Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Private firm may track all email and calls.

All emails, texts and internet use in the UK could be monitored by a private company if the government get their way:

A cabinet decision to put the management of the multibillion pound database of all UK communications traffic into private hands would be accompanied by tougher legal safeguards to guarantee against leaks and accidental data losses.

But in his strongest criticism yet of the superdatabase, Sir Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, who has firsthand experience of working with intelligence and law enforcement agencies, told the Guardian such assurances would prove worthless in the long run and warned it would prove a "hellhouse" of personal private information.

"Authorisations for access might be written into statute. The most senior ministers and officials might be designated as scrutineers. But none of this means anything," said Macdonald. "All history tells us that reassurances like these are worthless in the long run. In the first security crisis the locks would loosen."

This Labour governments relentless assault on our privacy continues unabated. And the notion of handing all of our private data over to a private company, after all the embarrassing losses of data in the past simply doesn't bear thinking about.

The Home Office's interception modernisation programme, which is working on the superdatabase proposal, argues that it is no longer good enough for communications companies to be left to retrieve such data when requested by the police and intelligence services. A Home Office spokeswoman said last night the changes were needed so law enforcement agencies could maintain their ability to tackle serious crime and terrorism.

We are, once again, looking at the thin end of the wedge.

Senior Whitehall officials responsible for planning for a new database say there is a significant difference between having access to "communications data" - names and addresses of emails or telephone numbers, for example - and the actual contents of the communications. "We have been very clear that there are no plans for a database containing any content of emails, texts or conversations," the spokeswoman said.

Of course, there are "no plans" to look into the content of our communications. But it would only take one security scare for all of that to be deemed impractical.

There really is a creepy Big Brother feeling to all of this.

Macdonald, who left his post as DPP in October, told the Guardian: "The tendency of the state to seek ever more powers of surveillance over its citizens may be driven by protective zeal. But the notion of total security is a paranoid fantasy which would destroy everything that makes living worthwhile. We must avoid surrendering our freedom as autonomous human beings to such an ugly future. We should make judgments that are compatible with our status as free people."

Maintaining the capacity to intercept suspicious communications was critical in an increasingly complex world, he said. "It is a process which can save lives and bring criminals to justice. But no other country is considering such a drastic step. This database would be an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information," he said. "It would be a complete readout of every citizen's life in the most intimate and demeaning detail. No government of any colour is to be trusted with such a roadmap to our souls."

The moment there was a security crisis the temptation for more commonplace access would be irresistible, he said.

And that is my point. Reassurances are meaningless and simply not worth the paper that they are written on.

That a Labour government, which I voted for, should be proposing such draconian measures is depressing beyond belief. But, when it comes to the war on a noun, I find little to separate the two parties.

Click title for full article.


Steel Phoenix said...

This is what you get when you ask government to solve your problems.

Kel said...

There are certain problems that only governments can solve and international terrorism and the prevention of terrorist acts would appear to me to be one of them.

The question is how much of our liberty we should give up for a perceived increase in our security, and I am with Benjamin Franklin on that one.