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It is an important safeguard against oppressive authority that the state should only act against people suspected of a specific crime. Free societies reject what are called “general warrants,” where the state comes fishing to see what wrongdoing it might find. Its searches should be limited to specific offences suspected of being committed by specific persons.

The state always wants to survey everyone in case it can find some offence they might have committed, and liberty is preserved by preventing it from doing so. The police want to stop drivers at random in case any of them are under the influence of drink or drugs; but they are only allowed to stop people who are behaving suspiciously. Similarly with homes or businesses; there must be good cause to suspect specific infringements, not general snooping.

Several recent laws have weakened this protection by, for example, giving numerous bodies including local authorities the power to snoop on actions, correspondence, and communications in case people are transgressing the laws and rules. The position should be re-established that general warrants are not to be tolerated in free societies.