This piece was originally posted on Liberal Conspiracy at http://liberalconspiracy.org/2013/07/04/labour-should-care-not-just-for-human-rights-but-our-right-to-privacy/
This week Sadiq Khan MP signalled that Labour were re-committing to human rights.
In front of an Unlock Democracy debate in Parliament, he rightly praised Labour’s first term successes – The Human Rights Act, freedom of information and the Supreme Court. But Labour later “got the balance wrong” on citzens’ freedom and security.
Now he wants Ed Miliband’s Labour to, “stand up for the rights of our citizens – holding to account politicians and public authorities, taking on vested interests”. It was really good stuff and engaging seriously with human rights issues sets him apart from too many Labour MPs.
He has a blind spot though. In 2000, Labour passed RIPA – the major British law governing surveillance. It’s RIPA that’s behind many of Edward Snowden’s revelations over the past few weeks. RIPA lets British intelligence agencies tap the world’s Internet data as it reaches British shores. GCHQ stores all that data for 3 days and the information about where you are, who you contact and which sites you visit for 30 days.
RIPA enables the UK to share PRISM’s findings. If you use the Internet, RIPA means you’re under surveillance. Sadiq said yesterday that RIPA is “great but out of date.” (I’ll give it to him. That’s a decent soundbite.)
But he’s wrong. RIPA isn’t great. It’s letting GCHQ carry out mass surveillance on the web’s 2 billion users regardless of whether they’ve done anything wrong.
That’s a huge invasion of privacy and discourages free speech and free association. These are all human rights too.
Sadiq pointed out several times how Labour got it wrong on human rights. But despite Edward Snowden’s revelations, he still thinks RIPA is a “great” law. If Labour want to be radical supporters of human rights in Government again, they need to prepare to reform RIPA.
GCHQ shouldn’t be allowed to hoard everyone’s data with little oversight. The police and intelligence agencies would be better off targeting suspected criminals. And it’s Parliament’s job to hold them to account when they make mistakes.
It’s great news that Sadiq Khan’s pushing for Labour to regain its radicalism on human rights. But human rights include the right to privacy. It’s important Labour doesn’t forget that.