Britain: the most spied on nation in the world

Britain: the most spied on nation in the world

David Murakami Wood, from the Surveillance Studies Network, said: “Surveillance is not a malign plot hatched by evil powers to control the population.

“But the surveillance society has come about almost without us realising.”

He added: “With technologies that are large-scale, taken for granted and often invisible, surveillance is increasingly everywhere.

Privacy International: Leading surveillance societies in the EU and the World ((Graphic depicting stats.))

See also http://www.surveillance-and-society.org/

Identity Theft monitoring by Garlik

The BBC reports on a new service that is designed to help users reduce their risk of identity theft through a monitoring facility. The service is kind of like the constant surveillance of the Orwellian Big Brother but where the individual is in control of the surveillance upon themselves.

The Garlik Datapatrol service has been set up by the founders of the internet bank Egg with the intention of putting users back in control of the information that is held on them in public databases that are easily accessible through the internet.

The service brings together from the internet, public databases, and Credit Reports all the personal information it can find on a user and then displays it in a simple online format. Then on a monthly basis users will receive an update summary of additions or changes to their online profile as well as highlighting any risks or suspicious activity.

By facilitating individuals access to the information that is held on them the service puts its users on an equal footing with the criminals that might seek to steal their identities and as irregularities are often the first indication of a problem the monitoring system gives users an early warning and the possibility of nipping it in the bud before any negative consequences have occurred.

My only concerns are the security of Garlik’s database and the trustworthiness of the company. They seem to have a fairly robust system to establish user’s identity and to then authenticate users accessing the personal information gathered in the server database. But it presupposes that an individual’s identifying information hasn’t already been compromised or stolen.

I can see this service being a boon for identity theft rings who have enough data to register falsely for the service in order to further the scope of their thefts by letting Garlik do the legwork as it were in accruing further information.

Garlik’s secure servers would also be a prime target for criminals and so I would hope that they have taken the security of their servers as seriously as any bank would with theirs. Is the physical access to the servers as well secured as the online access is?

My second concern would be that as a new company they haven’t had the time to build a reputation or a record of establishment of trust. Registered users will be empowering the company and placing a lot of trust in the security of the service and the authenticity and accuracy of the personal information data provided to users. Having said that there is nothing to suggest that Garlik is in any way a disreputable company it is merely my natural paranoia.

I would have more faith in Garlik presently than I would in the UK government in securing any personal information I would give them.

Garlik are currently offering free trials to people signing up for the Datapatrol service at their website. http://www.garlik.com.

People with concerns about identity theft and security online should also take a look at the following website Get Safe Online which has been set up by banks and prominent internet companies.

Current UK Threat Level: Critical

At some point today unbeknownst to me the UK entered into the highest level of threat that of critical.

Oh my! How in the world could I have missed such an important event as the changing of our current threat level to its highest possible state? Whatever shall I do now?

That’s the pertinent question what shall we as the public do now? No one knows because there is nothing for the public to do other than get scared.

The Threat Level System has according to the Home Office website been created to keep the public informed about the level of threat to the UK from terrorism. But it’s of no practical use it’s like shouting DANGER in a crowded city centre street, it can do nothing but cause confusion and fear as there is no specific advice associated with each different level of threat.

So what event has caused the threat level to be raised?

It was the arrest of 24 people by police who were suspected of a plot against UK flights to the US. The police believe they have disrupted this plot to blow up these transatlantic flights and are convinced they have detained the key players, but believe the network involved is large and global.

The plot apparently was to smuggle liquid explosives onto around ten transatlantic flights in water bottles or similarly innocuous containers. Airlines have now taken the precaution of preventing people taking anything other than the most essential pieces of hand luggage onto flights leaving the UK. The police have said that the plotters could have caused “mass murder on an unimaginable scale”.

Yes they could have blown up many airliners and killed hundreds of people but for the fact that the people involved had been under surveillance for some time. We shall have to wait and see when more information is released about how far along there really were with their plot whether they were a credible threat to our security. I do not want to get caught up in the politician’s gambit of who can imagine the worst scenario possible.

Security chiefs said the group believed to be planning the attack had been under surveillance for some time.

US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the plot was “in some respects suggestive of al-Qaeda”.

“They had accumulated and assembled the capabilities that they needed and they were in the final stages of planning for execution,” he said.

It had only become apparent in the “last two weeks” that the target of the flights was the US, said Mr Chertoff.

Another problem I see with having a public Threat Level System is that surely it tips the terrorists off to the fact that they might be under surveillance. If the level increases correspondingly as the terrorist group gets closer to the commission of their act of terrorism is that not an indication that the UK Security Services are onto them.

Police use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras could ‘break human rights law’

Police number plate cameras may breach RIPA

ANPR’s problem has been spotted by Chief Surveillance Commissioner Sir Andrew Leggatt, part guardian of liberty, part doormat, who notes in his annual report that RIPA requires authorisation for operations involving intrusive surveillance. This is usually granted for surveillance operations on named suspects, but clearly fixed ANPR cameras scanning for large numbers are suspects (e.g. those recorded as not having tax, insurance or MoT) don’t readily fit into such a system.

The ways of modern policing introduce the technology and worry (or not) about the legality and ethics of its use later.

Review: The Power of Nightmares

I watched the first part of a three-part documentary series titled The Power of Nightmares on BBC 2 early tonight.

This series shows dramatically how the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organised terrorist network is an illusion. It is a myth that has spread unquestioned through politics, the security services and the international media. At the heart of the story are two groups: the American neoconservatives and the radical Islamists. Both were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world. These two groups have changed the world but not in the way either intended. Together they created today’s nightmare vision of an organised terror network. A fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. Those with the darkest fears became the most powerful.

I would urge everyone to see this if you get the chance as well as watching Errol Morris’s documentary film The Fog of War.

I’ve been saying this for a while but the concept of a War on Terror is nonsensical because not only is it a war on an abstract concept but you cannot defeat terrorists by waging war anyway. We are not at any greater risk of terrorism since 9/11 than we were before, that’s not to say that there is no danger but that it is of the same level as it ever was.

To really combat terrorism requires the typical cloak and dagger stuff that the security services do such as surveillance, wiretapping and infiltration of suspect groups. Plus increasing the security of likely targets of terrorist attacks in a manner that not only appears like you are doing something to improve security but actually does improve security.

But it isn’t easy to sell to the public that you are doing everything possible to combat terrorism if nothing is appears to be happening. Foiling a terrorist attack isn’t something that can revealed to the public in many cases at it could hamper future operations. So for the governments to appear to their citizens that they are effective in this they need to go and wage war in the name of combating terrorism even if the enemy in these wars are only tangentially connected to terrorism if at all.