State snooping project still dead, for now

Following my last post on the topic, I dropped a note to the Home Office contacts I had, such that they are, asking if what has been announced as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review was in fact the Interception Modernisation Programme. For those who haven’t been following, that’s the innocent sounding name for the last governments plan to build a database with details of every EMail, Facebook message, Instant Message, Internet phone call and anything else they can manage.

Today I had the reply: In short, no. It’s not the IMP.

This is the sort of responsible fact checking that you’d think the Telegraph might do before running a story on the topic. Or the Independent. Even the Guardian. Twice. No, sorry, that’s three stories.

Of course, there will be more to it than that but the main message I took away from the 10 minute phone call was that what has been announced is not intended to be picking up from where they left off. Instead, it’s a new initiative with it’s own consultation.

This new initiative will last months and the fact that they apparently “understand a lot more than they did five years ago” hopefully means the questions they ask will be more informed in the first place. Cynically, I could not help but think while on the call that it also means they understand the current government isn’t going to be quite such a walkover on Civil Liberties as the last lot.

What else in scope for this consultation? Right now, it’s hard to tell. We certainly haven’t seen the last of IMP-like suggestions as I’m sure the Security Services are still going to want something but I was repeatedly assured that what is on the cards is wider in scope than before. Alongside the usual government consultation objectives such as “value for money”, we have “What is technically possible?” and “How can we make better use of existing data and powers?”

I would hope there is a chance to influence current policy to create a more liberal approach, given that the current kick-in-the-door-first, ask-questions-later policy just results in locking up teenagers who allegedly can’t remember a password after a few months. On the flip side, past dealings with the security services mean I’m far from complacent.

We shall have to wait and see.

4 comments

  1. I am sorry to say that you may have been misled but you contacts, and underestimating the seriousness of the situation.

    For starters even if not all the details of every email are to be recorded, keeping records about headers and sender/receiver, allows the security services to map social relationships.

    If you had to fill a form every time you sent or received a Post Office letter with that kind of information you would probably find it intrusive and over the top.

    1. For starters even if not all the details of every email are to be recorded, keeping records about headers and sender/receiver, allows the security services to map social relationships.

      They can do this already – the difference being is that they cannot currently do that retrospectively. (And it typically takes them months to get round to asking, in non-urgent cases)

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