Britain Welcomes New Prime Minister Theresa May. Here's Why She's Awful.
Keep calm and accept 24/7 surveillance.
If you perhaps wondered what it might be like if California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein ever became president, maybe keep an eye on the United Kingdom.
Today, Theresa May officially became the United Kingdom's prime minister, taking over from David Cameron, who resigned in the wake of the public vote to leave the European Union. May had previously been the secretary of the Home Office, a position in the British Cabinet that oversees internal security, immigration, and matters of internal national security and policing.
In her previous position, May has been a significant supporter of the expansion of internal surveillance authority by the British government, even in the face of outrage when the extent of snooping taking place was exposed by Edward Snowden. When U.K. authorities detained David Miranda, the partner of Snowden leak journalist Glenn Greenwald, at London's Heathrow Airport, May supported the action and told critics to "think about what they're condoning."
In the United States, federal officials tend to push to maintain surveillance authorities as a tool to fight terrorist threats. Of course, Americans have also seen that these tools inevitably end up in local law enforcement agencies' hands (such as in StingRay devices used to track locations) in attempts to secretly engage in surveillance for domestic crimes. Nevertheless, the talking point is always about protecting us from terrorist attacks.
May does not seem terribly interested in making such distinctions. One of her arguments for expanding easy government access to Internet user data was to fight "cyberbulling." She wants to bring internet surveillance to bear to stop people from being mean to each other online.
May pushed for the Investigatory Powers Bill, known as the Snooper's Charter, and shares a very similar attitude as Feinstein on encryption. She wants tech companies to be required to bypass encryption at the demand of the government, even if doing so renders citizens' data more vulnerable to hackers. The Independent notes that one fear in the United Kingdom following their vote to leave the European Union is that the E.U. has mandated data privacy practices, and whether she'd be able to scrap those. It could be another example of how Britain's exit from the European Union could actually lead to more government control and regulation, not less.
And like Feinstein, she's terrible on drugs, too. Arguably she's worse. She's a proponent of the Pyschoactive Substances Act, which creates an environment where any substance that can give people a high is by default banned unless it is specifically exempted. Jacob Sullum wrote about the terrible law here. Wired notes that the Act has been blasted by academics and scientists for being unclear and for possibly hampering research into the effects of drugs.
The mindset behind somebody who can support that act is that of somebody who thinks "rights" are things that the government grants you. You can't keep information private unless the government says you can. You can't consume this chemical unless the government says you can. She's the "Mother, May I?" of prime ministers, the ultimate example of the nanny as authority.