I'm not at all paranoid. Not a conspiracist and in fact, some would say I'm ridiculously naive. If I weren't I would never have taken on the Responsible Reform report (Spartacus Report) for a moment.
Hubby and I had a few conversations about potential Armageddon scenarios - would the Daily Mail train their telephoto lenses through our bay window? Would the DWP go rifling through our bins for something to shut me up? Would shadowy blokes with curly wurly earpieces show up at the door to make me an offer I couldn't refuse? We always decided not. I mean, why would they? What could they do? Discredit the poorly girl in the papers? I didn't care. Lock me up? It would be PR hari-kari.
I am a realist though, and to be honest, I always assumed that if the Government wanted to know what was in my emails, what I was saying on the phone and to whom, they could. I mean it's not difficult I believe?? I'm about as techy as your 86 year old Nan but lots of my friends have had their emails hacked by far lesser organisations than the UK Government. (After all if it's good enough for News International.....) If the combined talents of MI5 and other assorted letters and numbers can't keep an eye on the likes of me, I would in fact be worried for our national security.
Well, here's a little story for you. Kaliya Franklin and I talk on the phone most days for a good hour or so. We plot and strategise, plan and moan, put the world to rights, diagnose our various ailments and gossip.
As soon as I posted the appeal fund to raise money for "research" into DLA our phones went all funny.
At first we thought it was her phone line. Then we wondered if I was chatting too far from my home hub. Thing is, it couldn't have been because for weeks it only ever happened when I was on the phone to her. There would be a click, then the phone would go all echoey.
It became so normal, that we would stop talking about anything interesting and starting flirting with the "Men in Black".
We asked if they could pop up to the Wirral and help Kali move her fridge, we would ask them who shot Kennedy and whether Diana was really bumped off. Generally, we'd ask them to make themselves useful and come and help one of us out with jobs we couldn't manage - taking the rubbish out, clearing up the cat sick Kali's puss produces far too regularly - that kind of stuff.
As the report took shape, I was on the phone all day every day to journalists, charities, researchers and designers. I started using my mobile if I wanted to have a private conversation and stopped emailing details of the report.
A few weeks before the launch, other calls started to go all funny - only to other campaigners - never to my Mum or the doctors or my little boy's school. In the end we all laughed about it - except one Secret Spartacus who likes to be anonymous and who found it utterly terrifying.
The night before we launched the report, hundreds if not thousands of "Spartaci" were ready to go. They had preview copies of the report, an agenda for the next day and the excitement was palpable. I imagine the email traffic and behind-the-scenes activity spiked like a spiky thing - if you happened to be watching of course.
For 12 hours before the report "went live" I got messages popping up on my laptop - "The security of your network has been breached. Other users may be able to access your data" This has never happened before or since and maybe happened 5 or 6 times.
On the morning of the launch, my home phones went completely dead. For about three hours, no-one could contact me at all. According to our provider there was no regional fault.
It might sound crazy, but I was very, very busy and barely really registered these glitches. Looking back, I don't really care and still accept it could have been a string of "coincidences". It could have been anyone listening in of course. The DWP are not the only organisation who probably don't want a light shone on the incredibly murky world of welfare-to-work. And boy is it murky in places. And dirty.
The point is, I never for one moment doubted that the Government could and would find out what I was up to if they wanted to.
I think if we're all going to lament and wring our hands over a Surveillance State or becoming more like China by the day, that ship has already sailed.
By the way, did I ever tell you about the time I triggered a Russian Security alert? Yes, really, I did.
I put up an article entitled "Warning : Purnell Contagion, stay in your Homes" after the ultimate snake charmer, James Purnell had oozed all over our TV screens the night before.
I was leaving for Cambridge that morning, but just as we were set to go, I checked my blog stats and there was a sudden spike - 150 people or so all read my post at exactly the same time. That had never happened before. I thought it must be a mistake, but a minute or two later it happened again. It was as if a whole bank of computers all got my post at the same time and opened it together. Odd.
I took the laptop with me in the car to investigate, and when I checked where the hits were coming from, they were all from Russia. I hadn't been blogging long and by then, I was really very freaked out indeed.
It happened 4 times in all - all due to sudden interest from Russia. I was mystified - was Purnell secretly a Russian spy? Were the KGB on the way to my house? (Unlikely, but ya know....)
After a while the penny dropped - I'd posted a contagion warning on the UK internet - presumably the entire world is on red alert for deadly biological leaks or sudden unexplained epidemics. I can only assume that for a few minutes my attempt at satire was mistaken for a global health alert.