Investigatory Powers Bill #IPBill

I celebrate by 500th post on my blog with a letter to my MP to decry the actions of Government and its intention to force the #IPBill through Parliament. I would urge anyone that cares about their privacy (not just what websites you visit!) to write to their MP asking them to challenge the Investigatory Powers Bill when it is debated in Parliament on the 14th March 2016. It has taken the Home Office just six weeks to publish two drafts of the IPBill and set a date for its debate – is that really enough time to properly understand the implications of this bill?

Know this – the most recent draft of the Bill grants the Police (any officer at any time!) to look up your Internet browsing history. Are you friends with a Police officer? Neighbours with one? (I am actually). Do you want them to know what websites you visit?

“Surveillance controls, and absolute surveillance controls absolutely.” — Page 1. Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control

Here is my letter.

Dear ​xxxx,

I write ​again ​to voice my serious concern at the intention to rush the Investigatory Powers Bill through Parliament without proper scrutiny.

The Home Office has been told to examine carefully the criticisms and recommendations of three Parliamentary committees. Less than three weeks since the release of the previous draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill is not enough time for a considered redrafting of the Bill and proves only that the Home Office has paid little attention to the criticisms made of the original Bill. The new Bill only has a few significant changes from the draft version and is a slap in the face for any democratic and free society.

The Bill reinforces the assumption of the security services (and seemingly Government) that everybody is a potential criminal. We are being forcefully relieved of the freedom to conduct our lives without scrutiny by an overbearing, overreaching state. The plan to monitor everybody’s Internet browsing history in order to catch a few criminals and terrorists amounts to bulk surveillance of an entire population and is a significant overreach of state powers – no other country in the world monitors and collects Internet browsing history to this extent and I am horrified that the UK wishes to be the first, under the auspices of increasing safety when no evidence can be provided to confirm this assertion.

The Bill is a huge step in the wrong direction away from democracy. It provides insufficient judicial oversight and assumes that the state and its actors are (and will continue to be) entirely trustworthy when it has been proven time and again that they are anything but. The Government’s purpose is to serve the citizens of this country and I am appalled at the continual battering ram of fear being used by the Government to drive through a piece of legislation that can be described as nothing but draconian.

“The premise [is] that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It’s not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.” — Bruce Schneier, computer security and privacy specialist.

Who I talk to, when I talk to them, where I am, what time I’m awake at night, what websites I visit and when I visit them are all private matters that do not threaten national security and the availability of that information to the security services is useless – the Government is suggesting that only it, the security services and (now) Police should be the judge of that.

It concerns me greatly that the personal opinions of  a small number of individuals in positions of trust and the actions of just a few criminals are set to affect the private lives of tens of millions of innocent, law abiding people.

The social and democratic effects of implementing this digital Panopticon cannot be underestimated and I would urge you to consider the implications of allowing this Bill to pass through without a significant rewrite to properly address the failings highlighted by the three separate Parliamentary committees.

Yours sincerely

Lewis Roberts

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