Recently, we have been seeing far more frequent occurrences of evidence that we have been lied to by the state, that politicians have been corrupt, have been spying on us, have lied to us and have been involved in generally illicit or illegal activities. These go back to such instances as MPs claiming expenses for things that they shouldn’t have been, to more dire situations such as Edward Snowden’s revelation to the world that certain federal agencies in the United States have been spying on the activity of their own citizens indiscriminately, rather than focussing on actually trying to find genuine criminals and terrorists.
From this revelation, we can see similar things that are happening on our own doorstep. Evidence has already been revealed that the United States government paid GCHQ to spy on us for their benefit. We also have this new, rather ugly piece of legislation nicknamed the ‘Snooper’s Charter’, which has many similarities to what we have heard about from the United States. For all we know, that may well be where the inspiration came from.
There are two things about this that concern me. Firstly, why is it that the people whose job it is to serve the public are using their position of power to collect private information from us? Secondly, I am rather more concerned about the possibilities of where this could lead; to a place perhaps, where more detailed information is collected about our private activities and the information even used against, rather than to protect us.
I find it rather remarkable that many people aren’t more offended that their government would intrude in their lives. The most common thing that comes up is that “it won’t affect me, only the criminals need to worry”. Although this may technically be true as it currently stands, how can we trust the state so much that we can be absolutely sure that this won’t change without our knowledge? Most of us wouldn’t accept the state setting up cameras in our houses or spying through our windows to find out if we are criminals or terrorists. Although these are rather more extreme circumstances than the current situation, I would very much liken them to each other; an intrusion of our personal privacy.
Many people will likely have heard of the case where a family were raided by armed police in the United States for simply searching for pressure cookers on Google. They were simply assumed to be terrorists despite looking at buying perfectly reasonable household items. This makes this approach feel rather more like the actions of people with paranoid tendencies rather than those who are making rational thoughts. This paranoia is, in my mind, the only possible reason to want implement a blanket effect policy, when the vast majority of us have no criminal intentions.
Now I’m not leading to a conclusion where I’m suggesting that we should wrap our computers and laptops in foil or move to a log cabin in the middle of nowhere to avoid prying eyes, far from it. I’m suggesting that we truly question the actions of the state rather than simply trusting that it won’t affect us personally. After all, pretty much all legislation impacts on some people. There is a lot of biased media and other sources out there and it’s obvious to me that we never really get the full picture of any situation without doing personal research in to it. Based on this, how can we instantly trust that the outcome of any situation or legislation will instantly be, or remain, beneficial to us? Ultimately, we need to be the ones to question the intentions of the state; otherwise, who will? This point becomes especially important when we remember the recent times when the state has been less than honest with us; and it won’t necessarily stop just because they’ve been caught out a few times.
By Daniel Harding