British Spy Agencies Plan ‘Black Box’ Style Web Surveillance

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Mick Meaney, Contributor
Activist Post

British intelligence services are planning to significantly increase the level of web surveillance on UK citizens.

Agencies want to use ‘black box’ style snooping devices to monitor nearly all web activity including which domain names citizens visit, and Facebook, Twitter and Skype sessions.

Known as Deep Packet Inspection, the technology allows agencies who intercept the packets of data to look through the contents. The intrusive regime is expected to cost taxpayers £1.8bn over the next 10 years, as the Home Office claims there is a 25 per cent “shortfall” in monitoring communications data.

The plans are currently in draft form, as the Liberal Democrats have dropped support for the bill.

In the U.K. parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee’s report, Jonathan Evans, the head of Britain’s domestic intelligence service MI5, said:

Access to communications data of one sort or another is very important indeed. It’s part of the backbone of the way in which we would approach investigations. 

I think I would be accurate in saying there are no significant investigations that we undertake across the service that don’t use communications data because of its ability to tell you the who and the when and the where of your target’s activities.

The report also hints that Internet Service Providers, landline and mobile phone companies must “have a legal foundation to retain data,” effectively forcing companies to store our data as Web snooping would become mandatory.

Email communications will also be logged.

Although access to the contents of the data, such as the email addresses of senders and recipients will require a court order, the time and date stamps of that email will be available.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy at civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, told ZDNet:

Two expert Parliamentary committees have cast serious doubts on the claim that it is necessary for every person’s email, Web site browsing and social media activity needs to be logged and kept for one year.

The report recognises there are weaknesses in monitoring people suspected of wrongdoing. It is becoming increasingly difficult for Ministers to justify monitoring every member of the population instead of developing their ability to monitor people who are under suspicion.

He also added:

The report recognises for national security situations, alternatives are available and are being used. The committee also recognises the growing futility of the Home Office’s current approach given the increasing use of encryption. 

The draft Bill was a shambles and if any legislation is to allay the widespread concerns people have about an vast expansion in the power of the state to monitor every aspect of our lives it will need a fundamental and comprehensive re-write.

This is just the latest in the British governments Big Brother agenda, which includes collecting and sharing of private medical information, the use of spy drones, spy cars on our roads, facial recognition CCTV and even authorities illegally installing cameras in people’s homes.

More news and videos can be found at Mick Meaney’s site where this article first appeared.

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