http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/comment/c ... 18553.htmlThe Coalition must hold its nerve over digital surveillance
If the Government is to protect its citizens from those who wish them ill, it must extend access to web technology
04 April 2012
The plan for secret court hearings is one of high seriousness, in which fundamental principles of jurisprudence, the rule of law and intelligence work are horrendously entangled. But — to put it crudely — it is not a proposal that will affect many members of the public. The plans for digital data, in contrast, are of interest to anyone who uses email, Skype, social media and any other form of web technology: which is to say, just about everybody. So it matters tremendously that the blueprint not be misunderstood, or lazily misrepresented.
It may surprise you to learn, for instance, that the proposals would create no new powers. The police and MI5 are already able to request what they call “meta-data” — who called whom, and when — from phone companies (to access the content, they need a warrant).
What the authorities would now like is the right to obtain similar information about emails, social media messaging and other digital communications. The crucial change is that internet service providers (ISPs) would be obliged to store this data. Traditional phone companies have long kept itemised records for commercial purposes — that, after all, is how they bill their customers. Not so the modern ISPs, which sell monthly or annual packages and have no financial interest in recording individual communications. Companies would now be obliged to store this data for a given period (the duration of which, I imagine, will be a matter of furious disagreement). This is very different from the Labour government’s plans to aggregate all this information in a single database — although the security of the “privatised” storage system will be a matter of fierce debate.