Britain's Communications Data Bill -- AKA the Snooper's Charter -- would effectively eliminate private communications in the UK, giving government and the police the power to spy on virtually everything you do online (which is rapidly merging with everything you do, full stop). The major ISPs in the UK have apparently been turned to the government's cause, and have been quietly supporting the bill, which strips their customers of any semblance of privacy.
The government defends this proposal by saying that they're not intercepting "messages," only "envelopes." That is, they'll get the subject lines, social graph data, who is talking, where, how often, and who replies, how long the messages are, and so on. I like to imagine Alan Turing taking this approach to informational significance: "Mr Churchill, I'm sorry, there's no point in what you're asking us to do: all we can decode from the Nazis is who is sending messages, who receives them, what they're about, where they're sent from, how often they're sent, and how long they are. Nothing compromising." (Then I imagine the ghost of Turing haunting Home Secretary Teresa May, who claims that none of that kind of data compromises Britons' privacy).
In an open letter to the major ISPs, the Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch, and Privacy International accuse the ISPs of entering into a conspiracy of silence on the surveillance system:
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It has become clear that a critical component of the Communications Data Bill is that UK communication service providers will be required by law to create data they currently do not have any business purpose for, and store it for a period of 12 months.
It's about as horrible as it can be: the House Rules Committee won't even allow privacy-protecting amendments on the agenda; the bill's sponsor Rep. Mike Rogers dismisses people who oppose CISPA as 14-year-olds in their parents' basements; and a bunch of tech companies are lobbying in favor of CISPA because the bill cannily immunizes them from liability for firehosing your personal, sensitive information all over the place.
The sole bright light is this: the Obama White House has taken an uncharacteristically progressive stance on privacy this time around, and has threatened to veto the bill.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is, as always, the best place to go to find things you can (and should, and MUST) do to kill this insane proposal. Read the rest
The Australian government is following the UK, US and Canadian governments' examples and establishing a secretive, no-holds-barred snooping regime. The "data retention" bill that's been prepared by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department requires ISPs to store all communications for two years, and grants wide access to those stored records, as well as allowing snooping on residents' social networking activities. What's more, the Attorney General has denied a Freedom of Information request for a look at the draft legislation from the Pirate Party, saying that public scrutiny of spying laws is "not in the public interest" and would be prejudicial to the decision-making process.
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The Pirate Party, which is an activist and political organisation which lobbies to maintain and extend Australians’ digital rights and freedoms, issued a media release this morning noting that it had filed a Freedom of Information request with the department, seeking draft national security legislation which had been prepared in 2010 with respect to the current proposal. The draft legislation had been mentioned by the Sydney Morning Herald in an article in August.
However, the Attorney-General’s Department wrote back to the organisation this week, noting that the request had been denied. Logan Tudor, a legal officer with the department, wrote that he had decided that the draft legislation was exempted from being released because it contained material which was being deliberated on inside the department. “… the release of this material would, in my view, be contrary to the public interest,” Tudor wrote.
In the Pirate Party’s statement, its treasurer Rodney Serkowski described the response by the Attorney-General’s Department as “disgraceful and troubling”.