Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Snoopers Charter

I received a mailing from Shami Chakrabarti Director of Liberty (The National Council for Civil Liberties) Shami is one of six independent assessors advising Lord Justice Leveson in his Public Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the UK Press. Which is due to publish in the next week or so. Shami is also a frequent member of the BBC's question time panel.

I was being asked to write to my MP about the Communications Data Bill. 
"The Government plans to instruct private companies to collect and store our 'communications data'. That means records of emails, web activity, texts and phone calls - for the entire population. The reasons for storing the data are very broadly defined. Access could be granted to hundreds of public bodies for reasons that have nothing to do with fighting crime.This amounts to mass, blanket surveillance of the population - outsourced to the private sector." 
Yes, the Coalitions version of the Government Snooper's Charter - which was seen off by public pressure during the last Labour government. This is another about turn on a commitment made as a manifesto promise, this time by the Conservative party. Snooping is alive and well and once more back on the governments agenda.

I can to a point understand the need for national security reasons and crime prevention why such a draconian step might be taken. What I can't understand is why the information is going to be made available to bodies outside of crime prevention such as the Police and National Security services.

Then I read a comment from Damian Kemp, Boating Communications Manager at CART. 

"Our standard procedures see us monitor all sightings of boats across the country. Something we do as unobtrusively as possible on a daily basis. If our records don't appear to match the declaration regarding the home mooring for a particular boat, we contact the boater for clarification. We may also contact a marina, which is legal through the Data Protection Act S.35(2)."

Here we get to four questionable outcomes of a "standard procedure" to monitor movement of individuals and their boats. Is this "snooping" actually proportionate, is it actually ethical and is there a missing moral dimension. And is this what we would expect from a charity. Do you think the public will want to put their hands in their pockets to support a charity - that spends its charitable donation in such a way. Will the CART chuggers be advising the public of this standard procedure.

Who knows, maybe CART would want to purchase the telephone and Internet activity information of boat owning individuals as yet another standard procedure. Just how are my civil liberties being impinged. Does it stop with my movements around the canals or is there even more that we don't know about. Maybe this is a question that could be directed at Shami and her organisation for for further clarification. Maybe this is another question for my MP/MEP and the media.

Talking of the media... I see that CART has put in yet another appearance in Private Eye magazine. Over many years I have come to know that the "eye" is one publication that most organisations don't want to come along and shine a light into their darkest corners. That's why its such a popular magazine with the public and whistle blowers. Read eagerly cover to cover by the establishment.  

Do you remember The New Christy Minstrels and their song "Three wheels on my waggon and I'm still rolling along. Things look bad, I'm feeling sad, but I'm singing a happy song." Why do I get the feeling that the wheels have started to come off the cart. Or maybe there was only ever three wheels to start with?


1 comment:

  1. Hi Mike,

    Whilst I share your concerns about the Governments intentions re the Communications Data Bill, I'm not sure how you can link that to C&RT's work in maintaining its income stream (similar I might suggest to parking wardens 'snooping' on parked cars).

    I would also like to know what is wrong with C&RT asking a marina for information? I'm not sure why C&RT have to quote S 35(2) of the DPA to justify their questions, because as far as I know it is not illegal to ask questions, what may be illegal is supplying the information requested.

    On the point of people giving money to a charity that uses it to monitor boats to make sure everyone pays the correct licence fee - I think the answer is probably yes.



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