David Cameron’s proposed ‘snoopers’ charter’ puts the public’s privacy in jeopardy for nothing – as terrorists such as those in Paris were already known to police, claims a Greater Manchester MP.
The proposed Communication Drafts Bill would require internet and phone companies to record every user’s activity, which could be accessed for law enforcement purposes.
Even communications data from companies such as Facebook and Google would be stored and could be accessed for law enforcement purposes, including browsing histories, emails and texts.
Oldham MP Michael Meacher claims the measures are unnecessary, arguing that terrorists behind the Paris attacks, the Boston bomber and Lee Rigby’s killers were all known to police through surveillance – but it didn’t stop the attacks.
“The new legislation is expected to introduce a request filter which would enable the police and security services to search the mountain of personal data held by the internet companies,” Mr Meacher said.
“That is where the real privacy dangers lie.
“They [the Government] are asking for legislation to make it easier to access the data held by the internet and telecom companies, not just phone records but chat lines.”
Mr Cameron claims more extensive surveillance powers are needed to prevent terrorist attacks occurring in the UK following on from the Paris massacre, but Mr Meacher rejects this argument.
“The Kouachi brothers were part of a network that was being watched from as long ago as 2005; indeed the elder brother had already served a prison sentence,” Mr Meacher said.
“Similarly the Woolwich killers of Lee Rigby were already known to MI5, as were the Boston bomber in the US and the Sydney killer in Australia a few months ago.
“The authorities already had all the powers they needed to keep track of these terrorist suspects; all they lacked (or miscalculated on) was the moment when they might act.
“Nobody of course would wish to deny the security services the funding and powers they need to target terrorists, but there are genuine questions to be asked as to how far extra powers are needed, especially if it is in the blanket form of mass surveillance.”
Mr Meacher also believes that the new bill is being passed merely to legitimise surveillance that is already occurring.
“The purpose of the proposed new legislation is to provide legal cover to legitimise what they are already doing, though without the proper democratic oversight so desperately needed,” he said.
“While communications data is admissible in court, warranted intercept evidence by which agencies snoop on the content of calls and emails is not.
“The problem for the security services is that the legal framework now lags far behind their technical capacity to undertake web surveillance – a capacity which no doubt they have already long put to use.”
Main image courtesy of Jonas Seaman, inset courtesy of Number 10, with thanks.