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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Liberal Democrats should oppose this latest threat to privacy

It was known, even before 'Yes Minister' that it is not the politicians who run this country, it is the senior civil servants. Even when a politicians puts up resistance to an idea or policy, it keeps resurfacing in one form or another until opposition amongst government ministers is ground down.

That certainly appears to be the story around the latest revived plan to have details of every phone call and text message, email traffic and websites visited online stored in a series of vast databases on the pretext that it is necessary to counter terrorism. Isn't the whole point of GCHQ to monitor this sort of traffic amongst terrorist suspects anyway? Why then do we need a catch-all provision.

The Telegraph reminds us that the scheme is a revised version of a plan drawn up by the Labour government which would have created a central database of all the information:

The idea of a central database was later dropped in favour of a scheme requiring communications providers to store the details at the taxpayers’ expense.

But the whole idea was cancelled amid severe criticisms of the number of public bodies which could access the data, which as well as the security services, included local councils and quangos, totalling 653 public sector organisations.

Labour shelved the project - known as the Intercept Modernisation Programme - in November 2009 after a consultation showed it had little public support.

Only one third of respondents backed the plan and half said they feared the scheme lacked safeguards and technical rigour to protect highly sensitive information.

At the same time the Conservatives criticised Labour’s “reckless” record on privacy.

A report, called Reversing the Rise of the Surveillance State by Dominic Grieve, then shadow home secretary and now Attorney General, published in 2009, said a Tory government would collect fewer personal details which would be held by “specific authorities on a need-to-know basis only”.

And yet now, here we are again with proposals that landline and mobile phone companies and broadband providers will be ordered to store data for a year and make it available to the security services.

The paper says that the databases will not record the contents of calls, texts or emails but the numbers or email addresses of who they are sent and received by.

They add that for the first time, the security services will have widespread access to information about who has been communicating with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook. Direct messages between subscribers to websites such as Twitter would also be stored, as well as communications between players in online video games.

Frankly, this scheme is as flawed as it was when it was first mooted. It is a major threat to our privacy as well as an invitation to 'private entrepreneurs' to try and hack the information for their own profit. It should be opposed by Liberal Democrats at every turn, including those in government.


"It should be opposed by Liberal Democrats at every turn, including those in government."

I can't see Clegg going for the nuclear option over it, else he might lose more than his seat in the Cabinet.

When you choose to marry bear in mind that divorce can be expensive.

As for that bunk that it was for the 'good of the country', we are more in debt now than we were when the coalition was formed.
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