A look into the spying society
By James Slack
State spying to cost £200million each year to track your every click online
An astonishing £380 a minute will be spent on surveillance in a massive expansion of the Big Brother state.
The £200million-a-year sum will give officials access to details of every internet click made by every citizen - on top of the email and telephone records already available.
It is a 1,700 per cent increase on the cost of the current surveillance regime.
‘The increase in money spent on tapping phones and emails is all the more baffling when Britain is still one of the few countries not to allow intercept evidence in court, even in terrorist cases.’
State bodies including councils are already making one request every minute to spy on the phone records and email accounts of members of the public.
The number of snooping missions carried out by police, town halls and other government departments has rocketed by 44 per cent in two years to a rate of 1,381 new cases every day.
Ministers say the five-year cost of the existing regime is £55.61million, an average of £11million a year.
This is paid to phone companies and service providers to meet the cost of keeping and providing private information about customers.
The cost of the new system emerged in a series of Parliamentary answers.
It is to cover payments to internet service providers so they can store mountains of information about every customer for a minimum of 12 months, and set up new systems to cope.
The actual content of calls and emails is not be kept - only who they were from or to, when they took place and where they were sent from.
Police, security services and other public authorities can then request access to the data as part of investigations.
Some 653 bodies are currently allowed access, including councils, the Financial Services Authority, the Ambulance Service and fire authorities and prison governors.
The new rules allowing access to internet records will be introduced by Parliament before the end of the year.
They are known as the Intercept Modernisation Programme.
Ministers had originally wanted to store the information on a massive Government-run database, but chose not to because of privacy concerns.
Yesterday Alex Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘The Government is preparing to make British people pay through the nose so that they can track our movements online.’
‘Communications data is crucial to the fight against crime and keeping people safe,’ he added.
There were 504,073 made last year to intercept email and telephone records under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. It was passed ostensibly to fight terrorism.
But it has been used to spy on people suspected of putting their bins out on the wrong day, dropping litter and attempting to cheat school catchment area rules.
By Toby Harnden
US spies invest in internet monitoring technology
American spies are investing in technology designed to monitor websites including blogs, Twitter, YouTube and even reading habits on Amazon.
They say social media websites offer a powerful opportunity for “open source” intelligence – publicly available data that can be mined for information.
In an attempt to sift through the blizzard of information, the investment arm of the CIA, In-Q-Tel, has invested in a software firm that monitors social media.
According to Wired magazine, In-Q-Tel has put money into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specialises in monitoring the internet.
Terrorist networks are increasingly using the internet as it allows people to communicate anonymously and across borders. A number of terrorist plots have involved the use of chat rooms for recruiting, discussion or the passing of messages.
Visible Technologies examines more than half a million websites a day, looking through more than a million posts and interactions happening on blogs, in online forums and on popular social media sites such as Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Amazon.
The company’s customers, who include Microsoft, Hormel Foods and Xerox, receive real-time data on what’s being said on these sites, based on a number of predetermined key words.
A “score” is then assigned to each item, identifying it as positive, negative, mixed or neutral. The customer can then forward items to others, enabling them to respond.
For instance, this enables Microsoft to gauge how its Windows 7 launch is being received or Hormel, which makes Spam luncheon meat, to tracks the campaigns of animal rights activists against the company.
“Anything that is out in the open is fair game for collection,” said Steven Aftergood, of the Federation of American Scientists.
He added, however, that it would be “problematic” if information was used for unauthorised domestic investigations.
“Intelligence agencies or employees might be tempted to use the tools at their disposal to compile information on political figures, critics, journalists or others, and to exploit such information for political advantage. That is not permissible even if all of the information in question is technically ‘open source.’”
In-Q-Tel was set up by the US government in 1999 to identify and work with “companies developing cutting-edge technologies to help deliver these solutions to the Central Intelligence Agency”.