In the aftermath of the attack, prime minister David Cameron intimated a desire to accelerate the passage of the Investigatory Powers bill through parliament, while in the US, CIA chief John Brennan called for greater powers for the intelligence and security services. Such sentiments reflect a longstanding attitude championing the benefits of technological solutions.
The rush to legislate and grant sweeping powers has led to untried and untested provisions and incoherent laws that complicate security practice. Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015 the French government enacted new surveillance laws that introduced warrantless searches, the requirement for ISPs to collect communications metadata, and watered-down oversight regimes. In the UK, the response to the September 11 attacks included rushing through powers in the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, but it’s the more considered Terrorism Act 2000 and other laws already on the books that have proved more useful when it comes to convicting terrorists.
Politicians make claims about the number of threats and plots averted by the secret services’ use of surveillance data. But this rhetoric is rarely backed up with facts, and masks the practical and ethical problems that strong powers of mass surveillance bring.
A Technocratic Mirage
Those supporting mass surveillance of digital communications data have to conclusively demonstrate its usefulness. The history of technocratic approaches to security is littered with claims of effectiveness that are overstated, unproven or just wrong. Such claims must be treated with scepticism, not least because money spent here will divert scarce resources away from traditional intelligence and policing techniques that are tried and tested.
As a journalist and confident of Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald 说：: “Every terrorist who’s capable of tying their own shoes has long known that the US and UK government are trying to monitor their communications in every way that they can.” Academic research has consistently shown terrorists are innovative in their use of technology in order to evade detection. A Flashpoint intelligence report in 2014 revealed that there had been 没有扩展的恐怖分子使用加密 以下技术斯诺登的启示，主要是因为可能已经在使用它的。
继斯诺登揭露奥巴马总统确立 回顾 到他们使用其结论：
什么样的公众的证据存在于反恐调查表明社会各界的举报和线人的绝对重要性。 其中最可靠的研究总结的从这些来源的信息 发起反恐怖主义调查76％。 基地组织招募或启发225个人的这种分析表明，“国家安全局的大部分监控计划对这些病例的贡献是微不足道的”，扮演一个可识别的作用 - 与结果的最慷慨的解释 - 在案件刚刚1.8％。 传统的侦查和情报方法的极端重要性是不可否认的。
一个反复出现的问题是优先考虑和分析已收集到的信息。 它不再显着地发现，恐怖分子已经知道警方和情报机构。 这与7 / 7轰炸机穆罕默德·西迪基·汗和Shezhad坦维尔在伦敦的情况，其中的一些被认为造成了巴黎的攻击，卜拉欣Abdeslam，伊斯梅尔·奥马尔和Mostefai萨米Amimour。
Surveillance scholar David Lyon in his analysis of the Snowden revelations suggests that 1.2m Americans are under surveillance and considered a potential terrorist threat. Notwithstanding debates over proportionality and the reach of such activities, such an enormous number suggests there’s already sufficient surveillance capacity among the surveillance agencies. It’s the ability to properly scrutinise what they learn and make use of it that’s needed – not powers that would allow them to collect even more.
As contemporary philosophers of science have consistently argued, the physical and online realms are intrinsically yoked together. It makes no sense to suggest that surveillance of digital communications and internet use is something de-personalised that doesn’t infringe an individual’s privacy. These are claims made to soften the vocabulary of surveillance and excuse the lack of consent or proportionality.
So we must be wary of the evangelism of those pushing technological solutions to security problems, and the political clamour for mass surveillance. There are practical and cost considerations alongside the debate around the ethics of mass surveillance and its effects on privacy, consent, data protection, the wrongful characterisation of innocents as suspects, and the potential chilling effects on free expression. As mechanisms for collecting data become more opaque it becomes increasingly difficult to hold the agencies responsible to account and assess whether the social costs are worth it.
Pete Fussey, Professor of Sociology, University of Essex. His was recently elected a director of the Surveillance Studies Network and, during 2015, was part of a small team of co-investigators awarded an ESRC Large Grant on Human Rights and Information Technology in the Era of Big Data.