In the UK, a new proposed program has people worrying about freedom of speech and privacy. The Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP) would require that data about the sender and recipient of phone calls, text messages, emails, Facebook messages, and Twitter direct messages be stored by phone and Internet providers for one year. The data would not contain the content of the communication, but it would include IP addresses and location data to help authorities track individuals. Sound scary? Read on to learn why it’s a possibility and what’s standing in the way of implementation.
While certain products are used to monitor people, such as a life alert system, they are all opt-in and provide services requested by customers. Further, they are not established by the government and don’t impede on anyone’s privacy. In light of the upcoming Olympic Games in London during the summer of 2012, security services MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have been lobbying for better access to data from phone and Internet service providers. Terrorist activity at the Games is a major concern, and a big event could leave London looking irresponsible. The security services want to be able to get real-time access to data on suspects, including tracking their location while making phone calls, who they are communicating with, and what websites they have visited recently.
One of the major problems with the proposal is that it could potentially violate the citizens’ freedoms and privacy at any time, without a warrant or court order. The government would be able to monitor digital activity to track citizens’ movements, which keeps very little out of the government’s eye. Citizens believe that the government should not be able to access such detailed records, especially of online activities and websites visited. In a country that already has such widespread camera surveillance in public spaces, this is taking it too far for citizens’ comfort levels. They want their freedom to communicate with whoever they like through the phone and Internet, without the government looking over their shoulders.
The biggest outcry against the proposed CCDP has been by citizens who are concerned about their security. Because the data all has to be stored somewhere, it is liable to fall into the wrong hands. If hackers got access to the data, they could start huge spam campaigns or target specific individuals through location tracking. They could even go so far as to use the data to steal unlucky citizens’ identities. Companies may also be tempted to try to get the data so they have more information about what websites individuals visit when they surf the web. Keeping the data secure would be both expensive and time consuming for the government.
The proposed Communications Capabilities Development Programme to store communication data has met with significant resistance, including several online petitions. The public is concerned about their freedom, privacy, and security, but government security services want to have the data to better track criminals. The government is negotiating with mobile phone, landline, and Internet service providers to determine whether they could set up the program, starting as early as May, so it shouldn’t take long to get the final word on this one.