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Barak in to bat for Big Brother

by Ian Grayson, The Australian, 1 Mar 2002


GIANT globally connected databases containing details on everything from travel plans to bank accounts are vital to an effective battle against terrorist activity, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak has warned.

While such moves would be regarded by many people as an invasion of personal privacy, they were fundamental to the fight to ensure attacks such as those of September 11 did not happen again, Mr Barak said.

Information technology could play a powerful role in world security and it was up to governments to work together to maximise its use, he said. A co-ordinated global approach to sharing data collected using the latest technology was needed now.

Mr Barak, who led Israel from May 1999 to March 2001, said that in order to protect the citizens of the free world, those citizens would have to become used to slight disruptions to their daily lives and freedoms for many years.

These slight disruptions included having bank accounts and telephone calls monitored, travel movements tracked and electronic data open for examination.

Such calls for what effectively would be a global surveillance agency were also discussed by former US president Bill Clinton in his keynote speech to the World Congress on IT in Adelaide earlier this week.

Mr Barak acknowledged that some people would fear such moves, considering them a restriction of personal liberty. However, he said, there were ways to ensure this did not happen.

"The right way to avoid the world degenerating into a police state with Big Brother looking at everyone is to put these activities directly under the supervision of representatives of the legislative bodies of the free world," he said.

"I'm not suggesting to give law enforcement agencies a blank cheque or unlimited freedom to do whatever they want, but to make sure they are supervised by legislative bodies."

He spoke enthusiastically about new technical innovations such as biometric scanning that could match people to databases of known criminals in fractions of a second. Such technology should be put into widespread use as quickly as possible in as many countries as possible.

It was important to find ways of generating a feeling of community among nations.

Mr Barak has been retained as a special adviser by US technology company EDS. He provides counsel and guidance on how companies can better understand world markets.

© 2002 The Australian
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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