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Big Brother in the UK… Rise of the surveillance culture

David Cameron has proposed a mass surveillance scheme, where our whole online lives will be stored in a big data bank and available to the government to access in ‘real time’, to come into effect in June 2015.

Laura Clark

This government surveillance – Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP) is apparently an ‘update’ of legislation first introduced in 2006 (Te Intercept Modernisation Programme, IMP), but constant online government surveillance has just been revived under a different name.

The plan was originally scrapped over issues of security, cost and controversy prior to the Coalition Government, criticised by both Liberal Democrats and Conservatives when they were in opposition, and even in their Coalition proposition!

Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) and mobile phone operators will be required to store all information of each individual’s internet and phone use, keeping detailed logs of phone calls, text messages, emails, all sites  visited and even online instant messaging.

Every page we visit, from banking to shopping, instant chat whilst playing online games, and to access our email, facebook and Twitter   – who, what and where, will be available to access on demand and in real time, without requiring a warrant.

Although the logs wouldn’t contain message contents (not yet, at least) security officials can see when and where a message was sent, and who the sender and receiver was.  All the data can be accessed by MI5, MI6, GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) whom are all in favour of these plans.

Despite the promises pre-election from both parties who opposed this because of its Big Brother ideologies.

Now the coalition wish to group our online lives in the same way they have clustered our medical records into one big accessible database.

According to a Home office spokesman, their apparent justification in snooping is that “It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstance to investigate serious crime and terrorism to protect the public.”

But why is it necessary to monitor everyone, constantly? To protect the public? More likely themselves.

The intention to introduce the new system was signalled in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, published in 2010.

The review stated “communications data has played a role in every major counter-terrorism operation carried out by the security services and in 95% of all serious organised crime investigations.”

The Government is using the cover of terrorism to scare people into submission by the state.  There has been, according to a report in the Telegraph, one instance of mainland terrorism since 2005  – Kafeel Ahmed, who killed only himself when he attempted to blow up Glasgow Airport, so whatever the Governments current strategies for preventing terrorism are, they are clearly adequate enough.

Now of course, will come the clichéd retort of, ‘if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear.’ Not only does this proposed law infringe on our privacy and our civilian rights, but what does this say about the relationship between the people and the state?

Control, oppression, puppetry – one step closer to an Orwellian world.  If you do have nothing to hide then no one has the right to survey you. It’s the equivalent of the Royal Mail declaring they are going to check every single letter which is sent: Who, What, When, Where.

Would David Cameron display his internet history of the past year for the general public to see, setting an example that we have nothing to worry about? I think not.

Guy Herbert, the , General Secretary of NO2ID, a group campaigning against a database state, says that “it is not very far from a bug in every living room that can be turned on and turned off at official whim. Whatever you are doing online, whoever you are in contact with, you will never know when you are being watched.”

The cost is estimated to cost £2bn in the first ten years alone, in to begin storing millions and millions of internet histories. Obviously we are to foot the bill, paying costly amounts to lose our freedom, our rights and become a database state.

There are many problematic issues which will arise with this legislation. The proposed technology may not able to cope with the vast data overload, keeping a constant record of everyone’s internet use, and then there is the question of how effective will this proposed system actually be?

Obviously there are some serious ethical issues impending with this legislation. Freedom of access to speech, all very bleak and Orwellian; who knows how long it will be before thoughtcrime regarding government will be an offence. Anyone wanting some privacy will look suspicious.

This could cause mistreatment and unfair suspicion to someone who wants their fundamental right to privacy. In some countries this is illegal, breaching this right.

Who is to say that the government (accidentally or otherwise!) won’t sell or give out information to third parties? This information would then be used by a future Government, regardless of their objectives!

Surely people who, according to the state, may have something they wish to keep more private, will just employ tactics to intercept the data from being sucked into the black box of governmental records to keep themselves hidden.

With the Home Office website hacked by the Anonymous group over the Easter weekend as a retort to such propositions, this could be a regular occurrence.  For a Government already clearly unfavoured, this is hardly a wise move.

Internet freedom is also under attack in other nations, with the United States wanting to pass SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and the European Union signing ACTA. (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.)

There are many options out there, to help shield your online privacy. TOR anonymity shield, preventing access to your computer and hiding the internet IP address and used by those in Iran and China, says that they will support those that wish for privacy from these prying laws.

The Guardian newspaper recently published a piece on how to secure yourself online: “How to hide emails from government snooping”

Surveillance on such a vast scale is a frightening prospect. The UK already has the most CCTV cameras in the world, beating countries such as North Korea, Iran and China and with a proposed legislation coming into power, Britain is becoming frighteningly totalitarian. Guy Herbert said: “It looks like the Home Office is setting out to leapfrog China and gain the UK an unenviable position as the most monitored society in history.

The automatic recording and tracing of everything done online by anyone – of almost all our communications and much of our personal lives, shopping and reading – just in case it might come in useful to the authorities later, is beyond the dreams of any past totalitarian regime, and beyond the current capabilities of even the most oppressive states.”

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