Thursday, 14 June 2012

But I NEEEEED it: The police's childish attitude to web privacy

In news originally touted as "Stopping councils from snooping" as I'm sure the ministers involved would rather new laws on interception of our personal communications online are reported, the BBC has detailed today's developments on the law proposed to help the authorities spy on us online.

But, as Mark Pack says, there is also a good side to how things have progressed on this law, and that is that there are two strong, liberal and importantly technologically aware individuals, at least, that will be the voice of reason on the cross-party panel that will vet this bill. Finger's crossed what we see as the final product to be debated is severely gutted.

I shalln't go in to much depth on this, I have elsewhere in the past, but more importantly there is a good article on this I think you should read anyway.

What I want to focus on is the core and poisonous reason this bill is even in existence at all right now.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, writing in the Times, said having greater powers to access data was essential in waging a "total war on crime" - and he warned that police risked losing the fight against crime unless MPs passed a law enabling them to collect more communications data.

The Met police chief wrote: "Put simply, the police need access to this information to keep up with the criminals who bring so much harm to victims and our society."

The police don't "need" anything of the sort, and that's what pisses me off. This law will actually do nothing to actually keep up with the types of criminals that they should be worried about, as those people will be operating in ways that render this law useless to use against them. It certainly won't allow people that were previously unknown to the police to be forced out in the open either.

What the police actually mean to say is they "want" to have this power, as it would be another tool in their box to use when it comes to helping to secure some conviction against someone already a suspect.

To say that they "need" this, to wage "total war", is to say that they need a lot of things. Like a total surveillance camera network to track where you go between leaving the house and coming home again, or even surveillance in your home that they can access records of without a warrant.

They don't need any of this, they are just asking, as they are always doing, for more authoritarian powers because it makes their job easier. It is not the government's job to just give in to this.

The real, and only, need in this whole scenario is for politicians to get educated on this issue and to protect the balance between security of the state and individuals, and the liberties of individuals.

As Julian Huppert is reported to have said today in the first briefing on this draft law, it is up to those who believe they need these powers to prove that need if that is how they wish to present it. They need to show what will happen if they don't have the powers, what the implications will be, and what the risks are.

If they can't do this then they are no better than the child in a toy shop shouting and screaming about how they need , and like any good parent would do, the government should treat it with the same disregard and learn not to spoil them so much.