The twin aims of increasing state surveillance and using such technology to increase taxes have taken a bit of a beating in recent days - good news for taxpayers, who would have had to foot the bill for Government's incompetent implementation of the technology and cough up for the higher charges, too.
First, Norwich Union's "pay as you drive" car insurance, which would use satellites to track your whereabouts at any given moments in order to tax you, has bitten the dust - apparently because people simply don't like being constantly watched by an eye in the sky. This is significant because it was widely seen as an unofficial trial run of the Government's road pricing scheme.
Having apparently failed to attract much more than 10% of their intended 100,000 customers, NU have had to ditch the scheme for financial reasons to, according to Radio 4's Money Box, which discussed the sheer expense of installing black boxes in every car, keeping the constant satellite tracking going, processing bills correctly etc. If an experienced, specialist insurance firm with a good reputation and strong finances can't manage it, what chance have the Government got of doing it properly and successfully?
Now, it emerges that one of the first councils in the country to pursue pay-as-you-throw bin taxes by microchipping bins has had to abandon that scheme, too. Not only did the technology not work, but flytipping rose 250% as we had warned. Understandably, a lot of people seem to have removed the chips, too - after all, having a council computer full of information about when you are and aren't at home is a honeypot for potential burglars.
The Government still have five pilots of the technology set to being within the next year, which they should surely cancel given the fiasco in South Norfolk and elsewhere.
There are a number of problems with using snooper technology to push taxes up. First, people don't like to be spied on. Second, the State is so incompetent that such schemes are hugely expensive and information is at risk of being lost. Third, for all the talk about fairness these proposals are almost universally about pushing taxes up - some bin taxes could see households pay upwards of £400 a year extra. Finally, as we've seen over the last few days, they just don't work.