Dear David Cameron,
You recently claimed that certain forms of modern communication cannot be allowed to happen in private. I wanted to let you know that writing was invented over five thousand years ago and speaking, privately or publicly, predates writing by hundreds of thousands of years. There is nothing modern about private communication. What is modern, are high literacy rates and the Internet. High literacy rates mean people communicate though writing much more than they used to. The Internet facilitates written communication, identifies the communicators, and due to the nature of writing, keeps a record of it.
This gives governments the ability to monitor their citizen's communication on mass for the first time. Ever.
It is thankfully still generally accepted that when we speak to someone everything we say should not be recorded and sent to a central database. However, it appears that there is no limit to the type of communication you wish to monitor, Mr Cameron. Most of us carry a microphone around with us in our pockets in the form of our mobile phones. The Internet of Things is bringing computer chips to every household appliance. Would you have everything we say recoded and stored in a central database, which only the Home Secretary can grant access too with a "personal" signature? You are asking us to trust the Home Secretary with all of our information without earning our trust. In fact it has been broken many times.
Only last year police were caught trying to spy on Cambridge students planning a peaceful anti-fracking protest. It has been branded "a gross abuse of surveillance powers".
The terrorists wish to destroy our society. Surveillance is a weapon of mass destruction. Don't give them success in removing our most basic freedoms. Freedom of speech is a human right and recording citizen's private communication who have committed no crime is a human rights abuse even if it is not intended to be listened to.
Furthermore, Mr Cameron, the security of the collected information cannot be guaranteed and could increase Britain's vulnerability. Just last week a group of activists wiretapped high-level political surveillance hawks at Sweden's top security conference and discovered that their mission was "to develop society's ability to prevent and deal with serious accidents and contingencies." The activist group say:
"We consider it problematic that their personnel is nowhere near sufficiently trained in information security"
There is no reason whatsoever to trust a government, or anyone else at all, besides than the intended recipient, with our private information. Edward Snowden revealed western governments do not even have full control over their own security agencies and that these agencies are beyond the reach of the law.
Despite this, it appears from your statements Mr Cameron that you wish to push the limits of what is recorded and collected by the government to include every form of communication.
What kind of World would that be?
The surveillance state has come about mainly though natural market forces. The very same forces are now stirring once again to satisfy demand for privacy. This is happening for a reason, which is that the Internet is growing and also due to government whistle blowers, namely Edward Snowden.
With a small user base, the invasion of privacy taking place on the Internet was not a concern to most people and was actually considered a conspiracy theory. This was until the Edward Snowden revelations, which revealed that unaccountable agencies around the world, funded by governments, including your own, Mr Cameron, force technology companies to allow security holes in their platforms, giving these agencies the power to spy on all the users of those platforms. The general public was unaware of this. It was not announced. It was hidden.
But now the cat is out of the bag on surveillance and with an ever-growing Internet, freedom of speech for the whole World is potentially at stake. Britain should set an example of freedom on the Internet which can only be achieved though encryption and not be hammered down into a surveillance state through fear. The purpose of terrorism is to make people afraid and increasing surveillance achieves that. It is like negotiating with terrorists to compromise our hard-won principles. It is targeting the whole population in a beam of surveillance, putting everyone at risk of having their information compromised. The negative effects of mass-surveillance are not immediately observable but it has the effect of sterilising ideas, hindering organic social movements and is a bridge to totalitarianism. Mass surveillance is sacrificing an essential aspect of a free society in exchange for a slight potential increase in security. It is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Surveillance does not reduce the hatred against the West. Surveillance does not solve the problem.
The "modernising" which you rightly state the law is in need of, should be the removal of this modern spy feature. The Internet was never intended to be an insecure platform and thousands of developers around the world are working on cryptographic solutions to fix this flaw. Their efforts should be supported.
A government controlled database of all our information is a target, a central point of failure and a foundation for totalitarianism. If you lay the groundwork for a spy-grid Mr Cameron, a less well-intentioned successor could take advantage of the absolute powers you will have obtained. Extremism cannot be fought with more extremism. That is how it multiplies. A war on encryption makes everyone less secure. You have no right to unleash robotic sniffer dogs into every digital device and piece of software. Governmental security agencies must be kept on a tight digital leash and have the quantum leap they have recently made into our daily lives, undone.
Any wise leader will be concerned that a cornerstone of their society - free speech, is threatened. Expecting that the population trust a clandestine organisation, which is connected up to many other such organisations around the globe, one of which was recently revealed to be committing torture, with all of our private communication data, is absurd.
Three highly relevant quotes from Martin Luther King.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"
"Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress."
"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
By Matthew Jones
KEYWORDS: surveillance, internet, freedom, cryptocurrency, encryption, open letters, civil right, free speech, human rights
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