Privacy pillaged in Britain's "snooping" proposal

Big Brother is Watching YOUAs the Washington Post's Anthony Faiola and and Ellen Nakashima keenly expressed in their piece about Britain's new "snooping" proposal, privacy rights are often threatened "here in the post-Sept.11 world" (emphasis added). And when we talk of government-sanctioned surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations, what a world it is.

Britain's government has recently announced the drafting of a plan that authorizes broad surveillance measures, permitting law enforcement and intelligence agencies to gather information about Britons' e-mails, text and multimedia messages, phone calls, Skype calls, game downloads, and Internet browsing histories. Though specifics of the plan have not yet been revealed, Faiola and Nakashima point out,

[A]s it stands, key aspects of the proposal may go beyond the kind of surveillance now authorized in the United States, where privacy advocates were quick to raise concerns about the plan — especially given the heavy traffic of transatlantic communication.

This assessment implies that the new measures would violate basic privacy rights of British citizens and, further, would afford corporations and government agents a new level of unchecked power. We've seen parallels in the US, with corporations receiving government-authorized pardons for the illegal release of clients' information for "intelligence-gathering" purposes of secret government programs. As Shahid Buttar, BORDC's executive director, put it, "the revelation of today's domestic spying scandal culminated in congressional permission for previously illegal acts committed by executive officials."

In Britain,  some Internet companies and lawmakers responded to the announcement of the proposal with concern. Britain's Internet Service Provides Association stated, "It is important that proposals to update government capabilities to intercept and retain communications data are proportionate, respect freedom of expression and the privacy of users." Conservative lawmaker David Davis stated, "They are talking about doing this with no real judicial control...This is unfettered access. This kind of data mining can lead to innocent people being pursued.”

Britons have also stated their concern about the government's proposal, comparing the measures of surveillance and "snooping" to George Orwell's 1984. Faiola and Nakashima cite a study by British police officials "indicating that a person strolling around London is captured on film by at least 68 cameras on any given day." This alone sounds like a partial realization of Orwell's Big Brother society—and what now, with the government's new proposal?

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