Thursday, November 05, 2015

Creeping Surveillance

David Cameron's attempts to find the best free porn sites is plumbing new depths with the latest proposed 'snooper's charter'.   I ask you, what other reason could there possibly be for the government demanding that ISPs keep a record of everyone's web browsing history for twelve months, if not to identify what everyone's favourite smut sites are?  Don't be such a cheapskate, Dave - if you want the kinky stuff involving pigs, you are just going to have to get your credit card out.  But, joking aside, even in its supposedly 'toned down' form, this Bill still feels incredibly creepy to me.  Whichever angle you come at it from, it still amounts to mass surveillance.  It doesn't matter whether the authorities ever access that data they want the ISPs to retain, the fact is that it is still being collected: your every movement online is being recorded.  Combine that with the amount of surveillance we're already being subjected to from surveillance cameras and we have a system of monitoring the general populace which would have been the envy of the old Soviet Union.  Which is ironic as, when we faced a more concrete threat in the form of the Soviet Union, this sort of thing wasn't considered either necessary or desirable.

Yet now, faced with the amorphous and ill-defined threats of 'international terrorism', 'Islamic fundamentalism' and all the other terms that politicians like to bandy around to justify increased security measures, we apparently have to turn ourselves into a technologically advanced facsimilie of our old foe the USSR.  Not that all this supposed security actually makes us any safer.  Terror attacks (the type devised by real terrorists, not the kinds of fantasists that  the police and Security Service spend their time harassing) are actually very difficult to stop. Real terrorists don't plan them on public forums like Facebook and Twitter, or known 'extremist' websites.  They probably don't use the web for planning purposes at all.  It's a great tool for promulgating propaganda, but the web is just too open and insecure for plotting terrorist outrages on.  I think that part of the problem is that, in recent years, our leaders have been seduced by the notion of 'big data' - the idea that if you can gather enough information about a given subject or activity, it is possible to create statistical models which can accurately predict future trends and behaviours.  Which, again, is a pretty creepy idea.  It is also an idea which is overly optimistic as to the ability of statistical analysis to actually deliver such results. 

Of course, there is another burning question related to the 'snooper's charter' which still hasn't been addressed is that of cost.  Collecting and storing all that data is going to cost the ISPs money - who is going to foot the bill?  Sadly, I think that the answer to that will be - us.  It's inevitable that the ISPs will pass these costs on to their customers, in the form of higher monthly bills.  Which effectively means that we'll end up paying for the privilege of being snooped on.  

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home