Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Private Lives

When Rowland Hill came up with the idea of a penny post in 1840 it seemed an idea whose time had come. It certainly beat the foot messenger carrying your billet doux in a cleft stick.
Although I wasn't there at the time, I believe that in the early days it was possible to post a letter in London in the morning and have it delivered in the metropolis in the afternoon. It was also a fair assumption that it would be delivered unopened and unread by any third party and was thus unlikely to appear in the next edition of The Times.
After 150 years of government meddling not only will your letter not be delivered the same day but the chances of it being delivered at all are slim.
So it was not surprising that many turned to the almost instant advantages of E-mail and, foolish electronic virgins that so many of us are, we naively assumed that our private messages would be just that – private.
That one of the beloved Mayor of London's staff should have had the contents of his personal mail blazoned across the pages of a tabloid newspaper was, I suppose, inevitable. The discloser of the information, who in moments of euphoria, refers to himself as a journalist, has had previous experience in such matters. And many would say of the unfortunate aide in question that it couldn't have happened to a better bloke.
But it is the equivalent of rifling someone's mailbox, extracting a letter and steaming it open. It has the advantage of course that you don't have to put the kettle on, just get an obliging geek to do the dirty work for you.
Why this is not a criminal offence beats me.
But it is just an extension of the intrusion into private life that is evident everywhere. I understand that there are still a couple glens in the Highlands of Scotland that are unmonitored by CCTV cameras along with a few spots in the Yorkshire Moors that are still lacking this invaluable piece of kit. But elsewhere it is a great comfort to know that, as you are being beaten up and robbed on the street, somewhere some jobsworth employee of Big Brother will be watching. He won't be able to stop you being robbed, of course, and the pictures will be too fuzzy to identify your assailants, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your cry for help is being watched with interest.
As far as getting the law to assist, you'd have been better off in Rowland Hill's day.
At any rate your letter would have reached them the same day.


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