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New law to be announced to allow internet contact monitoring
Monday 02 April 2012 11:31:37 by Andrew Ferguson

While en-masse monitoring of postal services is something that does not go in the UK, if a new proposed law enters the statute books, then internet communications will become one of the most monitored aspects of UK life. Over the weekend it was revealed that the Queen's Speech will be used to announce a new law that will allow to see who people in the UK are sending emails to, what websites they visit, contacting people via instant message apps etc.

The law will fall short of allowing them to view the content of emails and messages, that will still require a warrant. The system will require internet providers to provide GCHQ access to communications in an on-demand manner in a real time manner.

The previous Labour Government attempted a similar law back in 2006, but this was never passed, so it is interesting to see something very similar re-surface six years later. In those six years a lot has changeed, and broadband and living our lives on line is normal, rather than the exception.

"Our freedom and privacy has been protected by using the courts by saying 'If you want to intercept, if you want to look at something, fine, if it is a terrorist or a criminal go and ask a magistrate and you'll get your approval'. You shouldn't go beyond that in a decent, civilised society but that is what is being proposed.

They don't need this law to protect us. This is an unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary innocent people in vast numbers. Frankly, they shouldn't have that power."

Former Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis quote from Press Association.

The on-demand nature is crucial to how the proposals will be perceived, the rise and demise of Phorm means many people are a lot more informed about internet privacy. The new law is also interesting for a Government that is looking to create an economy centered around the digital world as a new survelliance law could lead to some businesses deciding the UK is not the place to do business. Why? Because while laws like this are often intended to combat terrorism and espionage, it may prove too easy for those with influence to use the system for more commercial reasons.

With the ease of access to VPN systems that can hide communications it would be surprising if most criminals or others this system is really aimed at are not already hiding their traffic. Of course GCHQ would be able to tell who is using a VPN and perhaps where the end-point is located, but this new law carries the real probability that many citizens who simple like their privacy in their own home will start to rent VPN services located abroad.

The biggest question is how will the systems be funded, if providers will have to fund this, then directly we the subscribers will have to directly pay for the priveledge to be electronically frisked. A potential side-effect is that the move may make it uneconomic for smaller providers to remain in business, as the extra costs spread across a small userbase would result in price rises such that lots of customers would leave, and if a some exception were granted to the smaller providers, it does not take a criminal mastermind to guess which providers those wanting to avoid the monitoring should us.

Comments

Posted by ferretuk over 2 years ago
This rather highlights the naivety of the authorities doesn't it?

What constitutes an ISP under the proposed legislation? The supplier of connectivity of the supplier of email servicee? Are GCHQ to have access to mail server logs or packet sniffing data from connectivity suppliers?

Re: Phone calls - How does VOIP fit into this monitoring scenario?

Knee jerk reaction to pander to Daily Mail readers rather than thought through legislation!
Posted by ferretuk over 2 years ago
Typo:

The supplier of connectivity *or* the supplier of email services?
Posted by davolente over 2 years ago
This is a despicable about-turn and should be fought vigorously. Where will it all end?
Posted by ScubaGirl over 2 years ago
For anyone whom is technically competent, it would be so simple to circumvent any such laws as to make them a joke.

Any serious business will encrypt their transmissions. Hence one reason why VPNs are so popular.

It would not be too difficult for terrorist organisations to use multiple Proxy Servers, VPN networks and host email servers where ever they choose.

As for email accounts, they are easier to set up than it is to purchase a PAYG mobile and not register it.
Posted by Legolash2o over 2 years ago
The government can't do anything about it anyway, because its an 'EU Directive' so they have no choice but to enforce it :(
Posted by ayeomans over 2 years ago
So what happens to webmail users (e.g. gmail) where an SSL connection is used to the USA? The email addresses could only be monitored by asking the non-UK email service provider or by performing MITM breaking of SSL.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
On SSL webmail, check what elements are actually encrypted, there might be enough non-SSL information to allow for basic tracking.
Posted by herdwick over 2 years ago
Gmail.com appears to be local lhr14s01-in-f22.1e100.net 43.1ms ping time

Both sign-in and routing mail activities can be https
Posted by Michael_Chare over 2 years ago
So the government is going to force ISPs to record who is sending and receiving all email communications and who is visiting what web sites. Do they really think that this data won't get into the wrong hands?
Posted by _Resonance_ over 2 years ago
There's a petition against this on the government e-petition website if people want to sign

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/32400
Posted by jayarte over 2 years ago
Thanks for the link to the petition, Resonance. Duly signed.
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