There has been a bit of fuss about the web monitoring that the government announced yesterday. When you think about it, it's a lot of fuss over nothing really.  Yes some people will be upset because they will see it as an invasion of their privacy and the state shouldn’t be snooping on them and seeing what they are looking at in the privacy of their own home. 

They will argue that Article 8 gives them a right to a private life and this should be respected and not interfered with like this.  However Article 8 is not an absolute right and can be limited hence why it has a qualifying statement. 

But this argument takes away from what the problem really is.  When the Internet first started to become accessed by the average person in the street it was relatively harmless and full of useless facts and personal websites of people who liked Star Trek.  But as it took off and more and more people started to use it, the nature of it changed.  As well as having the law abiding people who wanted to find out what the day’s weather was going to be or to read the news, the internet attracted nefarious people too. 

So along with the good things came a dark side to the internet.  In the late 1980’s there wasn’t even any laws governing the use of the internet in the UK, and judges were faced with having to bend existing laws to fit.  We then got the Computer Misuse Act 1990.  However since then we haven’t really seen any progress in regulation or legislation of the internet.

However although we have these offences, if not outdated ones, the internet is still basically a lawless place where criminals can operate with relative impunity.  If the streets were in such a state there would be a public outcry. 

Which leaves us with two possible options, we can police the internet or we can police those people using the internet.  The first of those tasks would be near on impossible, it would require huge scale international co-operation from every government in the world and all the ISP’s to be able to effectively police the internet.  Then you would be faced with the dilemma of what if X is illegal here but not illegal over there.  So the mammoth task of policing the internet is something that we can’t do.

So we are left with policing the citizens’ of the UK and what they access, which is a more than doable task; even if it will upset a few people along the way.  But any task that the state carries out will upset some people, as you can’t please all the people all of the time.

Now there are lots of reasons why this is actually a good thing and not a bad thing like lots would have you believe.  Firstly this should be seen as giving the police extra resources to do their job in an effective way, as there are lots of people out there who are committing crimes on the internet and going totally undetected.  How many paedophiles are out their sharing images of child abuse that the police don’t know about and currently can’t find out about without a warrant?  There are shops out there that have gone in to administration due to people file sharing copyrighted material, which is money and jobs being lost from the economy.  Then not to mention people posting material that is technically a hate crime.  If I stood in the high street giving out copied music or spouting hate crime I would get arrested, yet as it stands I can sit in my living room on my computer and do the same thing with impunity.  Why is that the case? They are both the same things yet one we ignore at the moment and when there is the likelihood we will do something about it people don’t want it to happen.

In a modern society we should have a police force that are able to deal with the changing types of crime, to say that because it may infringe on my civil liberties is a very selfish way to look at it.  Those pictures of child abuse infringed on the civil liberties of the child who was abused, are your civil liberties really more important than bringing someone to justice for passing around abhorrent materials?

Then you have people saying well if we let the police do this then corrupt police officers could pass on the information to other people that could lead to blackmail.  Well there is nothing to stop a corrupt police officer doing that now; these changes don’t introduce a new computer system, they just take away the need for a warrant to look at them.  So if there was a corrupt police officer now they could gain access to this information, and do the same. 

This is not an increase in the “nanny state” it’s an increase in police powers, to bring them in to the modern age.  So what if they can see what I have been looking at online, I have nothing to hide about my browsing history.  Hell the last 10 websites I looked at were;

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • My blog
  • Google Analytics
  • Okcupid
  • Gaydargirls
  • LGBTory
  • Hotmail
  • Lexis Library

Hardly the most interesting of browsing history’s and I bet the vast majority of you don’t have anything out of the ordinary in yours; so there is nothing we should worry about.  If there is a small encroachment on your civil liberties then surely the benefits of the people arrested for committing crimes and making society a safer place outweigh that.