What part of surveillance society don’t you understand, Jacqui?

April 27, 2009

It almost beggars belief that the UK government, rebuffed in its anti-democratic plans to use the EU Data Retention Directive as a cover to create a database of all communication between citizens, is ploughing the same sordid furrow, using public data from social networking sites to to create ‘profiles’ of potential subversives. We wrote about this last month: Your-mentally-challenged-sociopathic-big-brother-is-hacking-facebook so I won’t go over old ground, but today’s BBC news rehash of the argument shows that the government is so far removed from reality and public opinion that it is prepared to turn the UK into the laughing stock of democratic societies the world over. The country that led the castigation of China for censoring Google access has now announced a ‘consultation document’ which proposes nothing less than institutionalised Stasi-style snooping. The government’s estimated costs of setting up comprehensive deep packet inspection of £2 billion are conservative in the extreme, according to expert Richard Clayton, quoted in our last Thus piece. But, costs aside, the implications fetch up against centuries-old liberties and reinforce the perception that this authoritarian confederacy of dunces is hell-bent on making life hell for the law abiding majority in a phony war against the infinitessimal minority who always were and will be dedicated to disruption. And there are obvious comical inconsistencies. If unwarranted access is granted to electronic mail, SMS texts and phone conversations, will it be extended to steaming open letters? If Faceboook or Twitter contacts are monitored, should dinner parties, Rotary club dinners, speed dating or piss ups in general be monitored in the unlikely event that they might be subversive covens? Look out for that huddle smoking fags outside offices, Vernon Coaker. Those smoking roll ups/Gitanes are probably anarcho-syndicalists.

The schizophrenic government which allowed hundreds of thousands of allegedly bogus ‘asylum seekers’ to pour across our porous borders in the name of human rights – and cheap labour – has once again misread the public mood. According to Lib-Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne: “I am pleased that the Government has climbed down from the Big Brother plan for a centralised database of all our emails and phone calls. However . . it is simply not that easy to separate the bare details of a call from its content. What if a leading business person is ringing Alcoholics Anonymous, or a politician’s partner is arranging to hire a porn video? There has to be a careful balance between investigative powers and the right to privacy.”

At the heart of the matter is the debate as to whether layers of extra legislation are required to enable the security services to do what they are paid to do in the first place. Internet Service providers (ISPs) and browser search engines such as Google already hold records of internet access. Telephone companies keep records as a matter of course. The EU directive gives governments access to such data, provided they can show just cause. By now, any sensible subversive will have been alerted to the danger of publishing plots on the internet and will instead be tying notes written in invisible ink to the legs of homing pigeons.Have you thought about that one, Vernon Coaker (if, indeed, that is your real name?) Terrorists, paedos and their ilk may resort to communicating via small ads in local newspapers – what does ‘massive blow-out sale, Arndale Centre, everything must go’ really mean? Find out who placed that ad, Jacqui. Sudoko enthusiasts are probably honing their secret coding skills. Out them by forcing the Times to deliberately publish unsolvable puzzles. Gather data on those who complain. I’ve even heard unconfirmed rumours that in provincial towns, swingers identify each other by planting pampas grass in the front gardens of their semis. Break down the doors, Austin Powers. If they are not swinging, they are probably terrorists. If they are neither, then they have nothing to fear.

What if the government has already put some or all of this deep packet inspection plan into place, in its Intercept Modernisation Programme, without bothering to ‘consult’ the population at large or inform Parliament and is trying to cover its tracks ahead of the election? But that would be anti-democratic in the extreme. We all know how committed this government is to open democracy, so it can’t possibly be the case. Perish the thought. It’s about as far-fetched as manufacturing a fiction about weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for an illegal war.