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UK Government wants access to emails, texts and web use

Snooping bill proposed
Mon Apr 02 2012, 10:17

THE AUTHORITARIAN UK Government wants access to all emails, text messages and internet use and will propose sweeping snooping powers in legislation to give it that soon.

The bill will be announced during the Queen's speech and will give crime busting agencies like GCHQ, the government's central intelligence *cough* spying agency, MI5, the police and who knows else access to all of the emails, text messages and internet histories of everyone in the UK.

The Home Office claims that the legislation is necessary to "obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public."

"We need to take action to maintain the continued availability of communications data as technology changes," said a spokesperson.

Accessible data will include the "time, duration and dialling numbers of a phone call, or an email address, but not the content of the phone call or email," it added. The spokesman said that the Government does not plan to make changes to the existing legal basis for the interception of communications.

"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," it said.

Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties organisation, has already condemned the proposals and sniffed at their timing,

"This is an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance seen in China and Iran. This is an absolute attack on privacy online and it is far from clear this will actually improve public safety, while adding significant costs to internet businesses," said Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch.

He asked, "If this was such a serious security issue why has the Home Office not ensured these powers were in place before the Olympics?"

The Pirate Party is also concerned about the powers, which it said would lead to more insecurity.

"This story looked for all the world like an April Fool's joke: Labour's plan for a massive surveillance programme that would dwarf anything dreamed up by the KGB, brought back to life by its opponents?," said Andrew Robinson, the founder of the Pirate Party UK.

Robinson said that the powers would be circumvented by those that the government would seek to detect, while opening up everyone else to unnecessary inspection.

"We're bound to hear the sinister justification that 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear'. Well, the exact opposite is true in this case. If you do have something to hide, it's inevitably going to be trivially easy to avoid this surveillance system, through privacy systems like Tor, or simply by using foreign web servers," he added.

"If you're just an honest member of the public you have to fear not just the phenomenal multi-billion pound cost of the system, or the massive logistical and economic burdens that UK companies will have to cope with, but something far worse: The absolute certainty of leaks."

This is the sort of thing that came up during the riots last year, when intrusive police access to Twitter and Blackberry's BBM messaging tool was considered but not implemented. µ

 

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