Who's watching you? (1)
We have "constructed one of the most extensive and technologically advanced surveillance systems in the world". That was the stark conclusion of Friday's report by the House of Lords Constitution Committee, "Surveillance: Citizens and the State".
BBC special correspondent Richard Bilton has been taking a journey through our surveillance society for a new BBC2 series called "Who's Watching You?", which will be broadcast this spring. He's been meeting both the watchers and the watched.
Cheaper and more advanced technology has prompted a massive expansion in surveillance - not just through CCTV, listening devices, tracking, but also through all the personal data that's collected on every one of us.
As the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas says, we leave an "electronic footprint" behind us almost wherever we go - with every click of the mouse, every phone call, every time we use a credit card. And that information just grows and grows, allowing a more and more detailed and intrusive picture to be constructed of how we each live our lives.
The paradox is that there is a great deal of support for things like CCTV. We all benefit from better crime detection and from easier and cheaper services. But we know surprisingly little about the depth and breadth of modern surveillance, or about the potential problems when things go wrong.
Wherever we went, we were told: "If you've got nothing to hide, then you've got nothing to fear." But when we looked further, we found people who had suffered from the loss of personal data, and ordinary people who are watched every minute of the day at work and even at home.
What we have found throughout making the series, almost whatever the type of surveillance, is that regulation is all too often an after-thought and sometimes non-existent.
Take CCTV for example. The Lords committee's report makes clear that "there are few restrictions on the use of public area CCTV cameras in the UK".
The government has already announced consultations on creating a new "super-database" to record the fact (but not the content) of every email, phone call and internet use, and also on the use of covert surveillance by local authorities; and it is due to reveal how it will come into line with a recent European Court of Human Rights ruling that our present DNA database has been in breach of the right to privacy.
"Who's Watching You?" will examine how surveillance is now becoming all pervasive but how little we understand it.
Mike Rudin is series producer of Who's Watching You? and The Conspiracy Files.