Tag Archives: Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill

State surveillance is not comparable to online privacy issues

Often, when opposing state surveillance such as that revealed by Ed Snowden, activists are questioned why they use online services that actively collect data about them. There is one core reason why this comparison is unhelpful and irrelevant.

“You are the product” goes the saying, which is true. Companies like Google and Facebook collect streams of data about who we are and what we do. Some have called this “self-surveillance”.

When we “self-surveil” and grant companies the ability to use – and sell – our data, we expect – and get – something back. We get a service. We pay a small privacy price (largely inconsequential, I’d argue) in exchange for a service.

On the other hand, the state demands we let them take our data. They chose warrant-less mass-collection over targeting, leaving us in the dark about what they’re collecting. We get nothing in return – there is yet to be a convincing case, backed up with evidence, that the mass surveillance of the citizenry in any way makes us safer.

There is one, undeniably crucial difference however.

The state has the power to use that data against us in a devastating way.

We can be detained, without charge, for fourteen days – the longest pre-charge detention period of any comparable democracy. Previously this limit was 28 days, and there was an attempt to raise it to 90 – that’s 3 whole months of being locked up for being a suspect.

Outside of detention, the state has the power to severely limit our activities with only “suspicion” as a reason, destroying the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

I don’t see any social networks able to limit my civil liberties…

Image: CC-BY-SA George Rex

The erosion of civil liberties and the legitimacy of Parliament

*sigh*

I’ve moved from angry to depressed. Here’s my letter to my MP, Michael Fabricant, about the Data Rentention and General Bullshit Bill (DRIP);

Michael,

There’s probably no point in even bothering, given you are highly unlikely to rebel against your party (which, by the way, says something about our “representative democracy”, don’t you think?) but I can’t let this one pass.

After trying it with the slave labour Workfare scheme your party in Government is trying to legalise something that has been found illegal. The new Data Retention & Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) has no legal basis, being as it seeks to legalise an existing practice that has already been ruled illegal by the European Court of Justice.

Not only that but the way in which this bill has been concocted and is being pushed through questions the very legitimacy of Parliament itself.

It is a fundamental principle of our parliamentary democracy that bills are presented to the House of Commons and scrutinised in depth by our elected representatives. We put faith in you do to this. No such process is taking place with this bill, which has been cobbled together in a secret cabal of all three major parties. MPs, such as yourself, have very little time to look at the bill.

We have been told that no new powers are being introduced. If this were true that does still not make the bill any more necessary or legal, given the legality of the practice it legislates on. However, initial analysis of the bill shows that it does contain new, wider powers.

We’re told this is a temporary measure, but as the last Labour government demonstrated this is meaningless. Hindsight tells us to expect these powers to remain permanently. Parliament’s record on this is there for all to see.

So I implore, no, I demand, you vote against this legislation in the interests of promoting a liberal country free of unwarranted mass surveillance already deemed illegal. Were you to vote for this legislation (or cowardly abstain as I fear many will) you will be complicit in the continued erosion of our civil liberties that will further damage the legitimacy of Parliament. Parliament is already woefully unrepresentative and citizens are engaging more with campaign groups than they are political parties such as yours. This is just one battle in the ongoing war for a politics that serves the people, not narrow interests.

Yours expectantly,

Philip John