I remember from library school in the mid-90s the argument in our collection management class between “Just in Case” and “Just in Time”.
I have always been a just in time person and I could be quite ruthless when it came to weeding collections. The number of books on the British royal family that I withdrew from the library collection (do you really need 20 books on Princess Di?) had me branded a republican. Which I am- except on the Queen’s birthday holiday…
The just in case argument though, is being used in a far more insidious manner than cornering the publishing market on all things Windsor (nee Saxe Coburg-Gotha).
The Federal Government wants my personal web browsing data, just in case I turn out to be a terrorist, or a criminal. This data is not only personal browsing history, but emails. This is akin to libraries having to retain borrowing data of patrons, just in case it’s needed. So rather than have law enforcement authorities follow the procedure of applying to a court to obtain permission to record this information, ISPs will have to log and retain this information for years- just in case.
Does the government really want to know I spend too much a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter, or that one of my favourite searches is for lyrics to library-related songs? No it doesn’t, but it might. Just in case.
It is this type of just in case form of legislation and regulation which creeps up on us. Being a largely apathetic lot (except when it comes it sport), most Australians probably wouldn’t care that in the case of ‘domestic violence’ (not the type which occurs in the home, but a vaguely defined as a disturbance), the army can be called in to use lethal force, raid people’s homes and interrogate civilians.
Hopefully people will care enough that their online browsing habits may be open to government scrutiny (our habits are already open to Google’s). In the meantime, I’ll continue on my merry way, exercising what rights I have to free speech before someone comes to take me away. Just in case.