American Politics, human rights, society, UK Politics, World Politics

Only our governments can end invasive surveillance, but they won’t

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Geo-tagging a memorable photo, signing up for a social networking account, or sending a text message each seem like pretty innocent actions at face value. But with a fast flurry of government dogma in relation to omnipresent extremism, our civil liberties are placed at risk more and more with each day. Desperate to combat the threats of violent militants around the world, many governments have rapidly introduced intense surveillance measures, nowadays monitoring our every snap, move, and spoken word.

The continuing advent of technology is, needless to say, hugely exciting. But governments throughout many countries are getting down to curbing our freedoms on social networks, city streets, and even the most innocent of conversations to a monumental extent. The worrying facet of newly-introduced monitoring legislation is that the idea of freedom amongst global citizens is becoming something very 20th century indeed.

Enshrined in myriad global agreements, treaties and conventions, the right to privacy is precious and essential. So precious and essential, it seems, that our leaders are intent on enshrining it for only the very few – perhaps, very soon, even for none at all. It is estimated that nowadays one CCTV camera exists for every 11 people. It was reported in 2014 that many of our phone service providers willfully pass user data to surveillance bodies as if it comes on an endless factory conveyor belt.

There is no denying that extremism is becoming a frightening global epidemic which must be dealt with fast. Of course, with the most devastating of criminals, the resources that come with such intrinsic surveillance are no doubt invaluable. But already, a gargantuan range of measures which may soon veer our lives into public view for the wrong reasons have come into action.

The formidable Home Secretary, Theresa May, has built a reputation for her iron fist when it comes to the contentious issues of surveillance. For several years, the nation’s surveillance body – GCHQ – has seen a rapid increase in privileges relating to the covert monitoring of any citizen, personal communications interception, and intense collection of biometric data. In recent days, the Labour party and SNP have demanded numerous concessions be made for the next stage of the British Snooper’s Charter. Information as personal as medical records may become searchable with a warrant, and attacks on journalists becoming easier to set up could see the fabric of our free press start to fray.

Similarly, in the US, spying is becoming worryingly commonplace. CCTV figures are on the rise, and the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has spoken volumes. Data archives on every citizen of some of the world’s most powerful nations are becoming vast. No matter their position in society, the biggest secrets and most private facts of our lives are at threat of unfair exposure.

With such highly personal data in the hands of some of society’s largest and most powerful bodies, interception must be highly regulated, and details of the innocent safeguarded. Global governments have shown recently, though, that they may not be competent enough to take charge of such sensitive information, and that we may never regain the sense of privacy in which we once revelled.

Society is becoming like that most dreaded by George Orwell. With an influx of technology, not only police forces and our elected officials govern us. Social networks set political agenda, filtrating the news we see, and communications services can store our every click or instant message. Reports of Facebook’s anti-right-wing bias shows the political power it wields nowadays, and without a fierce revolution the strength of its unbalanced news crusade will not disappear. To top this, the company has been embroiled in many a court case over its draconian tactics of retaining its users’ personal information. When it comes to moderating such tactics, only our national governments can preside forcefully. But the far-ranging problem is that our governments are indeed involved in the collection of citizen data.

Who, then, is able to voice concern and reinstate our precious rights to privacy? Whilst hearty protest from the people can help raise awareness of the issue, it seems that only a revolution from inside can aid the government in its new data war. The problem lies with the government and society’s elites, whom are in control of social media, multinational companies, and, of course, our legislative bodies.

Regulation of such data interception is vital, but is just too weak. This week, MI5 has been vehemently attacked for its lack of seriousness in the scrutiny of interception cases, failing to seek fully fleshed out justification. It was also reported last month in the Guardian that the US foreign intelligence body didn’t at all deny any requests for surveillance last year. Further to this, the Guardian reported recently that the US Supreme Court has just granted investigatory forces new powers for surveillance. The line of human rights allowances is being forgotten. Our governments, responsible for this implementation are those who have the ability to revoke their legislation. The lack of scrutiny of surveillance policy worldwide highlights that, without staunch opposition, our civil liberties will soon become fully eroded.

The only success in highlighting the wrongdoing of international governments in surveillance has been had by whistleblowers, however. Perhaps they are the answers. Parliamentary oppositions are proving too weak. NSA leaker Edward Snowden successfully brought to light the infiltrating spying techniques of the US government, in the same way that Chelsea Manning helped to share the truth to WikiLeaks. Julian Assange, too, is invaluable in the fight to regain civil liberties. If our governments are too slow to act, we can trust only those in public office, and those who see the first-hand effects of such a privacy invasion to stand up for the fairer option of privacy.

Our leaders are the crafty ones here. With a rise in terrorism and organised crime, our elected officials our playing to our fears. Paranoia is what fuels such an intrusive media and privacy campaign. The success of the aforementioned surveillance methods has been far and few, and opens up the possibilities of not just privacy, but other human rights becoming forgotten in the future. We cannot let international atrocities make our global society that which is desired by extremists. Those who inflict terror hope for the days when our moral integrity is brought to the knees, and the intensive monitoring carried out by out governments is providing the foundations for such an outcome.

With such a large number of those aware of Tory plans for current and increase surveillance tactics disapproving, something is wrong. This is not just a UK disease, but one taking the whole globe by storm. With the justification of crime levels rising and extremism prevailing, harsher surveillance will continue to become implemented. Vocal opponents have shown to be the only way to discourage the ethos of paranoia which is sweeping society. Only internal revolution can dissuade our leaders now. For the vast majority of citizens, invasive monitoring is wholly unnecessary. Until our MPs, courts, parliaments and leaders largely realise that society will only become more fragmented, timid and fearful, one of our greatest and most important rights will be further forgotten.

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