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9 Mar, 2012 09:44

Britons fund own Orwellian future?

The British government is pushing through an anti-terror law that will enable it to monitor all private electronic communication, including social media. Ironically, people to be watched are set to pay for the privilege.

Britain is already one of the most-watched societies in the world. With an estimated 2 million surveillance cameras, it has more CCTV per person than almost any other nation on Earth. Being in the UK means being watched non-stop. And now the government is planning to cast its intrusive eye over online activity, phone calls and text messages, all under the guise of an anti-terror law. They will not only know which websites a person visits, they will even snoop on private Facebook messages.The new law specifies that it is not just private calls and messages that will be kept. The government will know exactly to whom a person speaks, when and where. Whoever one might be, all his personal data will be stored for a year by landline and mobile phone companies, and internet service providers. Obviously, the security services will have real-time access to these databases at the click of a button – secretly living your life with you.Privacy campaigners in Britain condemn the initiative, comparing the law with practices of the Chinese government.“This is the first step towards the government taking control of the internet,” insists Nick Pickles, Director of the Big Brother Watch. “The only place in the world that’s got that kind of regulation is China. And I’m sorry, but Britain is not China.” Digital rights groups say the new law will leave people living in fear of Big Brother.“The problem here is that it’s intrusive. The sort of place where it might be useful could be anything; it could be tax, divorce, copyright infringement,” Jim Killock from Open Rights Group points out. “Terrorism and serious crime is a tiny subset of the possibilities of what this information could be used for,” he warns.Cyber security experts predict it will cost taxpayers over a billion dollars to be spied on, but even then there is no guarantee they will be safe from other prying eyes.“Anyone who guarantees you absolute security is an idiot,” whips Professor Peter Sommer. “If you are dealing with information which might be required at short notice by law enforcement then that means that quite a lot of people will need to be involved. Although I suspect most of the time it’s going to be secure, it’s highly likely there’ll be large-scale failures as well.”The legislation entrenching private typing and tweeting in the UK still has to go through Parliament.The previous government’s attempt to spy on its citizens was fought off in 2008 over fears of data safety.The greater fear this time is the threat to national security, with events like the Olympics serving in favor of the Government’s justification.So it may not be long before what was thought to be personal reaches a much wider audience.