Sunday, January 01, 2006

Electronic tagging

Booker does us proud today, with a special mention of the Blog in his column – which, needless to say, the techies on the Telegraph site haven't translated into a live link.

The subject – as you might have guessed – is Galileo, Booker picking up on my earlier pieces (here and here) on the inability of the media to cover the issue in a grown-up fashion.

Interestingly, the very point Booker makes is amply demonstrated by a new piece on the BBC website, which deal with one aspect of the system – road charging.

Written by BBC News science reporter, Paul Rincon, under the headline "navigating future for road charges", this piece waxes lyrical about how the Galileo network "would allow a vehicle's exact movements to be tracked, presenting new possibilities for road-user charging and tolling." The precision and availability of the Galileo signal, we are told, would facilitate the application of charges according to the distance travelled by a vehicle, along with other parameters.

Then chirps Rincon, "each motorist would, of course, need to carry a satellite-linked 'smart box' in their car," but what he does not mention anywhere is that this so-called "smart box" picks up the Galileo signal, translates it into positional data and then adds your details in order to beam it on to the road charging administrator.

This means, of course, that you are effectively carrying a tracking bug in your car and every movement made in the vehicle will be recorded and retained. "Big brother" will be in the back seat or the boot (trunk, for our American friends) and, any time they wish, state authorities will be able to call up information.

Why the Beeb should want to omit such an important detail can only be imagined, but you can bet that, if the government decided to insist on electronic tagging for everyone, there would be an outcry. Yet, this is exactly what the system is – it is an electronic tag by any other name, and you don't even have to commit a crime to get one.


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