Private firm may track all email and calls
'Hellhouse' of personal data will be created, warns former DPP
Alan Travis and Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian, Wednesday 31 December 2008
The private sector will be asked to manage and run a communications database that will keep track of everyone's calls, emails, texts and internet use under a key option contained in a consultation paper to be published next month by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary.
A cabinet decision to put the management of the multibillion pound database of all UK communications traffic into private hands would be accompanied by tougher legal safeguards to guarantee against leaks and accidental data losses.
"Authorisations for access might be written into statute. The most senior ministers and officials might be designated as scrutineers. But none of this means anything," said Macdonald. "All history tells us that reassurances like these are worthless in the long run. In the first security crisis the locks would loosen."
Macdonald, who left his post as DPP in October, told the Guardian: "The tendency of the state to seek ever more powers of surveillance over its citizens may be driven by protective zeal. But the notion of total security is a paranoid fantasy which would destroy everything that makes living worthwhile. We must avoid surrendering our freedom as autonomous human beings to such an ugly future. We should make judgments that are compatible with our status as free people."
Maintaining the capacity to intercept suspicious communications was critical in an increasingly complex world, he said. "It is a process which can save lives and bring criminals to justice. But no other country is considering such a drastic step. This database would be an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information," he said. "It would be a complete readout of every citizen's life in the most intimate and demeaning detail. No government of any colour is to be trusted with such a roadmap to our souls."
Such common sense views as expressed by Sir Ken, need to be encouraged within the corridors of power.
The political kite being flown, through this briefing / leak to The Guardian, regarding the idea that this intrusive national database of communications traffic data should somehow be sub-contracted to a private company must not be allowed to fly.
When, not if, such a database is compromised, then Ministers and senior civil servants at the Home Office and in Downing Street must be forced to resign and / or be prosecuted. The control freaks must not be allowed to simply blame a private sector sub-contractor for future data security and privacy scandals.