I think this is a fascinating subject, so allow me to interject a few comments in the interests of rational debate. Certainly it's pointless to turn this into a fight over whose country is more fucked up at the moment, so I'll try to avoid that and be objective.
i live in a country with a high level of surveilance but i'm not such a paranoid fool as to think the government is spying to me
Are you also prepared to believe that no government or administration ever will?
We have a free press and no equivilent of Fox News, ...
In this segment you appear to be arguing that because your other institutions of government and society are somewhat more modern and effective than those in the U.S. that surveillance isn't a major concern. Is this because the press represents an effective check on overzealous monitors? Because the British people and politicians are more likely to oppose misuse of surveillance technology? Is it because of some British attitude towards homogeneity that affects the level of outrage over targeting potential criminals or trouble-makers?
i think you need a little perspective and a closer look at some of what Bush has been doing re surveilance
Some definite concerns here. It is important to note that the US a damn lot of cameras as well, only a large portion of them are owned by private businesses, and only happen to sometimes cover public streets, etc. There are some issues of accountability to be discussed here, but there's an argument that the use of those cameras by law enforcement is less troublesome, since at least some non-law-enforcement folks have likely had access.
before you start accusing countries of right wing extremism maybe you should look closer to home
Speaking for myself only, and not in defense of the grandparent post, I do, and am. Looking closer to home, that is. Nonetheless, it's worth keeping in mind that the UK doesn't have to itself become a fascist state to be a current testbed for methods and technologies that could support fascism in other places. The pragmatic British may have everything under control, but in a connected world, the export of these technologies and methods is a concern to those of us who live in, ahem, less pragmatic places that may take a cue from London.
All that being said, I think it's naive to assume we can put the surveillance genie back in the bottle. I don't see how it can be legislated away or controlled via restriction. I lean towards David Brin'sposition: thinking that we can prevent widespread surveillance will only force the surveillance further underground where we can't get at it. There will always be powerful men who wish to exert greater control through monitoring, and the will to find secret ways to do so. I'm not yet convinced that Brin's transparent society is the one and only solution to the problem, mind you, but it's an engaging argument, I think.
In the meantime, I think wisdom exists somewhere between the arguments made (or implied) here by Adam and dC0de. Technology being what it is, it's absurd to think that network enabled sensoria won't soon be too small to see or avoid. It's likewise dangerous to adopt a pollyanna attitude that the government (or non-governmental agents who gain access, illicit or otherwise, to the data) won't eventually abuse power once it has been acquired (admittedly, this is a very cynical and American viewpoint steeped in a couple hundred year tradition of distrusting government, but it's one that I, not being a gun owner, libertarian, or member of any other political affiliation in which distrust is a party plank, have found logically consistent and therefore defensible). I would certainly like to believe that the UK's society and forms of government are immune to the dangers of ubiquitous government surveillance, but in fact I don't. I absolutely don't believe in or support the notion that Americans arming themselves is an adequate response either. Armed revolt is a last resort that a decent sized segment of our population is somewhat too ready to rely on.
Thus, I will propose a set of assumptions, namely :
1. surveillance technology will continue to improve and become smaller,
2. it is impractical to control the use or spread of surveillance technology through legislation,
3. a monopoly on surveillance, even by a presently benign government, represents a dangerous system,
Starting from that minimal base, I'd like to see some refutations or expansions that grow the dialogue here.