One of the lesser known bits of the Snooper’s Charter (the Investigatory Powers Act) recently approved by Parliament (with minimal opposition from the Labour Party) is the sharing of intelligence with foreign powers such as the United States. It is a perfectly sensible idea in principle, as we all want our governments to cooperate in order to deal with international terrorism, but it will soon be used to examine the personal lives of millions of innocent people.
The bill allows the government to scoop up everything about your online connections. It will tell the government whom you talk to, what you look at and where you have been. All this information will be available to be shared with the Trump administration and the decision about whether it should be shared will be a political, not a judicial one. It won’t matter whether you have committed a crime or advocated non-violent protest – there are other criteria that could put you on the list. Attending the wrong demo or being vocal on certain issues will be enough.
In the past, rather than focusing resources on real terrorists, the government placed senior journalists and Green politicians like myself on the domestic extremism database and logged our actions. More recently, the police have been wasting a lot of taxpayers’ money to harass local campaigners who are protesting against fracking. I think it’s very likely the police and the security agencies will use the new powers to expand the list of people they don’t approve of.
Trump has appointed a group of billionaires and right-wing ideologues to help him run the US presidency. Do we really want our personal data handed over to an administration committed to surveillance of all mosques, banning Muslims from entering the country, investigating Black Lives Matter activists and deporting two million people, to name only a few terrifying proposals?
Even under Obama, the US had already barred John Stewart, the well-respected campaigner against Heathrow expansion, from entering the country. A Trump administration is more than capable of adding anti-racism campaigners, climate change activists, Muslims, or feminists to a list of people it wants to screen. The world has changed with the election of Trump, and the Investigatory Powers Act has made us all a little less able to oppose the possible damage.