As Britain heads for the next general election, the Labour government is rushing through a new surveillance law that gives the customs office the right to open your mail without you present, replacing the old system that only allowed the government to read your mail after notifying you, giving you a chance to appeal, and only then could they open it, with you present.
Currently postal workers have the right to intercept suspicious letters and packages and pass them to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and then at an agreed moment the item is opened in front of the addressee. The change in the law will mean that HMRC will be able to open whatever it likes without the addressee being present or being made aware of the interception.
As usual, the government and HMRC public relations people underplay the wide-ranging and dangerous nature of this proposal by insisting that the new measure is simply designed to deal with the problem of tobacco smuggling. But the change, disclosed in a document published with the budget, means that HMRC will be able to trawl through private mail pretty much at will.
(Image: Royal Mail, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike image from Morgaine's photostream)
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