Home Office snooping plans revived

Guy Aitchison
21 October 2010

Important news on the civil liberties front. It turns out that when the government promised they'd "end the storage of internet and email records without good reason" (the words of the Coalition Agreement) what they actually meant was "all your emails, phone calls and website visits will be recorded and stored". A subtle (but important) difference.

The Telegraph reports that buried in the Strategic Defence and Security Review is a move to revive plans to make communications providers store, for at least a year, details of all phone calls, emails, text messages and other electronic communications and surrender them to the authorities upon request.

The plans (originally part of the Intercept Modernisation Programme) had been shelved by the Labour government in December after intensive pressure from campaigners, but the Home Office is determined to breathe life back into them, and ministers are going along with it. The security review says:

"We will introduce a programme to preserve the ability of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain communication data and to intercept communications within the appropriate legal framework.

"This programme is required to keep up with changing technology and to maintain capabilities that are vital to the work these agencies do to protect the public.

"Communications data provides evidence in court to secure convictions of those engaged in activities that cause serious harm. It has played a role in every major Security Service counter terrorism operation and in 95 per cent of all serious organised crime investigations.

"We will legislate to put in place the necessary regulations and safeguards to ensure that our response to this technology challenge is compatible with the Government’s approach to information storage and civil liberties.

I argued back in June that the Coalition was already back-tracking on its commitment to civil liberties with its decision to plough ahead with the NHS Summary Care Record, whilst Henry Porter recently warned on OK that "we are still building the infrastructure for a potential police state without a care in the world". 

Freedom Bill or not it seems the government still views us as an inconvenience to be tagged, tracked and monitored. It is the mentality of Whitehall at work, the "deep state" as Anthony Barnett has referred to it, murky, power-hungry and unaccountable, with a deep-seated loathing for the public.


Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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