The UKs Big, Gigantic Brother


“Unless you are a criminal, then you’ve nothing to worry about from this new law.”

How many times have humans heard that old saw? Only as many times as governments have taken away more of their liberties in the name of fighting crime.

The latest politician to utter those infamous words is British Home Secretary Theresa May. Defending her government’s plan to require communications providers to store details of every e-mail, telephone call, and text message in the United Kingdom, May called the proposal “sensible and limited” and denounced opponents as “conspiracy theorists … with ridiculous claims about how these measures infringe freedom.”

“I just don’t understand why some criticize these proposals,” she wrote in a June 14 op-ed in the Sun.

Who, after all, could object to a plan that, according to the Associated Press, “would force communications providers … to gather a wealth of information on their customers” and then make that data available to law enforcement on request, giving “authorities a remarkably rich picture of their citizens’ day-to-day lives”?

Under the bill, says the AP:

Providers would log where emails, tweets, Skype calls and other messages were sent from, who they were sent to, and how large they were. Details of file transfers, phone calls, text messages and instant conversations, such as those carried over BlackBerry Messenger, would also be recorded.

The bill also demands that providers collect IP addresses, details of customers’ electronic hardware, and subscriber information including names, addresses, and payment information.

Even physical communications would be monitored: Address details written on envelopes would be copied; parcel tracking information would be logged as well.

All the data would be kept for up to a year or longer if it was the subject of legal proceedings.

“Officials insist they’re not after content,” the AP writes. “They promise not to read the body of emails or eavesdrop on phone calls without a warrant.”

This assumes, of course, that one can trust these officials. Richard Littlejohn of the Daily Mail clearly does not. “Whenever you give any agent of the state extra powers,” Littlejohn observed, “they will always, always abuse it.”

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