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20 May, 2008

Phone bill a bit steep

If every person in the UK was required to occupy a hermetically-sealed cubicle at all times, solely interacting with the world via fully-monitored phone and internet connections, the task of "protecting national security and preventing crime" would be vastly simplified.

That's obvious, but rather extreme: it's equally obvious that there has to be a balance between law enforcement and individual liberty. As I've said too many times to hotlink (just read the blog's 'Privacy' archive), society shouldn't be organised for the convenience of government agencies. People are messy, complicated creatures whose existence is inhibited by being bubble-wrapped against every potential threat: law enforcement shouldn't be easy.

The cubicles idea is mere hyberbole, of course. I wish I could say the same about the proposal to monitor all telephone and e-mail traffic, but that's a genuine suggestion; no, more than a suggestion: according to the BBC, the Home Office has confirmed a wish to incorporate it into the draft Communications Bill later this year.

I can't help wondering whether this is a distraction, a deliberately over-the-top proposal in comparison to which another, as yet unannounced, intrusive policy will look relatively reasonable.

I'd object to this sort of action anyway, but the practicalities are truly scary: Britons and visitors will be compelled to trust government agencies and their allegedly 'rigorous' safeguards, despite a steady stream of examples proving fundamental incompetence in government data security.

Remember the 'Judge Death' storyline from 2000 AD's 'Judge Dredd' comic strip, in which a regime had decided that since all crime is committed by the living, everyone had to die? That'd work too.


"amusingly", all phone and text and email traffic in the UK is _already_ monitored. only it's by the americans not the ukians. but as part of the arrangement, they pass on all information/access.

when the "novelty" of neural nets first hit the bureaucrats in the mid-90s, there were automatic-action-required alerts sent to the police for naughty texts. this was wound down to zero after a couple of highprofile embarrassing full-scale armed police responses to actually-innocuous texts...

Posted by Saltation at May 26, 2008 12:36 AM
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