Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP)

November 6, 2008 at 3:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Oh dear.  Where is the “huge public outcry” mentioned in the Independent article below?  It’s not loud enough here in Britain, and I don’t think friends in America are aware of this at all, are you?  Do read the article and please let me know.

Government black boxes will ‘collect every email’
Home Office says all data from web could be stored in giant government database

By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor
Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Internet “black boxes” will be used to collect every email and web visit in the UK under the Government’s plans for a giant “big brother” database, The Independent has learnt.

Home Office officials have told senior figures from the internet and telecommunications industries that the “black box” technology could automatically retain and store raw data from the web before transferring it to a giant central database controlled by the Government.

Plans to create a database holding information about every phone call, email and internet visit made in the UK have provoked a huge public outcry. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, described it as “…a step too far” and the Government’s own terrorism watchdog said that as a “raw idea” it was “awful”.

Nevertheless, ministers have said they are committed to consulting on the new Communications Data Bill early in the new year. News that the Government is already preparing the ground by trying to allay the concerns of the internet industry is bound to raise suspicions about ministers’ true intentions. Further details of the database emerged on Monday at a meeting of internet service providers (ISPs) in London where representatives from BT, AOL Europe, O2 and BSkyB were given a PowerPoint presentation of the issues and the technology surrounding the Government’s Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), the name given by the Home Office to the database proposal.

Whitehall experts working on the IMP unit told the meeting the security and intelligence agencies wanted to use the stored data to help fight serious crime and terrorism, and said the technology would allow them to create greater “capacity” to monitor all communication traffic on the internet. The “black boxes” are an attractive option for the internet industry because they would be secure and not require any direct input from the ISPs.

During the meeting Whitehall officials also tried to reassure the industry by suggesting that many smaller ISPs would be unaffected by the “black boxes” as these would be installed upstream on the network and hinted that all costs would be met by the Government.

“It was clear the ‘back box’ is the technology the Government will use to hold all the data. But what isn’t clear is what the Home Secretary, GCHQ and the security services intend to do with all this information in the future,” said a source close to the meeting.

He added: “They said they only wanted to return to a position they were in before the emergence of internet communication, when they were able to monitor all correspondence with a police suspect. The difference here is they will be in a much better position to spy on many more people on the basis of their internet behaviour. Also there’s a grey area between what is content and what is traffic. Is what is said in a chat room content or just traffic?”

Ministers say plans for the database have not been confirmed, and that it is not their intention to introduce monitoring or storage equipment that will check or hold the content of emails or phonecalls on the traffic.

A spokesman for the Home Office said that Monday’s meeting provided a “chance to engage with small communication service providers” ahead of the formal public consultation next year. He added: “We need to work closely with the internet service providers and the communication service providers. The meeting was to show the top-line challenges faced in the future. We are public about the IMP, but we are still working out the detail. There will a consultation on the Communications Data Bill early next year.”

A spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association said the organisation was pleased the Home Office had addressed its members and was keen to continue dialogue while awaiting a formal consultation.

Database plans were first announced by the Prime Minister in February. It is not clear where the records will be held but GCHQ may eventually be the project’s home.

If this daft Interception Modernisation Programme proposal were to go ahead, it’s not hard to imagine we’d likely end up isolated in a land where communication collection is the order of the day—we’d be living on an island of information contained in boxes—the stuff nightmares are made of.  Then, one day, we’d wake up: only to discover that the data has all been lost, and nobody has the slightest idea where to start the search for it!  Eventually, after initial weary groans of “Oh, no … not again …” the media would let the story slip, and we would not hear another peep about that data loss.  And all the time, the black boxes would carry on collecting and storing more …

In the past decade or so, it seems CCTV systems have spread across the country like a fungus, and cameras capture our every move in public places, as well as our driving habits if we sign up for the fast lane!  I really don’t know why British people tolerate this degree and extent of surveillance.  It is not good.  Not good at all 😦



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  1. Yes, the public outcry is muted, to say the least.

    There seems to be a general line of thought that it will never happen. On forums related to ISPs and web hosting, it seems that the policy is, “I know how to circumvent this by using proxies, so I don’t care – and anyway, it is so incredibly stupid that no government would do it.”

    The problem is that not only are governments really that stupid, but the notion that this is just something which concerns Britain and because New Labour will soon be out on its ear, it is not worth botheirng about is entirely wrong.

    This is the European version of the American Patriot Acts and it ill be unrolled across Europe, after which, the governments of the rest of the world will not be able to sleep until they have their own version.

    This is nothing to do with protection from criminals or terrorists, but all about controlling and hobbling the people by the state, which will then sell the data to anyone who wants to buy it.

    Whatever has not been stolen and lost, that is, and found its way into the hands of criminals, terrorists, paedophiles and general snoopers.

    Through lethargy, apathy, inertia and the foolhardy notion that no free and democratic country would seek to impose the repressions of a banana republic dictatorship, it will go through.

    Then we will all wake up and wonder why we were stupid enough to hand over our freedoms to the state on a plate and start begging for them back.

    The problem is, the state will not do our bidding because they will finally have the complete and utter whip hand over our entire lives and we will simply be massed slaves begging for whatever mercies the state decides to scatter for us.

    Welcome to Brave New World.

    Welcome to Nineteen Eighty-Four.

    Welcome to the Internet Wars we lost because we could not be bothered to fight.

    Welcome to the end of freedom.

  2. I heard on the news this evening that the Queen’s Speech is to be rewritten and the Communications Data Bill is to be dropped from it. Haven’t seen any news reports on this yet …

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