Archive for January 7th, 2009

January 7th, 2009

Help Yourselves, again

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

Another day another law which intrudes into the freedom of everyone in the country.

This one comes right from the top, the EU, whose council of ministers has given European police the right to hack into people’s computers without a warrant. 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 would include the text of all your emails, internet conversations & web browsing habits plus all your documents & photographs.

The only rider will be that a senior officer will need to approve on the grounds that suck hacking is proportionate & necessary to prevent or detect a serious offence. A serious offence is defined as one for which you can be imprisoned for 3 years or more, the way this government is going that will soon include putting your bin out on the wrong night.

Of course, your definition of a serious offence may well be different to that of the average senior officer on the Clapham Omnibus. Wasn’t Thames Valley recently criticised for intrusive surveillance of one of its own detectives & a reporter on the local rag while they discussed matters so serious that the judge who threw out the case described them as completely trivial?

I’ve not been one to agree very often with Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, the human rights group, but on this occasion I can’t help feeling like she does when she says “These are very intrusive powers – as intrusive as someone busting down your door and coming into your home, the public will want this to be controlled by new legislation and judicial authorisation. Without those safeguards it’s a devastating blow to any notion of personal privacy.”

Of course, I have no problem with law enforcement authorities being able to investigate serious crime by hacking into people’s computers, but there should be checks & balances. Even when there are some checks & balances we see senior officers (other investigatory bodies eg the local council) completely abusing their authority & using such laws to investigate trivial matters. I have no faith that this particular power will not be abused.