The U.K. government has proposed a new bill that could expose untold details about the lives of its citizens, reports the Associated Press. The bill, which is part of the government’s annual legislative agenda proposal, seeks to gather vast amounts of digitally-accessible data from the country’s citizens.
While the government has promised that it “won’t read your emails,” that should serve as little relief for anyone living in the United Kingdom, or anyone communicating with those who do. Rather than actually read the contents of emails or text messages, the government will monitor things like the frequency of emails, the locations where text messages are sent, or how long and to whom phone calls are made. With the help of data analytics, the government can paint a vivid picture of individuals’ lives.
For example, AP reporter Raphael Satter writes:
If you sent a text from London before stepping behind the wheel, and a second one from a service station outside Manchester three hours later, authorities could infer that you broke the speed limit to cover the roughly 200 miles that separate the two.
All of this data would be collected by a vast variety of communication companies, from wireless companies to Internet service providers. These companies say the measure would force them to process vast amounts of data — roughly the equivalent of “every book, movie, and piece of music ever released,” writes Satter.
Such a system would give British law enforcement agencies the ability to monitor every person in the U.K., whether or not they are guilty of anything at all. But one thing’s for certain: The vast amounts of data they have on people would make it possible to prove guilt far more often than is currently feasible.
Fortunately, the bill has only been proposed, and could be scrapped at any time. But considering the U.K. government’s tendency to keep tabs on its citizenry, we wouldn’t rule this one out just yet.
Here in the U.S., we face a similar situation. Congress currently has three “cybersecurity” bills on its plate — the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (CSA), and the SECURE IT Act — all of which would allow for the Federal government to collect vast amounts of data about Web users, American or otherwise. The bills are far less explicit in their spying intentions — though that is part of what makes them feel so nefarious.
Of course, there is one fact that cannot be ignored: Every second, people are posting vast amounts of personal and digital information to the Web, especially onto social networks like Facebook and Twitter. That information can be used in exactly the same way as the data the U.K. government hopes to collect. So just keep that in mind before you post your next update — someone is watching.
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