I came across a very strange press release from my local TD today. Now, let me be very straight up, James Bannon is a very nice chap, and a constituency politician that could eat and drink the likes of me. He is well able for the rough and tumble of local politics. However, he has now called for legislation to stop the use of smartphones as recording devices. Anyone can see the problem here in the current environment. It isa charter for protecting people who want to say different things in private than public, for people who want to hide opinions from the public. It is in short a complete attack on freedom of speech and the right of the public to information. Sadly it seems to me that the Deputy did not seek out anyone to research this or to get opinions from. In the wake of many scandals, the latest of which is the Michael Lowry story this is the last thing a government TD should be saying. Here is the text of the Press release in full. Make up your own mind:
“Bannon calls for legislation in relation to smart phone recording usage
Safeguards must be put in place to protect the privacy of the individual from the intrusion of smart phones
Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael Deputy James Bannon has today (Wednesday) called for the introduction of legislation to protect the privacy of individuals against the indiscriminate recording of conversations without consent.
“The fall-out from the advance of technology and the prevalence of social media sites has been well documented in the press, the Oireachtas and other forums.
“This exposure has been particularly focused on cyber bullying, following recent tragic events in this country.
“However, the same attention has not, been given to the intrusion of the smart phone into personal privacy.
“The ease with which it facilitates covert recording is far in advance of any heretofore device available over the counter.
“Most people consider that recording a conversation without consent between individuals, at meetings, in the work place etc., is illegal. However, the new communications ‘toys’ available under the umbrella of ‘smart phones’ make such activity seem possible and acceptable; at its most innocent it is maybe just a bit of a laugh but can be far more sinister.
“The more alert and vigilant would be cognisant of the tell-tale give away of the averted gaze as the ‘recorder’ continually looks down and appears to be talking to a fixed point, with a lack of eye contact. Nonetheless taking action against such activity is difficult for an individual.
“What we must not forget is the power of bias and emphasis that is by default given to the ‘recorder’. Just as the TV interviewer can control and manipulate the questions and tone to present a picture favourable to their desired image, so too can the tone of a recorded conversation be geared to present a desired perception.
“Every effort must be brought to bear to increase legislative protection against such activity. As technology advances so too must safeguards”. ENDS