Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Here we go...

I read with some distress that the UK Government has decided that it wishes to keep a database of all e-mails and internet use of UK citizens. This is a disaster waiting to happen. An identity thieves licence to print money.

My assertions are based on the simple premise that no matter what the conspiracy theorists might say, Governments are really, really bad at keeping secrets. They leak like rusty colanders. Too many people have access to the data, too many people without the aptitude or initiative to keep private matters private.

Now Wife and I have bank accounts in the UK, and use the Internet to manage our money. The Banks and ourselves are pretty careful about what precautions we take to protect that money. I also occasionally send original short stories and full length MSS via e-mail to publishers. This is very convenient and a lot easier and cheaper than spending a hundred or so dollars on printing and postage. Now if our communications with the UK are intercepted and the details of use recorded, what is to stop some dissatisfied government employee helping themselves to that sensitive data; stealing our bank account access details, or even hijacking my stories and passing them off as their own without my knowledge? I work hard at my trade, often for little return, and am annoyed that Government thinks it has the right to know everything I say and do.

Now I know that there is nothing truly private on the Internet; but to stick all the details in one place is like placing what is left of the UK's gold reserves in the public foyer of the local town hall. Especially considering the appalling data security track record of the UK Government.

They tell us it is 'to protect us from terrorism'. Well boys, here is the news; the real bad boys of terrorism don't generally use the Internet and regular High Street banks. The amateurs might, but they are the ones who get caught. Real terrorists use networks of couriers, and 'trust' systems of banking outside the normal network of banks. They know how easy it is to track activities such as theirs with even fairly basic techniques on modern data processing networks. So they don't tend to use them. Phones can be tapped. So they use anonymous couriers instead.

I've said this before and I will keep on saying it until someone listens or at least tells me to shut up, because then I will be sure that someone at least read this; you don't catch many frogs by damming the whole river. Frogs can happily leave the water and go round the dam. Us poor bloody minnows can't. All that will happen is that those who can adapt to bypass the restrictions, will, and the rest of us will end up being ripped off and put down by the very governments we pay taxes to.

I predict that tax agencies will demand access to your internet and e-mail to check for unpaid taxes, environment agencies to see what car you drive, or the picture of the big guy you caught and forgot to log on your fishing permit. Just about every arm of government will want it's finger in our personal pie. Yet there will be no net benefit to us as ordinary law abiding people. The services we pay our taxes for will not improve. We will just end up paying for more government.

Insanity. The base premise of terrorism is to cause governments to repress their population as a response to minor acts of 'terror', and by doing so cause that population to revolt and destabilise the government, leaving a nice little power vacuum for the terrorists and revolutionaries to waltz in and sieze power for themselves. With repressive measures like these, it looks like the terrorists are doing pretty well, doesn't it?

Funny really, as my current MSS 'first flights' has a significant backstory thread about a dystopian Europe where just such policies are in place and the last of the British Resistance is crushed. It's at times like these I feel almost messianic.

No comments: