“Stasi-like” snooping in UK will end individual privacy

UK government proposals to implement Home Office “probes” in the datacentres of every British internet provider (at an estimated cost of £12 billion) promise “Stasi-like” snooping powers for central government (says NO2ID). The proposals to intercept and monitor all email communications for every UK individual signal an end to respect for privacy, and the end of civilised society and discourse as we know it.

NO2ID release. 27th April 2009. The Home Secretary today makes a delayed announcement of a consultation on proposals for the so-called Intercept Modernisation Programme. It has been widely reported for some months, and plans were acknowledged by Lord West the security minister last week[1], that this would place Home Office “probes” in the datacentres of every British internet provider at an estimated cost of £12 billion.

This would allow direct skimming of all traffic, making it massively easier to intercept email and monitor individual’s web use using existing powers. The Home Office would become a clearing-house, able to provide data ad lib to other government agencies. It would also become possible for the first time to collect and store details of *all* communications by everyone in the country so that government agencies could investigate friendship networks and personal habits using data-mining techniques [2].

Guy Herbert, General Secretary of NO2ID [3] said: “Just a week after the Home Secretary announced a public consultation on some trivial trimming of local authority surveillance, we have this: a proposal for powers more intrusive than any police state in history.”

“Ministers are making a distinction between content and communications data into sound-bite of the year. But it is spurious. Officials from dozens of departments and quangos could know what you read online, and who all your friends are, who you emailed, when, and where you were when you did so – all without a warrant[4]. Tracking your your every move is more efficiently creepy than reading your letters.”

-ENDS-

Notes for editors
1) See, for example: The Register “Spy chiefs size up net snoop gear” http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/21/imp_dpi/

2) As suggested by Sir David Omand in his “A discussion paper for the ippr Commission on National Security for the 21st Century”, “Finding out other people’s secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules.” But the Home Office’s use of such a super-database is *not* limited to intelligence work – see note 4.

3) NO2ID is a national, non-partisan campaign against ID cards and the database state. See http://www.no2id.net/dbstate.php for a list of other “database state” initiatives that NO2ID is actively opposing, and http://www.no2id.net/datasharing for how they fit together.

4) Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Home Secretary’s – not a court’s – warrant is required to read mail or listen to phone calls. But all the following may authorise themselves to examine communications data for their own purposes:
* 43 police forces in England & Wales
* 8 police forces in Scotland
* Police Service of Northern Ireland
* British Transport Police
* Port of Liverpool Police
* Port of Dover Police
* Royal Military Police
* Royal Air Force Police
* Civil Nuclear Constabulary
* Ministry of Defence Police
* Royal Navy Police
* Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs
* Serious Organised Crime Agency
* Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency United Kingdom Border Agency.
* The Prison Service
* Approximately 474 local authorities throughout the UK.
* Approximately 110 *other* public authorities, including almost all government departments, and Serious Fraud Office, Independent Police Complaints Commission, Charity Commission, Gambling Commission, Royal Mail, to name only a few.

(source: report of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/hc0708/hc09/0947/0947.pdf)

For further information

Phil Booth (National Co-ordinator, national.coordinator@no2id.net) on +44 7974 230 839.
Guy Herbert (General Secretary, general.secretary@no2id.net) on +44 7956 544 308.
Michael Parker (Press Officer, press.officer@no2id.net) on +44 7773 376 166.


Cambridge no2ID release. 27 April 2009
Campaigners slam snooping plans

Privacy campaigners have strongly criticised plans to store details of all email, phone calls, text messages and web use in a giant government database.

The plans for snooping on private communications are contained in a consultation on the “Interception Modernisation Programme” being launched today by the “(Home-Secretary)”. These proposals could allow Whitehall to monitor individual use of social networking sites like Facebook and the auction platform eBay, as well as recording every web page visited by anyone in the country. The independent Information Commissioner, the official privacy watchdog, has described the idea as a “step too far for the British way of life”.

An independent poll conducted earlier this month shows voters are also overwhelmingly opposed to more government snooping, with 61 % rejecting laws requiring all electronic communication to be recorded, and 68 % saying state databases already hold too much information about individuals.

Fears have also been expressed that this would mark the end of any sort of investigative journalism about government, with anyone in public service avoiding communication with journalists for fear of reprisals by government bosses.

Andrew Watson, joint Cambridge coordinator of the NO2ID campaign, said: “These abhorrent plans give Stasi-like powers to central government, allowing bureaucrats to snoop on our private lives at will. Internet and phone companies already keep enough communication data to allow the police to investigate crime, but the “(Home-Office)” is trying to create a climate of fear to justify expanding the “(Database-State)” even further.”

— ENDS —

For more information, please contact Andrew Watson (andrew.watson@no2id.net, +44 7710 469624) or Alexandra Hayes (alexandra.k.hayes@btopenworld.com, +44 7811 917096).

Notes for editors

1) When similar plans were first leaked in July 2008, the Information Commissioner warned that they are a “step too far for the British way of life”: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7507627.stm

2) A summary of the Privacy Poll, conducted for the PoliticsHome web site between 9-11 April 2009, is here:
http://www.politicshome.com/UltimateEditorInclude/UserFiles/Documents/Privacy%20Poll.pdf

3) NO2ID is the UK-wide non-partisan campaign against ID cards and the database state. Scroll down http://www.no2id.net for a list of ‘database state’ initiatives that NO2ID is actively opposing.