Thursday, December 15, 2005

Don't let 2006 become 1984! [updated]

[Updated 15/12:] Can't trust 'em

The EU Parliament voted for the data retention directive (378 votes for, 197 against, 30 absent) on the 14/12. The directive, thrust through by the UK under their Presidency and after the events of July 7th, is avidly supported by conservatives both on the right and on the left (i.e. socialists and social democrats), whereas greens and liberals have voiced strong dissent towards the undemocratic nature of the directive. 70% of the Swedish MEPs voted against the directive — the only ones supporting it being the social democrats (whose main propagandist in this issue is Swedish Minister of Justice Thomas Bodström). The reason behind the directive is that data retention is believed to be a counter-measure against terrorism. I myself severely doubt this. More plausibly, it risks to significantly fracture the personal privacy of EU citizens.
Whatever the tally of the Parliamentary vote, Bodström asserts that the directive would have become reality anyway, at any cost. He doesn’t give two flying figs about parliamentary participation:
“If the Parliament votes for it, that gives it a democratic surplus value — if they are against it I anticipate a ministerial decision,” he said to Swedish newpaper Dagens Nyheter.
Bodström's closest ally, State Secretary Dan Eliasson, directly avoided to answer back regarding the privacy aspect of the directive, when I emailed him the other day. Instead, he chose to focus entirely on the purely pragmatic part of the reasoning behind it; the cost aspect. Where is the ideology in the thinking behind this directive? Exactly these rhtorical manouvres we see among neocons in the US and with New Labour in the UK — through concentrating purely on the means, the ends and guiding principles behind them are completely hidden!
It is absolutely frightening that social democrats in Europe are pursuing a realpolitik here that lies so close to actually being a war hawk policy, a policy which in this case undoubtedly lies closer to right-wing conservativism than left-wing liberalism.
However, below is my open letter to the MEPs, pre the unfortunate defeat.

Open letter to the Members of European Parliament, to warn about the consequences of the current data retention directive (backed by EU Commission and Council) which aims to a law-enforced storage of electronic tele- and data traffic.

Dear Member of Parliament,

I am emailing to warn you about the consequences of the current directive;

COD/2005/0182 Electronic communications: personal data protection rules and availability of traffic data for anti-terrorism purposes (amend. direct. 2002/58/EC)
The EU Parliament will vote on this controversial directive on data retention this Tuesday, 2005-12-13. I urge you to vote against it, first and foremost because our civil liberties and rights risk being radically repressed due to this directive, all in the name of “terrorist threat”.

I ask you to consider the following, very likely outcomes of the directive:

* There is huge risk that the “intellectual property” industry will use this directive to get unlimited possibilities in spying on their own consumers. Sony BMG is already using so-called ‘spy-ware’ which is automatically installed on your computer if you play music CDs distributed by this cartel. See link.

* Also, data retention is extremely expensive. In Sweden alone, the cost of constructing the system is estimated to €100 million, and then around €30—40 million a year to run it. Who will pay this cost? The tax payers?

* Additionally, this directive risks creating a society where information exchange will increasingly happen through anonymised, encrypted networks, and so-called ‘darknets’ and remailers. Anonymised, encrypted networks already exist; for example TOR, Waste and Freenet. Is a move to such underground technologies to prefer over today’s more open society?

American CIA agents and personnel are already operating on European ground, with the apparent (witting or unwitting) complicity of European governments and police. Ordinary, law-abiding Pakistani architects emailing sketches of skyscrapers in-between each other get threatening letters from American intelligence services, asking them what the purpose is of this communication – the intelligence services knowing what has been emailed due to the Echelon spy network. As a user of Microsoft Hotmail, you sign a contract where you, in vague wording, have to agree to all material being sent through their service becoming public, and to other (juridical) persons (including Microsoft) being able to use “your” material. This current EU directive will facilitate further such transnational abuses of personal integrity.

Article 8 i the European Convention for Human Rights (following Human Rights Act 1998) states that “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”. Article 12 in the UN Declaration of Human Rights is synonymous. The current directive thus violates both the European Convention and the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Furthermore, the Art. 29 Working Party, consisting of European national Data Protection authorities oppose the type of data retention that the Commission and Council propose.

The vote on this data retention directive is happening on the 13th of December in the EU Parliament.

More links:
Music biz to 'hijack' Europe's data retention laws
MEPs urged to reject data retention plan
EU data retention law to help in fight against terrorism