It is not any one cigarette or one extra drink that is ruinous to the health. The damage is done over the years, almost imperceptibly. Grave threats to the health of democracy can also accrue so incrementally that they draw little attention. A committee of peers diagnose one such danger today in a report on the steady creep of surveillance. The charge of hysteria is routinely used to sweep aside such talk when it comes from crusading journalists and pressure groups. The Lords constitutional affairs committee, however, cannot be dismissed the same way. A more dignified band of dignitaries would be hard to imagine - it includes a former attorney general who is a conservative champion of that antiquated role, a Tory expert on the constitution, and a founder of that force of militant moderation that was called the SDP.
Archive for the ‘Big Brother’ Category
A proposed communications database containing details of everybody’s telephone calls, emails and internet use could be run by a private firm, it was claimed last night.
The option to tender out the management of the controversial database will be included in a consultation paper to be published next month, according to the Guardian.
The facility is designed to help police and the Security Service by ensuring they have access to vital communications data which may not by saved by telephone or internet providers.
The plans have already come under fire from civil liberties campaigners.
But Sir Ken McDonald stepped up his attack in light of the Guardian’s report, dismissing the notion that additional legal assurances would ensure the information is not misused.
He told the paper: “All history tells us that reassurances like these are worthless in the long run. In the first security crisis the locks would loosen.”
The database, which critics claim would cost up to £12 billion, is not intended to feature the content of communications, but only the details of internet sites visited and what emails and telephone calls have been made, to whom and at what times.
Currently the information has to be requested from communications companies, but it is not always readily available.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The communications revolution has been rapid in this country and the way in which we collect communications data needs to change so that law enforcement agencies can maintain their ability to tackle serious crime and terrorism.
“To ensure that we keep up with technological advances we intend to consult widely on proposals in the New Year.
“We have been very clear that there are no plans for a database containing the content of emails, texts or conversations.”
Julie Sell - December 16, 2008
VANVES, France — Despite the fact that fascism and repressive state security services dominated Europe — East and West — at different points in the 20th century, a new culture of surveillance is spreading, slowly, across the region again, using tools that the Nazis and the KGB never had.
The U.S. and Britain stepped up their internal surveillance networks after suffering some of the West’s deadliest terrorist attacks in the past decade, but now other European governments are embracing some of the same tools and techniques. The pace of adoption is slower on the Continent than it’s been in Britain because of public concerns about liberty and personal privacy.
Take Vanves, a community of 30,000 with ancient roots that has gradually adopted 21st century security measures. The middle-class suburb that adjoins the southern border of Paris was the headquarters for a Wehrmacht motorized division during the Nazi occupation in World War II.
Thousands of unaccountable civil servants given access to our most intimate personal information
Robert Verkaik - 4 December 2008
Personal information detailing intimate aspects of the lives of every British citizen is to be handed over to government agencies under sweeping new powers. The measure, which will give ministers the right to allow all public bodies to exchange sensitive data with each other, is expected to be rushed through Parliament in a Bill to be published tomorrow.
The new legislation would deny MPs a full vote on such data-sharing. Instead, ministers could authorise the swapping of information between councils, the police, NHS trusts, the Inland Revenue, education authorities, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, the Department for Work and Pensions and other ministries.
Opponents of the move accused the Government of bringing in by stealth a data-sharing programme that exposed everyone to the dangers of a Big Brother state and one of the most intrusive personal databases in the world. The new law would remove the right to protection against misuse of information by thousands of unaccountable civil servants, they added.
Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, said he believed Britain had gone too far in helping to bring about a “surveillance society”. In a report drawing on personal data infringements across Europe but “inspired” by Britain’s plan for a new internet, email and telephone database, he added: “General surveillance raises serious democratic problems which are not answered by the repeated assertion that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. This puts the onus in the wrong place: it should be for states to justify the interferences they seek to make on privacy rights.”
Centuries of British civil liberties risk being broken by the relentless pressure from the ‘security state’, the country’s top prosecutor has warned.
Could create a world future generations “can’t bear”.
Centuries of British freedoms being ‘broken’ by security state, says Sir Ken Macdonald
By Christopher Hope
Outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald warned that the expansion of technology by the state into everyday life could create a world future generations “can’t bear”.
In his wide-ranging speech, Sir Ken appeared to condemn a series of key Government policies, attacking terrorism proposals - including 42 day detention - identity card plans and the “paraphernalia of paranoia”.
Instead, he said, the Government should insist that “our rights are priceless” and that: “The best way to face down those threats is to strengthen our institutions rather than to degrade them.”
Robert Verkaik and Nigel Morris - 15 October 2008
Early plans to create a giant “Big Brother” database holding information about every phone call, email and internet visit made in the UK were last night condemned by the Government’s own terrorism watchdog.
Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, the independent reviewer of anti-terrorist laws, said the “raw idea” of the database was “awful” and called for controls to stop government agencies using it to conduct fishing expeditions into the private lives of the public.
Today the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, is expected to signal the Government’s intention to press ahead with proposals to collect more details about people’s phone, email and web-browsing habits as she warns that the terrorist threat to Britain is growing.
The controversial measure will be included as a way of combating terrorism in the Data Communications Bill, which is to be introduced in the Queen’s Speech in December. Ministers are known to be considering the creation of a single database holding all the information, which would include phone numbers dialled and addresses to which emails are sent but not details of phone conversations or the contents of emails.
Nick Allen - 05 Oct 2008
The huge eavesdropping programme would involve the creation of a mammoth central computer database to store hundreds of billions of individual pieces of communications traffic.
Supporters say it would become one of the security services’ most comprehensive tools in the fight against terrorism but critics described it as “sinister”.
MI5 currently has to apply to the Home Secretary for warrants to intercept specific email and website traffic but, under the new plan, internet and mobile phone networks could be monitored live by GCHQ, the Government listening post.
The Home Office said no decision had been taken but security officials claim live monitoring is necessary to pick up terrorist plots.
It would allow them to capture records like chat room discussions on password-protected Islamic extremist websites.
If incorporating personal details into an RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip implanted into a passport or driver’s license may sound like a “smart” alternative to endless lines at the airport and intrusive questioning by securocrats, think again.
Since the late 1990s, corporate grifters have touted the “benefits” of the devilish transmitters as a “convenient” and “cheap” way to tag individual commodities, one that would “revolutionize” inventory management and theft prevention. Indeed, everything from paper towels to shoes, pets to underwear have been “tagged” with the chips. “Savings” would be “passed on” to the consumer. Call it the Wal-Martization of everyday life.
RFID tags are small computer chips connected to miniature antennae that can be fixed to or implanted within physical objects, including human beings. The RFID chip itself contains an Electronic Product Code that can be “read” when a RFID reader emits a radio signal. The chips are divided into two categories, passive or active. A “passive” tag doesn’t contain a battery and its “read” range is variable, from less than an inch to twenty or thirty feet. An “active” tag on the other hand, is self-powered and has a much longer range. The data from an “active” tag can be sent directly to a computer system involved in inventory control–or surveillance.
Shortly after the year ends, credit card companies send out a summary of all the charges made against an account for the entire year, neatly divided into various types of charges to help customers with their income tax preparation. Every item shows the date, the time – down to the minute – the location and the amount of the charge. This information was collected from the insertion, or swipe of a credit card, or the mere touching of a spot with a speed-pass key.