.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Friday, November 13, 2015

Will we pay the bill for the government's surveillance agenda?

As if it were not bad enough that our privacy is to be invaded by the Tory Government's Snoopers' charter, the Internet Service Providers have told a House of Commons Committee that the money put aside by Ministers to pay for the measure is insufficient and that they will have to put up the cost of our broadband.

A cynic might argue that these big communications companies will use any excuse to make us pay more for their services, but that does not mean that the Government has to give them that excuse via a flawed and intrusive piece of legislation.

The Internet service providers (ISP) told a Commons select committee that the snooper’s charter, does not properly acknowledge the “sheer quantity” of data generated by a typical internet user, nor the basic difficulty of distinguishing between content and metadata:

As a result, the cost of implementing plans to make ISPs store communications data for up to 12 months are likely to be far in excess of the £175m the government has budgeted for the task, said Matthew Hare, the chief executive of ISP Gigaclear.

Hare and James Blessing, the chair of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), also warned the science and technology committee on Tuesday of the technical challenges the government would face in implementing the bill.

Hare said: “On a typical 1 gigabit connection we see over 15TB of data per year passing over that connection … If you say that a proportion of that is going to be the communications data, it’s going to be the most massive amount of data that you’d be expected to keep in the future.

“The indiscriminate collection of mass data is going to have a massive cost,” he added.

When asked by Labour’s Jim Dowd MP whether it would be feasible to comply with the collection regime, Blessing said that ISPs would “find it very feasible – with an infinite budget”.

“The bill appears to be limiting the amount of funds available to a figure that we don’t recognise would be suitable for the entire industry to do it,” he said, adding that “the ongoing costs of looking after the data … will have to come out of price-rises”. The government’s proposal to pay for the up-front equipment costs would not cover ongoing expenses such as power or cooling, Blessing told MPs.

For Hare, the other major problem is that separating “metadata” from “content”, as the law mandates for the purposes of mass surveillance, is a very difficult technical challenge.

For a simple connection like a phone call, the difference is easy: information like the number dialled and length of the call is clearly metadata, while the audio transmitted over the line is clearly content. But for a typical internet user, a number of different services are being used at any one time, and they all blur the lines between the two categories.

“The web isn’t a single application, that’s the fundamental problem I’ve got,” Hare said. He outlined a common scenario: “A teenager is currently playing a game using Steam, that’s not a web application … and then they’re broadcasting the game they’re playing using something called Twitch. They may well also be doing a voice call where they’re shouting at their friends, and those are all running simultaneously. At any one time any of those services could drop in, drop out, be replaced.”

So the whole basis of the government's agenda, that they will just be recording connections and not looking at content, is a false one. In practice it is almost impossible to separate the two. The Snoopers' Charter and its policy intent is unravelling in front of our very eyes.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?