The tragic events in Paris are causing an increasing number of side effects. This might be in increased security measures on our streets; it might equally be in the people of Paris going out to the cafes and bars, as an act of defiance.
There is a saying that ‘one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter’. Often, this may well be true, and there are many examples where time has also changed perceptions. However, it is difficult to equate IS with any definition of freedom; even, or especially, it seems for those who would form part of their caliphate.
However, there is a danger that they could succeed in reducing our freedoms, by being an excuse for others to take the kind of actions they have long wanted to. Governments, of any hue or persuasion, all seem to reach a point where they are saying ‘we know what’s best for you’. In democracies, this can be amended at the ballot box. Mind you, if the election is over four years away, then that might be too late for some!
Which brings us to the attempt by Home Secretary Theresa May to turn The Draft Investigatory Powers Bill into a signed-off piece of legislation. If you aren’t fully across it, this sets out a framework for new and increased surveillance powers. Among the procedures to be considered is a prerequisite for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to keep a log file of all websites you have visited over a period of 12 months. The claim is that this would not show actual pages, simply the sites.
However, it does mean that your media consumption habits, including such areas as your browsing history, banking activity and NHS data would be accessible by all the security services without the need for a judicial warrant. This would also bypass any encryption protocols. Edward Snowdon, whistle-blowing nemesis of the US government, suggested on Twitter that ‘By my read, #SnoopersCharter [The Draft Investigatory Powers Bill] legitimises mass surveillance. It is the most intrusive and least accountable surveillance regime in the West’.
This leaves three key questions to be answered. Firstly, do you mind the security services having such access? Recent events are almost certainly adding power to the elbows of those pushing this through. Question two: if it does become law, will it be of much concern to people by the next election, or just a done deal that’s almost forgotten?
The final question might even be the most difficult to answer. It’s this: do you trust the ‘authorities’ to keep your data secure? From old NHS computers, containing confidential data, thrown in skips, to security officers leaving laptops on trains, there’s a worrying track record here. Add more recent hacking than in even the roughest of Sunday league football matches, and you end up with a genuine worry.
Even if you trust the government to use the data only as it should, and to keep us safer from terrorist attacks, do you have enough – or any – confidence in them to keep it away from those who would simply seek to make profit from it?