Monday, July 28, 2008


A big database of the moment is the database containing records of phone calls, texts, emails and internet access. News coverage once again invoked the spirit of Big Brother, and Henry Porter was in full on criticism mode in his Observer column. While I normally regard this kind of crying wolf as reason to switch off, I think it should be said that in this case there is actually a wolf.

Regular readers will know that generally I'm inclined to defend the database state and generally think that the dangers are hard to pin down, so I think it should be made clear that I'm no liberal engaging in an anti statist rant when I say what I'm about to.

This IT system should not go ahead, it is dangerous and will allow massive potential for abuse. An unscrupulous government could snoop on the data and discover the confidential plans of political opponents. Political lobbyists and the press could use the information as a gold mine for blackmail information. From the looks of things, there is a clear case against this system.

A Small Caveat
Something missing from most of the stories on this subject is the exact nature of what's being held. For example with text messages will the database show the content of my text of just the fact that I sent a text at a certain time, ditto for emails. Either way, the system is open to abuse but a system that records occurences rather than actual contents would be far less dangerous.

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