Monday, May 4, 2009

UK's "secret plan to carry on snooping"

Reporting a secret plan to carry on snooping The Sunday Times writes that an "internet-monitoring network will shift the focus of the surveillance state away from a few hundred targeted people to everyone in the UK," representing a "step change in the agency's powers of surveillance."

The UK government has backed down on plans for a centralized database of 'big brother' surveillance. However, Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the announcement appeared to be a “smokescreen”. GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping centre, is developing classified technology to intercept and monitor all e-mails, website visits and social networking sessions in Britain. The agency will also be able to track telephone calls made over the internet, as well as all phone calls to land lines and mobiles.

“We opposed the big brother database because it gave the state direct access to everybody’s communications. But this network of black boxes achieves the same thing via the back door,” Chakrabarti said. Liberty has produced a comprehensive background briefing. And the controversy has produced a rare press release from GCHQ claiming the agency "does not spy at will!"

Meanwhile, computer security veteran Phil Zimmerman warns about the seductive nature of technology for businesses and governments, saying that the UK risks sliding unwittingly into a police state because of the growing use of surveillance technology. More here.