This site doesn’t usually comment on matters to do with state surveillance of and control of the Internet. Chiefly because the whole notion of “data privacy”, around which most of the public discussion is organised, is a liberal red-herring. However; this is really quite alarming.

What is proposed is that Facebook and other social media companies “collaborate” with GCHQ to manage the news that appears on these sites. They don’t, it seems, just want to know what you are reading; they want to manage what you can read in the first place.

It is a sign of the times that the Guardian reports this Orwellian development in a completely cool and factual way.

(We can add that the sight of an official from GCHQ lecturing Wikileaks on “responsible reporting” of security vulnerabilities is quite brazen, given that the whole point of the recent leaks is how they demonstrate that this is precisely what the CIA was not doing).

We believe in “open front-doors”

David Cameron has said:

We believe in very clear front doors through legal processes that should help to keep our country safe.

[Reported by Reuters]

He apparently is concerned about the public being able to communicate using encryption. According to press reports Cameron wants to target commercial providers who build encryption into Web chat products. There is already legislation in the UK which makes it an imprisonable offence not to give the authorities a private encryption key on demand. So he clearly wants to go further.

What is somewhat hard to take is the idea that the British government believes in “open front-doors” backed up by legal processes. The Snowden revelations (not seriously contested to be accurate leaks) show that Britain’s GCHQ has been investing heavily in building back-doors unknown to the public. One leak showed that GCHQ Â was concerned about using evidence gained in this way in court in case it laid them open to charges under Britain’s Human Rights Act. In fact GCHQ appears to have “repeatedly” warned about starting a “damaging public debate”.

David Cameron then would appear to be lying through his teeth.

In fact he isn’t, because he is talking about the new system. This is apparently being coordinated with the US (like the old secret one).

The authorities are doing what they usually do when they get caught out doing something illegal. They just make it legal.

The case for the authorities being able to sift through all internet traffic is a strong one. People who object may be misunderstanding. The authorities have to hold all the traffic if they are to be able to carry out investigations into individuals. If someone becomes a target they (quite sensibly) want to sift through that person’s communications for the last year or so. The only way they can do this is if the telecoms companies and ISPs keep logs of everyone’s communications. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they do sift through the data of law-abiding member’s of the public.

Nonetheless it seems surprising that the programme was originally secret. Why was this?



Supporting communities

This is an excellent article by Josie Appleton. convener of the Manifesto Club, about the new concept of civil society which is developing in Britain:

Power to the State

‘Support’ justifies everything. ‘Support’ always involves more power to state officials of one kind or another. It always requires compliance with their demands. The officials are equipped with a ‘legal toolkit’ which enables them to

Biometric Surveillance in Schools

This paper details the extent of biometric surveillance technology in schools as the state was in 2009. Finger-printing devices for library systems, dinner queues and registration are wide-spread. The (now defunct) quango BECTA (concerned to promote technology in education) chillingly welcomed all this as being more ”efficient”.

Biometric Surveillance in Schools

Pub: March 2009 (original publication date)