Need to Know?

It is possible, given the right connections, to check you out. Anybody can find out where I live. You know my name, look up the number. For a fee of two or three quid, you can go to the register of electors and do a search on anybody who is on it. There are many more search streams, legal and shady, available to those who wish, such as journalists, double-glazing call centres and anybody who wants a piece of you. I did this recently, in order to check if my entry was correct and up to date.

I am subjected to regular calls from sales people, despite being on the TPS and despite having my number as ex-directory. This is not unusual. It happens to everybody. But why do we accept it?

Bear with me for a bit.

25 years ago, I was in regular contact with senior police officers. It gave me a lifelong insight into the mindset of the Police, and in particular, the Met. If you understand that police officers do not do discretion (they are not allowed to have any), that they obey orders to the letter and that recruitment and progression through the ranks is most certainly not predicated on a fine intellect and a working knowledge of French Wine classification, then you go some way to understanding why they do what they do. Many cops are cynical, of course they are, wouldn't you be if you had to deal with the daily saga of life in the Naked City? Some are on the take; I well remember my late Stepfather telling me (he was a bookmaker) how the local plod took bribes from bookies in the days when off-track betting was illegal. One regular recipient of the wages of sin rose to become a Chief Constable. Some cops are plain sadistic. One of my school chums, who delighted in seeing others suffer as a child, did very well at the Met. Some cops are kind and dedicated and brave capable of thinking for themselves. Sadly, this latter class of cop does not do very well professionally. Please correct me if you think I am adrift here.

Anyway, I had a friend in the Met who gave me details on somone in our circle who I suspected of being a fraud. It turned out, this woman, from Jamaica, had a string of convictions for fraud and theft, had been imprisoned and had worked as a nanny. After finding out where her previous employers lived (she came to us asking for help because the man of the house had "raped" her) her entire story collapsed. She had been sacked as nanny due to the kids being traumatised by some unspecified behaviour while in her care. She had stolen items from those who tried to help her - she had a convincing sob story - and had been briefly taken into our home as she claimed to be homeless. This woman had managed to convince 20 or 30 people who we knew that she was a victim of all sorts of terrible things. None of them were true.

In the above case, the rules were bent in order to put a stop to someone who was not only dishonest, but possibly dangerous to children too.

Yes, we live in a surveillance society, and official reports put the UK alongside China and Russia in the invasion of privacy stakes, right at the top of the naughty list.

But sometimes, privacy is a front for deception and worse. A Fleet Street journalist recently said that public figures who complain most loudly about invasion of privacy, have, in his decades of experience, always had something to hide without exception.

So the question is, do the benefits of surveillance in the UK outweigh the disadvantages? Should it be more controlled? Should there be less?

Is our security predicated on the free flow of data?

I don't know the answer to that, but what I do think is that we are going through an evolutionary period, where data handling is as new to us as the Spinning Jenny was to cottage weavers. I believe we must learn to live with it and work out ways to deliver a society that respects freedom and upholds the rights of privacy. So far, the new government shows no signs of giving that one to the people.


winston said...

The only answer I've found to persistent sales calls is to ask them to hang on and that you will go and get the person ( esp when it is you ;)). Then just go about your daily chores and replace the reciever when the alarm from BT sounds on the phone. Telling them that you're ex dir, TSP listed, not interested etc is a waste of time. But wasting their time will stop them phoning. My record is 8 minutes of time wasted. This was when I moaned at them for hanging up the last time ( after 3 minutes) and they promised not to hang up this time. This website is good for advice and tracing who called you..

Although it's probably owned by a sales company who use it to see which phone numbers they should leave for a while .

I doubt if we have any privacy anymore. If you assume everything you say and do is being recorded you should be ok. We've opened the pandoras box of the internet and surveillance society and it's never going to be closed again. All the sophisticated techniques and websites to hide your tracks are probably run by govt anyway so I wouldn't bother using them.

Rebel Saint said...

8 Mins? Pah, that's nothing! 20 mins is my record. The trick is to occasionally check back and say "They're coming" then do a loud "Billy, it's the phone, are you coming, hurry up!"

On the broader point of the blog-post ... I don't know!! I guess the key is always transparency & accountability. I hate being asked for my phone number or postcode just as a matter of routine whenever I make a purchase. I'm getting much better at simply refusing or giving them the postcode SW1A 1AA!

And those who say "nothing to hide nothing to fear" are the most obnoxious bunch. We ALL have something to hide.

winston said...


Ha ha but I was doing my chores while you were checking back ;)

What's the solution to the silent calls though ? Where they have a computer phoning you and sometimes no one is there when the phone rings ?
I think we're too polite in the UK. I doubt if these sales calls works so well in Italy etc...

strapworld said...

WW. You are aware of my background.

Your picture of the police, although rather broad brush, I can identify with. One of the cleanest cops ever died recently. Sir Robert Mark!He took on bent coppers and bent lawyers/politicians. That is why this great policeman was not alevated into the House of Lords!

The vast majority, in my day were the good ones you described. But, sadly, there were many who were 'bent' and who did rise to the top of the greasy pole. But never forget that many bent coppers were caught by straight coppers. I arrested eight in my time!


I have a particular method of reducing nuisance calls. If it is male I instantly demand to know if he is having an affair with my wife. I keep on demanding his name etc. they ring off and do not disturb me again.

If it is a woman I am extremely polite and do as others have suggested and just say, as I am deaf I will call my wife, and put the phone on the table and call my wife. the longest has been tweleve minutes.

My hat goes to Rebel Saint!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Thankyou Strapworld. I was rather hoping you would have your say. RS and Winston, keep chipping in. It is appreciated.