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article imageOp-Ed: Liberty crowdfunds challenge to U.K. surveillance laws

By Paul Wallis     Jan 10, 2017 in Technology
London - Seems the only way to challenge mad governments these days is in court. Human rights group Liberty has gone to a new level, crowdfunding a High Court judicial review of new UK surveillance laws.
The High Court challenge is the only effective opposition so far to the U.K.’s draconian new surveillance laws.
The new laws aren’t exactly trivial. They include the right to hack groups of people, a record of all websites accessed by citizens, and a broad range of accessibility of information for other agencies, including the police. One of the agencies able to access surveillance information is the Food Standards Agency, for some reason. This agency is responsible for food hygiene, not national security.
The bottom line here is that there is no judicial oversight. The police decide who and what is under surveillance. Unlike other countries, where surveillance is usually directly tied in to security agencies with specific tasks like anti-terrorism, the U.K. laws are a broad range of powers for law enforcement. In other countries, judicial oversight is written in to the legal frameworks, with some exceptions.
The EU, of which the U.K. is still technically a member, ruled against the U.K. laws. The EU Court of Justice described the U.K. laws as “not justified within a democratic society”, and states that U.K. citizens would be effectively under 24 hour surveillance. After Brexit, the effects of the EU ruling aren’t binding, but the ruling makes a point.
The “surveillance society”
Surveillance has never been trusted in most Western countries, despite 911. Societies with a tradition of basic liberties dislike this added level of government power, both on principle and in fact. That hasn’t stopped some of the most bizarre forms of surveillance, notably the “bathroom surveillance” culture in workplaces in the U.S., a truly maniacal form of micromanagement based on a culture of hating employees.
Surveillance, biometrics, you name it; they’re all now part of some weird social management agenda from the geriatric butt of human thought now running the planet. This agenda is most noticeable as a creeping paralysis of actual management in all areas of society. It seems the more insane and incompetent governments and management become, the more they hide under metrics and busy work like surveillance systems and other “management tools”.
The other inevitable result of so much surveillance is of course resistance. Sweeping as these powers are, they couldn’t find a sunny day in the case of a real security threat or criminal enterprise. I won’t provide a How To Guide for surveillance evasion, for obvious reasons, not least of which is not wanting to help terrorists, but it’s pretty easy.
Surveillance can only go so far. You might find out what someone had for breakfast, and have a lot of “information”, but be blissfully unaware the subject of your surveillance is about to blow up the London Tube, for example.
Fortunately for real security working against real threats, the intelligence community is trained to be skeptical. They don’t simply rely on these administrative crotch-protecting systems.
Consider this logic:
“We have a full range of systems in place monitoring this group.”
“…Meaning we’re not monitoring the other groups?”
“We have routine surveillance automatically tracking other subjects.”
“…But nobody actually watching?”
(Ignoring question) “We discovered that they had kebabs for lunch. That’s how good our surveillance is now.”
“What if something goes wrong, or they actually mount an attack that kills thousands of people?”
“In that case we will have a full record of their movements.”
“So we can currently charge them with eating kebabs, but we have no way of knowing whether they’re about to commit an actual terrorist act?”
“Well, if it’s not shown on surveillance data, it’s not our fault.”
As you can see, most of the actual work of surveillance systems of this type is defending their effectiveness. The rest of the work is spending money on the systems and promoting the wealth and well-being of those who provide them.
The other, amusingly grim, fact is that 99 percent of the vast amounts of data a surveillance system of this kind generates will never be used for any reason at all. 99 percent of the population aren't worth surveillance. Visiting a website isn’t illegal. Using your phone isn’t illegal. Dialling a wrong number isn’t illegal.
Proving that you’re doing anything which justifies being under surveillance, in fact, will be your responsibility. I urge members of the British public to be as suspicious as possible, to avoid breaking the hearts of these poor little administrators.
Go forth, stout and slim yeo-critters of Britain! Act as though you need to be under surveillance at all times. Turn buying the fish and chips in to some obvious criminal activity. Be subversive. Express interest in BBC2. Admit having watched Panorama or Time Team or some other criminally interesting program. Appear alert, intelligent and ready to spring in to some dastardly deed which will justify the expense of these systems.
Interestingly, libertarians, who supposedly oppose government powers, have been largely silent on this most egregious increase in government powers worldwide. What, not interesting enough? What a pack of substandard four legged miaowing things you’ve turned out to be.
The other thing to be noted about all this surveillance hysteria is that it’s profitable. Not for you, not for the U.K. society, not for national security, or anything else, but the manufacturers of these useless systems. That alone should reassure you that you’ll be supporting the community by paying for the truly feeble minded.
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 Liberty UK, uk surveillance laws, antisurveillance, judicial oversight of surveillance laws, Human Rights
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