The British government is pushing for the state-wide ability to monitor the emails and all other forms of online communications, mobile communications as well as any social networks that are used. The plans to monitor this information have yet to be published, although we can expect something more concrete in the Queen’s speech in May.
There has been no mention as to how much this would cost the public to implement, but you can be assured that not only collecting, interpreting and housing that amount of data will be in the high millions if not billions. Whitehall sources confirmed the legislation may well enable GCHQ to access some information “on demand” and in “real-time” and it remained unclear whether a warrant would be necessary.
Back in January, Prime Minister David Cameron launched a campaign called, “The Business in You” to encourage entrepreneurs and start-up companies. Given what this proposed law dictates, I can see start-up companies doing well given that the privacy of their potential clients will be fully accessible to the UK government. Should that come to pass, any young entrepreneurs and start-up companies will simply start their business in a less restrictive place.
The home secretary, Theresa May, has defended government plans to extend the powers of the security services to monitor the public’s email, telephone calls and social media communications against growing criticism, insisting they are vital to catch paedophiles, terrorists and other criminals.
But new technology can also be abused by criminals, paedophiles and terrorists who want to cover their tracks and keep their communication secret.
Channel 4 News questioned MP James Brokenshire, who is the Minister for Security at the Home Office which grants him a seat on the National Security Council, during a live interview yesterday to answer one simple question, “Who will have access to this information”, to which he refused to answer even after being asked multiple times. (YouTube link if you are unable to view the video below in your country)
As is becoming the norm these days for when trying to push through controversial laws that involve the monitoring of the public’s private communications or similar laws, MP’s/ politicians will always go with shock words to try to get the voters onside. Words like, Paedophiles and Terrorism are great words that politicians can fling around as they know, that those words will be media grabbing ones. Once used, the hope of the politician is that people will be more than happy to have new laws that will deal with them.
Lets take a look at three examples. I chose to use US and UK examples due to the symbiotic relationship our two countries have, and in that UK law seems to increasingly adopt US laws to a worrying degree. As does the involvement of corporate lobbying have an increasing relationship with our laws. (MPAA, RIAA, BPI etc)
1] The USA Patriot Act was a sweeping law that was passed a month after the Sept. 11th attacks and greatly expanded the government’s powers in conducting antiterrorism surveillance and investigations. Since then the act has been greatly abused:
A report released today by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on the FBI’s use of National Security Letters (NSLs) reveals a systemic, widespread abuse of power. The FBI’s authority to issue NSLs was widely expanded by the USA Patriot Act and it has been increasingly used to collect private information on American citizens without court approval. Today’s audit follows a report released last year that found serious breaches of department regulations and multiple potential violations of the law.
2] The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a United States federal law specifying the budget and expenditures of the United States Department of Defence. Each year’s act also includes other provisions. Again, this act has been abused
- Section 1021 of the NDAA allows the U.S. military to indefinitely detain, without due process, any person engaged in “hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners … without trial until the end of hostilities.”
- Section 1022 expressly states that the military will imprison anyone who is a member of al-Qaeda or “an associated force” that acts like al-Qaeda; and anyone who planned or carried out an attack, or attempted attack, against the U.S.
- Section 1022 continues that detaining American citizens is not required. “UNITED STATES CITIZENS — The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.”
3] The Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act (officially titled Bill C-30, originally titled Lawful Access Act) This bill was first introduced by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper on February 14, 2012. The bill would grant authorities new powers to monitor and track the digital activities of Canadians in real-time, require service providers to log information about their customers and turn it over if requested, and make back door entrances mandatory allowing remote access of individuals’ electronics, each without needing a warrant. Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show that the government desires to use the expanded powers in cases not involving criminality. The bill does not mention children, or internet predators, other than in its title; critics claim the “feel-good name” is unrelated to the content of the bill, and chosen simply to “sell legislation to the public”. Critics claim that authorities would likely use the powers to harass peaceful protestors and activists.
On February 13 2012 in the House of Commons (Canada) when debating about the coming bill, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told a Liberal MP he could either stand with the government or “with the child pornographers” prowling online.
That says it all really.
Now I can understand that having laws in place to effectively deter the two groups (paedophiles and terrorists) as well as other crimes, is a must and should exist, but what I find completely objectionable is the constant use of these fear mongering words by politicians of late to get new sweeping bills passed that would affect innocent members of the public.
In April 2010, the UK Digital Economy Bill, which was introduced by Peter Mandelson, gained royal assent and become law. The bill is said to be aimed at copyright infringement. The Independent reported that according their Whitehall sources First Secretary of State Peter Mandelson was persuaded that tough law were needed to reduce online copyright infringement following an intensive lobbying campaign by influential people in the music and film industry. The paper also reported that this included a meeting with DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen at the Rothschild family villa on the Greek island of Corfu.
A report by the London School of Economics and Political Science finds that the Digital Economy Act as written, gets the balance between copyright enforcement and innovation wrong. It finds that overall, peer-to-peer technology has many legitimate benefits and therefore, should be encouraged to promote new innovative applications. Also, its research shows that not only is the amount of revenue estimated to be lost due to illegal file sharing to be “wishful thinking” but the approach put forward in the Bill as being both an expensive and ineffective way to control rights for the now out-of-date business models that lobby for it. Rather, it suggests that “hassle-free” gateways to legal music downloading is more effective way of protecting copyrights. At the same time, preserving file sharing will encourage rather than discourage innovation in the music industry rather than stifle it in the way that the unaltered Act would, which the very opposite of what this Bill claims to encourage
That was a blatant example of corporations, and their deep pockets, getting involved with politics with an aim to have laws passed that would only really serve them. The Bill itself was rushed through The Wash-up so there would be little, if any, opposition to the Bill. Between 2011 to 2013, Ofcom is expected to have spent £5.8m for the implementation of the technical measures and online copyright infringement provisions of the bill.
That same year, Prime Minister David Cameron, commissioned Professor Ian Hargreaves to do an independent review of the United Kingdom’s intellectual property (IP) system, focusing on UK copyright law. You can find his finding below:
We are in danger in this country of sleep walking into a police state as we blindly allow our elected representatives, who have very little understanding of the technology that they create laws on, to further erode our civil liberties. Every time one of these crazy laws is passed we take another step forward to a future that I would hate my children to be brought up in. People need to wake up to what is happening, or find yourselves in a place where you are monitored at every step. This law, and others like it are about one thing, and one thing alone. Control.
Should this new legislation pass, which unfortunately it looks like it will, you can bet that it will be built upon and built upon, using various excuses by future governments, until any privacy you once had will vanish completely.