What happened to the Conservatives’ promise to roll back the surveillance state? said James Ball. The British are already the most-spied-upon people on the planet, with hundreds of thousands of video cameras recording our comings and goings. Junior-level bureaucrats have the authority to “ping” our mobile phones to find out where we are at any given moment. Now they also want to monitor our every email and tweet in real time. The government claims it won’t read the emails, but will simply “build a profile of who contacts whom, with what frequency, and from where.” But how can we trust it? “Mission creep” is intrinsic to these projects.
When the Terrorism Act was introduced in 2005, Tony Blair assured us it would be invoked only in the direst of circumstances, but five years later it was used “to bar an elderly man from the Labor Party conference for heckling.” It’s hardly reassuring that bureaucrats already do a rotten job of keeping data private. Sensitive government databases have been “lost, stolen, or mishandled” time and again. Of course the security services want more power—that’s in their nature. But it’s the job of a democratic government to say no to measures that will “encroach on the private lives of millions.”