Don’t want to be spied on? Then you’re putting lives at risk says home secretary
Home secretary Theresa May has hit out at critics of the controversial Communications Data Bill by saying that they are “putting politics before people’s lives”.
The draft bill proposes that ISPs will be legally obliged to not only record your online activities - including web addresses and the details of who you email or speak to online - but store this information for twelve months.
Under the proposal authorities will be able to see who you communicated with and when, know your location and device used and how long you spent talking. As well as email and web browsing it will also cover VOIP services like Skype and even online gaming.
Perhaps the police are finally tackling the problem of American teenagers screaming obscenities at innocent gamers on Call of Duty?
Intelligence, law enforcement agencies and tax officers will be able to view this data whenever they like provided they are investigating a crime, but would need a warrant to view the actual content of messages.
However, critics have pointed out that this intrusive law could easily be abused; with so much data stored about every single internet user it would only take one leak to result in a serious breach of privacy. There have also been questions over the practicalities of tracking so much data, the enormous cost for both tax payers and ISPs, and its effectiveness.
In a display of common sense of the kind rarely found in our politicians, UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham pointed out that it would only catch "incompetent criminals and accidental anarchists" while the serious bad guys could very easily avoid detection by changing their behaviour. There’s been no explanation so far how the government proposes to circumvent encrypted connections, for instance.
Speaking to The Sun, May said “The people who say they’re against this bill need to look victims of serious crime, terrorism and child sex offences in the eye and tell them why they’re not prepared to give the police the powers they need to protect the public.”
Bizarrely, May chose to use the the tragic death of police officers Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in September as an example of why we all need to be spied upon, but failed to explain how recording web browsing history would have prevented a lone maniac attacking someone with a grenade and gun.
Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: "Exactly the same arguments were made by Labour for a range of policies, from ID cards to 90 day detention without trial. MPs and the public saw through this desperate rhetoric then and do not take cheap soundbites as justification to have their liberties trampled on.
"The Home Office has seemingly given up trying to produce any real evidence to justify a law that would require details of our every email, social media message and web visit to be stored, so are now simply trying to scare people."
"The Parliamentary committee looking at this bill has spent months examining it in detail and I am sure MPs and the public will want to hear what it has to say before making up their minds."