Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sleepwalking further into a surveillance society

As if Gordon Brown hasn't enough disasters on his hands, the government are working on another one, the Times reports: Big Brother wants complete records of everyone you phone, all your emails, everyone you talk to on the internet - in fact details of every time you go on the Internet - and it wants them in a big, central database that it (for want of a better word) controls.

Unfortunately, given the government's record with data, it's questionable how long they'll be able to go without losing it in the post (like records of UK children and parents' banking details), or handing it out to visitors to their websites (like with the automated visa application site).

This is supposed to be about implementing a (rather intrusive) EU directive about the information that is gathered about us, and how long it's kept - but the government seem to be taking the opportunity to do some extra snooping and forcing the Internet and Phone companies to hand their records over to a new and completely unnecessary database, or "target for hackers".

When the proposals emerge, it'll be worth seeing if there are any real limits on who can get the data, and how good an excuse they need. Given previous plans to allow district councils and the food standards agency to raid your phone records on demand, I'm not holding my breath.

Assistant Information Commissioner Jonathan Bamford, called it a step too far. "We are not aware of any justification for the State to hold every UK citizen's phone and internet records", he added. "We have warned before that we are sleepwalking into a surveillance society. Holding large collections of data is always risky - the more data that is collected and stored, the bigger the problem when the data is lost, traded or stolen."


Let your MP know what you think through write to them (it's very cool - go see!)