The government will be able to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK under new legislation announced by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Government. Under the new legislation, Internet firms will be required to give intelligence agency GCHQ access to communications on demand, in real time. Whilst on one side the Home Office is looking at this as a way to tackle crime and terrorism, it's clear that the impact personal liberties and the potential for political, military or terrorist abuse present a risk to every citizen.
The risk is that George Orwell's portrait of a nightmare state could easily come true here. If left unchecked it will be possible for the state to examine your personal life in detail. They will be able to do this without your consent. The boundaries of this intrusion have yet to be defined – so who would stop the government of the day using the information for social control and social manipulation?
The Digital Economy Act from 2010 is often seen as the first stage of 'controlling' the Internet and starts to open the doors for abuse of personal liberties – it's a stepping stone for the Chinese style Internet manipulation and control. Our local MP, Richard Benyon spent a great deal of time at the pre-election hustings asserting that he opposes the Digital Economy Bill – all this was for nothing though as Richard Benyon MP went back on his claims and failed to vote against the bill in 2010 (being absent from the debate). So much for the letter I have from Richard Benyon…
So we can't trust Richard Benyon MP to help here (especially as our MP has almost never voted against David Cameron's dictation – how can he represent Newbury when he is looking after his political career?)
Let's just look at what they are attempting to achieve – the government want to look at everything you do electronically – phones, email, social networking, browsing, blog entires – you name it. They are looking to do this because knowledge is power – power to catch the bad guys – power to manipulate the good guys; and lets face it, the majority of us are good guys. Quite frankly, I would oppose any type of social manipulation – especially for political, military or terrorist goals. Remember, if the government can do it, someone can pay for the government to do something else (remember those that paid to eat with David Cameron – does the lobbying abuse stop there?)
Let's break it down into the two key groups they are following. The bad guys (let's not get into who 'bad' people are for now) are the minority. They are generally skilled and trained on how to avoid detection and monitoring and they generally make things a bit difficult for the intelligence agencies to form a complete picture.
The rest of us, don't use any of this technology and at the moment don't see any need (why would we need to be afraid of our own government?)
So, if the majority of people who they do want to monitor would know how to get around it (using Tor for example), this will leave them monitoring the rest of us. If we are doing nothing special, then the only purpose would be for social management or social control.
So what are the risks? Analytics can be used to map relationships, communication streams, social groups, class structures, targeted demographics, keep all your personal information etc. They can with some simple software know your entire life in detail.
Bit like phone hacking for government, but with the added power that serious analytics can bring. For example, at the moment you could track your social network usage and other public documents to form a picture of people (try your name in 123people); but this generally only works with your consent. The government could force access to this information without your consent, add your emails, browsing history, how long you spend on sites, track what you clicked on, etc. Like google on steroids they could track your life. Would you trust any government or the military with this type of information? How quickly would the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats sell this out to business or to the US (who funds their political parties and second jobs)? What would happen if the information was 'lost' on a USB key (terrorist would literally kill for this type of information – such as who are most likely to support their cause)?
Making you feel more secure yet?
So who will police GCHQ and do it in an honest incorruptible and non-political way? How can we ensure political paymasters don't abuse the information or buy access to it? How do we ensure we keep the freedom of our press? Where do the courts come in here? This is a badly thought move towards a Tory police state.
The Green Party will consistently and openly oppose these deeply flawed and illiberal moves by the Government. The Conservative, Liberal Democrat and New Labour attempts to control the internet and snoop on our personal lives, our social networks and our personal communications are a disgusting move towards a police state. If you are looking to oppose these Orwellian moves, look for a fresh and honest approach to politics – join us, help us and vote Green at the next election.
Adrian Hollister, Newbury Green Party.