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Internet firms condemn plans for GCHQ email access

By This is Gloucestershire  |  Posted: August 04, 2009

GCHQ 'doughtnut' at Benhall, Cheltenham

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A proposal to allow Cheltenham listening post GCHQ to monitor any email, phone call or website visit of people in the UK has been condemned by internet firms.

The London Internet Exchange, which represents more than 330 companies, including BT, Virgin and Carphone Warehouse, says the Government's surveillance proposals are an "unwarranted" invasion of people's privacy.

The £2 billion project, pioneered by former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, would allow the Benhall-based intelligence headquarters access to the records of internet providers in an effort to maintain its defences against terrorism.

The firms will be asked to collect and store vast amounts of data, including from social networking sites such as Facebook, although intelligence workers will not be able to view the actual content of emails and phone calls.

But the companies, who would have to co-operate with ministers for the scheme to be implemented, say the Government has misled the public about the extent to which it plans to monitor internet activity.

A private submission from the London Internet Exchange to the Home Office said: "We view the description of the Government's proposals as maintaining the capability as disingenuous – the volume of data the Government now proposes we should collect and retain will be unprecedented.

"This is a purely political description that serves only to win consent by hiding the extent of the proposed extension of powers for the state."

The criticism is the latest blow to the scheme. Ms Smith was forced to abandon plans for a giant database of internet records in April following privacy concerns.

She tried to salvage the project by announcing £2 billion of public money would instead be spent on helping internet providers to retain information for up to 12 months.

But the London Internet Exchange said the proposals were unworkable.

It said: "We aren't aware of any existing equipment (an internet firm) could purchase that would enable it to acquire and retain such a wide range of data.

"In some common cases it would be impossible in principle to obtain the information sought.

A spokesman for GCHQ said: "The Home Office has consulted publicly on its proposals.

"It recognises that this is a complex and sensitive subject with a fine balance to be made between protecting public safety and civil liberties.

"GCHQ is providing technical advice and support to the Home Office and has no plans to monitor all internet use and phone calls in Britain."

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  • Profile image for This is Gloucestershire
    Mac, Lancs  |  January 10 2010, 11:16PM

    For some time now we keep hearing of the secret sociaty/black Gov. It's time to start our very own secret organisation and take back what was stolen from us by the fat cats curtousy of Thacher and her cronies. Power to the people. It is also time to stop the large pay outs that fatcats get for sitting behind a desk watching others do their work. Rise up take it all back.

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    Stu, Cheltenham  |  August 06 2009, 8:42PM

    I'm afraid that comments such as: Terrorists would certainly encrypt their communications. and: If anyone believes that message content will not be stored and read,they need a shrink. Simply shows that the people posting these do not have the faintest idea what they are talking about !

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    Tasty Fish, Abbeymead, Gloucestershire  |  August 04 2009, 12:32PM

    This government is using terrorism as an excuse to snoop on every single one of us. How many people in the UK died from terrorist incidents this year? None. How many people died falling from a tree? More than through terrorism. Politicians are idiots by nature. All their policies are based on perception rather than fact. Does anyone think any of this will make a blind bit of difference to dealing with terrorism? They'll just use alternative means. I hardly think someone from Al Qaeda is going to set up a site about bomb-making and get it listed on Google. I like the idea below - I'm forwarding all my spam to GCHQ - they're welcome to it. All of it. I see a Facebook campaign starting up... ;)

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    Nigel, Chelt  |  August 04 2009, 12:08PM

    Are you guys thinking what i'm thinking? I hope GCHQ is reading this or we'll be banged up in a matter of minutes..... *knock knock*

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    The resistance, Gloucester  |  August 04 2009, 11:07AM

    I saw the film V for vendetta, good film. But as time goes by it becomes more of a chillingly realistic forecast of a "1984 Orwellian future¿. The state is gradually and subtly taking total control of every aspect of the lives of a numbered and catalogued populous. And many of us actually condone it? Not me, "V", I'm with you.

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    V, Cheltenham  |  August 04 2009, 10:41AM

    And now you know why the first post on this forum is by 'V'...

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    Mal, Local  |  August 04 2009, 10:24AM

    Nigel of Cheltenham has reminded me of an excellent Film in V for Vendetta.,which is about a modern day Guy Fawkes. It outdoes 1984 with it's realistic forecast and there are many instances of Rights Abuses shown that are prevalent now. Best of all was seeing the Houses of Parliament heading towards the Sky and the People marching in huge numbers to overwhelm the Dictatorship. Somehow that didn't seem wrong.

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    lenny, chelt  |  August 04 2009, 10:16AM

    if they want to listen into our calls and read our e mail perhaps they might pay a little towards our bills , nothing private these days , then again they are prob already doing it . what next open our mail , seems to me the ones that need checking on is the people in gov they seem to be the people with a lot to hide.

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    Nigel, Chelt  |  August 04 2009, 9:59AM

    Don't people realise the Government just want to take over, haven't you seen 1984 or V for Vendetta. First they monitor your email then they put you imprison. Free thought will be a crime and we will all become slaves. They have too much power!

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    Mal, Local  |  August 04 2009, 9:13AM

    I hope the Internet Providers all tell the Government that they will have nothing to do with this abuse of our freedoms and rights. Each "Tap" should still require a Magistrate's Signature. I have no problem with specified or individual targets who genuinely pose a criminal threat but I do have a problem with us all being covered by a dubious and possibly illegal act by our Government. If anyone believes that message content will not be stored and read,they need a shrink.