Print 55 comment(s) - last by Adonlude.. on May 28 at 5:18 PM

Critics fear that citizens sleepwalk into the arms of Big Brother

The UK government wants a massive database to store the web, e-mail, and phone histories of every person in the country – and is unveiling new telecommunications legislation to implement it.

Technology is changing too fast, said a spokeswoman for the UK Home Office, and current progress is undermining law enforcement’s ability to obtain data and “use it to protect the public.”

Such legislation would update the country’s laws, giving the government and law enforcement officials an expanded ability to obtain communications records essential for counter-terrorism and fighting crime. Under the new legislation, law enforcement would receive a brand new, centralized database of communications records, giving officers a one-stop shop for comprehensive reports on a person’s communications activities.

Ross Anderson, chairman of think-tank Foundation for Information Policy Research, thinks that such a database would require network providers to undergo substantial redesigns of their networks. As a result, service providers “would simply move abroad” rather than play ball with the government.

“It's an enormous power grab by the Home Office, and to think it will become a reality is wishful thinking,” said Anderson.

Such a database would add a considerable amount of information to the country’s already large surveillance program, complementing controversial plans for a national Identity Register and corresponding ID card that were delayed to 2012.Together, with new face-recognition technology in surveillance cameras, and comprehensive national ID and communications databases, government officials would have the ability to take a seemingly intimate view into ordinary citizens’ lives, documenting previously anonymous data with startling efficiency.

Naturally, civil rights groups, IT experts, activists, and security professionals are concerned about the initiative – particularly given previous programs’ lack of effectiveness and the government’s spotty security record.

“This would give us serious concerns and may well be a step too far. We are not aware of any justification for the State to hold every UK citizen’s phone and internet records,” said assistant Information Commissioner Jonathan Bamford. “We have warned before that we are sleepwalking into a surveillance society.”

A communications database created per the proposal would be forced to record the almost 57 billion text messages and 3 billion e-mails sent annually in the UK, a security prospect that industry officials are concerned about attracting abuse.

“Given [ministers’] appalling record at maintaining the integrity of databases holding people’s sensitive data, this could well be more of a threat to [national] security, than a support,” said Shadow Home Secretary David Davis.

“Holding large collections of data is always risky - the more data that is collected and stored, the bigger the problem when the data is lost, traded or stolen,” said Bamford.

Government police and security forces would be able to access the database only for records authorized by court warrant.

Jamie Cowper, director of European marketing at security company PGP Corp., panned the idea.

“You've got to admire the government's gall in attempting to bring in yet another 'super-database' with public confidence still in tatters over recent lapses in data protection,” said Cowper.

PC World reports that the Internet Service Providers’ Association is taking a “wait-and-see” approach before it weighs in, but it expressed concern about modifications that ISPs would have to make to their businesses and infrastructure.

Home Office officials note that much of the information desired is already available, albeit spread across different companies. This creates an unnecessary time sink and hampers investigations, it said, and a new, central database would allow law enforcement and security officials to work more efficiently.

Full details will be released as part of a data communications bill set to be announced this November. Ministers have yet to see or approve the plans for inclusion in upcoming drafts.

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RE: Rediculous invasion of privacy
By Misty Dingos on 5/22/2008 7:38:51 AM , Rating: 2
I would be lying if I said that the proposed actions of the British government surprise me in the least. Years ago when the populace allowed themselves to be disarmed through shameful scare tactics it became inevitable. I am not saying that because I am some gun toting fanatic. Far from it in fact. But this disarmament was the benchmark to which leads you to the oppressive police state the British people find themselves in now.

Today you can be stopped on the streets of London and subjected to a search by a metal detector (either hand held or one similar to those in use in the airports). This public harassment is brought to you to curb “knife” crimes. Perhaps the people of England should have their hands covered by boxing gloves to prevent them from holding any weapon.

England is now the most surveilled country in the history of mankind. All this surveillance has brought no real reduction in crime. Only the prosecution of crime has been enabled by this heavy handed police state. Prosecution of petty crimes that the cameras were never meant to be used for. Or so they were told. No one can be surprised that the surveillance system is abused by those who use it. And it will only get worse.

So the next security upgrade will be the email of every man woman and child in the country along with the details of every cell phone conversation. They are told only to be stored for a year but does the government really have to stick to that little detail? I doubt it. The people are now chattel of the powers that be.

It is inevitable that at some point in time a government will come to power in England that will abuse the human rights the British people have given up (in a blind need for perceived safety). Their freedoms gone they will suffer long under the watchful eye of a less than benevolent government. The people of England have long since lost sight of the slippery slope we hear talk of. Now they look into the abyss.

RE: Rediculous invasion of privacy
By nbachman on 5/22/2008 10:03:23 AM , Rating: 2
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchers?)

RE: Rediculous invasion of privacy
By Adonlude on 5/28/2008 5:18:31 PM , Rating: 2
Excellent post. Wish I could rate you up but I am the OP.

It will be very interesting to watch England over my lifetime to see if the downward sprial continues and if the US follows suit in some manner.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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