Surveillance vs snooping

Mixed results in the conflict between freedom and security

Share

For a nation still groggy from the barrage of revelations concerning government snooping, yesterday’s announcement of a new surveillance law will foster the suspicion that, once again, the rights of civilians to communicate in private have been elbowed aside in favour of a voracious security state. There is indeed cause for mistrust – but it concerns the manner of the law’s introduction, and less so the measures it contains.

A who’s who of public enemies – from Isis to child abusers – was cited by David Cameron to justify bringing in “emergency” legislation that will shore up the power of government bodies to gather data on British citizens. Besides the speed of its introduction, the hugger-mugger style in which this law has come to pass – agreed upon by party leaders behind closed doors – adds to the impression that the Government is seizing for itself unwarranted powers.

In reality, the “emergency” here is more banal, and the law may in fact, in a few years, benefit the civil libertarian cause. The precise cause for the unseemly hurry is a lawsuit launched by the Open Rights group (hardly a terrorist organisation), which, temporarily dormant, has been made active following an April ruling from the European Court of Justice. That ruling would have lifted the requirement that internet and phone companies keep a wide range of billing data on their clients for a period of 12 months.

Keeping this data available to the authorities is preferable to suddenly “going dark”, and requires no immediate development on the security status quo. Moreover, the Liberal Democrats and Labour have won important concessions: an independent privacy and civil liberties board is to be created, and there will be a review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) – which sets the limit on digital surveillance. The “emergency” legislation will itself expire in 2016, so that new laws can be created in light of that review.

Both the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary Theresa May are known to support an increase in state surveillance, along the lines of the so-called snoopers’ charter, which Nick Clegg fought off last year. He may soon be required to take up the battle again. This far-reaching extension of government surveillance, were it enacted, would be illiberal and possibly ineffective. What we need is smarter surveillance, not ever more of it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor