Sunday, November 8, 2009

Another Freedom Gone

Tomorrow it will become illegal in Spain not to give a series of personal details to your mobile phone company when you buy a phone. This information will be available for the government to use to check up on who you talk to, but it will be collected and stored by the companies, so in the end it will mean the prices will go up as well.

The information you give or ask for when you enter into a contract is surely a matter for you and the other contracting party to decide. The government need not usually be involved, either in determining what information should be asked for and certainly not in having access to that information. But they do so love to get involved, don't they, especially if someone else is paying (which someone else always is).

In the case of a pre-paid phone the company doesn't even need to know your name, but it has been decided by our betters that we can no longer enjoy the freedom to speak to whoever we choose without having the fact recorded in perpetuity and used against us later on the whim of some official. So from tomorrow you can't have a phone unless they know exactly who you are and where to find you. (In fact, you haven't been able to for some time; tomorrow is just the last date for giving all that info to the phone company. After that, you're a crook.)

This has been justified as part of (go on, guess) the fight against terrorism, because pre-paid, anonymous phones were used in the Madrid bombs in 2004. When I say justified, I mean the minister genuinely seems to believe that if they hadn't been able to use pre-paid phones the murderers would have given up and gone home.

It's just an excuse, of course. They do it because they can. It shows very clearly that the only reason we are not obliged to register every contact we make, every conversation we take part in, every friend we have, is that our masters haven't worked out a way to make us do it without paying a higher political price than they are currently prepared to contemplate.

I'm not paranoid, but I think it's a bad idea to imagine that people who want power over you and/or an easy life at your expense can automatically be trusted with your time, money or freedom. Experience suggests otherwise.

On another matter, the Spanish Communist Party has a new leader. This should not be significant, as they have only two MP's, and that's because of PR but El País thinks it is. They used to have rather more, but now they shouldn't matter. They used to have more because they made a big thing about some of their leaders being jailed by Franco and how they fought against him. Some of them were indeed jailed, but a lot of people liked to claim they had been jailed by Franco a posteriori, it was a badge of legitimacy in the transition, whatever the real reason for being in jail (v. Jesús Gil y Gil).

They Communists like to make themselves out as being brave fighters against Franco and an important part of the transition to democracy. Their role in the transition consisted of allowing themselves to be legalized, and though it is true that they opposed Franco, there was a democratic opposition which did far more, while the communists postured and offered- or rather tried to impose- a tyranny far worse than the one that already existed.

Said new leader talks the usual cobblers. I've written about it here, but I can't be bothered to translate it. He's not worth it.


Vincent said...

Bad stuff. I like to think they wouldn't get away with that over here. I can't see how it would work. I use a prepaid phone which my daughter gave me 4 years ago when she thought it was too old. I could top up from any atm or supermarket, though I usually do it through the phone itself on a credit card. I don't see how such a phone can identify a person.

Is there a prospect of your left-wing paradise being overthrown any time soon?

CIngram said...

The crooks will just steal phones or clone them instead of buying them pre-paid, or give a false identity for the number of their phone. It's not too hard to get around this law, but the law-abiding have no motivation to do so, not until they're picked up because someone the police are watching dialled their number by mistake.

As I say, I'm not paranoid and it's not the end of the world, just another irritating little reminder that our leaders don't care about our freedom.

The opposition Popular Party (centre right) is ahead in the polls but there won't be elections for another 2 1/2 years, so I'll have to put with all this utopia at least until then.