Beating Cameron’s Internet Crackdown – The Snooper’s Charter
Amongst other shocking proposals such as abolishing the human rights act the new Conservative government has plans to introduce the innocuously named Communications Data Bill.
The bill also known as the Snooper’s Charter is intended to force British internet service providers to keep huge amounts of data on their customers which they will then be liable to produce on demand for the deliberately ambiguous purpose of ‘securing the nation’.
The UK already has one of the most invasive and untempered surveillance systems in the world with an unnecessarily complicated and almost impenetrable framework. Britain currently ranks as one of the most heavily surveilled nations in the world, but without any of the publicity that the NSA’s own programme has gained.
Graphic courtesy of UK privacy group International and the U.S. based Electronic Privacy Information Centre
Although Britain’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has found that the way in which the agencies use the capabilities they have is authorised, lawful, necessary and proportionate the potential for this program to be abused under the new Conservative government is huge. Recently appointed Home Secretary Theresa May was quick to speak out on the issue after the recent elections.
“We are determined to bring [the Communications Data Bill] through, because we believe that it is necessary to maintain the capabilities for our law enforcement agencies such that they can continue to do the excellent job, day in and day out, of keeping us safe and secure.”
Of course the government’s heightened surveillance scheme is being paraded as an essential security measure against the threat of terrorism. But this general threat that the UK supposedly faces, is a deliberate play on the nation’s fear of the unidentified other.
As we have seen in American politics the greatest threat to the nation comes from within. The Obama administration has successfully convinced the majority of American citizens that the NSA’s surveillance programme is in the interest of safety, but these vast data gathering exercises grant unrivalled power to a central government that evidently favours the interests of a small elite.
The country is still reeling from the shock of finding ourselves with a conservative majority, but the battle against self-centred authoritarian attitudes is far from over. For those of us that fear the regressive policies of Cameron’s government, handing over total control of our internet freedoms is unacceptable.
Even though the British government already has powers of mass surveillance, the passing of the Data Communications Bill will be another step towards the public acceptance of authoritarian programmes that seek to limit our freedoms in the interest of the ruling classes.
While this all sounds incredibly Orwellian, there is room to be optimistic since there is still time to act before the law takes effect, and there is still time to raise awareness of this critical juncture in British history. Of course it’s easy to feel hopeless sitting at our computers watching the world organise itself around us, but every voice is counted as long as we speak loudly enough.
Whilst we my lack a truly democratic voice under the FPTP electoral system the internet provides a way to circumvent this system and make our voices not only heard, but quantifiable. Speaking out against the Snooper’s charter is doubly important in this regard because it will help to keep the door open to the general public to speak their mind on the world wide web without having to hide from the government’s watchful eye.
You can find out more information and join in the discussion by subscribing to the Reddit board ‘Oppose the Snoopers Charter’. With over 100,000 subscribers you’ll find an excellent platform to discuss further measures to prevent the government gaining support for the bill. Over on Twitter you can use the hashtag #OpposeCDB to spread the word and let others know what’s at stake. Don’t forget that if you feel strongly about your right to informational freedom then writing to your local MP is a great way to push the issue into being discussed more publicly.
Thanks to the internet we’ve been given a real opportunity to level the social playing field by making society organised, safe and enjoyable without imposing a disproportionate power structure. The internet has provided a platform on which to represent ourselves without being told how best to go about it, making each of us the master of our own destiny. This relatively uncolonised space that still permits a huge amount of freedom to the average user is in opposition to the conservative notion that the vast majority of people are incapable of managing their own lives and cooperating harmoniously. Now is our chance to show what humanity is really capable of.