Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Big Brother state – by stealth.

The British Big Brother state is set to move a stage closer as the government plan to make it possible for agencies to share sensitive data with each other in a move which is being widely condemned by civil rights agencies.

Opponents of the move accused the Government of bringing in by stealth a data-sharing programme that exposed everyone to the dangers of a Big Brother state and one of the most intrusive personal databases in the world. The new law would remove the right to protection against misuse of information by thousands of unaccountable civil servants, they added.

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, said he believed Britain had gone too far in helping to bring about a "surveillance society". In a report drawing on personal data infringements across Europe but "inspired" by Britain's plan for a new internet, email and telephone database, he added: "General surveillance raises serious democratic problems which are not answered by the repeated assertion that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. This puts the onus in the wrong place: it should be for states to justify the interferences they seek to make on privacy rights."

Hammarberg hits the nail on the head. The argument that "those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear" ignores the fact that all of us have a right to privacy and that it is for the government to prove they have a need and a reason to interfere with that basic right.

This legislation reverses that and means that privacy is sacrificed before the governments right to know everything.

And, as David Howarth points out, this is not a government known for handling sensitive data very well:

David Howarth, the Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, added: "The Government shouldn't try to sneak through further building blocks of its surveillance state. Unrestricted data-sharing simply increases the risks of data loss. This is particularly troubling since the Government has already shown itself entirely incapable of keeping our personal data safe."

It's shocking that a Labour government should be trying to sneak this shit through. But, from Blair onwards this is what this Labour government has been doing.

Britain is currently, thanks to it's CCTV networks, under more surveillance than any other population on Earth. Now the government - thanks to it's proposed Communications Data Bill - wants access to the lot; emails, internet searches, telephone calls. There will literally be nothing outside of the governments reach. Which few of us would object to when dealing with suspected criminal activity, but this will now be done to all of us simply as a matter of course. We are all, in effect, suspects now.

NO2ID, a group which campaigned against government plans for ID cards and the associated National Identity Register, said the proposals went far beyond data protection and were intended "to build the database state, concealed under a misleading name". The group's national co-ordinator, Phil Booth, said: "This is a Bill to smash the rule of law and build the database state in its place. Burying sweeping constitutional change in obscure Bills is an appalling approach. Having proved – and admitted – they cannot be trusted to look after our secrets, they are still determined to steal what privacy we have left. Parliament needs to wake up before it has no say any more."

We are always being told that al Qaeda wish to destroy our way of life, but the reality is that they don't have to. The government, whilst claiming to be working to prevent such a thing, are actually doing it for them. Certainly as far as privacy is concerned.

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