IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN
Real time monitoring of everyone ...
Posted by Andrew Spencer on 11/05/2012
As widely predicted the Queens Speech on 9th May did announce a Government assault on our civil liberties and privacy, described by Sky News as a ''Snoopers Charter''. I talked about the likelihood of this being in the Speech a few weeks ago and what was actually announced was substantially the same as predicted ...
ISPs and mobile phone networks have to open up to real time monitoring of everyone
Essentially the Government will legislate to allow GCHQ and others to monitor in real time private phone calls, primarily mobile, email, Internet phone calls and messaging through mechanisms such as Skype, and social media interaction between people on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google + and so on.
In short a major line has been crossed. Previously email and mobile phone interactions were logged by ISPs and phone networks and the records were retrospectively available on application by police intelligence agencies or other public bodies but only for specific individuals (it does not require a court order to access this data, just a signature from a senior official). Now ISPs and mobile phone networks have to open up to real time monitoring of everyone.
Government Ministers maintain that the police and other bodies will not be allowed to look at content of emails or text messages without a warrant, which is the current position, but how do you separate content from the information about where it is come from and where it is going to?
As was quite rightly pointed out by a digital forensics specialist, Professor Peter Sommer, on Sky News, digital communication such as email, instant messages and so on is divided up into packets and each packet contains information about where it's going to and where it's come from and the content of the packet.
"But separating the content from the communications data involves specialist hardware called deep packet inspection as well as all the individual filters you'd need for all the different types of internet services, which will in turn need constantly updating, because as we all know - the internet is constantly changing - so there's a vast ongoing cost we have to contemplate"
Professor Peter Sommer
So what is going to happen? This is either going to be an extremely expensive failure or much more likely a much cruder surveillance where inevitably content gets monitored whether the law says it can or not. The reality is that content scanning is taking place on a massive scale already with email and mobile calls irrespective of the legal position. GCHQ and MI5 just get on with it in the interests of National Security.
One thing I find extraordinary is that within the last 3 weeks the justification for this radical extension of intrusion into our lives is no longer being solely justified as counter-terrorism. Suddenly it is to help investigate rapists, child abusers, and paedophiles. Where did that come from? How emotive! And how does all this help?
In reality it does not do anything that is not being done already as far as criminals and terrorists are concerned. If they don't want their conversations monitored they go underground. Paedophiles in particular are adept at hiding their websites, their traffic and communication. It takes major effort to root them out.
The dark web is a big place but these measures merely mean that it is going to get a lot larger and a lot harder to crack. Many more technically savvy people are going to work to make it even more impenetrable. It has ever been thus; Prohibition drove alcohol production and distribution underground on a massive scale in the US, and today the dark web is a hive of trading activity for drugs and guns. Increasingly we will see more traffic move underground simply because people want their privacy.
The underground web is where GCHQ and other agencies should spend their time. No requirement for legislation targeted at ordinary citizens for that.
In the meantime there is hope. Lib Dem President Tim Farron is - and I suspect most of his Party are - opposed to these measures. Conservatives David Davies and Boris Johnson have expressed their own concerns. The latter carries serious popular weight following the recent elections and the former very effectively opposed similar proposals made by the last Labour Government by resigning his seat and gaining re-election on this specific issue (ironically Labour's proposals were opposed by the Tories and Lib Dems as a whole - amazing hypocrisy!). Of course Labour can also become hypocrites on this issue as well - sort of welcome this time!
Lets see how things transpire but keep your eyes open and help fight this insidious invasion of our liberties. If you want to talk further about this, call me on +44 (0) 1908 565 460, click here to send me an email or leave a comment below.
Until next time ...
During Andrew's extensive business career he has worked in a wide cross section of companies, specialising in the creation of contact centres and business systems, software development, telecommunications and project management. Andrew's key skills are:
Business planning and strategy
Matching technology to business needs
Software development and implementation
Designing and implementing business systems
His work has included sourcing and implementing a new integrated telecoms system for National Energy Services, designing and project managing a new IT and telephony structure for the Greyhound Racing Association, and directing technology development for Wembley plc.