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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do the descendent technologies from Bletchley Park protect or erode our freedoms?

Sometimes it is the juxta-positioning of events which adds a poignancy to ones experience. Such was the case within the last twenty four hours.

A visit to the famous Bletchley Park war-time code-breaking centre was an introduction to the world of Enigma, Bombe, Ultra and Hut 6. The replicated version of the world’s first semi-programmable computer, Colossus, gave an insight into what this technology could do in a benign context.

Contrast this with a small 21st century cameo today where I sought a replacement registration plate for the car. A simple transaction now acquires the status of something more bureaucratic, ie being asked for the log book and another form of identity, so as to check that bogus plates are not created.

Seems innocent enough, but this is yet another example of the incremental acquisition of data for the state. Turing, Flowers and their mates might be wondering whether sixty years on, they unleashed a technology as great a threat to our individual freedoms, as the causes to which Colossus was being harnessed in the first place.

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