Monday, 6 April 2009

Civil Liberties (and threats to thereof) update

Does anyone seriously think that terrorist atrocities will be stopped by the state monitoring every sort of telephone, internet and e-mail communication we make?

Now 'Big Brother' targets Facebook: Minister wants government database to monitor social networking sites
Nigel Morris, The Independent, 25 March 2009

Millions of Britons who use social networking sites such as Facebook could soon have their every move monitored by the Government and saved on a "Big Brother" database.

Ministers faced a civil liberties outcry last night over the plans, with accusations of excessive snooping on the private lives of law-abiding citizens.

The idea to police MySpace, Bebo and Facebook comes on top of plans to store information about every phone call, email and internet visit made by everyone in the United Kingdom. Almost half the British population – some 25 million people – are thought to use social networking sites. There are already proposals under a European Union directive – dating back to after the 7 July 2005 bombs – for emails and internet usage to be monitored and added to a planned database to track terror plots.

But technology has moved on in the past three years, and the use of social networking sites has boomed – so security services fear that that has left a loophole for terrorists and criminal gangs to exploit.

To close this loophole, Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister, has disclosed that social networking sites could be forced to retain information about users' web-browsing habits. They could be required to hold data about every person users correspond with via the sites, although the contents of messages sent would not be collected. Mr Coaker said: "Social networking sites, such as MySpace or Bebo, are not covered by the directive. That is one reason why the Government are looking at what we should do about the intercept modernisation programme because there are certain aspects of communications which are not covered by the directive."

In exchanges with the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Tom Brake, he insisted: "I accept this is an extremely difficult area. The interface between retaining data, private security and all such issues of privacy is extremely important. It is absolutely right to point out the difficulty of ensuring we maintain a capability and a capacity to deal with crime and issues of national security – and where that butts up against issues of privacy."

Facebook boasts 17 million Britons as members. Bebo, which caters mainly for teenagers and young adults, has more than 10 million users. A similar number of music fans are thought to use MySpace.

Moves to include the sites in mass surveillance of Britons' internet habits has provoked alarm among MPs, civil liberties groups and security experts.

Mr Brake said: "Plans to monitor our phone and email records threaten to be the most expensive snooper's charter in history. It is deeply worrying that they now intend to monitor social networking sites which contain very sensitive data like sexual orientation, religious beliefs and political views. Given the Government's disastrous record with large IT projects and data security, it is likely that data will leak out of every memory stick, port and disk drive when they start monitoring Facebook, Bebo and MySpace."

Isabella Sankey, policy director at Liberty, said: "Even before you throw Facebook and other social networking sites into the mix, the proposed central communications database is a terrifying prospect. It would allow the Government to record every email, text message and phone call and would turn millions of innocent Britons into permanent suspects."

Richard Clayton, a computer security expert at Cambridge University, said: "What they are doing is looking at who you communicate with and who your friends are, which is greatly intrusive into your private life."

Chris Kelly, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said yesterday that it was considering lobbying ministers over the proposal, which he called "overkill".

A Home Office spokeswoman said the Government was not interested in the content of emails, texts, conversations or social networking sites. She added: "We have been clear that communications revolution has been rapid in this country and the way in which we collect communications data needs to change so law enforcement agencies can maintain their ability to tackle terrorism and gather evidence."

'Oh, the EU will save us from this.' Oh yeah, right...

Understated threat to Internet freedoms - this time from the EU: To members of Blackout Europe: Telecoms Package dangers to open EU internet
Ireland Offline: 04 April 2009
Please translate and send to the Press in your country


Opennetcoalition calls for protection of European citizens and users rights on Internet

Amendments to the "Telecoms Package" before the European Parliament will likely mean that Internet users and citizens will no longer have unmonitored Internet access
and free access to websites of their choice.

* This proposed EU regime has many privacy and civil rights issues it is contrary to articles 7, 8, 11 and 16 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights(1).
* The idea of "3 strikes and you are out" is almost Stalinist in outlook. This is not the Europe that citizens want, but the one that some politicians are starting to build.
* An ISP(2) can decide which website you can visit, arbitrary websites could possibly be blocked under this regime. You may have to pay more to visit "foreign" websites.
* The damage this will this cause to our international reputation is enormous.
* The financial implications for citizens and companies of this filtering system will be large, taxpayers will have to pay for these additional costs.
* Many companies will send their servers out of the EU so that they can continue to guarantee connectivity. Many others will not be able to export their products and services
* The proposed solutions are essentially futile.

The Opennetcoalition are calling simply for Net Neutrality and the rights of users to be respected and protected.

The function of an ISP is to deliver your message intact and without interference, to the destination, wherever that may be.

None of this precludes proper judicial oversight or any agencies seeking a specific remedy in the Courts, in respect of infringing sites and users.

The specific issues are explained in a number of languages on our website.


1. Security and Fundamental Freedoms on the Internet

2. ISP : Internet Service Provider

ABOUT the Europe wide Opennetcoalition

Free Knowledge Institute - Wouter Tebbens
P2P Foundation - Celia Blanco and Michel Bauwens
eXgae - Simona Levi
ISOC-ECC - Christopher Wilkinson
Ireland Offline - Eamonn Wallace
Hispalinux - Jorge Fuentes
Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung - Ralf Bendrath
Asociacion de Internautas - Victor Domingo
IT-Political Association of Denmark - Niels Elgaard Larsen
Istituto per le Politiche dell'Innovazione - Guido Scorza
Associazione Scambio Etico - Paolo Brini
EDRI - Niels Elgaard Larsen
La Quadrature du Net - Jérémie Zimmermann
Open Rights Group - Jim Killock
FFII - Alberto Barrionuevo
Center for Media and Communication Studies (CMCS).- Laura Ranca

For more information on the organisation, please visit the Blackout Europe website at
or contact us at

1 comment:

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