I couldn’t get myself to write lately. I was swamped with work and, frankly, I was too angry to trust myself to write anything but bitter rants.
It is time for one such now, it seems. For the British Government seems to think that they can simply circumvent human rights standards by means of emergency legislation.
In April the CJEU declared the Data Retention Directive to be invalid (PDF). Not on technicalities, but because they saw human rights violated. With that, most experts agreed, most if not all national laws and acts on blanket data retention and interception powers were rendered inoperative.
At No. 10, however, they seem to believe they can basically just ignore that ruling. Well, no, not ignore, really, since DRIP is a direct answer to that ruling. It is the attempt, it seems, to not only hold on to blanket data retention and interception powers, but in some places expand on said powers – even though the PM, of course, denies this.
Obviously the British Government believes that (certain) human rights
should do not apply in the UK. Well, then tell us that and stop lying about the need for such powers. Studies have shown quite conclusively that there is reason to doubt that data retention does significantly help combating terrorism and serious crime : Here’s one from the renowned Max-Planck-Institut (german).
Show probable cause, get a warrant — old-school but will work just as well. Contrary to what the proponents of DRIP want to have us believe that holds true even for terrorism and sexual exploitation.
And an emergency bill? Honestly? Are we at war?
No. The truth is much more pedestrian: Some desperately want to hold on to those powers (let’s all take a guess who that might be) and the Government is afraid telecommunication companies might put an end to it (or at least create a gap) by deleting connection data to avoid lawsuits from customers. They even say so themselves. But more importantly, rushing DRIP through Parliament in this manner was clearly a means of avoiding scrutiny and debate or amendments. One is inclined to agree with Tom Watson, Labour’s former election campaign chief, who called it an „insult“ and likened it to „democratic banditry resonant of a rogue state“.
This bill is, in substance, another escalation toward a surveillance state. It expands, rather than limits the spying powers of security services and agencies, and by extending their reach to foreign communications companies it sets a dangerous precedent. As does the way it was passed.
Again and again it has to be said that all of this snooping is deeply dangerous and harmful. The CJEU explicitly states citizens „feeling that their private lives are the subject of constant surveillance“ as one reason to strike down the Directive. People under surveillance tend to censor themselves which is poison to any free society. This DRIP, DRIP, dripping is part of that trickle (or is it a stream already?) which, mostly unseen and too often unheeded, runs under the foundations of our society and might eventually serve to undermine our freedom and bring it tumbling down.