Why the new snooping law threatens individual freedom

Those people who hoped the coalition government would roll back the surveillance state must be deeply disappointed. Although the new snooping law is being sold as a replacement for existing rules, the reality may be rather more worrying.

According to NO2ID:

“The Government’s Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) is much more than a replacement for existing regulations…It gives future Home Secretaries sweeping new powers to order telephone and internet companies to keep almost any sort of information about their users.”

Guy Herbert, General Secretary of NO2ID adds:

“This is a classic database state scheme for mass surveillance that can be indefinitely modified once it is on the statute book. A DRIP can easily become a torrent.”

While the government’s rhetoric has focused on the threat from terrorists and paedophiles, it is important to remember that there are many good reasons why people behaving ethically would not want to be monitored by the authorities.

For example, a whistleblower might be working to expose government wrongdoing, such as corruption among officials or lies told to foster support for a particular policy. Information obtained through surveillance could potentially be used to hamper such activities or to deter people from speaking out.

There could also be negative implications for financial privacy and for the dissemination of unpopular political views by ‘dissidents’ (the latter in the context of the UK’s restrictions on free speech on certain issues). The danger of a ‘ratchet effect’, perhaps in the context of some emergency or the election of a government with more authoritarian instincts, should not be dismissed.