Thursday, November 05, 2015

Doubling down on tyranny

Since Edward Snowden exposed the Five Eyes' unlawful mass surveillance two years ago, there has been public outrage around the world. In the US, this has resulted in a pushback against spying, and some limitation of the NSA's powers. In the UK, however, the government is doubling down on tyranny, introducing a comprehensive domestic mass-surveillance regime:

The draft investigatory powers bill explicitly puts into law for the first time the surveillance activities of the intelligence agencies and police and proposed new powers requiring internet and phone companies to track every website visited for a maximum of 12 months.


The security services’ ability to hack computers and phones around the world – for purposes of national security, serious crime and economic wellbeing – is also explicitly recognised in the draft bill. The security services only acknowledged they had these powers in February.

They're also planning to ban encryption and require ISPs to collaborate with the spies in hacking their customer's data. The net result is totalitarian mass surveillance, with anyone's online life able to be excavated and scrutinised if they ever come to the attention of the state for any reason. In the process, it creates huge security flaws: backdoored encryption means online transactions (such as your banking) simply cannot be trusted, while the huge new repositories of people's data can be hacked and used for blackmail (and I think that'll be a fun game: hacking the online records of MPs who voted for this and exposing all their dirty little secrets). But the British government doesn't care about that; all it cares about is handing more power to spies to suppress dissent. And while this is supposedly all targeted at "Islamic terrorists" who want to kill people, past practice tells us that the real targets will be human rights activists, anti-war protestors, environmentalists, politicians, and others exercising their right to advocate for peaceful, democratic change.

But its not really about the targets. No government should have these powers. They are fundamentally incompatible with democracy. They are fundamentally incompatible with freedom. And again, my recommendation to people living in the UK is simple: if you want your freedom, leave.