Thursday, May 31, 2007

Conscience or Wallet: Which wins? You Decide!

Back when the Lib Dems were having their leadership contest (Round II coming soon), the fight came down, in the end, to Campbell versus Huhne. In Chris Huhne's manifesto he said that under his leadership the Lib Dems would promise, "to roll back [Labour's] security-obsessed surveillance state". He also cited Benjamin Franklin saying "any country that trades its freedoms for its security deserves neither".

Personally speaking I think these are both honourable and absolutely correct statements to be making. Whilst there is a myth perpetuated by - most often - the Lib Dems, that Tories are instinctively authoritarian, it is simply not so. As a Tory that writes often about the encroachments on our liberties that are being built with ongoing technology infrastructure I think I can honestly reject that accusation.

The reason I bring this up though is that I find it somewhat bizarre that Chris Huhne would make such pronouncements about the "surveillance state" whilst simultaneously declaring on the Register of Members' Interests that he has shareholdings in a UK company called IRISYS which specialises in security, monitoring and surveillance intergration technology.


Anonymous said...

Dizzy posts with title " Conscience or Wallet: Which wins? You Decide!" However, I think he is making a false dichotomy.

I know nothing much of Chris Huhne; however, from my own work, it seems quite easy to work in the security field and be against draconian statist law arising, allegedly, from the threat of terrorism etc.

Firstly, are there not people who actually believe in sensible application of technology for the benefit of society (and have the wit to get that right more often than not), rather than just any old application of technology?

Secondly, security is a growing field. A decent slice of a decent-sized cake is surely better than a reputation for selfish bad-mannered greediness.

Thirdly, though government is often a good client for many businesses, the track record of the UK Government on security issues and anything connected with IT has not, of late, reached anywhere near that good average. Companies that wish to prosper through an enhanced reputation are at least somewhat wary of the less realistic expectations of some of their higher-profile prospective clients.

Best regards

dizzy said...

I know nothing much of Chris Huhne; however, from my own work, it seems quite easy to work in the security field and be against draconian statist law arising, allegedly, from the threat of terrorism etc.

This is true, but it you that is making the false dichotomy by conflating "security field" in general terms with the very specifc nature of a company that specialises in tools for integratiion of surveillance systems.

It is abundently inconsistent for a politician on the one hand to say he does not beleive in the "surveillance state" whilst on the other investing his money in a company that makes it money from such technological applications.

This is not a criticism of the technological applications themsleves, or for that matter the company. It is a criticism of the political inconsistency of what Huhne has said and what he has done.

Guido Fawkes said...

Not the first time Huhne has been conflicted between his wallet and his stated politics.

He made a lurch to the left on Green issues and tax hikes during his leadership bid.

Andrew Neil tore him to pieces live on air for using tax shelters to invest his portfolio which included a very un-green investment in a Middle Eastern mining corporation.

Anonymous said...

Well, I didn't know anything about IRISYS either, before you posted your link. Now I know more, but nothing showing any particular emphasis on government and plenty showing the application of 3 main products more generally.

These products are: (i) smart trackers and counters (counting the number of people in a small area using infra-red imaging); (ii) thermal imagers; and (iii) access control tailgate detectors (for doors used by people, not vehicles).

I found press releases about automatic monitoring of supermarket checkout queues, and opening of new lanes appropriately, and other interesting civil applications of their technology.

This all seems nice modern security technology and associated applications, but nothing particularly big-brotherish.

The government applications I found were: (a) National Army Museum: "We chose the IRISYS system because it provided us with the ability to record accurate visitor figures with the minimum of disruption to the public"; (b) Oxford City Tourist Information Office: "It has been extremely useful. The hourly, daily and weekly counts are already providing valuable management information."

None of what I found rings bells concerning hypocrisy on the "security-obsessed surveillance state". However, that does not stop there being involvement with such things; just that they are not "advertised" on the company's website. Is there any chance you might post a link on anything you know on that, and the proportion of the company's business that it represents.

Best regards

dizzy said...

If you look a little deeper on the site you will see that their products are integrated into CCTV systems and the intrusive monitoring as well.

dizzy said...

They also have clients in Local Government.

Chris Paul said...

Chris Huhne is a Lib Dem and he is a chancer. He used EU allowances did he not (when asn MEP) to take rather expensive adverts in local Lib Dem leaflets thereby paying for them to those leaflets and promoting a future candidacy as an MP.

John Leech MP has done the same sort of thing with adverts to get his details listed. He also backed Huhne. Though not before he had sworn Chaz must stay while in the same interview saying he was backing Clegg.

Good story.

Not unrelated to the Cluster Bombs / Will-lie Rennie / John Leech travesty.