ICE blogs

May 23, 2017

Surveillance – and the general election

Filed under: News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 9:50 am

Concerns over the growing powers of the surveillance state significantly secure no mention in either the Conservative or Labour Party manifestos in the run-up to the general election on 8 June.

Recently, a leak from the Home Office revealed that the government aimed to be able to access anyone’s communications within 24 hours under the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) of December 2016 and halt people’s ability to encrypt messages. The Act was condemned by the Open Democracy group as the ‘most sweeping surveillance powers ever seen, not just in the UK, but in any Western European nation or in the United States’.

Under the new plans, companies would be legally required to introduce a backdoor to their systems so that authorities could read all communications if required. And in a section of the Conservative manifesto headed ‘Strengthening the police and security services’, the party says: ‘We will continue to invest in our world-leading security services and maintain and develop our counter-terrorism strategy to protect us from terrorism at home and abroad.’

The Labour Party makes no mention of surveillance or the powers of intelligence and the secret state in their manifesto: the party offered only token opposition to the IPA, dubbed, the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’.

In contrast, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to end the ‘Orwellian nightmare’ of mass surveillance. The party’s manifesto also commits to opposing Tory attempts to erode citizens’ powers of encryption.

One of the Lib Dems’ nine MPs, Alistair Carmichael, told the website, the Register, that the IPA prepared the way for a ‘full frontal assault’ on privacy and civil liberties. ‘The security services need to be able to keep people safe, but these powers are straight out of an Orwellian nightmare. They have no place in an open and democratic society, will cost billions of taxpayers’ money and simply will not work. Instead of spying on the entire population’s web histories and undermining the encryption that, for example, allows us to bank online safely, Liberal Democrats would put money back into community policing and concentrate on intelligence-led, targeted surveillance.’

• See https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/05/15/lib_dems_manifesto_pledge_to_end_snooping/; and http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/20/encr-m20.html

Richard Lance Keeble

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