We killed the dreadful Snooper's Charter last week, again, for the third or fourth time, depending on how you count -- now how do we keep it from rising from the grave again and terrorizing Britain with the threat of total, ubiquitous, uncontrolled state spying?
The short answer: we make this an election issue. Every single politician should have a position on whether they're for or against the mass surveillance that Britons have spoken out against.
The UK is about to enter a general election, where the members of Parliament who make up the next British government face re-election, and where the tallies of how many seats each party wins in the House of Commons determines who will form the next government. This is the first UK election where the date of the vote has been fixed in advance, rather than decided by the governing party of the day. That, and the unknown popularity of many minority parties, will make for an unpredictable few weeks, where parties will trim and finesse their policies based on the responses of the press and the people.
That a group of rogue lords attempted to slam the Snoopers' Charter prior to the election, even without the approval of the governing party, shows there's uncertainty about whether Internet surveillance is a vote-winner or loser. Most politicians innately believe that combating terrorism, whatever the cost, appeals to the public. But the strong backlash against the Snoopers' Charter, and the growing outcry over the UK's current Prime Minister's apparent intent to outlaw encryption, send another signal: that opposition parties can score points against the present administration by exposing how naive and confused their ideas about Internet privacy are.
The members of the unelected House of Lords can affect pride in their own ignorance, but politicians in an election where their every error will be exposed and magnified, cannot. Right now, some British MPs are walking into a highly competitive election supporting policies about surveillance and the destruction of encryption that they have not personally considered, and may lack public support, especially among vocal and influential voices online.
Peer Pressure: Making Sure the Snoopers' Charter Doesn't Come Back