Big Brother Wants ‘To Make Life Easier’ For You – But Ask Yourself Why

Rather than a telescreen sinisterly watching you from the corner, the future will be about citizens communicating with government through the screen.

Tim Adler

Government today wants to open up its vast datasets, using technology to make people’s lives easier — not monitor them remotely.


Sorry to interrupt, but the line above irks me somewhat. Tim Adler appears to be too trusting of a government that has repeatedly broken citizens’ trust by rushing ill though-out surveillance measures that have resulted in the abuse of laws designed to protect and ‘make things easier’. Oh please, how many times have we been told this in the past and the promises that politicians make never transpire, indeed things only go from bad to worse. So please Tim Adler, the next time the government tells you it wants to make your life easier, ask yourself what is in it for them? The answer might shock you. Carry on. 

Increasingly, how we interact with government over the internet is the public face of Whitehall. Mike Bracken, head of the Government Digital Service (GDS) — launched in 2011, based on the recommendations of founder Martha Lane Fox — is the man in charge of this digital transformation. Lane Fox recommended that a central service bring together existing government websites, enable access to official data and enable day-to-day transactions, such as renewing a car tax disc, easy online.

Previously, the government’s online presence was a jumble of competing ministries and quango websites, but things are rather different today. Last month, The Washington Post called GDS and its citizen-centric technologies “the gold standard in the global world of digital government”.

Bracken points out that government — along with every other sector — is having to deal with digital disruption. Elsewhere, publishers complain that Amazon wants to drive them out of business, direct sales to airlines have closed many high-street travel agents, while online music sales helped drive HMV into bankruptcy — and government is no different.

“After a period of resistance, most institutions find their organising principle has changed,” says Bracken. “Most institutions have resisted digital disruption and then come to terms with the new landscape.”

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