Drip Drip, Drip.

Andy Halsall's picture

There is nothing worse for the nerves than a drip, whether it's an erratic one, like the current government's approach to legislation that touches on the digital, or a constant one, like the apparent multi-party push to grind civil liberties to dust.

It seems then that latest 'emergency' national security legislation, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers or DRIP (If people are actually spending time putting these acronyms together they should probably stop now...), lives up to and exceeds its namesake. Yes it's annoying, and like the slow passage of water erodes what it is passing through. With DRIP it is both trust and our liberties.

Our elected representatives have spent the best part of the last 20 years being publicly perplexed about why there is a lack of trust in politics and government, they have noted that this is being transformed into apathy and that it is having an impact on the young. Not one of those politicians seems to have thought for a moment whether ramming through legislation, with all party backing, with no discussion and on a topic that is massive at the moment on the heels of the Snowden revelations and NSA spying scandals, might erode that trust.

It doesn't feel terribly democratic when constituents barely have time to contact their MPs and their MPs have barely any time to read what they are voting on, never mind get a view of what their constituents might want.

We have had precisely no discussion, no debate and the government still refuses to face the issues of state intrusion into our lives.  It frankly boggles the mind that at a time when government is pushing to return to 'British Values' that they would push for legislation that is so antithetical to those same values. 

Let's be clear, this isn't just a quick fix to restore powers after the ECJ's decision that existing data retention is incompatible with human rights, this is a push to extend it...  This bill essentially takes us a step further in increasing the state's capabilities to access both communications data and content. Something that the Lib Dems recently crowed about averting...

The ECHR ruling on data retention should have been a starting point for a discussion as to what privacy means now in the UK. If you want to follow up on the current rhetorical theme of choice, you could ask whether an Englishman's home is still his castle, whether we are free from suspicion without cause and whether the state should be able to intrude in our communications without consent or a warrant. Instead it has been seen as an excuse to ram through more powers with no discussion and leave the door open for more.

We know that GCHQ and its partner the NSA collect and monitor far more than what the police or security services actually need to do their jobs, we are in the realms of fantasy, 'Total information awareness' or more aptly, the death of any personal privacy.  Sure, the police have always had the power to get hold of your phone records, but the powers the state is clamouring for now are closer to demanding recordings of your conversations in the pub and singing in the bath...

This isn't about terrorists under the bed, it is about power.  It is another push to widen and strengthen a security apparatus that exists without proper oversight and without a democratic mandate of any sort.

The claims that have been made about child protection are also really quite offensive. Government has cut funding for those who actually help victims of abuse, pushed for counter-productive filters and are now using child abuse as an excuse to broaden their power, all at a time when it seems government has been a hot bed of abuse and cover-up. Let's put the horse back before the cart and make sure we are investigating actual abuse and supporting victims before we justify turning everyone into suspects through mass surveillance.  

Maybe it is time that the government realised that it won't build the trust it wants by violating the trust of those that it serves, and that British values don't include Stasi-like mass surveillance and excessive intrusion into our personal lives.  

And for those MPs that supported this legislation, they will have some hard questions to answer in the General Election next May. I think the country as a whole is sick and tired of knee-jerk legislation about tech, privacy and security being pushed through without scrutiny and without any realisation that it has an impact on all of us.  


I couldn't agree more with your remark that the lack of trust in politicians has transformed into a general apathy towards politics. This whole bill is everything they say its not: flawed, an extension of powers and not inline with the ECJ ruling that struck down the Data Retention Directive.

Our only real hope now is that the Open Rights Group are able to successfully contest the bill in court.

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