While highly critical of detail, the Joint Committee on the Communications Data Bill is too accepting of its central premise. No case has been made for push-button surveillance, NO2ID points out today.
The influential parliamentary committee describes Home Office evidence in numerous places as ‘misleading’ or ‘fanciful and misleading’, but its report accepts untested the motivating idea that the surveillance we already have is not too much, and not enough. Large sections encourage the expansion of data-sharing.
NO2ID points out that the question it asked at the beginning of the consultation remains unanswered. ‘What problem does it solve that cannot be handled already?’ In hundreds of hours of discussions the Home Office has not bothered to make the basic case, beyond a few cherry-picked and sensational anecdotes.
The core of the Bill is a proposal to make access to more information about everyone’s communications and internet use easier for a huge range of official purposes. By putting spy equipment into every significant communications loop, supervised not by a judge but by secret software, the ambition is to be able to collate a dossier on any citizen and his contacts at the push of a button.
NO2ID told the committee in written evidence:
It is our contention that surveillance powers as significant as the capture of communications data ought to cause the investigating authorities some time and trouble to use
Guy Herbert, General Secretary of NO2ID said today:
While we welcome the Committee’s detailed criticism, they are still too trusting. A massive increase in the Home Office’s powers needs substantial justification. While it may seem obvious to officials that giving officials more power is a Good Thing, our free society is founded on limiting their power. The case has not been made for push-button surveillance.
Notes for editors:
2) NO2ID is the national campaign against the database state, the tendency to try to use computers to manage society by maintaining state files on people.
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