Civil liberties defenders don’t want to #telldaveeverything, but the Home Office do

My name is David Cameron - tell me everything.Over the weekend, news broke around government plans for increased surveillance of digital data. The idea is that, without a warrant, security agency GCHQ will be able to see the packet data of emails, phone calls, text messages and social media messages so that they can see who is communicating with who, when, and how often. Such an idea was implemented by the previous government, but scrapped back in 2009 after sustained pressure from the two parties that now make-up the Coalition.

The proposals have, unsurprisingly, received a huge backlash across the social media platforms that they seek to regulate. Furthermore, internet companies have privately expressed concerns about these plans, including the fear that repressive regimes could demand access to the data.

Before looking at the social reaction, it’s worth reminding ourselves what the Coalition Agreement said on this subject, as it will help explain why people are so angry:

  • 1. We will implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties and roll back state intrusion.
  • 2. We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason.
  • 3. We will introduce safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.

As well as an e-petition , the social media response to this was based around the hashtag, #telldaveeverything, poking fun at the idea of Prime Minister David Cameron trying to find out everything going on in our lives. The most popular tweet was retweeted over 700 times:

Eventually, people were actually using the hashtag to communicate with Number 10, and tell them policies they would like to see implemented!

The official Home Office Twitter account actually adopted the hashtag in order to get their line out. They used it in three tweets, to give quotes from Security Minister James Brokenshire:

This is a very interesting, and actually quite a socially savvy move. Normally, a government department whose policy is being criticised would just post a link to a press release or similar. By utilising the critical hashtag, the Home Office was actually engaging in the relevant online conversation, and making sure that the people concerned by the issue saw their response.

The policy may not be up to much, but the online response is worth remembering for the rest of Government.