uk: Surveillance – Data with destiny

“Which side is he on?” Gordon Brown taunted David Cameron in another effective performance on the financial crisis at prime minister’s questions yesterday. The same question, though, must now be asked directly of Mr Brown as the battle between liberty and the power of the state prepares to take another major turning. This new battle is summed up in two recent speeches. The first was delivered last week by the home secretary Jacqui Smith, who outlined plans for a potentially vast new state database that will contain details of every phone call, text message and internet visit made by every person in this country for all time. The new database, said Ms Smith, would be an essential part of the government’s revised anti-terrorist strategy. Communications data of this kind is the lifeblood of 95% of serious crime prosecutions and of almost all security service operations in recent years, she said, but it must now be carried further to allow government to store the details of internet communications, including social networking sites.

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