THE PEOPLE'S PAPER

Mass Surveillance in Ireland

Details of every phone call made in Ireland are being recorded for Government inspection.

The power to do this was granted in a secretly convened court, presided over by an anonymous judge, at a place unknown, and details of which will remain secret from the citizens of our state.

The hearing was ‘ex-parte’, meaning only the state was represented, and it was ‘in camera’, meaning that members of the public were excluded.

It was a one-side hearing before the judge who shall remain anonymous – by law.

A High Court order was obtained by justice minister Helen McEntee requiring communications service providers to retain certain data.

Details including user, traffic and location data is being held for a period of 12 months for the purpose of safeguarding State security.

We can guess what ‘user’ and ‘location’ data means, but what is ‘traffic’, are they keeping recordings of all phone calls made in the state?

It would appear so.

The order was granted on June 21st last, this is the second time the state has done this.

The law to allow this, apparently, arises out of the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the Graham Dwyer case.

Many questions arise:

Firstly, why the secrecy in the courts? How can we say what actually took place there? Is this an issue for our Constitution, which says that justice must be administered in public – except in limited and special circumstances?

No doubt the Minister will say that ‘special circumstances’ do exist, if so… where were they before the Graham Dwyer case?

Secondly, do we trust Government in holding such comprehensive data on everyone, including where we go, who we talk to, and what we say?

We think this is a gross violation of basic Human Rights, but where is the outcry?

1984, the now famous book by George Orwell couldn’t have understated the reach of Big Brother more, he never conceived the reality of today, complete surveillance.

Consider with this, that you cant go for a simple walk, or drive, anywhere, but that cameras are identifying you. Soon Gardaí will have body cameras with the same facial recognition technology in them – all very intrusive.

But we are assured that none of this data will be used improperly.