Ladies and gentleman, I'm packing my shit, saying goodbye to my loved ones, and getting the next one-way flight to Mars. I'll send postcards, probably even call occasionally, but I can't live on this planet any longer. Stuff is going down that I don't like, and that I feel so strongly about, that I'm willing to leave everyone that knows me to get away from it all.
Of course, this is bullshit. I can't go to Mars. Wishful thinking, I expect.
Folks, face it, our civil liberties and consumer rights are being slowly eroded. I'm not sure where this article is going to go, I'm writing it as I type it, not planning it beforehand. If i sound like some nutcase, it's not my intention. I just feel so disillusioned with what's going on in the world, and the sad thing is, there's jack shit we can do to stop it.
Let's start with the biggie, civil liberties. Now, most of this has come about very recently, I believe there was some day a few years ago in September that kicked it all off, but the details escape me now. All of these anti-terrorism acts that have been signed into law, seemingly passed through as a response to that, to protect all the law abiding citizens. Crap. Absolute crap.
These policies have been in the planning stages for years now. 9/11 was the catalyst to latch on to the public's fears and frightened states and push through any legislation that the government (and I'm talking mainly US here, but I'll get to the UK in a minute) wants to push through, with minimal debate or opposition. However, far from being an effective tool for fighting worldwide terrorism, these laws are a breach of human rights, and are also impacting the lives of normal, law-abiding citizens.
Let's start with the human rights breaches first. If you were imprisoned for 2 years without any chance to speak to legal representation, then released without charge, you'd be pretty pissed, right? That's exactly what is happening. There are lots of people being held in Cuba right now by the Americans, who have comitted no crime, but are suspected of it. Many of these people probably have no link to terrorism, but are being targeted due to race, religion, or some spurious link that is so thin, you could put a feather through it. Cut off from their families, with no contact whatsoever, and then released without charge. Of course you can bet that these people will be spied upon for a LONG time, despite no criminal link being proven.
This is, frankly, completely unfair. All the principles that the US was founded upon are demolished by the USA PATRIOT Act. People are entitled to speak to their families, and to legal representation. People aren't to be held without charge in bad conditions. These laws apply to immigrants as well as US citizens, but they are sidestepped by numerous loopholes and clauses.
Lets say you're a librarian, and the FBI come round to request a list of books taken out by a certain person. You arent allowed to go to your lawyer and find out what your rights are. You aren't allowed to tell ANYONE at all. This is clearly ridiculous. I'd want to know what my options were if I was to be in a similar situation.
Or, theres the fact that any federal agency can go and snoop around your house, move stuff around, take stuff, without even telling you or obtaining a warrant beforehand. A judge cant even stop it, even if he/she thinks its wrong, or that there's insufficient evidence. This kind of thing can be used on any citizen, and it's a complete violation of privacy. It will probably be invoked in cases that aren't of a terrorist nature, in fact, there are stories of people inventing links between suspects and terrorism, just so that they can go and spy on them, and search their properties without them finding out about it.
Evidence next. If theres evidence against you, under the USA PATRIOT Act, the government does NOT have to disclose that evidence. Not even to your *DEFENCE LAWYER* beforehand. It all gets submitted to the relavent people, who then decide your fate. The scope for foul play here is very wide. If you're unfortunate enough to be going through the courts at this stage, then you'll be put in prison faster than you can say "don't drop the soap!"
Thankfully, there are an increasing number of people that are now finding out about all this, and are actively pushing for the renewal of the act to be stopped. Also, the next similar Act, giving the government even MORE powers, will be campaigned against. I for one hope that the campaigners succeed.
There is a similar act that exists in the UK, but thankfully, it isnt as much of a human-rights-violating-piece-of-crap that the US legislation is. But, you can bet your arse that there are people right now wishing they had those powers, and I suspect we will see more and more Acts passed through government to obtain the same sort of privacy-violating powers.
OK, lets move onto consumer issues. Digital Rights Management is a fancy way of saying "You will play our products on what we tell you". If I buy a CD, and want to mp3 it to put on an mp3 player, right now, I probably won't be able to. Despite the fact that I OWN the actual CD, and that fair use laws make me LEGALLY entitled to copy things for my own use, as long as I don't breach copyright, I won't be allowed to. It's all about copy protection.
The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) was brought in to stop people ripping off other people's digital creations. Like, me putting out my own version of Windows, for example. Or copying the circuit board for a video and putting out a clone of it. Unfortunately, it also extends to copy protection, and stuff like that. So, let's say, I circumvent the copy protection on a CD that i own. I'm breaking the law, despite the copyright laws allowing me to copy it. It doesn't take a genius to realise that these laws directly contradict each other.
Say I found a serious vulnability with a piece of software. I go to the company, but they aren't interested, and don't seem to want to fix it. They'd rather keep it quiet. I go "well, people SHOULD know about this to protect themselves." So, I go and publish information about it. DING! I'm breaking the law by alerting people to things that are potentially hazardous for them.
Stuff like this is designed to line the pockets of large media corporations, so they can force their agendas onto us, and control what we do. All this convergence of different media technologies is going to mean that if you buy a CD made by a certain manufacturer in the future, you can be sure that you will only be able play it on equipment made by that manufacturer. Seem unfair? It is. And it's happening, with propriatory kit already being made for things like game consoles, computer equipment, etc etc. All carefully designed to milk as much money as possible out of the consumer.
People either don't know about these issues, or don't care, or don't understand the implications. Apathy is the main problem. People don't think they can make a difference, so they don't even try. It's not going to get any better for the average Joe Shmoe, so let's not even bother.
I'm off to Mars to claim it for myself. Who's with me?