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Monday, April 02, 2012

A red line Liberal Democrats should not cross

It is difficult to know why plans for the government to be able to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK has been put out in the public domain now, in advance of the Queen's speech, other than perhaps to test the water.

Apparently the idea is to legislate so that internet firms will be required to give intelligence agency GCHQ access to communications in real time. The law would not allow GCHQ to access the content of emails, calls or messages without a warrant, but it would enable intelligence officers to identify who an individual or group is in contact with, how often and for how long. They would also be able to see which websites someone had visited.

This revival of a proposal mooted by the last Labour Government underlines the inertia of Government. Once an idea is fixed in the minds of advisors and civil servants, they keep revisiting it until they find politicians prepared to take it forward. Liberal Democrat Ministers should not be those politicians.

Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives opposed this legislation when we were in opposition, we should not now succumb to false arguments that a mass surveillance state somehow guarantees our safety.

The director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, Nick Pickles is absolutely right when he describes this move "an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance seen in China and Iran".

"This is an absolute attack on privacy online and it is far from clear this will actually improve public safety, while adding significant costs to internet businesses," he said.

It is not proportionate, does not respect freedom of expression nor does it take account of the privacy of users.


"Rock on" Peter, you get your fangs out on this one. The Lib-Dems will not, can not, support this gross attack on privacy and human rights by the 'revert to type' Conservative Party.
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