Thursday, 19 June 2014

Snoopers Charter

“The director general of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, Charles Farr, has explained – in a confusing departure from a previous argument – that when communication involves a foreign-based platform it can be treated not as "internal", needing a warrant to intercept, but as "external". This comprehensive ruling means that each tweet, each update on a Facebook page, and most webmail becomes a legitimate target with no need for a warrant, even where it is between two British citizens. But since every communication – down to the merest text message – has to be examined to see which category it falls into, literally nothing is truly private.
The legal basis for all this is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), hurried through parliament in 2000 with only cursory examination. Like the credit agencies nodding through the poisoned debt packages sold by traders before the 2008 crash, no one fully grasped its implications at the time, and since its passage, the technology landscape has been almost entirely redrawn. In 2000 there was no Facebook, no Twitter and Google had only just moved out of a garage in Menlo Park, California. This is the act that the law professor Conor Gearty has described as an "accomplice to secrecy and official impunity”.(my emphasis)
the Investigatory Powers Tribunal exists only to ensure the law has been followed by all the public bodies that operate under its authority. It will never either admit surveillance has been carried out, which the security services say could drive the subject underground, or deny it, since that risks allowing the subject to operate with impunity. According to the Commons home affairs committee, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal has upheld 0.68% of complaints it has heard. None was against the security services.” Guardian Leader article 19/6/14
The upheld complaints were against a local council using its spying powers to snoop on a family to find out whether they lived where they said they did when they were trying to get a child into a local school. There you have it in a nutshell - give a jobsworth an inch and they will take 25 miles. 
And as for the Investigatory Powers Tribunal - it is a total joke. As is the Intelligence and Security Committee with its chair, the egregious Malcolm Riffkind. 
It is time for the people who employ MPs - us - to tell them exactly where they can shove their Investigatory Powers Tribunal and their Intelligence Committee (surely an oxymoron). 

And it is time to reinforce our privacy as a matter of urgency. 

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