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U.K. Has Plans in Place for Web, Phone Traffic Monitoring in Real Time
Recently passed legislation in the United Kingdom suggests that the government has plans for full, real-time monitoring of both Web and phone traffic, and they could be in place and operating as early as next month.
The legislation in question is said to allow intelligence services to study data in depth by requiring ISPs to mirror all their traffic through the Government Communications Headquarters, and major sites like Google and Facebook (News - Alert) are required to likewise join in.
Interestingly, this is said to be a serious sea change in policy by the British government, which has recently seen a shift in power between the Labour Party and the Tories, and the British Parliament's stance was originally against such a move. Now it has shifted in favor of such a move, asserting that it will prove necessary to allow for the investigation of crime and terrorism, as well as protecting the public at large.
The government also asserts that the data in question will not focus on content of communications, but rather “time, duration and dialing numbers of a phone call, or an email address”. Plus, search warrants would still be required to access any content, as it is now, and this move seems to be little more than the establishment of a central clearinghouse to access the content that search warrants authorize for interception and reading.
Privacy guardians interject that the warehousing alone is troubling, and that its stated goal of protecting the public against crime and terrorism would likely have minimal effect, since criminals and terrorists likely already knew that the government was watching, and had measures in place to protect their communications from prying eyes as it was. Thus, the only ones at risk to be spied on would be regular citizens, and they'd be paying for the privilege anyway via their taxes.
The concept of Internet privacy has been a hot-button issue since, almost, the inception of the Internet itself, and will likely continue to be contentious for some time to come. Still, the level of control the British government is requiring over ISPs and private firms like Google (News - Alert) and Facebook is unsettling on its own, and taken as part of a larger picture will likely have many watching their government a little more closely.
Edited by Juliana Kenny