Boris Johnson: I am not bothered with civil liberties stuff for terror suspects – Telegraph

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Johnson said: “In many ways the guys who did this kind of thing are very often at the fringes of criminality, lured into terrorism by very cynical and clever idealogues. In many ways they are vulnerable to all sorts of criminality.

“You have got to have a very tough security solution, to be absolutely determined to monitor these people, know where they are, know who they’re talking to.

“I’m not particularly interested in this civil liberties stuff when it comes to these people’s emails and mobile phone conversations. If they are a threat to our society then I want them properly listened to.

via Boris Johnson: I am not bothered with civil liberties stuff for terror suspects – Telegraph.

If someone’s a genuine threat then I want them listened to. Surveillance targeted at those the authorities have reason to believe pose a threat is fine, but we should not be engaging in mass surveillance of the general population, and that’s why I oppose the snooper’s charter.

 

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Are you a "domestic extremist"?

See Magna Carta Plus News for details on how entirely peaceful, legal protest and merely attending political meetings could get your details recorded on databases of “domestic extremists”…

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UK government pushes for data retention across the EU

Following the 7th July bombings in London, the British government is pushing for communications service providers to retain data for upto 3 years for access by the police and intelligence agencies:

Under the proposals, telecoms operators and Internet service providers would have to keep records of emails, telephone calls and text messages for between 12 months and three years. Law enforcement agencies would be able to see who had sent and received these communications, although the content of these communications would not be stored.

Home secretary Charles Clarke claims that the powers would help to establish links between individuals.

This move is despite the fact that the European Parliament recently rejected these proposals, though because the proposal was put forward under the “third pillar” it has no power to stop the proposals if the member states push ahead with them.

An extraordinary meeting of the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council called by Charles Clarke has given backing to these data retention powers. Yet, surely it would be trivial for any terrorists to circumvent such measures to try and spy on them. For example, each of the following methods would make data retention useless for monitoring who they communicate with:

  • Buying and regularly changing unregistered pay as you go mobile phones.
  • Using anonymous internet accounts and other anonymising services to hide your activities.
  • Communicating face to face.
  • Posting coded messages from newly created internet accounts to usenet groups, making it impossible to determine who the message was for, let alone who actually read it.
  • Communicating via dead drops.
  • Communicating via postal services.

So the end result is that all this data will be stored for the law abiding public and those who wish to circumvent it will do so easily.

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The government’s mass surveillance fetish

The British government seems to have a fetish for mass surveillance. Today it has announced plans to use satellite tracking of all motor vehicles as a means of road pricing:

Drivers could pay up to £1.34 a mile in “pay-as-you go” road charges under new government plans.

The transport secretary said the charges, aimed at cutting congestion, would replace road tax and petrol duty.

Alistair Darling said change was needed if the UK was to avoid the possibility of “LA-style gridlock” within 20 years.

Every vehicle would have a black box to allow a satellite system to track their journey, with prices starting from as little as 2p per mile in rural areas.

These plans have been in the offing for some time mind you. But it is in line with other proposals they’ve had that involve mass surveillance of everyone’s activities:

Note that all this surveillance will be directed at the population as a whole, not merely those who the govt suspects of wrong doing.

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Big brother proposals from EU and US

The Sunday Times reports that the EU and US authorities are planning to fit satellite trackers to all cars to monitor speed, location/routes taken and the wearing of seatbelts:

BLACK box recorders could be installed in all new cars under a European Union ruling.

The aircraft-style equipment would also act as a tracker, using global positioning satellites to record the location and route of a vehicle and to tell how fast a driver is going and whether seatbelts are being worn.

Data recovered from the boxes could give investigators important clues on how accidents are caused.

However, British motoring groups fear the technology could be used by government to introduce a national congestion charge or to keep tabs on people’s movements.

The European commission has asked the police forces of member states to look at whether the technology could improve road safety. Every year about 50,000 people are killed on European roads and another 3.5m are injured.

If, as expected, the police give their backing, manufacturers would be required to install black boxes in all new cars by 2009.

The National Transportation Safety Board in America also wants to make them mandatory by the same date. Already 15% of vehicles in the US are fitted with the palm-sized devices. Most new cars there have them fitted as standard. (Emphasis added)

Oddly enough, a couple of years back, the UK government was proposing similar stuff as a means of performing nation-wide congestion charging/road tolling.

The day when you’re activities are continuously tracked 24/7 is not long off.

