"Don’t Spy On Us Unless it’s Legal, Proportionate, Necessary and Overseen by Powerful Scrutiny Bodies"
The above is from a fairly neutral article by Jamie Bartlett (although the child abuse reference is irrelevant). At first, it seems a mealy mouthed sentiment compared with the dramatic passion of Don't Spy On Us which is part of The Day We Fight Back. But the ungainly statement sums up the bargain well.
The shockwaves from Snowden's revelations have moved us to wonder at the security services shenanigans, here and in the States. But the manifesto of today's campaign starts by assuming that the spy's have somehow exceeded some moral authority. Unfortunately, they have not.
Right now, the majority of people do not value others everyday privacy over their own specific security. Until they do so, politicians are not en masse going to stop pandering to the spooks. CCTV is good example of this. Sometime ago, and in the face of some luminary liberals, Chuka Umunna pointed out that CCTV improved safety (and the feeling of safety) on the walkways of tower blocks. We have more cameras than almost anywhere else. In reality, this type of public spying is (probably) not involved in correlation, so the feed won't end up on a server in a cool dark basement in the mid west.
The basic political argument that has not been made is to persuade people that their safety is not much improved by blanket surveillance. I don’t believe that civil servants are concocting a Machiavellian scheme to control the world - they are simply doing what they believe is their job by responding to political requests. Yes, the internet is physically damaged by the NSA and it's hacking but you cannot blame non geeks for not caring about that.
Requests such as “save us from the evil ones” have led security services to launch vast breadth first shallow searches, that are now gaining depth with newer technology. But it is the request that is wrong, not the techniques.
I don't think we need to fight anyone 'back', or even tell the government who to spy on. But we do need to make the case. The liberal campaigners tend to shy away from the bottom line, but I’ll state it clearly:
A degree of privacy is worth keeping, even if that means a few terrorist outrages cannot be prevented.
This isn't a threat - it’s a choice. If you can’t make it, please don’t ask others to.