Machina libera

Saturday, December 10, 2005

...And in English

I have now translated my letter to the Swedish MEPs to English, and sent it to all MEPs.

This Tuesday, 2005-12-13, the European parliament is going to vote about the controversial proposal about data retention. This proposal would force all Internet service providers and telephone companies to store data about who's called whom, when and where they were, what mails they have sent and so on. This worries me, as our civil liberties are being curbed severely in the name of fighting terrorism. Indeed, dying in a car accident is 390 times more likely than dying in a terrorist attack. Yet politicians want to use the relatively minor threat of terrorism to increase state control of the ordinary citizen. Such a society is certainly not one I want to live in.

Data retention does not only infringe upon the liberties of the citizens of the EU, it is also impossible in reality and extremely costly. Article twelve of the UN declaration of human rights states that "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."
If the proposal about data retention is not rejected because of it's violating the human rights, then something must surely be very, very wrong within the EU. Further, if one considers the economic costs of data retention, one wonders if anyone has given any thought to the proposal. Telia, the largest ISP and telephony company in Sweden, estimates the costs of creating such a huge apparatus of surveillance to more than €110 million, and then some €3-4 million each year. Remember that this is just the costs of one company, in one small country. Telia has some one million customers, the EU has some 450 million inhabitants... Who's going to pay for all this? Don't tell me that the tax payers are, because that is just wrong. Is one going to be supposed to pay taxes in order to get one's privacy violated, one's liberties curbed, one's freedom infringed? In my opinion, that's just wrong.

Furthermore, the police will not be able to catch a single terrorist more. Terrorists are not stupid, they know how to get around surveillance. Maybe the proponents of data retention do not know that the terrorist behind the London bombings this summer did not communicate through the Internet nor by telephone, because they expected it to be subject to surveillance. Data retention is only going to affect innocent people. Saying that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear is, to be frank, idiocy. In the society described by George Orwell in the book 1984, innocent people didn't have anything to fear. The only problem was that in that society, "innocent" meant that you had the correct opinions thought the right thoughts.
Originally, the proposal said that retained data would only be used against serious criminal offenses, such as terrorism and organized crime. Now the proposal only says criminal offenses. What that means is up to each country to decide. Changing the purpose of data retention before it even has been approved worries me, there is no guarantee that the purpose won't be expanded, and one day reach the society of 1984.

This Tuesday, privacy and anonymity may be abolished in the EU - unless you do something about it. Please vote no to Big Brother.

--[Name], Sweden, a worried libertarian.


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