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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 MrBlastman on 5/22/2008 3:43:11 PM , Rating: 2
Quite honestly I am very proud of our nation and all the men and women that sacrificed their lives for my privilege to live on this soil.

Notice that I did not say right - as it is not a right. It was their right (the men and women) that they gave up for the rest of us to give us the opportunity to live our lives here in one of the greatest places in the world despite issues we might have in our government or other places.

If it weren't for all of them, and the sacrifice of other foreign nations that helped us earn our freedom, we would not be here today.

I stand by our Flag and respect what the Constitution has bestowed upon us. However, I do not and will not blindly listen to anything our Government, or commander-in-chief tells us to do. Question everything is my motto.

What is the harm in all of that?


RE: Rediculous invasion of privacy
By jabber on 5/22/2008 3:57:38 PM , Rating: 2
Ok so say for instance your Govt decides to introduce the same measures as in the UK.

What are you going to do to stop it?

Storm your local Govt buildings Uzis ablaze? Or write to your congressman and let 'democracy' take its course? Or moan to your buddies about it over a beer?

You dont really have a lot of choices other than punching a hole in a piece of paper every few years and hope for the best. Guns are not going to help at all, they have bigger ones than you for a start.


RE: Rediculous invasion of privacy
By MrBlastman on 5/23/2008 9:55:26 AM , Rating: 2
Ya know, we do have a choice every four years to make which determines which dooflatch gets into office.

Unfortunately, as of late (last 16 years), we haven't had any good choices on the ballot to vote for from either party. It seems we get one load of crusty stuff after another to vote for.

We also have this little thing known as Federal and State governments, and the power of the individual states. Our nation was founded years ago to keep the Federal Government from having too much power. Unlike the UK, the Federal Government could try to do what the UK is doing but they would be limited in their ability to implement such measures. Likewise the same would apply with states. You could simply move to another state. This is the very reason many of us choose to never move to California despite it being a beautiful place to live.

Also, unlike the UK, any normal citizen can run for office. However, without significant campaign finance reform (aka severe limitiations on personal money being spent on a campaign), unless you have a great deal of money right now you don't have much of a chance. Perhaps some day we will see rules which will limit a candidates funding to perhaps only a Federally alloted escrowed pool, preventing any personal finances from being used.

As for your comment on - "they have bigger ones than you for a start," you underestimate the resolve of your average American. It is as if Napolean came back and through you, made that statement. Do not discredit gun-toting Americans fortitude and willingness to stand up and fight when their freedoms are threatened in their homeland.

You can have big guns, but when you're severely outnumbered by millions of smaller guns, it is like a swarm running you over.


RE: Rediculous invasion of privacy
By jabber on 5/23/2008 1:46:26 PM , Rating: 2
"Also, unlike the UK, any normal citizen can run for office. However, without significant campaign finance reform (aka severe limitiations on personal money being spent on a campaign), unless you have a great deal of money right now you don't have much of a chance. Perhaps some day we will see rules which will limit a candidates funding to perhaps only a Federally alloted escrowed pool, preventing any personal finances from being used."

So in other words a 'normal' citizen cant become president. It is the preserve of a select few. So that arguement doesnt wash. I doubt the establishment/ruling corporations will want that to change anytime soon.

"As for your comment on - "they have bigger ones than you for a start," you underestimate the resolve of your average American. It is as if Napolean came back and through you, made that statement. Do not discredit gun-toting Americans fortitude and willingness to stand up and fight when their freedoms are threatened in their homeland."

You would have to get them off their couches first. I think you would find a very small group storming the barricades. Folks have changed a lot since the early 19th Century.

I think you live in a little bit of a bygone fantasy world but if thats your choice so be it.

I do however agree that the choices we get to vote for every few years are appalling. We deserve better but the forces that be wont allow that.


By kyleb2112 on 5/24/2008 7:33:28 AM , Rating: 2
They have bigger guns, but a government has to ultimately decide if it wants an armed conflict with it's own citizens and all the political fallout that will follow. Private gun ownership pushes the stakes way up; that's where the leverage is, not in the force itself. The alternative is government doing what it wants quietly without conflict, but also without the damaging headlines or public outrage of a bloodbath.

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
-Thomas Jefferson
(fellow "stupid" American).


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