The push-me-pull-yous of public policy: surveillance and freedom of information

1st March 2016


“If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear.”

Adage, attributable to someone or other.


Surveillance and freedom of information are the push-me-pull-yous of public policy.

Those politicians and officials in favour of ever-more surveillance will assure you that if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear.

But many politicians and officials – often the same ones urging greater powers of surveillance – want to weaken the freedom of information rights of the citizen against public bodies.  It would seem politicians and officials need the “safe spaces” which they also wish to deny the citizen.

Of course, this is a contradiction: the politicians and officials cannot – at least not intellectually – have it both ways.

At base the debates about surveillance and freedom of information are about the relationship of the citizen and the “state” – who knows what about whom.  And if politicians and officials want to know more about the citizens, then the same principle of transparency should first be applied to public activities.

After all, if politicians and officials have nothing to hide then they surely have nothing to fear.

header banner image


Regular blogging at Jack of Kent is made possible by the kind sponsorship of Hammicks Legal Information Services.  

If you value this blog and its content, please do click on the links to Hammicks and have a browse.

To get alerts for my new posts at Jack of Kent and the FT, and anywhere else, please submit your email address in the “Subscribe” box at the top of this page.

7 thoughts on “The push-me-pull-yous of public policy: surveillance and freedom of information”

    1. Whilst politicians can’t have it both ways over this issue, unfortunately the same applies to the citizen (who I’m told I should always refer to as the consumer). My only take on this is there are not the resources or will to spy on every individual and already the cat is out of the bag with data mining using the guise of social media on individuals by those with commercial greed at heart.

  1. It would be naive to believe that information gathered by public bodies in ‘Surveillance” is never unlawfully passed to interested third parties or that every M.P. acts correctly.

    Just to let you know, I received a ‘582 Bad Gateway’ message when I clicked on ‘visit’ your site in the WP Reader.

  2. Governments have a responsibility to protect its citizens, but citizens do not have the responsibility to protect the state. Citizens aren’t going to save lives of other citizens by spying on politicians or MI6. But a government’s first duty is to protect its citizens. With that responsibility, you must have some authority. Doesn’t the County of San Bernardino have an obligation to investigate the murders of 14 of its citizens? Its representatives want the FBI to unlock the iPhone of one of the terrorists. Why does Apple, a private company, have the authority to deny the County when it does not have the responsibility to protect the citizens of California?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *