Tue, Mar 31st 2009 12:56am
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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