Opinion

A park bench

Written by Rory Guild

Imagine you are sitting on a bench in a park reading a newspaper and some guy in a suit comes and sits next to you.

That’s all.

An hour has passed and he’s still there, not doing anything, just sitting.

Then he glances over at your newspaper and takes it from you. He starts wildly looking through it, looking for something. You being the law-abiding citizen that you are don’t worry as there’s nothing that he could possibly find that’s incriminating, of all places in your newspaper.

Yet you start to feel a bit uncomfortable.

He’s just there reading your newspaper. Sure, it’s a public place and it’s technically open to anyone, but it’s just slightly odd, that this person that you’ve never met before is reading your newspaper. He calls out to someone at a burger stand and tells him that he’s allowed to read your newspaper too. Then he calls out to the newspaper stand and says that he must keep a record of all the newspapers you’ve read in the past year or so, and provide them to the burger stand guy and your new found big brother in the suit.

Another hour has passed and the man stands up and hands you your newspaper. He says that he will need to see all your private letters. You being the person you are feel uncomfortable. You ask why he needs to see your letters and why he was looking at your newspaper for the last hour. He says it’s for the safety of the public and that if you have nothing to hide, then why are you complaining.

You being the well-educated specimen that you are says that it’s your basic human right to privacy. The man, of course, says that this isn’t breaking that because he’s a man in a suit and you’re not.

You ask why he is not getting his newspaper checked and he politely repeats that he is a man in a suit and you are not. You having emotions like you do feel that you are being abused by someone in a suit who frankly seems to be a bit of a jerk. However, you allow him to see your private letters because he’s a man in a suit and you are not.

After another hour has passed.

He hands you all your private letters back as he has found nothing that could be even remotely of use to him. He stands up without an explanation of why and calls over a person in a blue suit. The blue suited person sits down next to you and says that none of that ever happened, that your privacy is not in danger of being violated and that the man in the suit is helping to stop crime and terrorism. You can’t help but feel violated and cheated, but you can see the reasons why the man in the suit is doing the things he is doing. You look out of the corner of your eye and see the man in the suit grab another person’s newspaper, and another person in another suit grab someone’s letters. You see a man being harassed about a newspaper he was reading, and another until nearly every person in the park is being harassed in one way or another by the men in the suits. All while the person in the blue suit desperately tries to convince you that this is all necessary in the fight against crime and terror.

That is the Investigatory Powers Act. Theresa May’s government has allowed this to be passed. Police, the government and food, health and regulations services (plus many more organisations) will “legally” be able to view your search history and private emails, without a warrant.

This is a violation of the basic human right to privacy.

If it does effectively reduce crime or have a significant impact on court cases that need evidence to sentence the criminal, then good. But where will you be when the police break down your door for saying, “I dislike this aspect of government”?

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Rory Guild

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