The return of the Snoopers' Charter?

March 3, 2016 11:19 AM
By Elliot Sabin-Motson in Huffington Post

The Snoopers Charter has been reintroduced into the House of Commons after being blocked by the Liberal Democrats while in Coalition. This proposal will infringe upon our civil liberties. In bringing this bill to light I hope to hold Theresa May and the Tories to account - something that this Tory Government dislikes, Elliot Sabin-Motson, vice chairman of the Middlesbrough and East Cleveland Liberal Democrats has written in the Huffington Post.

The proposed Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) gives the Police and Security Services the ultimate power to tap our phone calls, track everything we do online and hack our electronic devices - all the name of security. As a society, do we value the increase in the safety of the country at the cost of our freedom? Will the stripping of our civil liberties curb extremism and other forms of crime, or only make it worse?

On a fundamental level there are three things we need to inspect carefully as a society before we allow the Conservatives to pass this bill.

1. Will this bill be the first of many?

The possibility that this bill will be heading down a "Slippery Slope" is terrifying. The outcome will create an erosion of our privacy until there is simply nothing left. This bill should not be supported for this very reason. By opening the door to more legislation being filed under the guise of safety and security will lead to nothing short of a repeat of post 2001 anti terrorism measures, which we have already seen in the United States with the Patriot act enacted after 9/11.

2. Is it even possible?

The large scale tracking that the government wants to implement is looking to be one of the Investigatory Power Bill's greatest shortcomings, with the large scale tracking of every internet connected device and the logging of every web service that each device is connected to will provide to be an amazing technological feat in itself. The amount of data that will pass through the system will be enormous: phone calls, texts and web traffic. Is this just simply too much data and are we trying to find a needle in the largest Haystack ever conceived which would still be growing at an alarming rate every second.

3. Is this bill too vague?

The "snooping" powers of this bill have an incredibly wide reach, it allows all law enforcement to exercise these powers (including transport police) under very vague conditions. It also allows other government departments such as the Health and Safety Executive, the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC to access the communications data Internet Service Providers (ISPs) legally have to collect, should the bill be allowed to pass.

I pose this question to you, Theresa May: If this bill's purpose is to curb terrorism, why does the Department for Work and Pensions, HMRC and the Health and Safety Executive need access to log files of our internet connection and search history and the ability to hear archived phone calls we made the night before to the local pizzeria? This intrusion into our personal lives is beginning to look very much like the start of something much more sinister than the terrorism that you say you are defending us from. It is looking more and more like a blatant attempt to whittle down our civil rights to privacy and as a country we need to defend it with everything we have.