‘No police state’ says Jacqui Smith. The evidence however is everywhere that she’s wrong – we’re already there. The most recent proof being the Home Office responding to a decision by EU Council of Ministers by authorising the police to hack into computers without a warrant:
The hacking is known as “remote searching”. It allows police or MI5 officers who may be hundreds of miles away to examine covertly the hard drive of someone’s PC at his home, office or hotel room.
Material gathered in this way includes the content of all e-mails, web-browsing habits and instant messaging.
Under the Brussels edict, police across the EU have been given the green light to expand the implementation of a rarely used power involving warrantless intrusive surveillance of private property. The strategy will allow French, German and other EU forces to ask British officers to hack into someone’s UK computer and pass over any material gleaned.
Yes – warrantless. Your fundamental right to privacy and due process again trampled on on a whim, should you fall foul of the police for any reason, or indeed no reason. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty is quite right in saying this is exactly the same as someone smashing your front door in – it totally rescinds the right to privacy. The police get to determine who’s good, who’s bad, who’s worthy of surveillance and who’s worth leaving alone, rather than the courts or even just us.
Police say that such methods are necessary to investigate suspects who use cyberspace to carry out crimes. These include paedophiles, internet fraudsters, identity thieves and terrorists.
Nonsense. And it’s nonsense for a whole host of reasons. But let’s stick with the easy ones, like how it’s wrong to destroy the fundamental rights of the majority for the actions of a tiny minority. Like how rescinding the rights of the majority is a meaningless way to tackle the complicated issues surrounding paedophilia. Like how encouraging people to get shredders is a far more credible way of tackling identity theft. But no, Jackie Smith’s Home Office would prefer absolute control over the population.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said such intrusive surveillance was closely regulated under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
Ah RIPA – the Act which is regularly abused by councils to spy on their local residents. In other words not closely regulated at all. But this isn’t the end of the story:
Ministers are also drawing up plans to allow police across the EU to collect information from computers in Britain.
I’m sure this falls foul of the European Convention on Human Rights in a fundamental way, so it’ll be interesting to see if Liberty does indeed launch a lawsuit to stop this from continuing.
(thanks to Josh)