The Big Brother Features a British Accent

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The right for privacy or the general interest to safeguard the public’s privacy – which one wins in case of a clash? After failing this move a few times in the past, the British government attempts once more to pass legislation that enables certain authorities to monitor the state’s communication, including e-mail correspondence, phone calls and text messages, without any previous suspicion or limitations.

Academics and lawyers wildly object and criticize this law, and refer to it as “snooper’s charter”. Professor Mike Jackson, an expert on IT and cyber security from Birmingham City University, argues that in fact, the law grants all citizens the status of potential suspects, unless proven otherwise. It obliges mobile phone companies and internet providers to store data about all clients, and not only those who are suspect of certain criminal acts. He further thinks that these companies will be obliged to develop the appropriate infrastructure, to cope with the massive amounts of data to be stored, for one year at least. Today, there are apps that enable the citizen to encode the communication between himself and his friends, but Professor Jackson believes that the act obliges the developers to limit the extent of encoding, up to a certain level, to enable the government to decode it, in due time. This matter strongly bothers him. Not only it allows the government to achieve this data, but also hackers can work more easily.

As mentioned above, lawyers also oppose this act. Chris Watson, a lawyer specializing in technology, media and communication, argues that this act stores great danger. He argues that the law enables the government to do whatever it deems fit under the excuse of a national interest or homeland security, without achieving complete transparency with the citizen, in all that regards the government’s reasons to perform such actions.

The response provided by the British government to the concerns raised about “snooper’s charter” is that this act is necessary to protect civilian lives. However, the question of the line between the need of protecting public well-being and the need for privacy remains. It appears that in the context of this debate the public talk will increase and heat a dozen times.