Liberty – the human rights group – has released a campaign video showing why you really don’t want the government spying on you. And it is as funny as it is genius.
The Investigatory Powers Bill will make the bulk collection of all our personal information legal. But this social experiment brilliantly flushes out our natural opposition to losing the right to privacy:
The best way to see if an idea or action is acceptable is to thrust it into an everyday social situation. Bringing the debate away from internet discussion boards and into social reality reveals how we really react to it.
And it does not look good for the government. As would be expected, the video shows no one is comfortable with strangers reading their emails, texts or intruding upon them. It’s not just about freedom of speech – it’s also about freedom to select who to talk to. If the government is collecting mass data, we lose our basic right to privacy – our basic right to choose who we share information with.
As revealed by Edward Snowden, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) indiscriminately collect data from every visible user on the internet. The initiative was launched seven years ago, but with “no public debate or scrutiny”.
The programme was found to be illegal, throughout these seven secretive years, yet nobody has been prosecuted. This is because when the Tories’ mates break the law, they simply change it. Last year, the UK government rewrote the surveillance laws so that GCHQ’s activities were no longer illegal.
The documents also show that GCHQ has the ability to turn on our microphones and cameras on our computers, listen to our phone calls and track our locations, while collecting all sorts of data about what we do online.
Now, Theresa May’s Investigatory Powers Bill or ‘snoopers charter’ seeks to make mass surveillance official government policy. Ostensibly, this is to prevent terrorism, but there is no evidence it works. In fact, treating the entire country as suspects is likely detrimental for terrorism prevention. It’s the equivalent of building a breathtakingly unnecessary and humongous haystack to find a handful of needles in.
Outrage is the appropriate response to these revelations. Digital rights are human rights. The difference between the cyber world and the real world is ultimately superficial, the cyber world is as real as one’s furniture or floorboards. It is a world of real people’s ideas and creative content. There is no significant difference between an intruder listening into a conservation between a family at the dinner table, and an intruder reading one’s Facebook private messages. It is a fundamental right to speak in confidence with one’s close friends and family.
Moreover, it would be naive to think that the government does not have its own motives for collecting our data. The government is currently using its ‘domestic extremism’ police unit to spy on the Green Party, environmental activists and children.
Well, hats off to Liberty for absolutely nailing our authoritarian government throughout this video. But the ending at the Home Office has our vote for the best bit. When asked why they wouldn’t share their communications data, the security guard said:
Because I don’t know who you are.
Brilliant. Here we have the Home Office’s own staff explaining why mass surveillance is wrong. Nobody wants strangers feasting upon one’s personal information.
Meanwhile, David Cameron himself is currently using encrypted messages to privately plan his EU referendum campaign. One rule for him, and another for us it seems.
-Check out Liberty!
–Stand up for digital rights!
–Support the Canary to help maintain disruptive journalism.
–Write to your MP, perhaps asking if they support such blanket surveillance.
Feature image via US Embassy London/Flickr
We need your help ...
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.
Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.
We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.
Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?