Internet Firms Caution Government Over Surveillance Scheme

It probably didn't escape your attention yesterday that the government is planning to expand its web traffic monitoring powers.

Legislation which is due to be pushed through soon will mean that ISPs have to mirror traffic through GCHQ, to allow intelligence services to snoop on data in real-time, and to determine who is contacting who (if not the actual content of said messages, which would still require a search warrant).

All this is, naturally enough, being done in the name of protecting the public from serious crime and terrorism.

However, it's an ominous step and further erosion of online privacy, and ISPs have been quick to point out the dangers of the incoming measures, privately if not publicly.

They have argued that if this sort of legislation is enacted in the UK, it's likely to give an effective green light to oppressive regimes across the world in terms of their Internet surveillance (and possible censorship).

An "Internet industry official" who wanted to remain anonymous told the Guardian: "There is a question of jurisdiction. There is a risk that if you offer this access to [the authorities in] Britain, then you have to offer it to countries like Syria and Bahrain."

The Open Rights Group has already opened up a petition protesting against the move, stating: "I do not want the government to try to intercept every UK email, Facebook account and online communication. It would be pointless - as it will be easy for criminals to encrypt and evade - and expensive. It would also be illegal: mass surveillance would be a breach of our fundamental right to privacy. Please cancel the Communications Capabilities Development Plan."

Almost 14,000 people have currently signed it. Even a group of Liberal Democrat MPs have clubbed together to write an open letter warning about the implementation of such legislation.

The government security minister, James Brokenshire, effectively told Radio 4 that privacy concerns were being overstated. He said: "What this is not is the previous government's plan of creating some sort of great big Big Brother database. That is precisely not what this is looking at."

Brokenshire was referring to Labour's idea along similar lines, floated when they were in power, but shot down by the Tories.

Source: The Guardian