These powers get floated every couple of years with the UK’s security bureaucrats (“securocrats”) looking for ways to mine deeper information from the population by getting real-time access to personal emails and phone call data like never before – all under the premise of protecting the nation. Labour tried to introduce something similar in 2006 and was ferociously shot down by the opposition – what’s changed?
These proposed powers, rumoured to be announced in the Queen’s Speech, would give security services and the government access not to the emails and phone calls themselves, but the data of when and between whom these communications were sent. Facebook, Twitter, and other internet communications would be similarly monitored. ISPs and phone companies will be forced to hold onto this data for GCHQ to have access to, even though the Coalition had an agreement to “end the storage of internet and email records without good reason”.
Their reasoning, as ever for these security overreaches, is that these powers are needed to protect citizens from terrorism, crime, and paedophilia – with terrorism high on the agenda for a year when the UK will see both the the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. But what they fail to disclose is that these measures wouldn’t come into force until 2013 at the earliest anyway – so any extra security needed for this summer’s events would be without these powers – something raise by Tory minister David Davis on BBC Radio 4 this morning.
Before the internet the government did not open everyone’s post to determine between whom and when communications were being made – why because this is digital is it any different? At some point we as a country are going to need to lay down some privacy laws that will protect UK citizens from exactly these types of measures that would be more suited to Iran or China than a supposedly open democracy. For a government that refused to share the risk assessment for its NHS reforms before Parliament took a vote on the subject, I’m not sure why they think people should have to share private details of private communications between private citizens. If those making these communications are a real threat then the security forces can get a warrant to gain access to all this information already – they should not just be able to do so on a whim.
In response, as Twitter users do – a hashtag has started up in #telldaveeverything with people CC’ing @number10gov in on their tweets such as:
— marsbard (@marsbard) April 2, 2012
— geekster (@geekgirl38) April 2, 2012
As you're reading my emails, you don't fancy replying to the starred ones too, do you? I'm tired. #telldaveeverything
— Philippa (@incurablehippie) April 2, 2012