United Kingdom

Tories Learn to Stop Worrying and Love Internet Surveillance


In 2008, when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party government floated the idea of routinely collecting information about email traffic and website visits in search of suspicious patterns associated with fraud, terrorism, or child pornography, the Tories were outraged. Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, called the plan "a substantial shift in the powers of the state to obtain information on individuals" and warned that "any suggestion of the government using existing powers to intercept communications data without public discussion is going to sound extremely sinister." That was then. Now that the Conservative Party is in charge, The Washington Post reports, it is contemplating a surveillance program that sounds very similar:

The plan may authorize the national surveillance agency—which is known as GCHQ and whose Web site describes its mission as keeping "our society safe and successful in the Internet age"—to order the installation of thousands of devices linked to the networks of Internet service providers, giving agents broader access to everyday communications. The examination of the contents of those exchanges—such as the text or images contained in an e-mail—would still require special warrants.

But for the first time, intelligence agencies might, for instance, access information such as the times, destinations and frequencies of phone calls, texts and e-mails without a warrant. They could also use collected data to track worrisome Internet patterns in a bid to expose terrorist cells, pedophilia rings and other lawbreakers, according to sources briefed on the proposal, which came to light after a report this weekend in London's Sunday Times.

Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, tells the Post:

I'm afraid that if this program gets introduced, the U.K. will be leapfrogging Iran in the business of surveilling its citizens. This program is so broad that no other country has even yet to try it, and I am dumbfounded they are even considering it here.

At least one Tory, M.P. David Davis, remains troubled:

They are talking about doing this with no real judicial control. If they seek this information after a judge's warrant, I would be perfectly happy. But this is unfettered access. This kind of data mining can lead to innocent people being pursued.

Davis (as paraphrased b y the Post) speculates that his fellow Conservatives are responding to "pressure from high-ranking members of Britain's intelligence agencies, who see the new powers as pivotal." Who could have predicted that spies would oppose restrictions on spying?

More on British surveillance here.

NEXT: 5 Keys to Restoring America's Prosperity: John B. Taylor

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. This is a sinister plan to overthrow the government of the United Kingdom.
    (See details in messages below.)

  2. Come on, Cameron, give dis people air!

    1. “See you at the party, Warty!”

  3. Be careful, Britain. First comes internet spying, then comes forced comment registration.

  4. When we do it, it’s very, very good. When you do it, it’s very, very bad.

    1. Typical partisan bullshit at it’s finest. The problem is that when both parties are composed of authoritarians you don’t get the benefit of them gridlocking each other out every once in a while.

      1. “Two great tastes of Authoritarianism that taste great together!”

  5. “the U.K. will be leapfrogging Iran in the business of surveilling its citizens”

    Holy fucking shitballs. I knew those limey bastards were authoritarian bootlicking pussies, but hot damn.

    1. You know when the floodgates opened? When they banned swords.

    2. Look, it’s all for SCORPION STARE in the case of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. They’re planning ahead.

    3. Mrs. Dean has been talking about taking a trip to Europe (Euro collapse FTW!).

      I do believe I will be trying to steer her away from England, on principle. If so, I will be dropping a letter to the Brits to let them know why.

      1. I would think that a trip to the Mediterranean would be so much more fulfilling. I have several friends and family members who recently vacationed in places like Greece, Italy, and Spain, and they all fell in love with those places. I can’t imagine a trip to England engendering a similar response.

        1. I went to England shortly right after law school. I spent almost no time in London, and spent over a week driving around the southern part.

          I loved it.

          1. Did you go shortly after law school or did you go right after law school? Make up your mind, mister.

            I can see myself enjoying a week motoring around the moorsm staying in quaint little bed-and-breakfasts, quaffing a pint at The Slaughtered Lamb, and generally keeping away from the tourist areas. Still, I’m all about sunshine, warm weather, beaches, and really good food. I don’t think I’d find those things in England.

            1. That’s pretty much what we did. We actually saw Dartmoor when the heather was blooming. The “B & B”s were often people’s spare rooms. Completely by chance, I stayed with a couple of WWII vets.

              Now that I think about it, the memories are so good, I probably shouldn’t go back.

              1. We rented a car (some little econobox) in the frickin’ middle of London. A stick, needless to say.

                You haven’t been properly terrified in a motor vehicle until you’ve tried to drive out of London, on the wrong side of the road, trying to shift with your left hand (after reflexively punching the damn car door every time you need to shift). Throw in a roundabout or two in London traffic, and (needless to say, since this was 1987) no GPS, and I don’t know how we got out.

                I remember just toodling along on whatever they call their interstates, looking over, and saying “Hey, is that Stonehenge?”

                It was. Way cool.

                1. I drove a right-hahd-drive car once in Japan. Definitely weird, and I imagine it was a bit stressful taking one out on the road in a foreign city for the first time. I was just glad the pedal placement was the same (it was a stick); otherwise it would be like learning to drive a stick all over again. Kinda like a guitarist picking up an instrument strung for a right-hander.

                  1. Kinda like a guitarist picking up an instrument strung for a right-hander.

                    *Kinda like a LEFT-HANDED guitarist.

        2. if I was gonna stay in the country, nice lil cottage, fishing or hunting, chillaxin, England might work, though I get the idea that Ireland or Scotland would be even better for that sort of vacay.

          otherwise, I agree with Karl, Mediterrania all the way. fucking OD on olives and feta.

      2. Not go to England? And miss out on the great food?
        Seriously, aren’t we catching up when one can be strip-searched because one never paid that fine for having an unleashed dog?

  6. and I am dumbfounded they are even considering it here.

    So, basically, he hasn’t been paying attention to his surroundings for like 30-40years?

  7. so you are saying there is an inverse relationship between a party’s outrage over govt intrusion and that party’s ability to be in charge of govt intrusion.

  8. Well it is where Orwell comes from, it would be shame if Britain were not the champions of the surveillance state.

  9. Some ‘Conservative Party’ they have in Britain. If Obama were an English politician he’d be considered part of their ‘Far Right’ wing.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.