There is something very rotten in the state of a nation’s politics when both its government and its opposition are able to co-operate on the introduction of legislation for intrusive mass surveillance of the nation’s entire population.
If you want to better understand the repercussions of this legislation for the individual, I’d recommend reading this piece, sending the suggested letter to your MP, then retreating to a corner to weep for what we’re becoming.
The government and opposition argue that these extreme surveillance measures are necessary to apprehend terrorists, pedophiles and major criminals, all of whom will by now have devised encryption methods to bypass government surveillance, and most of whom will have had such methods securely in place for years.
What has been most alarming in the lead-up to the Senate debate on the legislation today has been the apathy of mainstream media towards proposed state surveillance that frames every citizen who uses the Internet as a suspect. Not as a potential suspect, but as a suspect whose online activity can be accessed by agents of the state without a warrant, if they decide to go after you.
If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear, claimed AFP Assistant Commissioner Tim Morris. However, in Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s own words institutions aren’t perfect, as we well know from the institutional abuses of all kinds that are exposed daily by whistleblowers, many of whom will be left without a means to reveal corruption under the new legislation.
The “if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear” argument implies that the state and its agents have the right to know everything about you in the first place, and that they will determine what is deserving of their attention in your daily activities. The term “hide” is used in this argument rather than the term “privacy.”
In the replacing of one word for another, the citizen’s right to a life kept private from the state is pejoratively reframed as having “something to hide.” We are now guilty until we can prove ourselves innocent, because what else can we be if our online lives can be investigated without even a warrant?
Metadata retention legislation does not uncover what every citizen is necessarily “hiding.” It destroys every single citizen’s right to privately go about her and his online pursuits under the assumption that privacy equates to hiding, and thus becomes the object of suspicion and intervention.
Like a suspicious spouse or the interfering parent of an adolescent, the government now assumes if you want privacy you must be guilty of something.
Those who have “something to hide” will continue to find ways to hide, just like Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull who uses an encryption service to send his text messages.
We know governments can’t be trusted simply because they are governments. We know institutions can’t be trusted simply because they are institutions. To give these bodies unrestricted access to our online lives is an insanity. We are now all at the mercy of the state and its agents to an unprecedented degree, a situation that is intolerable in a liberal democracy.
The ALP are a disgrace for supporting the Coalition in this Big Brother legislation.
Get encrypted. It’s not complicated. Senator Scott Ludlum makes some suggestions on RN Breakfast this morning.
And here’s a Get Up campaign that will help you go dark.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Tony Abbott tells us he was never worried about metadata collection when he was a journalist so what’s the problem?
That man really knows his onions. It’s breathtaking.