The Data Communications Bill is another step by the Coalition government towards limiting our civil liberties and the creation of a surveillance state, writes Marienna Pope-Weidemann
The Coalition government is besieging internet freedom and anonymity with what Big Brother Watch has described as 'the greatest attack on the private life seen for generations.'
Theresa May’s Data Communications Bill (DCB) violates pre-election Tory promises to reduce state surveillance powers. Police will receive real-time intelligence on who you communicate with and what sites you visit, placing every citizen under permanent surveillance within their own homes. And while tuition fees soar and hospitals disappear, they’re charging us £1.5billion for it.
Meanwhile, private control is being extended over many sections of the state and society once considered sacrosanct. Plans for police privatisation, billed at another £1.5billion, will see private technology firms contracted to handle our data, reducing public accountability still further.
Government and corporate interests have converged here. While internet service providers are obligated by the DCB to retain data for the government, Google now collects usage data for sale en masse to the online advertisers.
In its wider political context the DCB must be seen as part of a twofold strategy to maintain control as technological changes revolutionise our ability to communicate and collaborate with each other in a growing number of ways and over any distance: while new legislation paves the way for corporations and the state to access our personal data, public information access is being severely restricted.
Intensified persecution of whistle-blowers discourages journalists from doing their job. Meanwhile, corporate entertainment lobbies have been clamping down on file sharing, making it harder for us to do it for them. Like the printing press in the 15th century, the internet gives voice to the people like never before. Like the printing press, therefore, it is also under attack by the state.
Web founder Sir Berners Lee has himself warned that it will be necessary to hit the streets to defend freedom of speech online. It has powerful enemies in the entertainment industry and in a home secretary with scant regard for our civil liberties.
But the defeat of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in the European Parliament was a testament to what can be achieved when threats are met with organised popular resistance: a lesson we’d do well not to forget.
Marienna is a socialist writer and campaigner who studied Politics & International Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She is a leading organiser of the Student Assembly Against Austerity. She currently works as a filmmaker for the Islam Channel.
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