers defending laws that were passed by a democratic parliament.

mwngiol's picture


mwngiol | | Permalink

I don't see how that example relates to surveillance of innocent civilians going about their private lives.

@mwngiol:CCTV cud prove whether .. your assertion's credible ..

dstickl | | Permalink

mwngiol wrote:

I don't see how that example relates to surveillance of innocent civilians going about their private lives.

Let me help: Public CCTV could assist to prove in an English court whether or not your apparent assertion - that said civilians were actually acting innocently [or not] during the period covered by the particular CCTV recording - is credible [or not].

EDIT-01: In the above 'loophole' example, the officer was in fact acting innocently when recorded on CCTV.  The problem was that there was allegedly what Winston Churchill could term "a terminological inexactitude" afterwards!  And I suggest here that it's also possible that "innocent civilians going about their private lives" might subsequently tell lies about their activities in open court where I believe, in the open English courtroom usually - but I understand not quite always - under English law, that the foundation principle of justice in this country (i.e. England) is the presumption of innocence: the fabled "innocence until proven guilty".  

However, there's another "custom and practice" guiding principle in English law that the good advocate dos not ask a question unless the answer is known.  So good defence advocates should endeavour to agree as many of the facts with the English prosecution as they can.  Hence the need, it seems to me, for the "surveillance of innocent civilians going about their private lives" to establish the truth of those facts that may be subsequently relevant to a case, should it come to an open courtroom.

mwngiol's picture

Crossed wires

mwngiol | | Permalink

You seem to think that I objected to public CCTV. Look back and you will see that I did not.

Time for me to exit this thread methinks.

@mwngiol: Sorry but I'm attempting 2 build 4 private CCTV 2 ...

dstickl | | Permalink

Sorry, mwngiol, but I'm attempting to build towards a convincing rationale for private CCTV too ... thanks any way for this "Time out" dialogue!

Do "human rights" really exist, or are they merely aspirations?

dstickl | | Permalink

Do "human rights" really exist, or are they merely aspirations [perhaps to encourage "Goodness, Truth & Beauty" as opposed to badness, lies, etc], when they can be so easily taken away, asked Will Self, as broadcast this morning on BBC Radio 4's "Point of View", see link:-

AND, regarding that high view point "re-developed" water tower with a commanding military view (for surface to air missiles, and CCTV surveillance, etc) of the "Jubilympic Park", an opinion expressed earlier today via "Sky News" regarding the apparent vocal objectors was that "These people are ensconced in a little bubble that all they do is whinge and moan" which, to my mind, neatly counters some of the objections to respectful (i.e. including peace and quiet, etcetera) private CCTV.

Old Greying Accountant's picture

In the final analysis ...    1 thanks

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... no!

They are vain pretentions used by consumer societies to salve their guilt. If there were such things we would not buy shoes made by undernourished and over-worked children in foreign sweat shops whilst our old people freeze to death because the pitance of a pension the tax man leaves them won't cover the cost of their fuel bills.


ShirleyM's picture

Human Rights has become the domain of the criminals

ShirleyM | | Permalink

We cannot get rid of terrorists if they have a family here, because the 'rights' of the terrorists children are more important than the safety of our citizens.

The paedophile can live on the same street as his victims, for the same reason, etc.

The good decent citizens have no rights, because the criminals totally ignore the rights of other people and blast them out of existence (eg. steal from them, defraud them, kill or injure them), but those of the criminals always seems to come first in the eyes of the law.

OK - maybe a slight exaggeration, but it does seem to be that way!

johnjenkins's picture


johnjenkins | | Permalink

That's because, as they have no money, they are entitled to all the top lawyers (especially the human rights brigade) and the normal working person is entitled to jack ....


ShirleyM's picture

yes @john    1 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Criminals have to the right to deprive us of our basic rights to keep what we own & stay safe, while still insisting on keeping 'their rights' and causing further distress to their victims.

If this happened in a fictional film they would say it was too farfetched and unrealistic!


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