American Politics, World Politics

The White House should be sweating over the FBI’s liberty abuse

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Over recent months, a worrying increase in organised crimes and devastating shootouts all over the United States has shocked citizens worldwide. As politicians and security officials have become hard pressed for security legislation, a balance of civil liberties and state protection has proven seemingly hard to weigh out.

The past few weeks’ events involving the formidable FBI and tech giant Apple have accentuated this conundrum all the more. No one advocates for such catastrophic terrorist attacks, but ensuring privacy when monitoring criminal suspects is vital. There is no denying that this form of criminal investigation can be valuable when enforcing the law. Serious organised crimes and terrorist atrocities are more frequent than ever, and monitoring the movements of suspect individuals is paramount for the protection of a nation’s citizens.

But there is something gravely worrying about such robust precautions. The guaranteed right to privacy of many civilians is at threat. Apple’s resilience towards the FBI’s coercive demands, however, is reassuring news for many liberals. The company’s decision not to aid US agencies in the recovery of personal data on a suspect’s phone has highlighted the need for clamping down on the state’s data monopoly.

Last week, however, with third-party support, the FBI succeeded in breaking through what used to be Apple’s impenetrable wall of security. The highest criminal investigations agency in the world had defied the passcode of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone. George Orwell must be turning in his grave. The FBI’s hacking has proven that the US government – and, evidently, many other global governments – can summon the personal details of any citizen, exposing vast details of their private life. Needless to say, technology use is widespread today. The possibility of those either wrongly or correctly accused of criminal activities having their right to privacy taken away from them is worrying likely. Apple dominates a large section of the worldwide technology market, meaning that the number of individuals who could be at threat from such stringent surveillance measures is considerably large. In the wrong hands, these capabilities could prove to be detrimental. Within myriad governments, the unwarranted tracking of citizens may now become more normal.

The United States isn’t the only nation that must be brought into focus when it comes to the liberties versus security debate. Rigorous monitoring has caused discontent across the world. The information provided by whistle-blowers like Edwards Snowden is pivotal, and shows the large extent to which the US government already spies on its citizens. Other national governments the world over have succeeded in using data monitoring as a source of crime deterrence. China’s strict internet monitoring, the United Kingdom’s ‘snoopers charter’ and the arrest of a Facebook executive in Brazil highlight the rigid surveillance measures which have emerged internationally. Individual liberties are fast becoming unduly curbed. Just because many other states’ governments have succeeded in such wide-scaled monitoring does not mean that the United States can operate a similar system which is free of controversial agenda.

Surely it is time that the White House took definitive action, standing up for its traditionally libertarian principles. There is a large potential for such invasive powers to be used wrongly, and for innocent citizens’ privacy to be crushed. In Obama’s last-minute legislative rush, he and his left-wing democrats should spend the last few months of administration over the protection individual freedoms. Attitudes towards civil liberty and national security could, of course, rapidly change under Presidents Clinton, Trump or Cruz. News that President Obama has failed to either condemn or support the probing actions of the FBI shows up his indecisiveness in relation to the matter. In order to protect his nation’s people, the US President must lucidly proclaim his stance, taking radical action.

Ron Wyden, Senator for Oregon, is just one of the high-profile politicians whom have condemned the controversial actions of the FBI. It seems that, despite the fact that there are plausible arguments for such monitoring in our growingly insecure society, the livelihoods and safety of citizens are at risk. The right to privacy is one which is becoming eroded, and one that is in danger of being forgotten. Unless global governments strike the correct balance, citizens may soon have their individuality and privileges taken from them.

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Business, UK Politics

Businesses mustn’t get too big for their boots when it comes to tax

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Google, Amazon, Vodafone and Apple are just a few of the multinationals which have made the headlines in recent months, but not only because of the revolutionary products and services upon which so many of us rely.

Over the past few months, the aforementioned companies, amongst many others, have received stark warnings over heinous tax avoidance schemes. Towards the end of December, it was revealed that Apple owes at least €880m in tax to the Italian government. Only in the same month had a startling report been published detailing over 500 corporations who had not paid their fair share in Australia, and this month it has come to light that Google has failed to pay anywhere near its 20% corporation tax. It seems that there will be no end to the corporation tax saga anytime soon.

Whilst our government takes away support for those whom day-to-day struggles for necessities is a reality, we should in fact be turning our attention to the activities of big business.

Many of the most prominent household name brands are simply not punished enough for this staggering wrongdoing. The extent of tax exploitation indeed involves only the very few, but the extent of the problem is far-reaching. In actual fact, Google has only had to pay back £130m in taxes, a mere fraction of their dues which have spanned the past decade. Further to this, Apple paid back to Italian authorities only €318m to ‘settle’ the dispute, a fee which again does not amount to full payment. Here, there is a fundamental flaw. The point of this repayment should not be to ‘settle’ any arguments. Companies should have to pay back their full debts in order to feel some real pressure and eradicate such fiendish tactics.

One thing is clear. Tax avoidance is eroding our society’s core economic values and our precious rule of law. Hard punishment for culprit companies must become real. In this era of capitalism, which has albeit seen a sparkling global economy, the organisations with a monopoly have an increasingly strong hold over political and economic agenda of our nation. Once one company takes advantage of the system, the rest will follow. The Conservative leadership is evidently failing to attack the underhand game plan of some companies, a government strategy which is punishing the poor and rewarding the deceit of the wealthy.

Without the contributions of organisations at the centre of our society, development of our nationwide economy will become slow and arduous. Multinational companies must give something back in order to support the small businesses which may one day grow to follow in their footsteps.

The European Union’s plans to finitely control tax payments from businesses in the light of these revelations is thus reassuring. Chancellor George Osborne must indeed keep businesses on his side but regulate them strongly, in the same way that the ordinary citizen is kept in line. Britain’s tax body, HMRC, must become more transparent and accountable to the public, making sure that all contribute their fair share.

A market economy like that of the United Kingdom can be hugely successful, but the recent tax scandals have proven that a degree of real state regulation is paramount. Britain’s monetary future must have fairness in its roots, a concept which must further become the spirit of our large businesses.

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