Internet Surveillance

So we now know that the government are proposing to keep hold of huge amounts of electronic data containing all the juicy details about websites we visit, emails we send and whoever we call.

They are claiming that they will only survey and use this information for court cases and that it is an important step to keep with with today’s technology.

Lets examine the changes we will see when the project gets put into action:

  • Landlines: Are already monitored and police/government need a warrant to check this information. There will be no real change.
  • Skype: Particular interest has been given to how they can monitor Skype, they suspect terrorists have been using it because no one has been tracking who and when you video call someone. This will soon not be the case as they will use IP addresses to store who you are skyping with and when.
  • Games Consoles: Much like with Skype, terrorists could plot using the headsets or text messages and this will be stored in the future.
  • Mobiles: They can already find out who we have called/texted and when. They can also find out where you are using phone signals. They are now looking into monitoring app use and BBM because at the moment they are a free-for-all.
  • Laptops/iPads: No real change, emails are already tracked and under a warrant the security systems and police can access this information. At the moment whenever you start browsing the web it is stored but under the project the address you look at will be stored. From this the authorities will be able to check if you have using any subversive websites.
  • Facebook: Social networking data is not currently stored but in the future information on who you’ve been talking to on Facebook and when will be stored.

My initial response was surely if you’re not participating in any criminal activity you have nothing to fear. I don’t think of myself doing anything wrong and I don’t have any information I need to hide from the authorities and if the project is put into place to keep my safe by putting criminals behind bars, then I’m all for it.

But we opened this up in a class discussion and it did kind of change my opinion. The News of the World scandal was brought up, it brought up the issue of corruption. What if a publishing body were to get the hands on all of our information? Our health records, bank details, personal and private information could all end up in the hands of the likes of Rupert Murdoch. This could be particularly problematic for celebrities, politicians and people involved in local/ national news stories.

Major/Minor crimes?  How severe does the crime need to be in order for the government to get a warrant to check out our information? It is likely to be for minor as well as major crimes to prevent people arguing that ‘manslaughter’ is a minor crime and therefore their information cannot be checked.

Another issue arose, the government has never really been particularly good at handling data, remember the National insurance and bank Details being left on the train. This could lead to mass fraud. People could easily steal your identity if they obtained all the information being stored about you.  Can they really be trusted to securely hold information about us for up to two years? Even if they manage not to leave our precious details on the train we have the issue of hacking. If there are hackers out there who are skilled enough to break into the CIA and FBI information systems they are likely to be able to get to the government’s stored data on every one of us.

There seems to be more possible disadvantages to this project than positives. It is an invasion of our privacy. The internet does need some sort of surveillance though, as a society we are in too deep, we are 100% dependant on the internet but I think storing information for two years is a step too far. Perhaps just monitor suspected criminals once they have been brought to the authorities attention instead of storing unnecessary information about everybody.

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