The British government is to give intelligence services the right to monitor the electronic communications of every person in the United Kingdom, and do so without a warrant. The UK Home Office has said that it is considering changing the legislation as to allow all phone calls, e-mails, text messages and Internet use to be followed by the British intelligence agency GCHQ, the Government Communications Headquarters.
What is CCDP?
Currently, in the United Kingdom only the communications of specific persons can be monitored, and only after obtaining permission. The police and others can access communications data only on a case by case basis, after demonstrating it is needed in a criminal investigation.
Under the so called Communications Capability Development Programme or CCDP, the GCHQ would now have access to real-time communications of all British citizens, not only those being investigated. Monitoring would focus not only on communications by phone, but rather on all electronic communications, including social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. This monitoring is to be made possible by hardware that internet companies would be required to install.
The government says that the content of calls, posts and e-mails will not be monitored, but rather the time and duration of a communication, the number or email address contacted and the location of the originator of the communication. The government also denies it will create a single government database containing all the communications data collected.
“Unprecedented attack on privacy online”
There have been earlier, unsuccessful attempts to introduce legislation that would enable the monitoring of all internet communications streams to collect and store communications data.
In 2010, the UK Strategic Defence and Security Review called for an introduction of a programme that would enable security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain data and to intercept communications within the appropriate legal framework.
Like it predecessors, CCDP, rumoured to be unveiled in detail next month in a speech by the Queen, is already the subject of heavy criticism.
Expressing concerns about indiscriminate monitoring proposed are Members of the Parliament, internet service providers and different organisations.
“These plans are an unprecedented attack on privacy online and it is far from clear this will actually improve public safety, while adding significant costs to internet business,” warns Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, a UK campaign group protecting individual privacy and defending civil liberties, adding that nothing can “hide the fact that this policy is being condemned by MPs in all political parties.”
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