Tuesday 29 November 2016

The Tory Snoopers' Charter is now law

"Pry Minister image credit: Richard Littler
The Snooper's Charter became law on the 29th of November 2016 meaning that the United Kingdom now has by far the most invasive state surveillance laws of any nation in the developed world.

The invasive domestic snooping legislation means that the UK state will attempt to maintain a massive database recording the Internet browsing history of every person in the UK, innocent or guilty. They will then allow dozens and dozens of government agencies and quangos to trawl through this database looking for dirt.

Of course it makes sense to allow the secret services to look into what suspected terrorists are plotting, but this legislation doesn't just do that. It goes much much further. The first thing it does is presume that every single UK citizen is a potential criminal who needs to be spied on, then it allows all kinds of non-terrorism related agencies to trawl through people's Internet browsing histories.

The Tory Home Secretary Amber Rudd has continued with the bullshit 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 this challenge", but this kind of fearmongering provides no explanation of 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 authorities, the NHS Business Services Authority and the Gambling Commission to rifle through people's Internet Browsing histories.

With even the slightest understanding of the unprecedented powers this bill gives to huge numbers of non-terrorism related government agencies and quangos it becomes absolutely clear that Amber Rudd's justification story makes literally no sense whatever (see image).

A major concern is the potential for corruption in allowing so many agencies the power to trawl through people's browser histories. Just imagine the potential for scammers and stalkers looking for dirt to blackmail their victims with. Allowing the employees of such a huge number of agencies to access people's private data doesn't just provide direct opportunities to scammers and stalkers who might work for these agencies, it also offers them opportunities to steal and sell people's private data to criminals.

Aside from the extraordinary number of agencies that will be allowed to trawl people's Internet histories, there's obviously the problem of keeping such huge stockpiles of private data secure from data loss and hackers. We all remember the stories of government ministers and civil servants losing vast amounts of sensitive 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 the potential for human error is absolutely enormous, and that's before we even get to what kind of damage hackers could do with access to the Internet browsing histories of pretty much everyone in the UK.

The German government have recently claimed that they're worried that Russian hackers could interfere with their voting systems and the Chinese have developed incredibly advanced cyber warfare capabilities. The idea that Russian and Chinese hackers wouldn't see the potential value in access to massive data dumps of the Internet browsing records of pretty much every UK resident and business is fantastically naive stuff.

Aside from state sponsored hackers, 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 hack into.

Aside from the security issues and the assault on British liberties this legislation represents, just imagine the precedent that the UK is setting to other authoritarian regimes across the globe by collecting the browsing histories of the entire population. Just imagine the potential for political repression when barbaric and repressive regimes like Turkey follow Britain's lead 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 this appalling assault on the right to privacy, the presumption of innocence and the ability of British journalists to do investigative journalism without fear of meddling from any number of state agencies with vested interests in interfering in their work.

These right-wing authoritarian cheerleaders endlessly repeat the idiotic mantra of "if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear" without the remotest concern that this new law creates huge new opportunities for corruption, repression, persecution of the innocent and for the loss/theft of private data.

In a way these people are displaying an astonishingly naive and staggeringly hypocritical faith in the ability of government. When it comes to the latest Tory privatisation scam these right-wing apologists will always claim that the state is woefully pathetic and inefficient, so the private sector has to take over. But 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 0%!

This isn't the only example of right-wing hypocrisy over these invasive new surveillance powers. Just a few days before this legislation gained Royal Assent, these right-wingers were busy lecturing everyone about how horrible and authoritarian Fidel Castro was, but now they're wildly cheering an invasive state surveillance regime that Fidel Castro and the Cuban communists could never have imagined in their wildest dreams.

"Boo to nasty repressive Fidel Castro" these appalling hypocrites shouted, then just a few days later "Hooray for the introduction of the most invasive Orwellian state surveillance infrastructure in the developed world".

The hypocrisy of right-wing authoritarians really does seem boundless.

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