22 December 2005

UK+Car Movement Monitoring+Data Retention Act = Dystopia

Dystopia: A dystopia (alternatively, cacotopia, kakotopia or anti-utopia) is usually seen as the antithesis of a utopian society. A dystopian society is usually characterized by an authoritarian or totalitarian form of government, or some other kind of oppressive social control. The first use of the word has been credited to John Stuart Mill, whose knowledge of Greek would suggest that he meant it as a place where things are bad, rather than simply the opposite of Utopia. The Greek prefix 'dys'/'dis' signifies 'ill','bad' or 'abnormal', whereas 'ou' means 'not'. I've always been one for privacy, and well after reading the article in the Independent Online today, and with all the recent news about the EU Data Retention act, things are starting to really bug the hell out of me. We used to live in a world where privacy really used to matter, and our affairs where left private, and people would have to go to a great deal of trouble to find out certain information about each other, and cross various legal boundries to do so. These days however, it seems that the U.K government is pushing things further and further away from that time, all in the name of terrorism! I do not support terrorism in any way, and would just like to make that clear now. I am completely against any form of terrorism and feel that more should be done to stop it affecting innocent people and children. What I am against however is governments deciding that they can do whatever the hell they like to the general population in the name of tyring to stamp out terrorism. The headline on the article I read a few moments ago is this Britain will be the first country to monitor every car journey. This gets to me at so many different levels. So they are going to be setting up cameras all over the country so that they can track the whereabouts of a vehicle at any given time, and all of these camera feeds will be linked up to a huge data centre somewhere, so that they can playback infomation at will. Here's a quote from Frank Whiteley, Chief Constable of Hertfordshire: "What the data centre should be able to tell you is where a vehicle was in the past and where it is now, whether it was or wasn't at a particular location, and the routes taken to and from those crime scenes. Particularly important are associated vehicles." So all this data is going to be stored in a central location??? So if we travel somewhere, we WILL be monitored! Hell, they'l even be able to tell us what route we took, who needs the AA's routefinder anymore? "Hello Government car survalance, how can we help?" "Hello, could you please tell me the route I took last weekend to get to Birmingham, as I'd like to go that way again?" "Certainly sir, what's your car registration details, and may I please have your postcode to verify your identity?" Due to the fact that in the UK, we are allowed access to all the infomation held about us, such as credit, criminal and medical records, will we also be allowed access to these records as well? Do they really not see the security implications with doing this? Here's a scenario for you to think about: Imagine that I want to get someone's daily route to work, for whatever reason, use your imagination on this one (think high level political figures.) So I hire a top notch hacker to gain access to the travel records stored at previously mentioned data centre, I will then have a pretty good idea of exactly what time that person will be at the corner of Smith and Jones street. The same also goes for the secure cash delivery vans that deliver money to the ATM's and banks, if I wanted to know what route they take each day/week, all I would have to do is gain access to the vans travel records over a 2 month period, and voila! So much easier that having to perform the standard manual survailance techniques, and much less of a risk of getting spotted. So will this really be helping to stamp out the current crime rate, or will it be helping it out? Couple this with the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications that states: "Under the terms of the new Directive, member states may now pass laws mandating the retention of the traffic and location data of all communications taking place over mobile phones, SMS, landline telephones, faxes, e-mails, chat rooms, the Internet, or any other electronic communication device. The new Directive reverses the 1997 Telecommunications Privacy Directive by explicitly allowing EU countries to compel Internet service providers and telecommunications companies to record, index, and store their subscribers' communications data (Art. 15 (1) of Dir. 2002/58/EC (PDF). The data that can be retained includes all data generated by the conveyance of communications on an electronic communications network ("traffic data") as well as data indicating the geographic position of a mobile phone user ("location data") (Art. 2 (b) and (c) of Dir. 2002/58/EC). The contents of communications are not covered by the data retention measures. These requirements can be implemented for purposes varying from national security to criminal investigations and prevention, and prosecution of criminal offences, all without specific judicial authorization." So, they can monitor how we get from A to B in our cars, monitor our phone calls, sms's, e-mail and chat conversations, so how much further will this extend? What's next, video cameras in our homes? That may sound a bit paranoid, but it really does seem that we're heading in that direction. As far as anything online goes, there's ways around that as we can use encryption to conceal all our online activities, but yet, we are required by the law to hand over our private keys if requested, and can be charged with not handing them over. There's currently a nice long thread going on this topic on Slashdot as well, and I have to strongly agree with falzer224563's comment, which was " That cuts it, I'm moving to America!" At least over there they don't seem to be getting as anal about the whole thing, and they seem to be the biggest terrorist target in the world. Go figure! Here's a link to a Shockwave video about what all of this government monitoring could lead to, and yes this is a reality, and if things continue the way that they're going, we may not be too far away from this. Watch video. For more info on the EU Data Rentention Policy, please see the Electronic Privacy Information Center's page. Well, I guess that's my rant over and done with today. On a lighter note this is my last day at work until the 9th Jan 2006, and I can't wait to start my leave!!!!

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