Internet surveillance plan will extend – not create – a communications ‘police state’

Nobody should be looking forward to having Big Brother watching us through our monitors, but he’s already reading our mail and listening to our phone calls.

Government monitoring of our mail and phone messages has been going on for years, and Theresa May’s plan to monitor every UK citizen’s online activity is merely an extension of this.

It’s still an unwarranted invasion of our privacy, but when has any government ever let that stop it?

According to the BBC, the current government’s plans mean service providers will have to store details of internet use in the UK for a year, to allow police and intelligence services to access it.

It will include for the first time details of messages sent on social media, webmail, voice calls over the internet and gaming in addition to emails and phone calls.

The data includes the time, duration, originator and recipient of a communication and the location of the device from which it is made.

Hold on, did I say “for the first time” details of messages on social media?

What about the police who called on a female disability activist last week, in her home at midnight, in relation to comments she’d posted on Facebook about the Department for Work and Pensions’ cuts?

According to her account on the Pride’s Purge blog, “They told me they had come to investigate criminal activity that I was involved in on Facebook… They said complaints had been made about posts I’d made on Facebook about the Jobcentre.”

(All right, I know what you’re going to say – those posts were publicly-accessible. The point is that the police are already using social media to target people – in this case, an innocent woman)

According to Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, the planned legislation is “absolutely vital” in “proving associations” between criminals, and it was often possible to penetrate the top of a criminal gang by linking “foot soldiers” to those running operations.

Is this in the same way the police were able to use the postal service to target terrorist gangs? Because I’ve got a story about that.

It concerns a young man who was enjoying a play-by-mail game with other like-minded people. A war game, as it happens. They all had codenames, and made their moves by writing letters and putting them in the post (this was, clearly, before the internet).

One day, said young fellow arrived home from work (or wherever) to find his street cordoned off and a ring of armed police around it.

“What’s going on?” he asked a burly uniformed man who was armed to the teeth.

“Oh you can’t come through,” he was told. “We’ve identified a terrorist group in one of these houses and we have to get them out.”

“But I live on this street,” said our hero, innocently. “Which house is it?”

The constable told him.

“But that’s my house!” he said.

And suddenly all the guns were pointing at him.

They had reacted to a message he had sent, innocently, as part of the game. They’d had no reason to open the letter, but had done it anyway and, despite the fact that it was perfectly clear that it was part of a game, over-reacted.

What was the message?

“Ajax to Achilles: Bomb Liverpool!”

Expect further cock-ups of similar nature, pretty much as soon as the current proposals become law.

3 thoughts on “Internet surveillance plan will extend – not create – a communications ‘police state’

  1. paul

    Didn’t Labour announce that they wanted to monitor all internet activity a few years ago? There was a massive groundswell of disapproval and many hardcore Labour supporters said they would vote against Labour in protest (I was part of that and voted Lib Dem and was conned in the last election like many, many others… Never again). The Lib Dems and Tories both said they would oppose such intrusion and, if voted for, would make sure such a Bill was never tabled. I think many Labour voters, already disillusioned, were pushed to vote away from Labour with these promises… SURPRISE!… Surprise the Tories are now placing a Bill that’s exactly the same but under a different name. These guys have lied and lied and lied about everything they promised. Those of us with long memories aren’t surprised actually – the Tories have always said anything to get in power. They really are an infamous bunch of $@%&!

  2. Smiling Carcass

    The monitoring of electronic communication has been going on for years, at Menwith Hill, ostensibly an RAF base that is actually manned and controlled by the NSA- that’s right, America’s National Security Agency.

    Every piece of electronic communication in the U.K. (and beyond) goes through their computers; this electronic communication is filtered by algorithms that search for keywords or keyphrases; if a first stage keyword or keyphrase is found it goes on to a second filtering algorithm; if no keyword or keyphrase is found, it is discarded. If the second filtering algorithm finds another associated keyword or keyphrase, it again is passed to a third algorithm, and so on until ultimately, the small number of communications that do not pass the algorithm tests (or perhaps it should be do pass the tests) are checked by a human reviewer.

    When I say every, I mean anything that goes down a wire or fibre optic cable, or through satellite broadband.

    These ‘new’ laws merely legitimise a practice that is already happening.

    There is an excellent book, ‘Total Surveillance’ that explains it all; though the book is 12 years old, the only change has been the technology we communicate with and they intercept with.

  3. Pingback: The security services are already snooping on us – why aren’t we out in the streets about it? | Vox Political

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