States of Surveillance


In the past, the English were suspicious of the Police, and especially the spy. There are many stories where the figure of the spy was evoked to epitomize the threat to freeborn Englishmen. The historian EP Thompson noted ‘the peculiar jealously of the British people towards the central powers of the state, their abhorrence of military intervention in civil affairs, their dislike of state espionage and of any form of heaving policing’. (Thompon, 1980:204).

Yet, nowadays surveillance is seen as part of modern life. But there is no surveillance without a culture of secrecy to protect information collated. This culture of secrecy is not just confined to the changing nature of police investigations, but is used across the whole criminal justice system. This was highlighted by comments made in the wake of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s revelations about police cover-up and doctoring of evidence, including Lord Macdonald’s observation that the Panel’s findings illustrate the ‘absolutely suffocating” culture of secrecy in British public life’. (A. Sparrow, `Politics Live with Andrew Sparrow’ Guardian, 13 September 2012)

The series of videos below show some of the experiences of people in Britain today.