Thoughts on May’s border models

I’ve been thinking a little about Theresa May’s latest clarification of what her Government wants from Brexit and borders. I come at this merely as curious about some of the underlying models.

A line in Dan Roberts’ analysis sums up part of what is bothering me:

May’s convoluted proposals for avoiding a customs union would rest on the most intrusive and bureaucratic system of government monitoring yet devised.

(Roberts, D. Theresa May unveils fragile truce in third Brexit offering, The Guardian, last accessed 3 March 2018)

The proposals, which may or may not be technically feasible, offer to make Britain are far more digital society. The tagging proposals may mean the increase of automation and machine learning to manage the data and context required to manage this. The software will also rely on infrastructure such as networking, cloud, storage, and cybersecurity.

At one level, it would appear to a 21st century option, continuing down the automation and Big Data logic. But who hosts the data and software? Who provides networking? Would this be the government cloud and its Digital Marketplace? Who would be the developers? Private companies?

Yet Dan Roberts’ quote mentions the “most intrusive and bureaucratic system of government monitoring devised”. For me, this raises the spectre of the Snooper’s Charter, defeated by the European Court of Justice (Theresa May’s Snoopers’ Charter dealt major setback as EU court rules against ‘indiscriminate’ collection of internet data, The Telegraph), coming back in through a different means. The data collection may, or may not, be indiscriminate and one has to question what the thought models for development would be as well as how transparent they would be? (I would already assume not available for checking or verification.)

The part that is deeply concerning is the notion that technology will solve all of these problems. There has not been a mention of people but there is the extension of the increased surveillance that was defeated by the ECJ. But is this really thought out? Or is it also the response to the digital society that we live in, driven by techne born of techne? At current glance, May may be promising to compromise but it appears to allow her to revive not only her migration limit but also the surveillance required.


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