Coming to a CCTV screen near you

PUBLISHED: 12:48 20 April 2006 | UPDATED: 10:01 06 May 2010

IT SAYS something about the extent to which we ve landed ourselves in serious Big Brother territory when even an internet service provider confirms that the world wide web invades our privacy. AOL, in one of its current adverts, admits that the internet

IT SAYS something about the extent to which we've landed ourselves in serious Big Brother territory when even an internet service provider confirms that the world wide web invades our privacy.

AOL, in one of its current adverts, admits that "the internet has taken us to a place where everything we do is watched, monitored and processed without us ever realising".

It's not necessarily worth taking the company's concern on this issue too seriously - the place where it would like us to discuss this issue is, after all, their website - but it certainly gives us food for thought.

I personally don't think things are as bad as AOL makes out just yet.

I might be naïve but I don't quite think everything I do is being monitored (surely no one is actually interested in me planting primulas in my garden?), but I admit that we are certainly heading that way.

In today's world of CCTV, GPS and satellite navigation, there seem to be fewer and fewer ways to mind your own business and have a bit of good old fashioned privacy.

A reader emailed me last week about a site which seemed to have an uncannily effective ability to track people down.

I won't name it as I don't want to give it the publicity, but the reader said that it could provide address details and telephone numbers, and even list who you live with, with "scary accuracy".

Both her and her partner's names came up on the site and she was also able to find a previous partner and former boss simply by entering their names and the towns she last knew them in.

I did a little research and it is indeed incredibly efficient, quickly providing me with both old and up-to-date information about virtually everyone I looked for.

But what's more worrying is it does not appear to be doing anything illegal.

My current details did not appear, for example, as I am now ex-directory and not on the edited, freely available version of the electoral role.

All of the information I looked up appeared to come from legitimate, widely available sources, making the website simply a very comprehensive and effective search engine.

Which is great if you really want to find someone, but not so great if you're keen to remain private.

Almost every day we have to enter our personal details on a form or online and it gets very difficult to keep a hold on who has what information about us.

There have been records of who lives where and with whom for hundreds of years, beginning with the Doomsday Book, but we are at a time of unprecedented ease of access to this information. Clearly, apart from not actually having a car, a mobile phone, or maybe even an address, there's not a lot we can do about it.

It's a bitter pill to swallow to face up to an even greater erosion of our privacy, but I fail to see any other choice.

Of course, we'll always be able to go online to discuss it...


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