Britain already has more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in the world, and a four million strong DNA database that contains details of thousands of UK residents who have committed no crime.
Should the state be granted its apparent desire to have access to every single phone call made, every last text message and email sent, and each website visited by anyone in Britain, it would be possessed of an arsenal of surveillance techniques that would have been the envy of the classic totalitarian regimes of the past.
The demands should be opposed, for the same reasons that similar demands made by the Labour government in 2008, during Jacqui Smith’s tenure at the Home Office.
All of the justifications advanced are patently spurious. For a start, only the most stupid terrorist or villain would use his own PC or phone for sensitive communication. That’s what nicked mobiles and internet cafes are for, isn’t it?
The package is being advanced as a measure vital for national security and organised crime, in much the same spirit as steps such as compulsory ID cards and 90-day detention without trial have been touted in the past. Yet neither of those measures was enacted, and the country is not obviously the worse off as a result.
As a lefty journo with an interest in the darker fringes of politics and religion, I frequently visit some questionable parts of the internet for the purposes of research. Such activity is completely legitimate and should not subject those who undertake it to additional scrutiny on that account alone.
Sure, it is legit for the cops and the spooks to keep tabs on jihadi talkboards and kiddie fiddler picture exchanges, and maybe one or two other categories of website that don’t immediately spring to mind. But that’s about it.