Watching the surfers

Jan 4th, 2009

Right, its Sunday so here I am living up to my new year promise. Probably a bit sketchy today, as I’m more focused on my train journey back to Edinburgh tomorrow. Last time I checked they were still clearing debris from the West Coast Mainline, with delays of up to an hour. According to the info on Nationalrail.co.uk this should be sorted by Monday. But we shall see.

However, rather than complaining about the rail service (which would be rather unfair given the circumstances in this particular incident) I’m instead directing my eye at the governments proposed crime fighting Internet and phone database.

For those of you not in the know this will stop short of archiving the content of messages (Thank Cod!) “but would have details of sites visited, along with senders, times and recipients of e-mails and calls.” Which frankly, in many cases is enough. While the government clearly hopes to catch communications with osamabinladen@hotmail.com (yes, I realize that it will be somewhat more complex than that) they’ll also be building a database that will reveal a huge ammount of information about ordinary citizens.

But perhaps more worrying is that the government is even outsourcing this work. So not only will the govenment have access to this information, but also the random company to which they outsource it. And while the government promises harsh fines if the data is misused, that wont exactly help those who have had their data leaked. And all this before we even consider someone leaving a laptop in Starbucks.

I realise that the most of these records exist already, kept by ISPs and telecoms services. I realise that the police can already gain access to many of these records. But it strikes me that a central database only makes breaches of security more valuable to those who obtain the data, more wide reaching, and very possibly more likely.

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