Don't Bring Out the GIMP

The government is once again bigging up the need for the proposed Interception Modernisation Programme (aka the GIMP) by arguing that it’s essential to collect and retain all social networking traffic in order to catch paedophiles.

This is one of the most spectacularly disproportionate schemes yet to be waved in front of the British public under the catch-all excuse of “think of the children”. There is no doubting that it’s essential to protect children online, and that any incident is to be prevented or investigated at any cost. But that does not justify the accumulation of spectacular amounts of data relating to every innocent Internet user, just to find the few that have malicious intent. The proposal is disproportionate from a privacy perspective, and could not possibly be as cost-effective as providing proper resourcing to the police in place of the token funding they currently receive.

I think we need to add a new rule to the Laws of the Bleedin’ Obvious: “Any surveillance system that has its construction justified for child protection reasons, whilst not delivering child protection as its sole objective, is not justifiable.” The short form of that rule (you may recall we simplify these for certain policy makers so that they can understand them) is “If you need to use kids as an excuse then give up and go home.”