The government wants access to all electronic communication in the UK in order to fight pedophiles, terrorists, er… satan, aliens, and other things that are bad and scary. Obviously, this is a big threat to civil rights and privacy. Not every bad person is plotting on the Internet, believe it or not. And let’s be honest – if someone wants to transmit something very secret, sensitive, or highly illegal to someone else, there are many ways of doing it, and there’s little police can do with or without snooping rights. It also causes a huge headache for legitimate-but-secret projects (military, goverment, and industrial/technology groups) that are transmitting data. Although the authorities are “on the same side” as these establishments, they are not necessarily properly vetted or cleared to read the type of information that might come out of these snooping operations. What then? Could the UK inadvertently score a home goal when snooping authorities come into contact with restricted secure information? Could operatives working on military projects be wrongly fingered as being up to no good? Could the police be used for corporate espionage?
Let’s think of another scenario – if the police are allowed access to people’s online communications, it allows for a whole new wave of privacy breaches by newspapers and media outlets looking for a story. All someone would have to do is make a vague allegation against a celebrity and BAM! the police/authorities would have full access to their electronic life – and we know how hard it is for someone on a standard wage to be tempted by a bung for a few text messages or emails between, say, illicit lovers.
I say this; if the authorities want to access everything that people are doing to stop terrorist and pedophiles, and not to control the population at large, then have it. BUT, the first nonce that gets arrested for downloading dodgy pictures, or the first terrorism act that happens in the UK after gaining access to the Internet traffic, then it gets pulled back forever, because having access to this information simply did nothing to deter these atrocities.
Here’s an idea – saying that everything and everyone bad uses the Internet to spew evidence of their sick secrets is a bit convenient, and contrary to popular belief, people do things – good and bad – in the real world, so what about employing more police to pound the street? Get back to basics, start police policing in full view of everyone. Sure, one man and a computer can collect more information about people than a team of men armed with notepads knocking on doors, but I can’t imagine that those with secrets will be storing their information in general POP3 mailboxes owned by Microsoft, or on USB sticks hanging by a thin lanyard on a set of keys.
This “need” to gain access to private information in the name of justice is going to be the start of the end of civil liberties.