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Is this good or bad?

30 August 2021

I have referenced George Orwell's novel 1984 on a number of occasions in this column.

The dystopian future painted by Orwell certainly seems to be coming a reality, step by tiny step. He got things right but, so it would seem, was only about 40 years out with his dates.

Although the government has mechanisms to protect our privacy from the other citizens, there are no such protections from the ever-increasing intrusive surveillance undertaken by the state itself.

Freedoms that were once sacred are now gone and, only if we're very lucky, have been replaced by privileges that must be earned or now paid for.

The state has become a monster that seeks ever-more control and power over the citizens of a country and this shift is universal throughout the world.

Democracy is now an illusion, privacy but a memory and our "rights" dwindle by the day.

Need proof... read on!

In the EU and UK, further sweeping changes are about to take place in respect to privacy and the surveillance powers of the state.

As of 2022, all new car designs must include some rather special technology.

This technology uses GPS and a raft of other mechanisms to prevent drivers from breaking the speed limits on roads

What's more, the technology will also log the vehicle's every movement and speeding violations.

We're not just talking about something that kicks in if you exceed the open-road speed limit, we're talking about something that must be able to read the posted speed limit and be aware of the speed restrictions wherever you are driving.

Exceed 50KM/H in a 50KM/H zone and the system will kick in. Drive past a school too quickly and it kicks in. Even the temporary speed restrictions associated with road works will be enforced.

At least initially, the system will not stop drivers from breaking the posted speed limits but it will have to sound an audio, visual and haptic alarm so that the driver will be very much aware of their offending.

Of course there is a fairly reasonable train of thought that says that this is a good thing. Speed limits are in effect for a reason and any system that makes it easier to obey those limits can only be good for safety.

However, the fact that all transgressions of the limits must be logged and later accessible to authorities might be taking things a little too far; say some.

Imagine if, every time you get a new WOF, the testing authority was required to plug in and download those logs, the information being automatically passed on to an enforcement agency. Suddenly you could find yourself on the thick end of some very stiff fines for speeding -- as your own vehicle narcs on you.

Sure, some cars already have this and some insurance companies offer those who fit or use such systems a discount on their insurance policies because they can see who is a big risk and who is not. Those systems also help ascribe blame in the event of a traffic accident.

However, do we really want big brother tracking our *every* move and having access to that data as a matter of routine?

More importantly, what would be the justification for this even further erosion of our almost non-existant right to privacy?

Safety? Security?

One must also question why the systems will simply "advise" the driver and log the infringement, rather than acting as a true speed regulator. Is the goal more about generating revenues by way of infringement notices than it is about protecting lives?

Of course the timing of this new law is perfect. The transition to EVs is getting some momentum now and if you want to avoid this surveillance technology you will have no option but to stick with existing ICE vehicles and suffer the costs and downsides that this will impose. All new EVs (as of the implementation date) will be required to be compliant in the EU and that probably means the tech will be standard on all cars, regardless of their target markets.

What's more, since this will soon be standard equipment on new vehicles, you can guarantee that the NZ government will say "it's in there, we might as well use it [to save lives]" and also implement the silent policeman requirement.

I so fondly remember the days of my youth, when we assumed that people were honest, law abiding and trustworthy. Sure, we were wrong on rare occasions but by and large it's so much nicer to live in a community where we're all innocent until proven guilty, as opposed to one where we're all considered by the state to be criminals or offenders until we can prove otherwise.

What say you? Is this tech good or bad?

Will the alleged safety this delivers be worth the price we must pay in surrendering yet a nother tiny slice of our privacy and right to be considered innocent until proven guilty?

If you're happy with that trade-off, I have a great idea that will protect us all from domestic violence... it simply involves fitting cameras and microphones to all the rooms of your house and networking them back to a central AI computer that will identify crimes being committed.

Oh, hang on, didn't Orwell have something similar in his novel?

And, isn't that exactly what Amazon and Google are flogging to the hapless masses who think Alexa and Google are working for *them*?

I think I'll check the date on my calendar.

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