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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Tweeting for spooks

It was just last week that I warned of the dangers of tweeting first and thinking later. Well the stakes might be even higher if the government has its way over extending internet surveillance.

Plans are afoot to introduce legislation with which will greatly increase the state’s powers to monitor our emails, tweets, Facebook postings, texts and pretty well anything we do online.

This is, of course, all under steps to protect us from terrorists. But it is not to be limited to suspects. It will be access to everything that we do. Under the present law a warrant is required to access the content of say emails. We are being assured that the new rules will only permit access to times, dates and addresses but it seems fanciful to suggest that this will not also involve the monitoring of content.

This is a huge invasion of our privacy and one does wonder what difference it will possibly make in enabling us to sleep safely in our beds. If the authorities suspect somebody then they can get a warrant. So why is this enhanced power to intrude needed? Despite re-assurances, do I trust a government to protect my data when ministers are seen placing confidential documents in a dustbin?

The plans could well fall foul of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 – the right to privacy. Now this can be overridden – ‘in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Now if you imagine how many emails are sent each day in the UK – millions? billions?  – then how much of what we do and say will have anything to do with national security? As the Guardian’s James Bell said yesterday it is like looking for a tiny needle in a much bigger haystack –

Politicians and the media dislike the Human Rights Act but the rights that it protects are yours and mine.

Fighting for your rights.

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