Just a Little Authoritarianism Isn’t Enough For New Labour

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has already signalled that 2009 will bring more of the same from New Labour:

The private sector will be asked to manage and run a communications database that will keep track of everyone’s calls, emails, texts and internet use under a key option contained in a consultation paper to be published next month by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary.

A cabinet decision to put the management of the multibillion pound database of all UK communications traffic into private hands would be accompanied by tougher legal safeguards to guarantee against leaks and accidental data losses.

Do I need to repeat the same counter-arguments yet again? She presided over an unthinkable growth of the DNA database, trumpeting its unmatched value in fighting crime, yet although the database was useful, quadrupling its size was not. She argued 42 days detention without charge was necessary to save us from terrorism, yet was unable to demonstrate how or that it would have helped in any investigation so far undertaken. She insists that ID cards are necessary to save us from terrorism, ID theft, but blurs the line with illegal immigration. She says they’re not to be compulsory but has snuck in powers to fine you for not updating the huge amount of information required on them, not to mention police powers to demand them. They’re supposed to be for ‘our’ benefit? Then why will you not be allowed a passport without being forced onto the National Identity Register? Since when was it the government’s job to determine and control your identity? Isn’t determining the government our fundamental right? She wants to privatise our identities and now all of our electronic communications too.

It goes without saying that this must be stopped. Tougher legal safeguards? Meaningless, when they’ll just get broken. This government has an inability to manage data or protect it – lose it in a briefcase? Check. Lose it in the Royal Mail? Check. You name it, our private information has made it clear of government control without hackers or thieves even making a concerted effort! And Jacqui Smith now wants to release our every keystroke under private control? Unthinkable. Who I call is none of her business. Who I email is none of her business. Whom I text is none of her business. To say that the information should be in her hands in advance of any crime is ridiculous – she can just have her police access the service providers should any crime actually be committed. To give them powers only shown in Minority Report would be to install yet another plank in the police state which she vehemently denied we live under when accused of presiding over one in the Damian Green affair. And let’s not even start on function creep…Even Sir Ken Macdonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions has said:

“(But) no other country is considering such a drastic step. This database would be an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information. It would be a complete readout of every citizen’s life in the most intimate and demeaning detail. No government of any colour is to be trusted with such a roadmap to our souls.”

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights agrees:

“It is (therefore) worrying that new legislation proposals intend to expand the authorities’ power to allow personal data collection and sharing. Although safety measures are foreseen, the adoption of these measures would increase the risk of violation of individuals’ privacy.

“The retention and storing of data is delicate and must be highly protected from risk of abuse. We have already seen what a devastating and stigmatising effect losing files or publishing lists of names on the internet can have on the persons concerned. This is particularly relevant to the UK, where important private data has been lost and ended up in the public domain.”

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3 responses to “Just a Little Authoritarianism Isn’t Enough For New Labour

  1. As if this wasn’t bad enough, imagine if Capita got the contract to manage it! That would tip me over the edge.

  2. George Orwell may have got the decade slightly wrong but his portrayal of surveillance and society’s increasing encroachment on the rights of the individual were frighteningly accurate.

    “There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this, Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler.”

    Nineteen Eighty-Four

  3. Pingback: Another Foundation to the Police State « Cosmodaddy

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