§ The election season has finally arrived in the UK, and leaflets have started to pour through the front door – too many to easily scan for The Straight Choice. Meanwhile on the web all sorts of election-related sites are springing up in an attempt to mobilise people, including Democracy Club and Vote Geek organising locally, 38 Degrees pinpointing issues, YourNextMP providing candidate details, Open Rights Group obsessing about the Digital Economy Bill (with some justification) and so on. There are so many of them that we need a web site just to keep track of them.
So where are the digital liberty issues in the election leaflets and the party manifestos? Personally I care a lot about:
- The surveillance society – there are too many cameras in too many places linked to who-knows-what, and the police in the UK have negligible oversight so are using them way beyond any mandate. The Labour manifesto actually promises to make this worse…
- Photography – in the name of “security” we are all treated shabbily in public places, but none more so than photographers, who are routinely treated as if photography was a crime. Ironic when the police claim such liberty to photograph anyone, anywhere at any time.
- Copyright – the scope of copyright, originally intended only to apply to managing fair competition between people who own printing presses but now used by publishers of all kinds to control customers.
- Internet privacy – in the name of all the above, my ability to privately use the internet is being rapidly eroded. You don’t need to have something to hide to want to retain privacy or occasionally act anonymously.
- Government transparency – we should be able to see all the workings of government, live, at all times and in a format that can be freely manipulated by any software.
Yet I don’t see any of these issues in the materials I have received, and even though there has been a great deal of recent controversy over the Digital Economy Bill I don’t see that or any of these issues raised on the BBC election website or indeed anywhere else in the British media. The only hint of awareness I have seen is from Labour MP Tom Watson, who is presumably a pariah now after standing up to his own party in the DeBill debate and vote. These issues will shape society. Meanwhile the Tories are giving £150 to a small subset of married couples as an incentive to stay married and Labour thinks train fares are a key issue and wants to make it even easier for competitors to disrupt mergers.
So where are the digital liberty issues? I think it’s time they were put on the agenda. One way is to get all the UK readers of this blog to pose digital liberty issues to the BBC for their big leadership debate. You could do this now! Take one of the issues I’ve listed above, or pose your own question, and then use the poll below to show which one you picked.