British Goverment Wants To Know Who Your Facebook Friends Are

from the big-brother-would-like-to-add-you dept

Law enforcement and security bodies around the world are on a massive push to expand data-retention laws, trying to force ISPs and lots of other companies to track and store data on their customers’ behavior in the name of public safety, crime prevention and investigation. While in some places, like Germany, there’s been some pushback, other places, like the UK are moving full speed ahead. Earlier this year, rules went into place forcing ISPs to keep records on all their users’ email, and now, the government wants to maintain a database of social networking site users’ contacts. As if that’s not bad enough, the BBC says it’s part of a plan to keep a central database of “of all phone calls, e-mails and websites visited.” As a spokesperson for a privacy group notes, it’s fine for law enforcement to monitor the online activity of criminal suspects, but keeping tabs on an entire country’s communications in a government database would, in effect, consider the entire British population suspects, and undermine some fairly fundamental freedoms of its society — and not to mention it’s probably illegal, like an estimated 25 percent of all British government databases. What’s particularly galling about these sorts of plans isn’t just that they’re anathema to the idea of freedom, but that if they’re put into place, they really won’t do any good. Law-enforcement types act as if having this data will be a magic bullet, but simply increasing the volume of retained data — then having to mine through it — will only make their jobs more difficult.

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Comments on “British Goverment Wants To Know Who Your Facebook Friends Are”

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ED says:

Re: 1984

The UK isn’t heading towards a becoming police state – it already is one.

Top 10 list of police state measures in the United Kingdom:

Local councils in the UK now put RFID tags in rubbish bins to monitor the amount of waste created by each household with a view to enforcing a “recycling tax.”

The UK government has now put a RFID chip into passports and the Oyster card records details on every journey made.

Drivers will have an RFID chip installed in their car and be forced to pay for every mile they drive.

Do you want to make your voice heard? Well, if you want to protest in the centre of London you now have to apply for permission from the police.

The government now plans to install X-Ray cameras in a bid to combat “terrorism”.

Children can now have their biometric data taken from them at school without their parents consent.

There are now cameras that shout orders at people who “misbehave” in the street.

Schools justify the complete loss of privacy for children by saying it cuts down on vandalism and bullying.

Police now want powers to take DNA samples from people on the street for petty offences such as speeding or dropping litter.

Under section 44 of the Terrorism Act police officers can search you without the need to show that an offence is being committed. Not only that, but even if you are innocent you can be held for 28 days without charge.

Claes says:

“What’s particularly galling about these sorts of plans isn’t just that they’re anathema to the idea of freedom, but that if they’re put into place, they really won’t do any good.”

I don’t think that’s entirely true. Especially being able to go back into phone records and get the location of mobile phones at the time of calls can probably be a quite useful tool in criminal investigations. One doesn’t need data-mining in order to do that – just simple searches. Regarding using the data in order to find previously unknown crimes or terrorists probably won’t very well – you are right about that.

It is very serious that a whole population is being treated as suspects. Massive data retention is certainly violating human rights.

Enrico Suarve (user link) says:

You missed a bit

Hi Carlo

First off your analysis is spot as far as it goes – this sort of thing is appalling and I find it hard to think of a better indicator of the direction the Bush/Blair years have pushed us all in

I don’t seriously expect this database to go ahead as other parties have stated they would scrap it and I don’t expect the current government to survive the next elections. If they do somehow manage it, it is hard to see them doing so with anything above a tiny majority

‘Course stranger things have happened….

To me, the real underlying dangers of this and other databases are
1) The sheer amount of data they store, available for abuse by corrupt civil servants, police and hackers.
2) The ability to lose this data (trains seem popular places for civil servants to leave data lying around)
3) The collected data will not die – imagine a time in the not too distant future where we elect yet another sociopath to government. Now imagine that he (or she) doesn’t even need to be sneaky or pass laws to get political data on their population since they *already have it*

What would Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot have done if they had this amount of data when they *started out*?

ulle says:

I know this article is about Britian but I would be flabbergasted to learn that American agencys like Homeland Security and the NSA arent doing the same thing already.
What bothers me the most about stuff like this is the fact that the majority of the people do not seem to care what the governments are doing anymore. We (we being the general population of earth) are blindly allowing our governments to do anything they wish just because they tell us it is for our safety or our protection. I am begining to wonder if there is really any difference between the British or American government and the Chinese government other then the US and Brits are better at hiding their true agendas. I realize I will probably draw a lot of angry responces for my views, but hey as an american I do the right of my opinion.

Felix Pleşoianu (user link) says:

Why is anyone acting surprised? Orwell has lived in Britain and was inspired by what he saw around him. Same goes for Pink Floyd – The Wall, anyone?

People have seen this coming a long time ago. Too bad nobody listened. Now all we can hope is that processing power will NOT expand to match storage capacity. Then at least the gathered data will not be usable to oppress people en masse.

Philip Storry (profile) says:

Fat lot of good that'll do...

Have you seen how many “friends” most people have?

Facebook has a long since hit the critical problem that its predecessor – myspace – hit.

People are now “friends” with all kinds of folks, many of whom they met once and haven’t seen since.

Now, it’s possible to become firm friends with people online, without ever meeting them. But it’s not all that common.

A list of friends is useless, because people are often TOO POLITE to not enter into a status of mutual friendship, even though they one party may not want to.

What you really need is traffic analysis. Who sent what to whom?

And yet that’s flawed too. Just because someone sends me something on Facebook, doesn’t mean I was interested in it. People are often advertising their causes, usually by invites to events/apps/whatever.

This is, sadly, as likely to cause a grave miscarriage of justice as it is to catch terrorists… 🙁

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