The UK wants to build a 'giant database' of internet usage

The UK is still working on beefing up its internet surveillance systems, as part of a project that activists say amounts to data mining on an absolutely massive scale. The British government says that the system store internet communications on multiple, privately held databases for at least a year, keeping them available for targeted tracking of criminals.

The bill is essentially a revision of a plan that was scrapped by the Labour government back in 2009 because of complaints from Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, which would have created a single, government controlled database of all internet traffic in the UK. The new plan is currently being examined by a joint committee of MPs and peers. It would allow officials to view metadata, like the names of files that were transferred, when and to whom messages were sent, and what websites have been accessed, without a warrant, which would be needed to actually view the content itself.

The new plan calls for a ‘request filter,' a system that would allow everyone from law enforcement to tax inspectors to dig through citizen's internet histories while conducting investigations. Obviously, there's a potential for abuse there, not only from the government, but also hackers. Considering what we know about standard corporate security practices, there's a good chance that some of these ‘private databases' will consist of plain text files.

Dr. Julian Richards, co-director of the center for security and intelligence studies at Buckingham University, says that it makes more sense to describe the ‘filter' as a search engine. “By using this filter mechanism it will look and feel the same as if there was a great big database behind the scenes that you could dip into and pull the particular information you want,” he told the BBC. He says that the current amount of difficulty involved with accomplishing that task is only benefiting terrorists and criminals.

Civil liberties and internet rights groups disagree, claiming that the new law would allow officials to build up a complex map of private communications, tying together everything from mobile phone accounts to Facebook pages. Rachel Robinson, the policy offer for the activist group Liberty, put it:

The blanket retention of data about individuals as opposed to targeted surveillance, with which we have no problem, should not be a feature of a liberal society.

And even though the UK is the only EU country looking into such a plan, the BBC says that it is based on EU directives that could eventually spread to other countries. Already, though, it's become the envy of some countries, like Germany, which Richards say is ‘way behind' the UK in implementing similar policies. And while Germany may have trouble adopting such policies because of its history of abusive regimes, Richards says that the UK should have no such problem.

“…this is a very much more difficult issue in the Federal Republic than it is in the United Kingdom, where we look back with pride on our long history of democracy.” Arguments against such provisions in the UK stem more from what he called a “disturbing lack of trust in the institutions and people charged with looking after our security,” than anything else, and that the government needs to be able to keep pace with today's technology.

And even though it may not come easy, this law is another example of government attempting to place more regulations and oversight on the internet, something that activists worldwide have shown a great willingness to combat. We've got no doubt that this one will be any different, but it does point out another really disturbing trend: even in defeat, these laws always seem to come back from the dead. How long until they finally start slipping through?

Source: BBC
High tech lens image by Shutterstock

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Didn.t we have an article the other day about how blocking the pirate bay in the UK doesn't make any real impact?

I know we have a bs statement where if you have nothing to hide then you shouldn't worry but then we might as well run our internet through the government, might make it easier for them, but then don't we become the countries we are disposing in foreign relations??

Athernar said,
I'll just use a SSL tunnel to my VPS, fat lot of good it'll do them then.

People doing that will probably land themselves on the "watch closely and lube up the anal probes" list.

would they be able to do this crap with encrypted email and other encrypted services? .. *unless of course the govn asks for a back door or a decryption key although I am sure with the user made/used encryption cyphers they could brute force decrypt it if need may be in a year or so ...

It's so odd how politicians don't care about privacy or freedom. They were normal citizens like us at one point. Why do they suddenly no longer care about what's right?

thatguyandrew1992 said,
It's so odd how politicians don't care about privacy or freedom. They were normal citizens like us at one point. Why do they suddenly no longer care about what's right?

Throw the right amount of money at someone and their opinions change very fast.

If this were to pass what would they do regarding those that utilize VPN's? Would they require the VPN's be setup at the ISP level so that all traffic to and from the user and the ISP would be logged then the ISP would push it out via VPN from there?....

Though these things seem far fetched in my mind I seem to have this lingering thought back beyond the cobwebs that this kind of legislation will become more of the norm....makes my skin crawl.

I am Not PCyr said,
wouldn't this end up being an unreasonably huge db to store ?
seems a little unfeasible to me
Nope not with the proper amount of taxes to spend on it.

I am Not PCyr said,
wouldn't this end up being an unreasonably huge db to store ?
seems a little unfeasible to me

Anything's possible when you're old and out of touch!

Packet1009 said,
time for me to repeat my usual line... "is this what we fought 2 world wars for?"

seems i'm repeating this a lot nowadays...

It's ok though. They're not gassing anybody.... yet. No one's coming after you for your thoughts or ideas or even disagreements with the current power and status quo, again... yet.

So it'cool. It's for the kids and to protect us from the Arabs...

ahodgey said,
time to rent a vpn end point in another country

SwitchVPN, they have endpoints in:
China (LOL I know I know... but choice is good, maybe one needs it sometime...)
UK (yup, if this gets through, my settings for UK will be deleted)
Netherlands
Switzerland
Germany
USA
Canada

and some more I guess
Proper speeds, too!

GS:mac

This is almost the same as a new Bill here in Norway. They have already delayed it two times, because they don't even know what they want to store. Also, ISP's here have invested a lot of equipment already, but refuses to get anything else until they have decided.

I wonder if they even know the amount of data storage is needed. And they want to put the bill on ISP's.

Politicians are so out of touch with technology that it is quite sad.

We should put in place a board for technology that have more power in todays society, so these kinds of crap isn't easily passed. We have one here, but it rarely have the final say in any matters.

It's amazing, it really is, you vote people into power who are meant to listen to their local community and push through what they want. What do you actually get, a bunch of old men in a club of 'lets do what we ****ing want, sod what the people want'
The classic spitting image sketch of calling voters stupid really wasn't all that far off from the truth.

n_K said,
It's amazing, it really is, you vote people into power who are meant to listen to their local community and push through what they want. What do you actually get, a bunch of old men in a club of 'lets do what we ****ing want, sod what the people want'
The classic spitting image sketch of calling voters stupid really wasn't all that far off from the truth.
We didn't vote for these jokers in this coalition. Though if it wasn't a coalition, we'd just have the conservatives, so same thing.

This is a stupid idea because it will lead to abuse, and its just a countdown for the headline, "hackers get access to database".

Welcome to the UK comrade.
This failed under labour because of opposition from the conservatives and libdems but now they want to go ahead and implement it? hypcrasy in politics is laughable. If they think you are a terrorist and want to spy on you, why not have to get a court order to be able to do so?

Hackersoft MS MVP said,
Welcome to the UK comrade.
This failed under labour because of opposition from the conservatives and libdems but now they want to go ahead and implement it? hypcrasy in politics is laughable. If they think you are a terrorist and want to spy on you, why not have to get a court order to be able to do so?

have to have evidence first... most of their anti-terrorism investigations are based on hunches now days, and can't get a court order on a hunch now can you?... which is another part of the problem..

Hackersoft MS MVP said,
Welcome to the UK comrade.
This failed under labour because of opposition from the conservatives and libdems but now they want to go ahead and implement it? hypcrasy in politics is laughable. If they think you are a terrorist and want to spy on you, why not have to get a court order to be able to do so?
Well it has been said that hypocrisy is one of our biggest exports