Monday, 29 April 2013

Great Machine for Catching Villains

"From the itemised records of the 90s through to the detailed records of our online behaviour, it is getting easier to track what we do. There is vastly more information now about our every movement than there ever has been.

Such information can be very useful to law enforcement agencies and other public bodies. There were 494,078 requests for ‘communications data’ under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act in 2011.

Some of the information about our connected lives is not legally available to law enforcement. Much of it, for example information from social media or our web histories, can be incredibly intrusive. It can reveal intimate details, including where we have been, what we have done, what we believe and who we know.

Through mistakes or abuse, the use of such information can lead to anything from wrongful suspicion through to the settling of scores. Merely the knowledge that what we are doing or saying is being tracked can have a chilling effect.

Just because information is useful to law enforcement does not mean that the state, or law enforcement agencies, or public bodies should be able to order its collection or have access to it. Our privacy rights are essential to ensure that we do not give away the power to collect and use information too cheaply.

The Government’s Communications Data Bill is a manifestation of the temptation to grab data where it exists, and of a failure to consider alternatives to blanket collection and retention of data."
From the Open Rights Group campaign against the "Snoopers' Charter" - read more

In February 2012, the coalition government announced plans to require communications service providers (everyone from ISPs to social networks) to intercept and collect everybody’s communications data just in case it's needed later in an investigation. In December 2012, the Joint Committee that examined this new draft Bill published its critical report and the Home Office has been re-drafting the Communications Data Bill since then.

But just this week Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg appears to have blocked the attempt by the current Home Secretary Theresa May to present the Bill to Parliament in the Queen's Speech on 8th May. He said plans to monitor records of people's internet use was "not going to happen" with the Lib Dems in govermment.

Responding to his comments, made in his weekly radio phone-in, campaign group Liberty said: "If the Snoopers Charter really is dead, that's cause for significant celebration and relief. People live more and more of their intimate lives online and it was outrageous to suggest surveillance of the entire nation. Credit to all those in parliament and beyond with the imagination and courage to block this terrifying plan."

The Home Office declined to comment on what Clegg said. Discussions are apparently still going on to try to thrash out an agreement ahead of the Queen's Speech.

Meanwhile, the simply spiffing Professor Elemental has gone and got himself involved, and has built a Great Machine for Catching Villains!

It would be even funnier if it weren't so near the truth.

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