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Glasgow night club chips its sheep customers…

Following in the footsteps of a club in Barcelona, the Glasgow night club, Bar Soba, has decided that its cattle customers can avoid the hassle of having to bring their wallets with them if they get a VeriChip stuck under their skin:

A Scottish nightclub is about to become the first in Britain to offer its customers the chance to have a microchip implanted in their arm to save them carrying cash.

The “digital wallet”, the size of a grain of rice, guarantees entry to the club and allows customers to buy drinks on account. Brad Stevens, owner of Bar Soba in Glasgow, said his customers had responded enthusiastically to the idea.

The VeriChip is inserted by a medical professional and then scanned for its unique ID number as a customer enters the bar.

“There are a number of advantages, from instant access, to not having to carry money or credit cards, to letting bar staff know a customer’s name and favourite drink,” said Mr Stevens. “By the time you walk through the door to the bar, your favourite drink is waiting for you and the bar staff can greet you by name.”

What’s to stop someone else reading the chip without your knowledge, stealing its unique ID number and creating their own chip using your ID and your money to buy drinks at Bar Soba?

What’s to stop someone using this chip to track your whereabouts at other times for more sinister purposes?

It seems that getting yourself chipped is the latest in a line of bad suggestions for what to do with these things, e.g.:

  • A company in Mexico will chip your kids ostensibly as a measure to prevent them being kidnapped. Surely this simply means the kidnappers will now mutilate the kids to remove the things? Maybe they’ll even get scanners in order to track the kids to kidnap them in the first place?
  • A couple in the UK were reported to have decided to chipped their daughter after the murder of 2 girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, in Soham. This received the backing of academic Kevin Warwick.
  • Schemes for chipping schoolkids’ clothing, or in tags they wear around their necks to e.g. keep tabs on their arrival/departure from school have been proposed or are being implemented, e.g. in Japan and the US.

Spy.org.uk have this to say about such schemes (and I quite agree):

These so called “security” chips are the 21st century version of permanent cattle brands (indeed the original market for Verichips is for prize cattle and pet cats and dogs) or tattoos.

We find the concept completely unethical, bordering on actually evil. What is there to prevent this technology being used by exploiters of slave labour, pimps and brothel keepers, religous cults, abusive or paedophile parents or police states in order to control the movements of their victims and to prevent escape via actual alarm systems or the fear that “we will track you down if you try to escape”? (Emphasis added)

I’d add that the current uses of these chips for tracking children or allowing you to pay for drinks without having your wallet with you will tend to get people used to having technology in them/their clothing allowing them to be tracked 24/7.

Note that many of us already voluntarily carry around devices that can be used to track us — our mobile phones. At least we can easily leave them behind or switch them off if we want to stop it. A chip under the skin will be a different matter — fancy gouging it out just for some privacy?

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Govt’s information commissioner views ID card plan with "increasing alarm".

Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner has expressed “increasing alarm” at the govt’s planned ID card scheme:

Plans for a national ID card scheme risk changing the relationship between the British state and its citizens, the information watchdog has warned.

Richard Thomas said he had initially greeted the plans with “healthy scepticism” but the details had changed his view to “increasing alarm”.

One cogent point Thomas makes is that the scheme is not just about handing out cards to the population but about creating a detailed centralised database on every person in the country:

Mr Thomas told the MPs: “This is beginning to represent a really significant sea change in the relationship between state and every individual in this country.”

It was now clear the scheme was not just about identity cards but about a national identity register, he said.

“It is not just about citizens having a piece of plastic to identify themselves.

“It’s about the amount, the nature of the information held about every citizen and how that’s going to be used in a wide range of activities.”

Quite. The scheme is about creating the necessary apparatus for the government to keep tabs on us 24/7. And the government certainly seems keen on creating detailed databases of all and sundry when legislating in other policy areas.

Furthermore they seem keen on using blanket surveillance of the public’s movements simply to introduce road charges:

The most radical vision for road pricing would see a satellite tracking-based system, with drivers charged variable rates per mile depending on how busy the route they used was.

They also back another blanket surveillance system for tackling drivers who drive away from petrol stations without paying:

For the stream of shoppers driving into the supermarket petrol station just outside Bradford, the CCTV camera has been such a familiar sight it may as well have been invisible.

But from this month, it is not just fuel-dodgers who the camera is there to monitor; up to 3,000 number plates an hour from the forecourt will now be fed into a police database.

This government clearly loves blanket surveillance of the public’s doings (especially if linked into a database), and this extends to plans for recording who you phone, who you email, what websites you visit, and who phones/emails you or visits your website for a year for the authorities to be able to trawl.

Big Blunkett is watching you…

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