There’s a peeping tom in your neighbourhood. He skulks around your block, day or night secretly opening and reading every letter you get, and always ready to hold a glass against your walls to hear what you say.
Oh he says it’s all for your own welfare. To make sure no-one is doing anything that might cause you harm. To make sure no-one looks at photos of your kids, to make sure no-one knows what your bank balance is, to make sure no-one knows what the results of that blood test are, and to make sure no-one knows your email password.
Except … He knows. He looks at all the photos of your children. He keeps a close eye on your bank balance, and your purchases. If you asked, he’d insist he has no idea what the results of that blood test are that your doctor mailed to you, but he’d already be snickering and telling one of his friends. And as for your email password, well who cares about that when he can just jump onto the email server and read all your email without the password?
He tells you you’re safe. He tells you that he’ll forget about all of it as soon as he’s made sure you’re safe. He tells you he’ll only tell other good people who are interested in your welfare. People you don’t know. He tells you there’s nothing to be afraid of after all, if you’re not doing anything wrong. But he won’t tell you who he’s going to tell what he knows. You don’t need to know, even though there’s no need to keep secrets if everything is OK. Remember, he told you that.
He’ll tell you it’s important he and other good people can quickly find out what bad things are happening so they can protect you. He’ll tell you it’s so important he and his friends can’t waste time talking to judges or lawyers or even, heaven forbid, you. It just needs to be done.
He needs it.
He needs it so badly.
He needs it so badly it makes his groin ache and his breath go shallow and faster. But don’t worry. He’s only getting excited because he has your best interests at heart.
He’s your government.
Years ago when people chiefly communicated via the post or the landline, communications interception was considered to be something that would only be done with a warrant. Increasingly governments aren’t wanting to worry about warrants, because communications interception has become increasingly easy. A few petabytes of storage here and there and you can record a lot of information, if only for a short term, to be heuristically sorted through by voyeuristically programmed algorithms searching for key words. Like bomb or terrorism or jihad.
Or breast enlargement. Or naked pics. Or porn. Or our dirty weekend. Or any other keyword someone with the right level of access gets curious about and rubs into a keyboard. Or maybe they’re not so much interested in naughty photos or salacious texts, but where that ex-wife of theirs who got a restraining order moved to. Or how much money their neighbours earn. If a search can be programmed after all, it can be reprogrammed. But apparently, only by good people.
Everyone who works for the government is good, after all. At least, until they do something bad, that is. But you don’t need to know about them. They won’t release that information, of course, because it’ll be in the interests of national security. Because if you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide. Particularly from people who can vote you out in an election.
In the latest round of peeping tom behaviour, David Cameron announced a re-elected Tory government in the UK would seek to make end-to-end encrypted messaging illegal if security divisions couldn’t decrypt the messages. Because he knows best for the people of the UK.
Like that creepy guy who lingers out your house at 3 in the morning peering through the cracks in the blinds claiming to be a member of the local neighbourhood watch. He knows best for your family, after all. And if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.