In a recent article, Mr Eugenides charts recent moves by the government in their War On Civil Liberties.
First is Andy Burnham’s plan to force cinema-style ratings on all websites:
He plans to approach US president-elect Barack Obama’s incoming administration with proposals for tight international rules on English language websites, which may include forcing internet service providers, such as BT, Tiscali, Sky and AOL, to provide packages restricting access to websites without an age rating.
It’s likely that Obama will politely tell Burnham to fuck off, since Obama is both clever himself and advised by clever people, who are not going to go for something so absurdly unworkable. The USA is having economic difficulties right now, but their Internet sector is one of the strongest parts of their economy and it’s unlikely they would cripple it on the say-so of an illiterate toerag like Burnham.
Second, Mr Eugenides quotes The Times as saying:
The Home Office has quietly adopted a new plan to allow police across Britain routinely to hack into people’s personal computers without a warrant.
The move, which follows a decision by the European Union’s council of ministers in Brussels, has angered civil liberties groups and opposition MPs. They described it as a sinister extension of the surveillance state which drives “a coach and horses” through privacy laws.
The hacking is known as “remote searching”. It allows police or MI5 officers who may be hundreds of miles away to examine covertly the hard drive of someone’s PC at his home, office or hotel room.
Material gathered in this way includes the content of all e-mails, web-browsing habits and instant messaging.
Under the Brussels edict, police across the EU have been given the green light to expand the implementation of a rarely used power involving warrantless intrusive surveillance of private property. The strategy will allow French, German and other EU forces to ask British officers to hack into someone’s UK computer and pass over any material gleaned.
It’s nothing new for the police to hack into people’s computers — they’ve been doing it for years in a small way and were given the power under a 1994 amendment to the Computer Misuse Act 1990. So it’s nothing to do with the EU, even if detractors of that organisation (such as Rupert Murdoch) want to say it is. And Labour don’t need any encouragement to destroy our liberties anyway. As the same article later adds:
Richard Clayton, a researcher at Cambridge University’s computer laboratory, said that remote searches had been possible since 1994, although they were very rare. An amendment to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 made hacking legal if it was authorised and carried out by the state.
He said the authorities could break into a suspect’s home or office and insert a “key-logging” device into an individual’s computer. This would collect and, if necessary, transmit details of all the suspect’s keystrokes. “It’s just like putting a secret camera in someone’s living room,” he said. […]
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said such intrusive surveillance was closely regulated under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. A spokesman said police were already carrying out a small number of these operations which were among 194 clandestine searches last year of people’s homes, offices and hotel bedrooms.
The Tories were in power in the period 1979-1997, and it’s for reasons like this that I don’t have much confidence in the Conservative Party as protectors of civil liberties. About the best that can be said for them is they’re a bit better than the current lot.