If you live in Britain, it is vitally important that you contact your MP, before Monday, and ensure that they are going to vote against the Coroners and Justice Bill. Put simply, this bill allows ministers of the crown to, at whim, do anything they like with any data that they hold on private citizens. It literally means that for any reason at all, any data held by anyone on you, for any reason, can be handed to anyone else. Don’t want your stalkerish ex knowing your new address? Don’t want spammers being able to buy every detail of your personal life? Tough.
Oh, and one nice clause in there also allows for the creation of arbitrary new laws based on the data searched. This may not be the *intent* of the clause (though they’ve tried a couple of times to get similar things through) but it’s what the wording actually says. A minister could say “Right, I am now going to make it an offence to have ever said ‘fuck’ on a blog”, and everyone who had done that would retroactively have commited a crime.
I am absolutely certain that the Lib Dems will oppose this (though it’s still worth contacting your MPs about it) but the rest of you make your feelings known.
‘Liberal’ Conspiracy has more…
The Carnival On Modern Liberty is an online ‘blog carnival’ – an attempt to engage the wider ‘blogosphere’ in debates about what freedom means, in the runup to the Convention on Modern Liberty. James Graham, of Quaequam Blog, is organising it, and anyone in Britain can take part. The two things they’ve asked people to do are to write a blog post about what action we can all take to reclaim some of our liberties, which I will be doing with the rest of this post, and also to link to five blogs that *don’t* normally talk about that sort of thing directly, in the hope that they’ll see the pingback and respond appropriately by joining in. For that, I’m going to link Andrew Rilstone, Gavin Robinson, Holly, Gavin Burrows and Lawrence Miles.
There are three things I think anyone who wants an increase in liberty needs to do – protect themselves, in the short term, against immediate threats, fight against future governmental attacks on our liberties, and help to change the discourse surrounding civil liberties.
For the first, if there’s one thing you can do to protect yourself from intrusion more than any other, it’s install a free software operating system on your computer. A GNU/Linux variant such as Debian or Ubuntu is not vulnerable to Windows viruses or many other methods of intrusion into your data. That may not seem like much, but in the UK right now the police no longer need a warrant to gain access to your computer and read all your data. Don’t want the police knowing about your collection of ‘erotica’? Or your connections to ‘subversive’ groups? Or even just generally poking around in your stuff? Then don’t make it easy for them. Running Windows on your machine is like leaving all your doors and windows open.
On top of that, free software is based around the idea of free speech and free communication of ideas. Supporting free software (I’m not a free software absolutist myself – I believe proprietary software is ‘less good’ rather than actively evil – but I do think in general it’s much better to use free software where you can) is supporting software that is created to give you more freedom.
Once you’ve taken some steps to protect yourself (and that’s just one step – do whatever you can to safeguard your liberties) you need to help protect others. If you only do one thing here, you should join Amnesty International. Many other organisations do very good work too (you should support all the organisations in my ‘other sites – politics’ sidebar) but Amnesty have done more, for longer, than any of them, and are completely non-partisan in their support of human rights. If you want to ensure that not only you, but everyone else, get to retain your rights and maybe even get more, then they’re the organisation that you need to support more than any other.
And finally, and most importantly, something that everyone can do is to change the tone of the ‘national conversation’. Write to your MP, and to the newspapers, and post on your blogs, every time a politician or anyone else in public life attacks the freedoms we hold dear. But more than that, speak out, loudly and clearly, every time you hear anything in casual conversation that attacks those liberties. Every time you hear “No smoke without fire” or “If you’ve done nothing wrong, why should you have anything to hide?” or “If it helps them catch the criminals it’s worth it”, speak out loudly and clearly.
And remember that liberty doesn’t only apply to white English-speaking males. Speak out against sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, prejudice against the disabled, wherever you hear it. Because if liberty means anything it must mean liberty for *all*.
Preaching over. Comics again tomorrow (more 3D Superman!!!)