The government’s Data Bill. No, it’s not how much they pay for internet but that would be funny. The bill, which has just started to go through parliament and the House of Lords, gives police powers to monitor people’s activity on the internet. It is still unclear to me whether that means anyone or just people who are under suspicion of crime that could involve online activity, such as hacking or sending bogus email round to people.
Delving deeper into it I find out that it gives Internet Service Providers the power to cease people’s internet access if they are found to be breaking the law. I think this is a step in the right direction but we need to make sure that customers know what they would be cut off for and when they may just get a warning. The Liberal Democrats who were part of the drafting up of this bill are now calling for it to be scrapped. Perhaps it’s a step too far. In theory, this would allow the government to cut off the internet to millions of people if they want. Surely we don’t want to become like countries in the Middle East, whereby any bad comment on the internet about the government and the internet gets cut off. Ok, I’m being a bit extreme but it could theoretically happen.
Luckily for us, even if this does get passed, it won’t become law until at least 2014. Yes! Two more years of freedom. Currently the police can access our mobile records and see what is on our mobiles which nobody seems to mind. In fact, no one even mentions it, but in a way that acts as a safeguard for when our phones may get stolen or if you actually have had a bogus call. The new powers would allow the police to fight against a range of organised crime. One such type of organised crime being paedophilia, something that recently has been a big issue but I think that for issues such as these, the police would need to be very careful.
The government on a whole have managed to give examples in various types of crimes that web monitoring would prevent. As we saw in the 2011 Riots, Twitter and Facebook played a big part in planning the riots. At first it was justified because it was just protest and anger at the government but it just turned into something where people jumped on the bandwagon and destroyed small and valuable businesses that until then were actually doing well. This is where it could be used in the right way, to stop stupid people damaging their local community that many people have worked so hard to keep in a good way. Officers will also need a warrant from a judge in order to see the content of the messages or data, as all ISPs are allowed to give them is who received it and when and where it was sent from.
Reading further into what it’s all about, I find it hard to see what the Lib Dems have against the new law. Yes, the public will need to be informed about the details of what it involves but to me it looks absolutely fine. In order to catch criminals police need the evidence and in 2012 they need to be one step ahead of the criminals and track their planning online or even their crimes online. At first I wasn’t sure about this bill but as I delve deeper into the details I can see the benefits. It could make police officers jobs a lot easier. Watch out Anonymous, you may not be anonymous for much longer.
By Robert Mooney