Are the cyber police going too far?

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Apparently the UK government is considering introducing mass surveillance and storage of our communications on social networking sites. The EU Data Retention Directive, which states that ISPs have to store customer traffic for a year, doesn’t cover them but that might be about to change.

If it isn’t bad enough having to worry about potential employers poking about on social network profiles, now the government is in on the act two. It’s not that I personally have anything to hide but in principle it takes the notion of transparency to a whole new level.

The operation is estimated to be costing a cool £46 million over 8 years, so understandably there’s been a few complaints. And what about all the data breaches we’ve had recently: should we be comfortable with all our communications data being in government hands?

The government sees this sort of thing as being vital to the fight against terrorism and cyber crime but although social networks are a useful tool for group formation, I can’t see them being used much for covert activity. Even if it is happening then such communications will be moved elsewhere. Can the £46 million pound price tag be justified by what can only ever amount to being a preventitive measure?

Unsuprisingly, comparisons with Orwell’s dystopian future have already begun and this time it’s justified. I often think people make too much of a big deal about data issues, like with the recent facebook debacle, but basic privacy is something we’ve all come to expect from democratic society. This could really stifle the freedom and creativity that the internet has encouraged.

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About Tom Craik

Senior Account Executive at Finn Communications, a PR and Word of Mouth agency based in Leeds. Baby face. Northern Monkey. Attention junkie. Space man. Fake tan. Dancefloor dreamer. Analyser. Deliberator. Wordsmith. Book worm. Head in clouds. Telecaster. Dance floor master. Closet rasta. Free love. Fresh jokes. Old gear. Naff beard. Existential. Influential. Left of centre. iPod. Math rock. Psych Folk. Dropping dubstep. Chicken Balti. Laos. Berlin. Bass bin. Circle pit. Guggenheim. Baltic. Cabernet. Globalised. Wired. No house. No car. Going places!
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7 Responses to Are the cyber police going too far?

  1. mpr4wireless says:

    you gotta be kidding! We should be the ones proposing mass surveillance on the government, they are the one cocking up everywhere.

  2. Yeah, I’m not sure i like the sound of that. But if you’ve nothing to hide then i suppose it wont really effect anything. I better cool down my online terrorist activities.

  3. Sam Parish says:

    I don’t know if you are aware of this but every email sent through hotmail is stored in America!! They reason that as the servers it passes through are on American soil, then all emails are therefore property of America.

  4. Matt Churchill says:

    This if from the trend Micro Counter Measures blog:

    @It is true to say that most ISPs keep this kind of informaiton (and more) on a voluntary basis, but the worry when it becomes mandated is “what happens next?” The answer to that seems worryingly clear in the UK at least and it’s called the Interception Modernisation Programme, a huge, government owned and controlled database, recording every text, email and telephone call made and every website visited by every person in the UK.@

    I wonder how many people have even heard of the IMP, letalone know what it does…

  5. Interesting post, Tom!
    I agree with you. Even if I don’t have anything to hide it feels a bit uncomfortable to know that everything you’re doing on social networking sites will be stored by the government. I mean, I can see their point. With doing so they can possibly detect or trace back crimes etc. and I would appreciate the data storage of social networking sites if it could really help. But I think the data could be easily misused and I’m wondering how the government wants to assure the protection of the data. In my opinion that will be an issue and there will be many parties who will complain against the data storage.

  6. Joy-Fleur says:

    Well I guess nobody likes the sound of that…however, there is so many social media providers where that sort of thing is going on already and users just don’t really realise it. People often complain about things in order to complain, but I agree with you and doubt that it will affect the wide mass. It’s probably similar to when they introduced that sort of thing with mobile phones and text messages in Switzerland (in Switzerland SIM cards can only be purchased when registering passport or driving licence data of the responsible user/buyer. Calls and text messages are subject to a specific keyword control to monitor terrorism, drug traffic and criminal activities)…people made a great fuzz about data protection and now nobody really cares. Finally, I think that our entire society is moving towards increased information transparency anyway, regardless whether we like it or not.

  7. Amanda says:

    These days, we are told, and there is certainly some validity to this, that more surveillance means more security. Considering the risks involved in relinquishing some liberties, is it worth it losing a bit of liberty in order to, maybe, gain some security? Are we certain that the incremental security gain is really there? Remember that the more you constrain liberties, the more you move away from democracy and liberty, and thus the more you give victory to terrorists. The balance is very delicate.

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