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article imageOp-Ed: UK electronic monitoring — New law erases layer of privacy

By Leigh Goessl     Apr 3, 2012 in Politics
A new piece of legislation is seemingly forthcoming in the United Kingdom, one that is undoubtedly going to be controversial.
The news was published in the media on April 1, and many at first perhaps wondered if it was an April Fool's Day joke, but sadly is the real deal.
BBC News reported that in the soon to be enacted law, the U.K. government will have ability to "monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits" of individuals in the U.K., in what appears to be real-time.
It looks as if this legislation will likely be announced in May during the Queen's speech, according to media reports.
With this mandate, ISP records could be given up to officials upon demand and the service providers would be subjected to mirroring data through the U.K.'s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Under the new law, a search warrant to have access to specific details of communications would be required, however intelligence personnel would still have access to who is involved in the exchanges and the length of time involved in these communications.
“It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public,” a spokesperson for the Home Office said in an emailed statement and shared by ZDNet.
“Communications data includes time, duration and dialling numbers of a phone call, or an email address. It does not include the content of any phone call or email and it is not the intention of Government to make changes to the existing legal basis for the interception of communications," the statement said.
This law is considered by U.K. lawmakers to be "key" to combating terrorism and crime, reported BBC News.
Not too long after the announcement, not surprisingly, backlash has occurred. According to This is Gloucestershire, many are opposed to this new law.
“It is not focusing on terrorists or on criminals. It is absolutely everybody. Historically governments have been kept out of our private lives,” said Conservative former shadow home secretary David Davis, reported This is Gloucestershire. “They don’t need this law to protect us. This is an unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary innocent people in vast numbers. Frankly, they shouldn’t have that power.”
Across the globe privacy appears to be eroding at a significant pace. While part of this deterioration is due to the progression of technology providing the capabilities, it boils down to decision makers wearing away of privacy and freedoms, either individually, or collectively.
The problem when it’s a collective decision by a group, the blame gets pushed on the 'system' or, more commonplace these days, done in the name of security. And then the practice becomes law, and once set, usually there is no going back, and another layer of privacy is successfully stripped away.
When individuals lose any sense of privacy in a society where such freedoms have been previously enjoyed, it bears reaching the point where society might ask just how far a government willing to go? It looks as if western nations are willing to go pretty far, as this new law suggests.
"As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review we will legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows to ensure that the use of communications data is compatible with the government's approach to civil liberties," the Home Office's statement said, reported BBC News.
Perhaps another question that society should be asking at this point is just exactly what is the modern definition of 'civil liberties' supposed to mean?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about United Kingdom, electronic monitoring, Legislation, Privacy, Home office
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