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UK Gov't May Track All Facebook Traffic 204

Posted by timothy
from the posted-before-curfew dept.
Jack Spine writes "The UK government, which is becoming increasingly Orwellian, has said that it is considering snooping on all social networking traffic including Facebook, MySpace, and bebo. This supposedly anti-terrorist measure may be proposed as part of the Intercept Modernisation Programme according to minister Vernon Coaker, and is exactly the sort of deep packet inspection web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee warned about last week. The measure would get around the inconvenience for the government of not being able to snoop on all UK web traffic."
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UK Gov't May Track All Facebook Traffic

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  • by davidwr (791652) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:25PM (#27245919) Homepage Journal

    What if Facebook and other sites enforced encryption? Sure, it would slow things down and increase their cost, but if they did, it would be "chic" to encrypt, and a generation of users would start demanding end-to-end encryption everywhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:34PM (#27246095)

    I thought facebook was an intelligence gathering operation run by the CIA. If you think about it's the ultimate associative database that spy agencies would drool over.

    I hate facebook.

  • Just be honest (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kellyb9 (954229) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:36PM (#27246129)
    Why won't the government just come out and say - "We want to see your private data"? I mean seriously, they're going to monitor traffic to stop terrorism. Maybe if they were this upfront about their operations, I can actually respect the fact that they were honest, but they actually think we're stupid enough to believe Al Queda has a Facebook group? WOW.
  • Re:Google (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:43PM (#27246261)

    Why are people shocked about a government searching threw this data?

    Well, just how far did they throw it?

  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by warren.oates (925589) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:45PM (#27246291)
    There's a Jules Feiffer play, later a movie, Little Murders [imdb.com] in which an FBI agent is reading one of the character's mail. This character starts sending letters to himself for the FBI agent to read, chiding him for invading other people's privacy and so on. Eventually, the FBI agent commits suicide.
  • by Firehed (942385) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:50PM (#27246389) Homepage

    Content on Facebook (and any other social networking site with privacy controls) isn't for public consumption - it's for consumption by those whom you've marked as friends.

    Encryption would prevent packet sniffing, and as Facebook is owned and operated in the US, I don't see how the UK government could subpoena the data successfully*. That whole jurisdiction thing - ya know.

    *Unless they have servers located in the UK. With 200m or so users, they probably do Of course, Facebook could just threaten to block UK users, posting the contact info of various government officials so you can complain to them for forcing FB into such a situation. Facebook is easily large enough for that kind of stunt to actually work.

  • Re:Who cares (Score:5, Interesting)

    by malkavian (9512) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:54PM (#27246469) Homepage
    As a UK Citizen, yes I am, and yes I do write the letters to the MPs to complain. The government we've had for the last 12 years, near enough, has overseen a huge erosion in the English Civil Liberties. Hell, it's architected them. It's been expanding for as long as it's been in power, pushing politically correct agendas, and trying to tag and barcode the populace on the sly (but these days, it's not on the sly; they just tag on "to counter terrorism", and leave it at that). And what really bugs me is that I lived through the 70s and 80s when the IRA were very active. Bombings weren't too uncommon, and we got through it as a populace. We were still free.
    These days, there's been one real attack (and at the time, the UK was actually taking military action in the Middle East, as it is still doing), and the NuLabour overlords take that as affirmation that they can barcode, DNA tag, and record every single thing you do (attempts to monitor phone traffic, email, network, have mandatory trackers in your cars, they already have sensors in the waste bins you put your rubbish in to be collected by the bin men to record what you dispose of, CCTV that's used to spot people who take their kids to a school that they may not be in the official catchment area of, and other completely outrageous examples of totalitarianism that would have Orwell penning new chapters in 1984 over).
    Actually, the register [theregister.co.uk] has a nice little snippet from our current overlords. I suspect they're ever so slightly slanting what was said, but hey, it says what a lot of us think anyway..
  • by rm999 (775449) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:05PM (#27246649)

    "Sure, it would slow things down and increase their cost, but if they did, it would be "chic" to encrypt"

    From what I can tell, kids hate pretty much every change facebook ever makes. Sure, it's uncool to not use facebook nowadays, but loving everything about facebook is probably even less cool. Everyone knows it's a site run by suits.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:10PM (#27246711)

    Content on Facebook (and any other social networking site with privacy controls) isn't for public consumption

    At a job interview (relatively high clearance required) my potential employer presented me with, among other things, questions about blog posts I had written. The odd thing? I never mentioned the account and I had never published any articles from it. They were just sitting on a well-known company's server in draft mode.

    People have no idea how much is being collected and how many companies have been compromised, knowingly or not.

