Big Brother is watching you – but why? 3

Under daily observation from thousands of surveillance cameras mounted everywhere from street corners to taxicabs to public parks, Britons rank among the most-watched people on earth. But a new government plan is poised to take the gaze of this nation’s security services dramatically deeper: letting them examine the text messages, phone calls, e-mails and Web browsing habits of every person in the country.

According to the Washington Post report that we are quoting –

Britain generates more than 2 million e-mails a minute, and observers say the government may face technical challenges in capturing and storing such vast amounts of data. Currently, firms are required to store some communications data, such as phone calls, for one year. But the proposed law could compel them to store far more varied forms — such as Skype calls or online video game data — for at least twice as long.

Even with massive electronic help in selecting words and phrases to reduce the millions of messages, how  many people working how many hours would be needed to investigate the (surely still enormous) residue? And if they do come upon evidence of crime being plotted or committed, what will they do about it?

It’s not as if the police are really working to reduce crime (except maybe drug related crimes). For years now in Britain, if a crime is reported the police routinely issue the victim with a number but seldom investigate it. If the police investigate a crime, they seldom make an arrest; if they make an arrest, the case seldom comes to court;  if it comes to court the accused is seldom found guilty;  if the accused is found guilty, he is seldom convicted; if he is convicted he is seldom sentenced; if he is sentenced he seldom goes to prison; if he goes to prison he is seldom – no, he is never kept there even for the inadequately punitive time he is sentenced to serve.

Terrorists? If they are Muslim – and are there any terrorists other than Muslims now? – they are unlikely to be charged; if charged they are unlikely to be tried; if tried they are unlikely to be convicted; if convicted they are unlikely to be punished. Instead they are likely to be luxuriously housed and granted lavish incomes at tax-payers’ expense. (See our posts The tale of a Muslim terrorist parasite January 18, 2012, and A model citizen December 17, 2010.)

So what would the watching and listening really be for?

The only plausible answer is: for government power and control. But what is the feeble feckless government doing with its power? What is it controlling and to what end? Britain aims for nothing, has no vision of its future, and is unlikely to become an Iran-like or Afghanistan-like totalitarian state until Islam comes to power. Of course that won’t take long now, and Islam knows exactly what it will compel everyone to do. It will be nice for the Islamic Enforcers to find efficient means of surveillance already in place for them.

Let’s read on.

The “snooping” proposal set to be presented in Parliament later this year is sparking an uproar over privacy in Britain, fueling a debate over the lengths to which intelligence agencies should go in monitoring citizens — a debate that has resonance on both sides of the Atlantic.

Government officials say the new powers are critical to countering terrorism and other threats in an era of fast-changing social media, with criminals using even seemingly innocent venues such as Facebook and online games as means of communication. But furious citizen groups and some members of Parliament see the push as a part of Britain’s evolution into a “surveillance society” in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and the 2005 London bombings.

Although the plan is yet to be fully outlined by the Conservative-led government, observers say parts of it may go beyond even the ability of officials in the United States to quickly access private data. Critics say the sheer breadth and scope of the plan also could put Britain out in front of other European countries such as Germany, where the government acts to block some Web sites deemed objectionable, and Sweden, where a law passed in 2008 allows the government to intercept international communications conducted via phones or the Internet.

“I’m afraid that if this program gets introduced, the U.K. will be leapfrogging Iran in the business of surveilling its citizens,” said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International. “This program is so broad that no other country has even yet to try it, and I am dumbfounded they are even considering it here.”

The plan may authorize the national surveillance agency — which is known as GCHQ and whose Web site describes its mission as keeping “our society safe and successful in the Internet age” — to order the installation of thousands of devices linked to the networks of Internet service providers, giving agents broader access to everyday communications. The examination of the contents of those exchanges — such as the text or images contained in an e-mail — would still require special warrants. But for the first time, intelligence agencies might, for instance, access information such as the times, destinations and frequencies of phone calls, texts and e-mails without a warrant…

The measure reportedly would compel communications companies to grant intelligence agents instant access to real-time information in certain circumstances, such as data that could be used to target the location of a user’s mobile phone or computer if authorities suspected a crime was in progress. It remained unclear whether British authorities would need judicial or other authority before accessing such data.

“It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public,” Britain’s Home Office — a rough equivalent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — said in a statement.

Privacy advocates reacted swiftly Monday, saying the move would intrude so deeply into the lives of British citizens that it would rival or exceed measures used by totalitarian governments. They say it marks another of many steps that have curtailed privacy rights here in the post-Sept. 11 world, with one study by British police officials, for instance, indicating that a person strolling around London is captured on film by at least 68 cameras on any given day

As it stands, key aspects of the proposal may go beyond the kind of surveillance now authorized in the United States, where privacy advocates were quick to raise concerns about the plan — especially given the heavy traffic of transatlantic communication. …

How does America do its watching?

Access in the United States to “metadata” — such as the time, who e-mailed whom and how often — depends on the kind of data and type of case. For example, authorities have to obtain court orders before accessing real-time data in both criminal and national security cases.

In criminal cases, authorities need a subpoena to get stored metadata on phone numbers dialed but a court order for e-mail information. In contrast, federal agents seeking stored e-mail header information in national security cases have contended that they may use a national security letter, which is an administrative subpoena that can be issued by an FBI field office. But some providers have refused access to such data without a court order.

Only some? And should that make us less worried?

Is it possible that sheer overreach could render government impotent? That freedom will be recovered because government has too big a body for its tiny brain, like dinosaurs, and will perish by taking on far more than it can ever accomplish, losing sight of what it means to accomplish and why?

Or would anarchy result? And would that make it easier or harder for Islam to take over?

 

(Hat tip to our reader True Freethinker for the link to the video)

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  • http://www.respvblica.com/ CONSVLTVS

    Fascinating.  I remember being told we could not videotape (what’s the digital verb?) our son’s school play because if any videotaping were allowed then secret pedophiles, posing as parents, would also be able to film the children.  Thank goodness no pedophiles work for the government.

    • Jillian Becker

      Thank you for your comment – I enjoy your irony, Consvltvs. 

      As we all know, not only pedophiles but a great many pedophobes work for the government.  

    • George

      The digital term is simply [ video record ].