Ireland’s Proposed New Surveillance Legislation

I’ve just shared an item in Google Reader with an attached note that seems substantial enough to merit re-posting it here. The note concerns an article in the Irish Times about a surveillance bill that is to be brought before the cabinet tomorrow. Here it is:

It strikes me that this whole push is flawed in two major ways.

The first is that it seems to be very emotionally motivated: every news story about it makes a big deal about a single, recent, high-profile murder. But the plural of anecdote is not data, and extrapolating from a single event to try to demonstrate a trend is at best ignorant and at worst dishonest. The only useful statistic mentioned in this article, right at the bottom, indicates that gang crime in Limerick is falling dramatically. That’s not to say that that interpretation is necessarily correct either, but I’d like to see more fact and less emotion in the drafting and reporting of legislation.

The second major flaw is that no-one in the news media, as far as I can tell, has tried to discover whether or not this proposed legislation will expand the powers of the Gardaí to surveil without warrant, or whether it will simply allow more types of evidence to be admitted in court. This is the difference between a large potential infringement on individual privacy, and a small but significant alteration to judicial process. That strikes me as a large enough difference that it should be possible for an interested citizen to discover which is being proposed.