It seems the U.S. government is not the only one sporting a Big Brother demeanor. The British government is now revisiting previously considered plans to create databases that would enable spy agencies to monitor emails, phone calls, and text messages as well as websites visited by everyone in the United Kingdom.
Entitled the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP), the scheme would be set up under anti-terrorism laws, in much the same way the PATRIOT Act functions in the United States. UK officials contend that its goal is to closely monitor suspects before the 2012 London Olympics in July.
The proposal — conceived by MI5 (Military Intelligence 5, a government agency dealing with domestic threats), MI6 (which combats overseas threats), and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) — could be announced as early as May. Those agencies would be given access to records kept by companies such as Vodafone and British Telecom. British spy agencies would be permitted not only to evaluate all communications exchanged, but also to match Internet browsing histories to IP addresses.
Under the plan, communications networks would be required to store the data for a full year. The proposal includes even social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as gaming sites.
The Telegraph explains:
For the first time, the security services will have widespread access to information about who has been communicating with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook.
Direct messages between subscribers to websites such as Twitter would also be stored, as well as communications between players in online video games.
Naturally such a proposal has drawn the ire of freedom-lovers in England. Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, a civil liberties campaign organization, declared, “This would be a systematic effort to spy on all of our digital communications. No state in history has been able to gather the level of information proposed — it’s a way of collecting everything about who we talk to just in case something turns up.”
Gus Hosein, of Privacy International, pointed out,
This will be ripe for hacking. Every hacker, every malicious threat, every foreign government is going to want access to this. And if communications providers have a government mandate to start collecting this information they will be incredibly tempted to start monitoring this data themselves so they can compete with Google and Facebook.
The internet companies will be told to store who you are friends with and interact with. While this may appear innocuous it requires the active interception of every single communication you make, and this has never been done in a democratic society.