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Anger over mass web surveillance plans

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By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 20 Feb 2012 at 08:42

Government plans to resuscitate an internet surveillance scheme have angered civil rights campaigners.

Under the plans – a rehash of the previously shelved Intercept Modernisation Programme, which was criticised by both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives when in opposition – ISPs and other communications providers would be asked to keep detailed logs of calls, emails and text messages.

Although the logs would exclude the contents of such messages, security officials would be able to put together a picture of when and where a message was sent, and who the sender and receiver was.

According to a report in The Telegraph, the scheme would also keep records of direct messages between Twitter users, as well as messages between online gamers. It could be used in real-time if required.

The automatic recording and tracing of everything done online by anyone, just in case it might come in useful to the authorities later, is beyond the dreams of any past totalitarian regime

The plans came under fire from civil liberties campaigners, who claim the scheme would amount to an expensive invasion of privacy, and that data collection should be restricted to specific cases and individuals where a crime is suspected.

“The automatic recording and tracing of everything done online by anyone - of almost all our communications and much of our personal lives, shopping and reading - just in case it might come in useful to the authorities later, is beyond the dreams of any past totalitarian regime, and beyond the current capabilities of even the most oppressive states,” said Guy Herbert, general secretary of rights group NO2ID.

Slating costs of an estimated £2bn, Herbert said the fact that authorities could access the information would inevitably lead to more requests to inspect records.

"Something that aims to make surveillance easy will create a demand for surveillance,” he said. “Unless it is subject to proper controls from the beginning, then the pretexts for access will multiply. That would mean the end of privacy.”

Queen's Speech

According to The Telegraph's sources, ministers were planning to allocate legislative time to the programme, renamed the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP), and pushed for by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

Many had hoped the scheme had been buried by the Government, which had gained considerable mileage when in opposition from criticising Labour's similar plans which were eventually shelved.

The Conservatives at the time blasted Labour as “reckless” over its data plans and said it would collect fewer details and make them available on a stricter basis.

“Labour’s online surveillance plans have hardly changed but have been rebranded," said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group. "They are just as intrusive and offensive.”

Home Office confirmation

The Home Office confirmed it planned to put the scheme in place in order to protect the public under last year's Strategic Defence and Security Review

"It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public," a spokesperson told PC Pro in a statement.

"We meet regularly with the communications industry to ensure that capability is maintained without interfering with the public's right to privacy.

"As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review we will legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows to ensure that the use of communications data is compatible with the Government's approach to civil liberties.”

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User comments

Too Far.

Yet more BIG BROTHER tactics.

I have no problem with them doing it to KNOWN troublemaking individuals & organisations, but to the every person this is a breach of their privacy.

If we're not careful & before we know it they'll be wanting to open our letters & parcels that come through the post too.

By SKINHEAD1967 on 20 Feb 2012

yes do it

but don't let the data fall into the hands of the baddies

By gary_davies on 20 Feb 2012

I wrote to Cameron

I wrote to Mr. Cameron about this while he was in opposition. His reply basically answered a different question, and didn't address the Intercept Modernisation Programme.

The trouble with this type of program is that it's sold to the public using fear, but there's no way of knowing what it might be used for 20 years from now. I wonder how many Germans in 1914, could have envisaged Nazism taking hold within that time frame?

By SirRoderickSpode on 20 Feb 2012

But really ...

Keeping tabs on who sent what to whom is no more than the telephone companies have been doing for many years.

We can't really have it both ways, object that ISP's should be treated as common carriers as far as content is concerned and then say they should not be when it comes to record keeping.

By qpw3141 on 20 Feb 2012

The irritating aspect of this story is that creating a vast database is very little use without the sort of analytics that only exists in sci-fi movies.

So now we will be subject to a barrage of FUD from the secret services and counter-arguments from the privacy campaigners. Then vast quantities of public moneys will be squandered to very little effect, despite the fact that we have a huge deficit. Meanwhile society will become ever more fractious and paranoid and the terrorists will have even more scope to sow deceit and discord. This isn't 1984, but it isn't Brave New World either.

By c6ten on 20 Feb 2012

Typical

They were all over this in opposition, but as soon as they can get their mitts on it...

By nichomach0 on 20 Feb 2012

Ultimately unsuccessful

At the time Labour were proposing IMP I had difficulty condemning the proposal on privacy grounds. The real problem is the deliberate ambiguity put into such Acts that allow for their use against targets that were never meant to be considered - as with the anti-terrorism laws.
I'm also somewhat confused by the mention of "detailed logs" as I would consider date, time, sender & recipient to be fundamental information.
The cost of this will once again, though lucrative for the agencies pushing for it, be counterproductive to society.
The political side is typical - to argue against issues that are unpopular and then implement them when in power is a lamentably standard tactic.

By dubiou on 20 Feb 2012

Symetrical

.
"The political side is typical - to argue against issues that are unpopular and then implement them when in power is a lamentably standard tactic."

I presume this is because the people doing the ear bending only target the party in power so the opposition really don't know the full case for whatever it is.

Once they get into power they get a full on blitz from whomever is proposing whatever.

The big problem, from the POV of democracy, is that in so many cases you have one side that is very well funded and has the ear of ministers and senior civil servants whilst the other side just has to try and make as much noise as it can without access to the arguments that are being used to push the proposals forward.

By qpw3141 on 20 Feb 2012

The terrorism laws have been abused so much that I've complete faith that these laws will be too.

Hey! Introduce some loosely worded legislation with too few safeguards, sell it as protecting us from terrorism and other despicable crimes, then use it for copyright theft.

As a bonus we'll have furnished the country with all the tools of a police state. Ironic that the main thing protecting us from that kind of state is our relatively undemocratic 2 party system - all other parties are irrelevant so the crazies never get heard.

By Mark_Thompson on 20 Feb 2012

I'm just thinking...

does this mean we should be encrypting every single thing we do so it doesn't matter if our connection is being snooped?

By revsorg on 20 Feb 2012

Anger over mass web surveillance plans

let's outlaw every thing then! a shoe can hide explosives-drugs can be swallowed then excreated several hours later--pen & paper can be used to pass encrypted messages

By invalidscreenname on 21 Feb 2012

Anger over mass web surveillance plans

let's outlaw every thing then! a shoe can hide explosives-drugs can be swallowed then excreated several hours later--pen & paper can be used to pass encrypted messages

By invalidscreenname on 21 Feb 2012

@revsorg

By all means encrypt everything, but don't even think about losing the keys unless you're keen to experience prison.
They will still be able to see with whom & when you were communicating though, unless you use something like TOR (and some suspect even then).

By dubiou on 21 Feb 2012

Say no

This behaviour is unacceptable not to mention illegal. There are some organisations trying to stop this invasion of Privacy. The Open Rights Group are spear heading a campaign o try and make people aware of this. Please join their face book group https://www.facebook.com/groups/307346099323703/
and sign the petition to stop this going ahead http://www.openrightsgroup.org/

By No1984 on 22 Feb 2012

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