The Communications Data Bill

In small communities people know what is going on. In a small village you rapidly learn who is good and who is bad, who is trustworthy and who is not; you also know, by gossip and observation who is unfaithful and who is unreliable. In a small very town nation you also know most of these things, but as the geographical circle widens so you are exposed to more people and know less about them. We now live in very complex societies where even if you live in a small village you are bound to come into contact with multinational companies in one way or another, and you need to know, not just your local mayor or chief of the village, but also the thousands of politicians that crave your votes, telling you that they want to improve your life.

We handle our knowledge, or lack of it, through the use of the internet and through the use of sophisticated news reporting and information sharing. However there is so much to know that you cannot get all the knowledge and asking someone on the internet is not as reliable as asking someone in a village, because usually you know how far to trust a fellow villager, and that village has to come into frequent contact with you. You mostly have no idea about whether the information you can get on the internet, including information on this blog, is reliable and true.

That problem faces every organisation as well as every person. The usual official answer to this problem by the government is to set up a system under which its forces of law and order can intercept communications to gain information and to rely on spies and informers. Hitler did this, having a network of people who reported any malfeasance, and Lenin and Stalin did this too, sending millions to prison without trial in the most cruel conditions imaginable.

If any of these undesirable politicians were running a nation today he would doubtless obtain powers to monitor the use of citizens of the internet, to see what they are looking at, and to read emails that people send to each other. The would probably come up with a piece of legislation as the Communications Data Bill, which would provide the government with all the powers it needs, were the bill to be enacted. After the dreadful slaying of a soldier in Woolwich there are calls to bring the bill into law. Somehow, the authorities seem to think, that such a law would help them in their desire to protect us from terrorism.

In truth we are in very little danger from terrorist attacks today in the developed world. The forces of law and order have reasonable control and in events of last Thursday are fortunately very rare. We are in danger of sacrificing our freedom. Each year more laws are enacted which curtail our freedom; each year the judicial system becomes less tolerant of acquitting those you may possibly be innocent and more tolerant of convicting those who may possibly be guilty.

Perhaps as a society we have passed the high water mark of freedom and now have to watch the tide roll out taking many of our precious liberties with it.