Back to the Future - 1984

Over the past decade or so, the UK certainty seems to been in a hurry to implement a 1984 society. It already has the largest DNA registry in the world, the UK National Criminal Intelligence DNA Database, which contains the records of over 4 million individuals. The fact that 1 in 8 records is faulty doesn't seem to be a deterrent to the police or government officials (like former PM Tony Blair) wanting everyone's DNA on file.

Then there is the children's' national registry, which by next year will have details of every child under 18 (all 11 million of them), including, "the country, listing their name, address and gender, as well as contact details for their GP, school and parents and other carers. The record will also include contacts with hospital consultants and other professionals, and could show whether the child has been the subject of a formal assessment on whether he or she needs extra help."

Of course, certain children 's records will be excluded (like those of politicians and celebrities), but for everyone else, some 330,000 "vetted" others will have access to them. The government has promised tight security over the records, but then why are some records being excluded? I wonder if celebrity and politician children have their DNA kept off the DNA registry as well - since there are over 100,000 innocent children DNA records on file.

Of course, the UK has a big lead in security and CCTV cameras as well, with an estimated 4.2 million in operation. There are red light enforcement and speed cameras throughout the country as well. This spring, new "talking" CCTV cameras were being installed in 20 areas across England that will inform individuals that they are engaged in littering or other anti-social behaviors.

And to add a bit more emphasis to the idea that we're from the government and we are here to help is a plan to implant microchips in trash containers as a means to encourage people to throw out less rubbish.

The UK does seem on the cutting edge of using IS&T to shape a different - if not necessarily - better society.


Risk Factor

IEEE Spectrum's risk analysis blog, featuring daily news, updates and analysis on computing and IT projects, software and systems failures, successes and innovations, security threats, and more.

Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City