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UK government continues its attack on privacy

Posted by on November 27, 2014.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the ISC, said the internet firm did not feel any obligation to identify threats or to report them to the authorities. Photograph: PA

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the ISC, said the internet firm did not feel any obligation to identify threats or to report them to the authorities. Photograph: PA

The UK government is continuing to demonize internet companies, almost suggesting that they are the cause of successful terrorist attacks. In a report by the Intelligence Committee into the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby it suggests that Facebook should have detected and reported the single known incidence of one of the murderers showing his hand online before the attack.

This would require internet companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft et al to continuously read all of their members communications all of the time. The suggestion is that they HAVE to do so because it is too difficult for the intelligence agencies to do so themselves. Nowhere is there any discussion over whether there is any right for the intelligence agencies to have this information without a warrant.

In other words, we as citizen/subjects of the United Fiefdom, have no automatic right to any personal privacy whatsoever. The report states,

XX. The capability of the Agencies to access the communications of their targets is essential to their ability to detect and prevent terrorist threats to the UK and our allies. The considerable difficulty that the Agencies face in accessing the content of online communications, both in the UK and overseas, from providers which are based in the US – such as Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo – is therefore of great concern.

YY. Whilst we note that progress has started to be made on this issue, with the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 and the appointment of the Special Envoy on intelligence and law enforcement data sharing, the problem is acute. The Prime Minister, with the National Security Council, should prioritise this issue. The exceptional and long-standing co-operation between the UK and the US on intelligence issues must be utilised to explore an agreed procedure for access to online communications from providers based in the US. UK citizens are unnecessarily exposed to greater risk while the current situation continues.
Report on the intelligence relating to the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby

[Incidentally, the author of this report is clearly not one of the Civil Service Oxbridge brigade. The suggestion that we permanently give up our privacy for an acute problem — one that will pass — rather than a chronic problem — one that will persist — shows little consideration or intelligence.]

The report actually suggests that since the internet companies do not spy on their users all of the time, they are contributing to the problem:

The party which could have made a difference was the company on whose platform the exchange took place [in this instance, Facebook]. However, this company does not appear to regard itself as under any obligation to ensure that its systems identify such exchanges, or to take action or notify the authorities when its communications services appear to be used by terrorists. There is therefore a risk that, however unintentionally, it provides a safe haven for terrorists to communicate within.

This is actually disingenuous. Almost all internet companies have made it clear that they will cooperate with law enforcement where there is a legal requirement to do so. They also respond to alerts from their own users. So in this instance, had any Facebook user reported the communication in question to Facebook, it would almost certainly have alerted the intelligence services. However, it serves the UK government’s purposes to blame the internet companies as part of its ongoing campaign to force them to spy on all users on their behalf.

Compare this deeply sinister and Stasi-like stance to the United Nations. Just two days ago it adopted a resolution reaffirming the right to privacy in the digital age, condemning unlawful government mass surveillance and calling on member States to review their legislation and policies to ensure that they are in line with human rights law.

Tomaso Falchetta, Advocacy Officer at Privacy International, commented, “The adoption of a much-needed resolution on the right to privacy is a welcomed step. The resolution’s principles and recommendations would, if reflected in governments’ policies, go a long way to address some of the serious concerns related to state’s surveillance practices in violation of the right to privacy and other human rights.”

The UK has reached a sorry state when its human rights are under threat from its own government in defiance of multi-national organisations like the United Nations and the European Union.


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Submitted in: Kevin Townsend's opinions, News, News_privacy, News_surveillance | Tags: , , , ,