Day by day, as the revelations mount, it becomes ever clearer that our security agencies are truly out of control. Today, for example, we have learned that GCHQ collected webcam images and metadata from 1.8 million global Yahoo! users between 2008 and 2010 (using the Optic Nerve program; which was still active in 2012). A massive data slurp not based on suspicion – but just because ‘they could’, and no-one prevented them.
This, hot on the heels of disclosures that GCHQ’s JTRIG unit was working to discredit and damage the reputations of whichever individuals and organisations they saw fit through online deception and reputation-destruction.
GCHQ’s response is that they operate “in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.”
What seems in little doubt, as our security services operate however they want (falling back on the stock ‘in accordance with’ justification) is that the overseers and guardians of their activities have grossly failed the public. A public which has every right to expect privacy and for the security services to act in accordance with the law. A public which, sadly, has been sleep-walked into a surveillance state.
Despite the fact that the law is clear and that mass surveillance is illegal - Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to respect for private and family life; the right to freedom of expression), change clearly needs to happen.
If this is an issue that has resonance for you, consider joining the ‘Don’t Spy On Us’ campaign. Their six key principles are:
1. No Surveillance without Suspicion
2. Transparent Laws, not Secret Laws
3. Judicial not Political Authorisation
4. Effective Democratic Oversight
5. The Right to Redress
6. A Secure Web for All
You can sign the petition and learn more here: