Earlier today we wrote about how the UK's High Court determined that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) Act that passed a year ago, allowing the government wide leverage to get access to citizens' private data, was a violation of privacy
, because it did not have necessary limitations. The rule is still allowed to be used for the next nine months while the court asks Parliament to fix the law (or for the government to appeal the ruling, which it's doing). Cue frantic bogus FUD from the press stenographers in the UK. The Telegraph's "Security Editor" posted a story with this ridiculous (and wrong) headline: "Thousands of lives at risk after High Court rules snooping powers unlawful."
There is, of course, nothing in the article to support the headline, because it's not even remotely true. Considering that the law stays in place for the time being even if it were true that this power to spy on citizens was necessary (which it's not), there would be no difference at all today. But the Telegraph has to come out with FUD so it quotes unnamed government officials going with the "but think of the children!" argument:
But police chiefs and the Home Office warned that would mean officers would no longer be able to use the data to help trace vulnerable people such as those at suicide risk or missing children
So they need to spy on you to save you. Talk about a paternalistic authoritarian bullshit. And, actually, the article seems to raise a lot more questions about abuse
of DRIP than anything else:
The power was used in around 16,000 such cases last year to “prevent death or injury in an emergency situation”, the Home Office said.
Under the ruling, judges or an independent body will have to sign off every one of the 500,000-plus requests to access communications data each year.
First of all, 500,000 requests?!? What the hell are they searching? Second: 16,000 cases
where this power was used to "prevent death or injury in an emergency situation" -- that's not even remotely believable. That's saying that law enforcement in the UK needed to snoop on citizens' private data more than 40 times every day
to "prevent death or serious injury." Considering that the law only went into effect a year ago, did the number of deaths and serious injuries drop by a tremendous amount in the last 12 months, because surely there should be some evidence of that, right? Admittedly, the latest stats
only go up to 2013, but if there had been a giant decrease in suicides, wouldn't someone be talking about that
number, rather than the requests for information?
Instead, everyone's going on and on about how they're supposedly preventing suicides by spying on your:
Assistant Chief Constable Richard Berry, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on communications data, said: “A significant proportion of our acquisition of data relates to situations where life is at immediate risk and a significant proportion of those requests relate to non-crime enquiries, for example: tracing vulnerable and suicidal missing persons.”
Of course, even if this is true (which is unlikely), are they really
arguing that they need a special data retention law to make this happen? Or that they can't bother to ask a judge first? In the US, we don't
have a similar data retention law, and yet companies frequently work with law enforcement to help them locate missing persons. Why do you need a broad law with little oversight unless you're planning to abuse that power in a way that companies might push back on if they weren't required by law to comply?