How the Tories u-turned on civil liberties


by Sunny Hundal    
9:15 am - April 2nd 2012

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In 2009, David Cameron gave a passionate speech at Imperial College.

He said (via Jamie Cartwright):

The action we take to rein in Labour’s control state and confront Labour’s surveillance state will help rebalance power in one direction by enhancing personal freedom and limiting the state’s power over us.

Labour was “running a surveillance state” he added again, and said it was, “pulling more and more people into the clutches of state data capture.”

The same year, ConservativeHome published a pamphlet by Tory MP Dominic Grieve titled ‘Reversing the Rise of the Surveillance State

The intro said:

New Labour has excessively relied on mammoth databases and wide powers of data-sharing, on the pretext that it will make government more effective and the citizen more secure. Its track record demonstrates the opposite, with intrusive and expensive databases gathering masses of our personal information – but handled so recklessly that we are exposed to greater risk.

A Conservative government will take a fundamentally different approach. We believe that your personal information belongs to you, not the state.

Oh that’s interesting because… Email and web use ‘to be monitored’ under new laws.

Of course, the Conservatives opposed such plans when Labour were foolish enough to float them. Now the government is very quiet. Even Libdem MPs were nowhere to be found denouncing the announcement.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


If you’re interested in the history of all this, Open Rights Group have a very good wiki up on the subject. You can find this here:

http://wiki.openrightsgroup.org/wiki/Communications_Capabilities_Development_Programme

Seems clear to me that after sending out the message that the state doesn’t want to work with its subjects, the state is now worried its subjects will begin to consider working against it. Hardly surprising in the current circumstances where deliberate discombobulation by spin doctors and the like wins government approval over listening to evidence-based professionals such as NHS doctors and lawyers.

2. Leon Wolfeson

Funny, my commercial and university contracts have no special exceptions for them. Guess I’ll need to encrypt everything!

What a pain in the ass.

(What? SO unsurprised)

@1

the state is now worried its subjects will begin to consider working against it.

When they come up with such totalitarian proposals, it is hardly surprising that honest citizens should want to work against the state.

I trust that someone, somewhere in the security apparatus noted that statement and filed it against my name.

Hardly surprising, Labour was perceived to be weak when accused of being authoritative and was thus attacked by lib and con parties that had no real opposition to these plans for no other reason than sensing an opportunity.

5. Shatterface

Of course, the Conservatives opposed such plans when Labour were foolish enough to float them. Now the government is very quiet. Even Libdem MPs were nowhere to be found denouncing the announcement.

And Labour MPs are no doubt doing a bang-up job opposing legislation they introduced.

“How the Tories u-turned on civil liberties”

hahahahahaha, u-turned, that’s a good one.

They were never serious about the statements you quote. For example, when Grieve said:

“A Conservative government will take a fundamentally different approach. We believe that your personal information belongs to you, not the state.”

Lansley was saying at the same time that they will legislate to allow your medical records to be “shared” with third parties. Medical records are confidential and personal and the clinician-patient relationship is based upon that principle. “Sharing” with third parties breaks that trust (whether the sharing is done by the clinician, or by the patient).

Lansley knew that the vast, detailed and accurate records kept by NHS providers were valuable (in fact, probably unique, no other country has detailed medical records of all citizens regardless of income) and he saw them as a revenue generation stream. Worse than that, Lansley intends to allow you to “share” your medical records with your employer. Why would you want to do that? Well you will not want to do that, but your employer will have an interest in your medical records. Expect soon that employers will make it clear that to get a job you will have to “share” your medical records with them.

Does that fit in with Grieve saying “personal information belongs to you, not the state”? Well, I guess it does, but not how you interpreted the statement. You interpreted it to mean that the information will be confidential (in my opinion, the State has a duty to ensure that). Grieve and Lansley don’t want the State to have the responsibility to keep your information confidential. It’s yours so you will be helped to “share” it with others. Disgusting.

As to the GCHQ stuff, it is not new. This policy will not start snooping, because it already happens now. They have been monitoring phone calls for decades: ever since satellite communications they have been able to point a dish at a satellite and collect whatever information they like. Notice the dishes on BT towers? Microwave communication, out on the airwaves and anyone with a dish can pick it up. Cell phones? Again, monitor the right frequency and you can pick it up. If News of the World hacks have been monitoring phone calls, GCHQ will have been too – but on a far greater scale.

After 9/11 a huge amount of money was put into CCHQ to write programs to analyse internet and phone traffic – look at the huge expansion of their facilities in Cheltenham, do you really think the doughnut is empty? So the snooping is nothing new. All this policy will do is legitimise it.

@ 2.

Doesn’t really matter whether you encrypt or not. GCHQ are perfectly capable of breaking it, those who think otherwise are naive.

Glad someone else picked up on it. As I argue here, given the noise both Tories and LibDems were making a mere two years ago (remember the trite “ZaNuLabour”?), it really shows that this is nothing but a government of CLOWNS.

This latest attack on our freedoms is the next part of the American ‘Patriot act’ that is being written into British law. First under Blair and now the tories and their Lib Dem patsys.

One of the reasons I take so called Euro sceptics complaints about national sovereignty with a pinch of salt is that they are quite prepared to turn us into the 51st state of the USA at the drop of a hat. No doubt the usual cretins will wheel out the usual “if you got nothing to hide nothing to fear argument” these people deserve to be made slaves for their complacency. Stalin and Hitler could only dream of the kind of surveillance that has captured the UK over the last 25 years.

Sunny is right to point out the hypocrisy of the tories in opposition. Just add it to the long and growing list of lies told by Cameron.. The GW Bush analogy grows by the day. The sight of Gove fighting to prevent his emails being read, while his mates try to get the power to read ours is typical tory hypocrisy.

Doesn’t surprise me. When Labour was in power I used to patiently explain to anti-Labour friends that the Tories weren’t genuinely opposed to authoritarian measures (of course, some are, just as some Labour people are) and would change their position when they got in. I am not sure I was believed. It’s nothing new: previous Tory governments have also been responsible for notorious authoritarian measures. And this time the Lib Dems are complicit too!

Richard Blogger makes a very important point. When Conservative politicians talk about individual empowerment, they do not mean it to be in addition to your present protection by the State: they mean it to be instead of your protection by the State. Already, “choice” of schools has meant that local authorities are not obliged to provide school places for all those in their area. You will find that, when your doctor no longer has a budget for your treatment, you will be told that it was your choice that you were registered with a doctor whose budget was running low.

This is like some kinds of land reform in the global south. Farmers get a piece of paper and told that their land rights are more secure. They’re not. They have lost protection by the community or the State and in exchange got a piece of paper, which they might lose if they use it as collateral for a loan or if they get into debt.

So what to do?
Can’t vote for Labour due to their authoritarianism and soft corporatism.
Can’t bit Tory due to their corporatism and lack of human kindness.
Can’t vote libdem as apparently they have abandoned the lib and the dem bit of their name.
Can’t vote green as they still have way too much woo.
Can’t vote Respect because they are bunch of sectarian, homophobic, sexist idiots.
Can’t vote swp for exactly the same reason.
Can’t vote Communist as they still live in the 70s
And if I think the Tories are too right wing then ukip, bnp, EDL etc are all out of the question for obvious reasons.
So who’s left? Seriously who caters for a left of centre,secular, social liberal with a respect for science?

@7

“Doesn’t really matter whether you encrypt or not. GCHQ are perfectly capable of breaking it, those who think otherwise are naive.”

It is perfectly possible to encrypt to the point that GCHQ could not conceivably break into your files without spending considerable time and money. Plenty of ‘off-the-shelf’ encrypting software would make it close to impossible. Of course, such encryption would be elaborate and mostly pointless.

I find the government u-turn on this amusing, but don’t have anything against the legislation if it’s implemented properly. It’s the implementation of safeguards that’s the key issue here, not the fact that the government can do this (because they unarguably should be able to do this, when required.) You’d hope they would take this more seriously than other “anti-terror” legislation of yester-year but I doubt they will.

14. Leon Wolfeson

@7 – Actually, this is something which is a matter of active debate among security professionals.

For instance;

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/all/1
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2012/03/can_the_nsa_bre.html

Look at what THEY mandate themselves for security. AES!

Yes, they’re now looking at successors to it, but the fact of the matter is that these algorithms are beaten on for a long time before anyone dares to use them, and “breaches” in AES have come from either sloppy/incorrect implementation (side channel attacks) or social hacking.

May I suggest, we need a united front against this. It is something I would hope all those who call themselves liberal, no matter by what definition, can agree upon, and there will be no leadership from the politicians, although there will be some in each of the main parties who are on the right side.

16. Leon Wolfeson

@15 – For that matter, I’d expect support from Libertarians and small-state conservatives as well.

Leon, certainly.

OK I know government is always seeing how far it can go in terms of monitoring our private communications based on ever-increasingly spurious claims and unsubstantiated concerns over security, but I firmly believe everyone has it wrong on this occasion. To me this smells of classic spin. Take an emotive subject like privacy, increase the pressure, sit back and watch it simmer. The real thorn in the government’s side at present is the NHS.

A sparse little press release about snooping that affects absolutely everyone is perfect fodder designed to draw attention away from real on-going events that draw much controversy.

Seems to be working too. They say ‘Jump’, the media says ‘Is this high enough?’

All this Spin Is Making Me Dizzy or Meanwhile, Back At The NHS’

http://domesticempire.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/all-this-nhs-spin-is-making-me-dizzy/


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