Four years ago it was the Labour Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, who was proposing a central database of all mobile phone and Internet traffic (under cover of an EU Directive). The idea collapsed under a storm of protest. Now it is back, but with a twist.
This time the Home Office wants the power to see – without a warrant – the time, date, sender, recipient and (for emails) subject line of every electronic communication. And it wants to know – likewise without a warrant – the address of every website visited by every citizen.
Gone is the idea of a central database. In its place, Internet service providers and mobile phone companies will be required to store and hold this information and make it available to police and security services on demand.
That will raise costs for service providers, which of course they will recoup through higher charges. So we end up paying for the privilege of being spied on.
If implemented, it would be a massive step towards the establishment of – and let’s call a spade a spade here – a fascist state in Britain. A state where the guardians of the country complete their evolution into the jailers of the people.
So far (as Workers goes to press) there has been no official proposal from the government. In true anti-democratic style the news was not announced to parliament. Instead, it oozed out after the Home Office held private discussions with the Internet Service Providers’ Association. Presumably the government will make “concessions” when it finally deigns to let MPs know what it’s doing.
On the one hand the proposals are ludicrous. The Internet is stupid enough to point anyone in the wrong direction: the top hit from a Google search for “electronic surveillance Home Office” is a link to go and buy it at Amazon! The plan would also be a blackmailer’s charter (something that is already keeping many MPs, with their unsavoury private lives, awake at night).
But the intent is deadly serious, and deadly for democracy. It is to hand all control and all information to the capitalist state.
What next? Given that the technology is around, how about compelling all citizens to record every conversation they make and stream it to GCHQ for analysis?
In April documents were released detailing the obscene crimes committed by British troops fighting colonial wars in Malaya and Kenya, and other countries. They indicate the lengths to which our rulers will go to preserve their power and their privileges.
Actually, the papers don’t show exactly how far they will go, since the most sensitive ones have apparently been destroyed. They want to know everything about us, but they don’t want us to know anything much about them.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: the real danger of fascism in this country comes not from thugs on the street who wrap themselves in Union Jacks, but from cabinet rooms and boardrooms. Our “parliamentary democracy” is in fact nothing of the kind. ■