Why an employer spying on your emails doesn’t really change anything, and why you should be worried.
I have nothing to hide, I don’t mind if the government checks some sites I use to keep me safe from terrorism, it doesn’t bother me. These have been the counter arguments used by those who feel that the recent story about employers being able to check your emails are not a big deal.
It has led to a media frenzy on the rarely discussed issue of online privacy. However as is common in headlines there is not much space for the truth.
“Now its personal- employers given right to check emails are work related” exclaims the Financial Times. The Daily Mail claims “a landmark ruling” by the European court of Human Rights granted full access to personal messages sent from company computers and smartphones.
This is not necessarily true. Firstly the European Court of Human Rights does not create laws, it just checks whether there has been a breech of human rights.
Secondly the Romanian man in question signed a contract where he agreed to monitor his emails and company smartphone, this is rather common in England.
It turns out that this is basically a non-story but that doesn’t mean the- I am not a terrorist who needs online security argument holds up. Here are some things to think about.
The UK already engages in mass surveillance.
Quietly buried in the news was the fact that the home secretary Theresa May refused to say whether Britain’s security forces are accessing medical records and other politically sensitive information. She has good reason not to. Information leaked from Edward Snowden shows that the UK government already engages in mass surveillance on its citizens and passes it on to allies like the United States.
But I have nothing to hide?
Neither does Theresa May who has made similar statements claiming people with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. Very interesting seeing how Theresa refused a Freedom of information request to allow the public to see what websites she has visited in the last month. I am sure of course we can only conclude that people of her stature deserve privacy unlike us.
Mass Surveillance is racist
From the day after his defining “I have a dream speech to the day he was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr was under surveillance by the FBI. Top FBI leader William Sullivan in a 1963 speech called the “Communist party, USA, Negro Question.”
‘’He stands head and shoulders over all other Negro leaders put together when it comes to influencing masses, we must mark him now if we have not done before as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security”.
Well that was 50 years ago things are different now
Not really. Yesterday was MLK day and twitter was flooded with everybody and their best friend using MLK fight for justice for their own mean. The war on terror is of course todays communism and “Muslim is todays Negro”. Next time the government makes a case for mass surveillance, remember that.
Internet privacy is not just about your online life
From hacking into their computers to recording Skype and face time video messages without a warrant, just a couple of ways in which the government has interfered with its citizens right to free speech. The Investigatory Powers Bill that will allow retroactively legalize these actions target journalists and lawyers, forcing them to give unknowingly reveal their sources. This is a free speech issue not an online issue.
But only terrorists need to worry about that?
Well no, the problem with civil freedoms is that it’s very difficult to fight for compared to how easily it can be taken away. Just like in Paris where the state of emergency laws enacted after the attacks were used as a tool to removed peaceful protests of the environmental summit there. The fact is this is an issue that we all have to be concerned with.
Well even if it’s not ideal it needed to keep us safe?
Traffic is not ideal, living inside George Orwell’s 1984 is a nightmare. Mass surveillance has as of writing failed to stop any active terrorist attack ever. Terrorists don’t use Facebook or MySpace. The best analogy is to think of a needle and a haystack, all that mass surveillance does it add to the haystack, with the problem of where the needle is even more difficult to solve.
Of course you wont hear much about this issue in the papers, instead they will be pushed through with minimum oversight in the name of keeping you safe. While stories of an employee in Romania gets nationwide press the submission of our freedom of speech is ignored. So yes, you should be worried.