The UK's intelligence agencies are to significantly increase their use of large-scale data hacking after claiming that more targeted operations are being rendered obsolete by technology.
The move will see an expansion in what is known as the bulk
equipment interference (EI) regime -- the process by which GCHQ can target entire communication networks overseas in a bid to identify individuals who pose a threat to national security. [Note that the idea this is somehow only targeted at foreigners is
misleading. Five countries cooperate so that they can mutually target each others users to work round limits on snooping on one's own country].
A letter from the security minister, Ben Wallace, to the head of the intelligence and security
committee, Dominic Grieve, quietly filed in the House of Commons library last week, states:
Following a review of current operational and technical realities, GCHQ have ... determined that it will be necessary to
conduct a higher proportion of ongoing overseas focused operational activity using the bulk EI regime than was originally envisaged.
People's medical records will be combined with social and smartphone surveillance to predict who will pick up bad habits and stop them getting ill, under radical government proposals.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is planning a system of
predictive prevention, in which algorithms will trawl data on individuals to send targeted health nags to those flagged as having propensities to health problems, such as taking up smoking or becoming obese.
The creepy plans have already attracted
privacy concerns among doctors and campaigners, who say that the project risks backfiring by scaring people or being seen to be abusing public trust in NHS handling of sensitive information.
As someone who has tracked technology and human rights over the past ten years, I am convinced that digital ID, writ large, poses one of the gravest risks to human rights of any technology that we have encountered. . By Brett Soloman
A new policing super-database is in the works -- and it puts our rights at serious risk. But the Home Office has failed to respond sufficiently to Liberty's concerns. We can't be part of a process that gives a free pass to the creeping expansion of
digital policing that shows contempt for our privacy rights.
On 28 September, we wrote to the Home Office telling them we can no longer take part in their Open Space civil society consultation on the Law Enforcement Data Service
(LEDS) -- the Home Office's planned police super-database.
LEDS will bring together the Police National Computer and Police National Database in one place. This unprecedented development will see the Government amass deeply
sensitive data for policing purposes.
It requires rigorous scrutiny and debate to make sure our personal information is protected, with robust safeguards to protect us from threats to our privacy and other fundamental rights.
The Home Office has made clear to us that the Open Space consultation will exclude discussion of our key concerns with the plan.
The information on the database will be vulnerable in many ways -- and the Home
Office's plans fail to explain how police will use the system in conjunction with the creeping progression of surveillance and algorithmic policing.
The proposed system doesn't have an agreed retention policy and the police have
even admitted that data they no longer have any right to hold will be transferred to the new database.
The plans even allow our data to be shared with non-policing organisations where a business case can be made.
And the Home Office has excluded from its consultation process any consideration of how the database will be linked with lawless facial recognition technology.
LEDS cannot be considered in a vacuum. This
derisory consultation continues the pattern of police adding to their powers to use invasive technology without giving any regard to proper scrutiny and accountability -- or the effect on our rights.
Police forces are increasingly
looking to big data to assist with law enforcement. Having enormous amounts of our personal information held in one place is a significant violation of our privacy. While the collection of a few pieces of data can seem innocuous, combining it with other
sensitive information can let the state build up a detailed and extremely intrusive personal profile on each of us.
Even more sinister are the algorithms the state is increasingly using to make important decisions about us --
leading to conclusions which may be inaccurate or biased and lack proper human oversight.
We must question how super-databases like this will be linked with lawless surveillance technologies or biased algorithmic programs that
make predictions about who is likely to commit crime.
In the UK, we have a long-held principle of policing by consent. We must be able to trust the police to protect our privacy and our fundamental rights.