Digital Surveillance: why are we surprised?

Heather Brooke on BBC News Channel, talking about proposed legislation that would allow the British government to legally monitor the phone calls, emails, texts and website visits of members of the public.

Why are we surprised? Considering the millions that have been spent on surveillance and biometrics by the Security Services via the Technology Strategy Board, it’s a matter of public procurement “value for money” that we actually start to use this stuff.

A quick search on the TSB web site brought up these SBRIs:







And, really, what do you think the Internet of Things is about other than the normalisation of data collection in everyday objects?

“If all objects of daily life were equipped with radio tags, they could be identified and inventoried by computers.”

“Mislaid and stolen items would be easily tracked and located, as would the people who use them.”

Notable that it doesn’t mention the privacy implications?

My Opinion: They’re Watching. Get Over It.

There’s a huge amount of data for them to sift through and they’re going to be spying on millions of Britons as well as millions of foreign nationals (regular, plain ol’ tourists). So, try not to do anything that causes them to turn their baleful eye your way. Try not to be “interesting” to them.

0 thoughts on “Digital Surveillance: why are we surprised?”

  1. Speaking broadly, and with the caveat that none of us have seen so much as a white paper on the subject, *and* with the agreement that yes, they’re already watching us:

    What constitutes being “of interest” to securocrats? I think it’s best summed up by David Davies this morning:

    “It is not focusing on terrorists or on criminals, it is absolutely everybody,” he told the BBC. “Historically governments have been kept out of our private lives. Our freedom and privacy has been protected by using the courts by saying ‘If you want to intercept, if you want to look at something, fine, if it is a terrorist or a criminal go and ask a magistrate and you’ll get your approval’. You shouldn’t go beyond that in a decent, civilised society but that is what is being proposed.”

    What’s the rationale? Well, let’s look at what one of this morning’s contributors on Radio Four said, a “Professor Anthony Glees, director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham”. Why should the government put in place that which they fought the previous government so vehemently against. His considered opinions this morning?

    “Because they can”
    Because there “were a lot of dangerous people out there”.
    Because the Olympics are happening this year

    Strangely, I’m not convinced. There is no mandate for the current government; there was no mandate for this in either of their manifestos. For this to reach the statute books will entail a process that won’t be completed until well after the Olympics. And the Jubilee. And all the other events mentioned in this morning’s discussion.

    It hardly needs to be said that this same legislation is being proposed by a party who’s leader was most reticent to divulge who gets invited to dinner, or rather a “kitchen supper”, at which national policy may or may not have been discussed.

    Let *us* not turn our “baleful eye” away from government. It is a well worn phrase that people should not be afraid of their governments, but that government should be afraid of their people. They most certainly are afraid of us – but that doesn’t give them an excuse to enact legislation like this.

    1. Hi Paul,
      Thanks for commenting.

      This will happen anyway. I’m always of the opinion it’s better to fight wars that can be won. So it’s time to encourage the use of SSL, VPNs and encryption. Stuff that people should be doing anyway.

      I think it’s ludicrous that they think they’ll be able to do any better but I also think that if you let them get on with their Security Theatre then normal people can continue to get on with it. The current media scaremongering isn’t actually helping anything or anyone.

  2. Next month a certain company will launch it’s IPO. It is estimated to be valued as high as $100 billion – The largest IPO in history. Their product? A social graph. There is a lot of value in that, because it allows advertisers to target and manipulate.

    If I was an evil politician I too would want to create my own social graph. This way I could identify social influencers (ala Klout), determine their impact on the politically active and spin potentially unpopular policies to appease those influencers.

    Another potentially unsavoury application would be manipulating a clueless Electoral Boundary Commission – after all, why would they need access to so-called “security” data? Muwahaha!!!

    But then, that’s just what I would do…and I am very, very evil. Much more eviler than any politician. Politicians are, without exception, benevolent and righteous.

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