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Thanks Theresa May. You've created an Orwellian nightmare

21st June 2012

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Congratulations to Theresa May (Home Secretary) for plunging us into an Orwellian nightmare. Congratulations on joining ranks with the proud nations of China and Iran in their war against freedom and privacy.

If you hadn’t heard, this month signifies the start of a new plan by the state to monitor the internet use of the UK.

The UN states that privacy is a basic human right. So why has our government decided to ignore this? The answer: the ‘greater good’. In political commentary stretching from the serious, such as Orwell’s 1984, to the comic, Simon Pegg’s ‘Hot Fuzz’, the ‘greater good’ is always invoked as a reason to take away freedom. Apparently the UK in 2012 is no different, as Jacqui Smith announced in a statement that:

 “Communications data is an essential tool for law enforcement agencies to track murderers and paedophiles, save lives and tackle crime.”

“Ahh” I hear you say, “but I have nothing to hide!” This is a common argument used against privacy, but is it really that simple? Would you be happy to share your whole Internet history with a stranger (or even the wider word when a thoughtless MP leaves it on a train)? Would you be happy to share who you talk to, where you go, what you do, buy, see? If you’ve ever had a ‘private’ webcam conversation or sent a ‘private’ picture, since it’s not a crime, would you be happy to show them to a total stranger? If the answer is ‘yes’, then don’t bother reading on and go celebrate the policy laid out in the Queen’s Speech.

So what’s actually happening? Well thanks to the coalition government, there will not be a mass database yet, as was requested by Labour. What will be collected however, is a real-time log of who has spoken to whom, when they spoke and where as well as your entire internet history (with no ability to delete it). IP addresses will be collected and although the Home Office has promised us that there will be ‘absolutely’ no snooping into content, it is unclear why the new law is being passed.

What seems strange is that under current laws, police can already access this information, so somewhere in these plans something more intrusive is lurking. Particular emphasis is being put on the request for “real-time” and “on demand” information, but nobody seems to know what this actually entails in practice. The new plan would only show the government that sites like Facebook had been visited and because of this, it seems hard to understand how ‘murderers and paedophiles’, who have been shown to use incredibly clever software to mask themselves, will be caught with it.

In the meantime it is up to us to protect our personal privacy by using things like proxies (which alter your IP address by sending and receiving information from a far away server); but in future, we may have to rely on groups like Anonymous to defend one of our most fought for human rights: privacy.

Do you agree? Read the other side of the argument here. 

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