The Tory introduced Snoopers charter became law on the 29th of November 2016, meaning that the UK now has the most invasive state surveillance laws of any nation in the developed world. The invasive domestic snooping legislation means that the UK government will be able to maintain a mass database, recording the entire online browsing history of every person in the UK, regardless of whether they are doing anything wrong or not. They will then allow dozens and dozens of government organisations and agencies to trawl through this database looking for dirt. The only people exempt from the Charter are MP’s themselves, who seem far too interested in their own political careers that they clearly don’t want to be caught doing things contrary to the interest of the people, like say spying on the plebs that they claim to represent. While it makes sense for the secret services to look into what suspected terrorists are plotting, this legislation goes a lot further than that. First and foremost, it presumes that every single UK citizen who does not hold a position in government is a potential criminal who needs to be spied on, then it requires all kind of non-security related agencies to trawl through their internet history.
The Tory Home Secretary Amber Rudd has continued with the pathetic excuse that this bill is about preventing terrorism by claiming that ‘the internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront these challenges’. However, this kind of fearmongering provides no excuse for why the government just passed a law that allows people working for the Health and Safety Executive, the food standards agency, various fire and rescue services, The NHS Business Services authority and even the Gambling Commission to rifle through peoples Internet Browsing histories. Even the smallest understanding of the unprecedented powers this bill gives to non-terrorism related government agencies and quangos should be enough to tell you that that Amber Rudd’s justification story makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Despite this, the problems with this bill go well beyond the fact that Rudd has lied about its intensions.
A major concern is the potential for corruption in allowing so many agencies to trawl through people internet histories. Just imagine the potential for scammers and stalkers looking for dirt to blackmail their victims with. Allowing the employees of such huge number of agencies to access peoples private data doesn’t just provide direct opportunities for scammers and stalkers who might work for these agencies, it also offers them opportunities to steal and sell peoples private data to criminals. Aside from the extraordinary number of agencies that will be required to trawl through people’s internet histories, there is obviously the problem of keeping such massive stockpiles of private data safe from data loss and hackers. We all remember stories of government ministers and civil servants losing vast amounts of data by leaving it on the train, sending it via unrecorded mail, or simply stuffing it into bins in public parks. The creation of such vast databases of private information means that the potential for human error is absolutely enormous, and that’s before we even get to the damage hackers could do with access to the Internet browsing histories of pretty much every single person in the UK.
The German Government has recently claimed that their worried about Russian hackers could interfere with their voting systems and the Chinese have developed incredibly advanced cyber warfare technology. The idea that Russian and Chines Hackers wouldn’t see the potential value in access to massive dumps of the Internet browsing records of pretty much every UK resident and business requires some serious mental gymnastics to wrap your head around. Not to mention there are also plenty of criminal hackers out there who must be ecstatic at the idea of the government creating massive stockpiles of private information for them to get their hands on.
Aside from the security issues and the assault on British liberties this legislation represents, just imagine the precedent the UK is setting to other authoritarian regimes across the globe by collecting the browsing histories of every single member of the population, who does not is not in some way able to rule over the country. Just imagine the potential for political repression when barbaric and repressive regimes like Turkey follow Britain’s lead and begin spying and begin spying on every single citizen and trawling through their private data looking for anything to persecute their citizens for. Predictably, despite the obvious concerns, large numbers of right wing authoritarians are cheering up this appalling insult on the right to privacy, the presumption of innocence and the ability of British Journalists to do Investigative journalism without fear of being of meddling from any number of state agencies with vested interests in interfering in their work. As I explained in my previous blog post, I am no fan of Fidel Castro. However, I find it especially ironic that the same right wingers who were only a few days previously busy lecturing everyone about how authoritarian Castro was, are now wildly cheering an invasive state surveillance regime that Cuban Communists could never have imagined in their wildest dreams. These right wing authoritarians endlessly repeat the mantra of ‘If you’ve got nothing to hide you have got nothing to fear’ without the remotest concern that this law creates huge opportunities for repression, persecution of the innocent and for the loss/theft of private data.
In a way these people are displaying an astonishingly naïve and staggeringly hypocritical faith in the government. When it comes to the latest Tory Privatisation scam these right wing apologists will always claim that the state is woefully inefficient and that the private sector has to take over. However, when it comes to the government running vast databases of private information they’ve trawled from innocent people, suddenly in their minds the state becomes so wonderfully and exceptionally efficient that the chances of corruption, data loss and vulnerability to hacking are non-existent. The hypocrisy of right wing authoritarians really does seem boundless.