Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Home Secretary Knows You're Reading This

Just imagine the government knew every website you'd visited, the addresses of every email you'd sent, who you'd rung, where, when and for how long. Actually, don't bother, because this isn't imagination, it's real.

the BBC reports today that Details of the times, dates, duration and locations of mobile phone calls, numbers called, website visited and addresses e-mailed which are currently held for 12 months, will be held for a minimum of 2 years under new laws, and potentially kept on a searchable database. That means they'll probably be left lying around on 2nd hand hard drives in trains as well.

It's a good time to bury bad news: scrapping SATS, abandoning 42 day detention, and now ratching up government snooping, all buried under a pile of used banknotes and stockbrokers empty packets of Valium.The governments own experts are opposed to this legislation, which isn't very encouraging.

Garbo comments, better than I could:
Sometimes enough really is enough. If we hadn’t reached the point already, then this morning’s “spit your cornflakes out moment” is the Communications Data Bill. Even the government’s terror watchdog thinks this is just too much. The Bill proposals include a giant database to store details of all phone calls, e-mails and internet use made by each and every one of us.

...the fact is I wouldn’t mind so much if I could trust the government not to misplace the data. Or, more to the point, not use such emotive rhetoric when in reality you can bet your bottom dollar the stated purpose of these initiatives and laws creep well beyond the remit of tackling terrorism. Because of this creep I am becoming more and more cynical due solely to the misuse of these so called terrorism powers.

We’ve had people walking on cycle paths arrested under terrorism laws, we’ve had Walter Wolfgang our very own 85 year terrorist (crime: he shouted nonsense to Jack Straw). There have been arrests of demonstrators at Heathrow airport – demonstrating against a third runway! Only last week Gordon Brown used terrorism laws to suspend Icelandic assets. In all there have been well over 1000 people arrested under terrorism laws – with only 40 convictions. Now I dare say many of these were correct and proper arrests… but only 4% actually proving to be associated with terrorist activity? Hmmm.

I am all for the government tightening up on a few civil liberties in the name of protecting us from terrorism. But they have a duty not to misuse these powers. Up to now they have misused these powers dreadfully. But Lord Carlile, the government-appointed reviewer of anti-terror legislation has said of the latest proposals “As a raw idea it is awful.” He also added “it should not be open season” on collecting data, under the mantle of fighting terrorism – implying that this Bill is open season.

This piece of legislations is unnecessary and it stinks. The government can already spy on suspected terrorists, why should the rest of be suspects too? Somehow and somewhere we need to find a balance between what laws are genuinely there to protect the public and what laws are being used outside this remit.... in short we need to ensure that terrorism laws are used for just that - fighting terrorism. Any policeman or government agency using these laws for any other purpose must be dealt with by the courts.

We all say and do things with friends that we might regret or that could be taken out of context if heard by the public or maybe even the government. And we all have private conversation with friends and loved ones that are, quite frankly, no one else’s business whatsoever. Who knows, taken out of context this blog post could be interpreted as a threat.

The bizarre thing is that if the government had micromanaged the financial markets with the same zeal they have for invading personal freedoms, we'd not have a credit crunch or a crisis in the banking sector. Did you get that Jacqui?

1 comment:

  1. Well said David.

    these proposals are highly intusive and it would certainly be interesting how often anti terrorist legislation has been used against those who most certainly are not terrorists as per the Iceland debacle.

    I think it is becoming increasingly difficult to trust power!