my letter to Jeremy Corbyn MP on DRIP
As a constituent, I am writing to ask you to vote against the Data
Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) bill.
A society which gives its policemen a time-machine to see into the past
Internet behaviour (and effectively thoughts) of everyone, without
prior suspicion, is not a free society, no matter how many safeguards.
This is possible just with metadata, even under the limited 2009
definitions which the bill re-instates.
There will now likely be two kinds of society in Europe. Those
accepting that blanket collection is incompatible with human rights,
and Panoptic states like the UK that seek to govern by a "consent"
intimidated by continuous monitoring.
Neither DRIP 1.6 nor the draft regulation [8(1) & 15(2)] make provision
for Data Protection rights for the individual to correct or access data
retained, either under a DRIP retention order, or the still-in-force
"voluntary" ATCSA Code of Practice 2003 (used to retain logs of web
The DRIP s.5 definition purportedly for "webmail" is vastly too
broad. It could apply to any 'server' program, running on any computer,
anywhere in world (that is the point of the Internet - all are
"available in the UK" - absent a great British firewall).
The extra-territoriality in the bill is a vast over-reach, worse even
than that of the notorious FISA and PATRIOT US legislation. Once the
rest-of-world deliberates on the reach of DRIP, they may treat the UK
as privacy pariah.
A fundamental human rights contradiction we now know from Snowden
(mentions of "FVEY defeats"), is how can it be lawful under ECHR for
GCHQ to treat Five Eyes nationals' data differently from that of
European (or other) citizens?
Why hasn't the Home Office developed, in the past 13 years, alternate
policies for collection targeted on known criminals, about whom some
reasonable suspicion exists (but insufficient for interception). The
Home Office gambled all-or-nothing on keeping blanket retention. They
lost, and their lack of preparation is the cause of the current crisis.
That is what we have a civil service for - to plan contingencies. It is
a policymaking failure on epic scale.
The Home Office case studies on the "necessity" of retention fall apart
on scrutiny. The point is not whether metadata is useful in an
investigation, the question is whether (intelligent) meta-data
collection begun on suspects after a crime could have yielded enough
evidence and leads. The Home Office offers anecdotes not evidence-based
policy and never addresses this crucial question. Only the "hard cases"
count in proportionality weighing of "balance", and there are very,
The philosopher Bernard Williams coined the phrase `Government House'
utilitarianism to lampoon the ethical doctrine of 1890's philosophy don
Henry Sidgwick. Sidgwick said that sometimes government must keep
secrets, so the fact that they must do so must be kept from the
"ordinary person", because they would not accept this.
As Will Kymlicka expressed it: "This is called `Government House'
utilitarianism since it seems to have been the view of some British
colonial officials in India and other British colonies: the British
officials would understand that rights are simply ingenious devices for
maximizing utility; the natives would be taught to think of rights as
intrinsically justified and inviolable"
I know you have never believed that philosophy and trust you will have
been voting against DRIP anyway, but please try and persuade your
Labour colleagues also.