The Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP) seeks to monitor the communications the public in the UK. The government is implementing it’s policy under he guise of combatting terrorism and crime, however human and civil rights groups are concerned this will lead to a severe invasion of privacy for UK citizens.
This could mean that internet service providers will be encouraged to to install so-called ‘black boxes’ at key points in their network. These boxes would use the technology of deep packet inspection which can track and investigate virtually every communication stream in the UK. They can also detect who is visiting the site, who is chatting with whom, on the phone or writing e-mails, Privacy International explains.
David Cameron claims that this proposal sets out to keep our country safe from serious organised crime and also from terrorist threats that we are still faced with in this country. But as Privacy International (PI) explained: “In a terrorism investigation, the police will already have access to all the data they could want. This is about other investigations.” With CCTV cameras on every corner, this seems like another unwelcome addition to something resembling a police state in the UK. Private conversations between individuals should remain private, using this technology to scrutinise the general public is both invasive and unnecessary. Emma Draper of PI goes on to say that the information gathered in this new programme would be “available to local law enforcement for use in any investigation and would be available without any judicial oversight.”
The government states that these concessions are needed to prevent the anonymous communication between terrorists online. How will this apply to the average law abiding citizen and what repercussions will this have on our basic freedoms?
The state has already got the necessary tools to implement various surveillance measures in relation to suspected terrorist and criminals. The governments plan would lead to the gathering and storing of vast amounts of information relating to each individual regardless of suspicion or guilt. It remains unclear whether this would even be technically possible to monitor and scrutinize the public on such a large scale particularly when the such communications are encrypted.
The implementation of CCDP would also come at a great cost which would amount to billions of pounds and would be a new attack on the privacy of the population by the state. The majority of the public appear share these concerns and the media coverage has been largely negative. Over 150.000 people have signed various petitions to stop the proposed legislation. However the government is intending to stick to their original plans. Despite the fact that before the previous general election both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives pledged that they would move away from the police state mentality. Nick Pickles from Big Brother Watch has stated that they must be reminded to keep their word, to prevent that this large amount of information relating to innocent people isn’t collected.
In order to halt the bill, different NGOs such as Privacy International, the Open Rights Group, the Foundation for Information Policy Research and Big Brother Watch have organised a conference on the 19th of April at the London School of Economics in order to discuss the possible effects of the bill. These groups are seeking to spread awareness about the negative consequences the bill could have. On the conference website it states that “the goal is to bring together a variety of stakeholders interested in surveillance policy for an open exchange of views.”
In a democracy such an invasion of privacy is unacceptable, the CCPD would place the UK at the same level as authoritarian states such as Kazakhstan or Iran. In countries such as Germany the approach to privacy is vastly different and privacy laws are much more stringent such actions by the state are much more restricted. This bill could have dire effects on both the human rights and freedoms of individuals who have no reason to be monitored by the state.