What is the real purpose of the so-called Snooper’s Charter? Is it motivated by a real concern for nation’s security or is it a barely-disguised excuse for the government to complete their vision for a surveillance Britain? In this piece Conrad Joel Kumadu looks at the consequences of this important bill that will impact all our lives.
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” These are the words verbatim of Tory MP Richard Graham; the paraphrased words of Tory MP William Hague and the principle behind the proposed Snooper’s Charter, or the Draft Communications Data Bill, a bill which will force communications service providers to keep more of your data; will force internet service providers to keep your data for up to 12 months and will give the government easier access to your data. Clearly this is a decided infringement on our freedom and privacy, but the justification from the Conservative Party lies in our security; but this is a farce.
Security is markedly a very important job for any government; but it stretches past merely preventing the people of a country from terrorism. Security is also about protecting the safety, wellbeing and rights of people in a country, and this is what all policy boils down to. The Conservative Party aims to ensure economic prosperity to ensure our wellbeing and protect us from poverty. The Conservative Party aims to reform education in order to ensure that everyone has a basic right to the best education possible education the government can offer. The Conservative Party aims to involve itself in Syria in order to prevent the threat of Islamic State to residents of this country, and countries all across the world; ensuring our rights to safety and humane treatment.
The Snooper’s Charter is another attempt to safeguard our security by ensuring our right to safety and protecting us from potential terrorism, but in doing so our right to liberty falters. The Snooper’s Charter would mean you lose more of your access to your own data and you lose more of your freedom to not be spied on, and the irony is that this is intended to help deal with cybercrime, much of which is intended to steal your data and to spy on you.
In our society we expect our government to protect us against this sort of cybercrime as we value our privacy and we value our data. Our government works for us and not the other way round, so we expect that the government works to maintain our rights. So when the Tory party say they are going to ensure our rights by breaking them down the Government are effectively saying it is okay because they are the Government. The real problem with this is that the Government are giving themselves power which they do not deserve. They are placing themselves on a pedestal where they cannot be held accountable for what in any other context would be breaking the law, which matters very much when it concerns our rights. The Government effectively gives itself entitlement to infringe your rights, and becomes a government which rules you, not a government which you rule.
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” we are then told by the Tory party in attempt to justify this. But many people do not know whether they have nothing to hide. In 2012 alone the government introduced 1466 laws and for a government to assume that people will know for certain that they aren’t breaking them is a sham. The majority of people of course will not be breaking laws, but nobody can guarantee this is the case. Essentially “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” becomes “you probably don’t have much to hide, so you probably shouldn’t have much to fear”. But ‘not much’ to fear gives people a reason to fear slightly, and this only furthers restricts our liberty. People will feel more restricted in their online usage even if it isn’t changed, and people will feel more pressured by the government. Our reward for losing our rights is losing our personal sense of freedom, thereby also weakening our power and security to speak out against the state and its laws.
Now of course we need some security, as that is also a basic right we have, which is why in having some surveillance already we have lost some our personal sense of freedom and have given our government some measure of power in terms of surveillance, but compromise is essential. We should strive to maximise our safety and security with our liberty. But the Snooper’s Charter is mass surveillance; the blanket haphazard storing of everyone’s information all so that the United Kingdom can decrease the number of terrorist attacks is a fallacy that does not ring true.
The UK already has very strong surveillance capabilities, having more than one CCTV camera for every 11 people and apparently having stopped 50 terrorist attacks between the 7/7 bombings and July 2015. The powers the government has are already extensive and Snooper’s Charter is an attempt to extend them even further although the mechanisms already in place are rife and working extremely effectively. The Snooper’s Charter does not represent a necessary extension of the compromise between liberty and security, but an unnecessary transgression of our freedom in order to extend even further great powers which inhibit our freedom and it must be opposed.
words by Conrad Kunadu