  • by interval1066 (668936) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:14PM (#27246789) Homepage Journal

    @causality: "Perhaps the USA and the UK aren't so different after all."

    Nope. We get our common law system from them, and since WWII (really, since the Cold War, but who's counting?) GB has been "Airstrip 1" to the US in all but name. The only real cultural difference between GB and the US is GB doesn't have as strong a sense of privacy and individualism as we do, so they seem to think nothing of handing over their freedom so that Big Brother can "...save us from the wrath of the Viking Hordes!" (Read your medieval history.)

    As all naysayers regarding civil liberty chant; "What good is your freedom if you're dead?" seems to be the prevailing wisdom in Europe. Can't fault them too much, poor bastards, they have a legacy of subservience, caving, and generally attempting to wheel and deal their way out of disaster.

    I'm frequently amazed, however, at how little regard the average EU citizen has for recent history. Every time something like Al Quaeda comes along they try to send a diplomat to "work it out" and they come home like Chamberlain waving a piece paper and yell "Peace in our time!"

    Then Al Qaueda bombs one of their train stations.

    What's that about???

  • by al0ha (1262684) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:16PM (#27246825) Journal
    Is to refuse to use the Internet for commerce. If the populace of Britian, or any "Free" country for that matter, made it clear that if their government implements draconian snooping technologies, they will stop using the Internet; well you get the picture. I personally would join that fight in the US. I certainly don't *need* the Internet; it is a convenience.
  • Re:Who cares (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dogtanian (588974) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:17PM (#27246849) Homepage

    Forced to choose, I'd rather they wasted my taxes by (not) spying on me incompetently than used them more "efficiently" to track me and every other damn person in the UK in the name of counter-terrorism.

    Of course, the terrorists have already won- because the UK government's actions were exactly what all terrorists want, to disrupt and alter the behaviour of an entire nation on the basis of a small number of attacks. Remember that the next time you vote.

    This assumes that the government didn't *want* to do this anyway, whereas it was more likely a convenient excuse that exposed their underlying control freak authoritarian mentality.

    It's been said (by I forget who) that despite the Labour party leadership's political swing away from their early radical left-wing roots in favour of what I'd consider centre-right politics (*) and the post-Thatcherite free-market consensus, their underlying modus operandi and mentality is still essentially Marxist. In a lot of ways, the modern Labour party has the worst of both worlds.

    (*) By post-WWII British standards; they're probably still commies by US standards, along with anyone to the left of Genghis Khan :-/

  • by jmcvetta (153563) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:23PM (#27247877)

    Pragmatically, this means only that those who would like to transform the USA into a totalitarian state just need to be more patient.

    Hasn't this already been, for the most part, accomplished?

  • for what reason (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Disco Hips (920480) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:40PM (#27248123)
    Honestly, what kinds of hot (political) info would someone expect to find on Facebook? Is it because it's popular? Hence it must be monitored? Here's a clue to the UK government: don't trust the banks, don't go to war on flimsy excuses, don't spy on your electorate. How's about money saved by avoiding the above on: better investment in UK business, better investment in healthcare, better investment in, err, the UK.
  • by Nick Ives (317) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:51PM (#27248313)

    We have the Human Rights Act which is enshrined a the highest law in the land. It grants things like a positive right to free speech as opposed to your first amendment which simply prohibits congress from abridging the right to free speech. This means you can't get sacked for your political beliefs like you potentially can in the USA.

    The HRA is ironic considering it was this Labour government that passed it during its first couple of years. I reckon we can thank Cherie Blair for that as she's a barrister for Matrix Chambers (formed in 2000, after the HRA gained assent) who specialise in Human Rights law.

    Of course both Tory and Labour hate the HRA and both sides like to take aggressive postures on "reforming" it, which would be ridiculous because all the HRA really does is give UK courts the power to incorporate into UK law the European Convention on Human Rights and the decisions taken by the European Court of Human Rights. The previous situation was that appellants had to take their case to the ECHR themselves and the government had to abide by that court's decisions. It was all very expensive and a lot of people simply didn't bother for that very reason.

  • by cheros (223479) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @03:15AM (#27252359)

    Orwell's approach took too much manpower (in principle you still need to trust a few people to do the monitoring).

    What the UK Government is doing is imprisonment of innocent people: it is creating a Panopticon [wikipedia.org] out of a whole country.

    The signs are all there:

    - continuous, seemingly unbroken coverage of the people watching you (the idea is to make you feel you're always being watched)
    - penalties of minor infringements (also easier than solve the odd murder*)
    - pretty much random justice ("We're the state, we have the power, we don't care, you don't count")
    - total absence of humanity in the system

    So, it's not 1984 - that's just a part of it.

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk

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