We have secret agencies to help protect us from serious organised crime, sexual exploitation and Islamist and neo-Nazi terrorism. Today, these people use the internet and mobile phones to plan and organise. These proposals will allow us to monitor them. If our security services are to deal with them effectively and keep us safe, they need to exploit, under the law, this new and vital data bank. If Britain were a “police state”, there would be no open debate about the regulation of intercepts. In a secret police state this happens secretly and without democratic sanction. It won’t happen here unless Parliament agrees. If the secret agencies did not use these new resources, there would be justified public anger. No one complained when they tapped telephones or read letters in the past. Why complain now? Living peacefully in freedom is the most fundamental civil liberty. It must be protected.
Anthony Glees is professor of politics at the University of Buckingham.
Technology is changing. But will this policy actually make us any safer? We’re told this is an essential tool, but the government has waited two years to introduce legislation and as a result it will not be in effect for the Olympics. We’re also told that it’s a minor tweak to existing laws, but also that it warrants a prime slot in the Queen’s Speech. These proposals will add costs to businesses – for large companies they will lead to higher bills for customers, and for small businesses they may mean that the next innovations aren’t launched in the UK. At a time when the government is asking for investment into high-speed broadband and fibre optics, this policy will add new costs to businesses which may now take their investment elsewhere. This policy risks driving further underground the real threats, while intruding on all our privacy in what would be one of the largest-scale surveillance operations ever seen in any democracy.
Nick Pickles is director of Big Brother Watch.