http://heatherbrooke.org/2012/state-spying-back-door/Don’t let the State spy on us by the back door
The Times, April 3, 2012
Proposed new laws would give powerful officials instant access to people’s internet data
Intelligence agents can already tap into our online communication and data where there are reasonable grounds for doing so. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), extended in 2003, allows not only the police, intelligence services and Revenue & Customs officials, but many other organisations, including local councils, to access telephone records, e-mail and internet activity. That we have no idea how often they do it or for what purpose is an indication of the lack of supervision in this area.
There are three officials in charge: the commissioner for interceptions, the commissioner for the intelligence service and the chief surveillance commissioner. Privacy International has dubbed them the Three Blind Mice for the laxity of their reports and their failure to issue robust sanctions against improper or unauthorised snooping. They refuse to say how many national security intercepts are authorised on the laughable grounds that even to disclose this would be a danger to national security.
At present if UK officials want a user’s data from Google, they must make a legal application. In the first six months of last year, Google received requests for 1,444 users’ data, but only agreed to 63 per cent of them. Similarly, if agents want access to a Twitter user’s data they need to supply a court order to the American company. In a few cases, Twitter has challenged secret court orders so the user can challenge the request. Privacy researcher Chris Soghoian told me there are likely tens of thousands of secret 2703(d) orders made annually by the federal government under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
The new legislation on data access to be announced in the Queen’s Speech would do away with all this. Instead it would require all ISPs and social networks to build a “back door” into their systems – effectively a portal through which the State can instantly access all user data. It allows snooping in real time.