New UK government to go ahead with old government plan on data retention

One of the many promises made by the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government was that it would “end the storage of internet and e-mail records without good reason.” The obvious flaw in this promise is that all the protection provided was only good so long as the government was unable to invent a ‘good reason.’

Now it appears according to The Guardian newspaper, that such a ‘good reason’ has been defined in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, to keep all web site visits, e-mail and phone calls made in the UK. And it is an old reason: basically, everything should be kept in case the police or intelligence services might find it useful in the prevention of a ‘terror-related crime’. Note: not actually terrorism, but terror-related, which is rather more vague and not so clearly defined in law, even given that ‘terrorism’ is already very broadly defined in the relevant laws.

This is pretty much exactly what the last Labour government were planning to do anyway with the proposed Communications Bill. Oh, and dont’t forget that the cost of this has been estimated at around 2Bn GBP ($3.5Bn) in a country that just announced ‘unavoidable’ welfare cuts of 7Bn GBP… that’s the reality of the ‘age of austerity’ for you’. It shows what David Gill argued in his book Policing Politics (1994) that the intelligence service constitute a ‘secret state’ that persists beyond the superficial front of the government of the day.

Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

2 thoughts on “New UK government to go ahead with old government plan on data retention”

  1. About intelligence services constituting their own ‘secret state’. You might be interested in Aldrich’s recent text on GCHQ (Short review: He does a truly excellent job in bring together declassified UK intelligence documents to show just how significant GCHQ has been in driving international policies – the role of listening posts in UK fights to retain certain portions of the British empire, techniques of (effectively) policy and financial laundering (the latter referring to how GCHQ’s budget is vastly larger than their publicly stated budget), and the future outlook of the agency.

    It’s a reasonably quick read, and is incredibly rich in detail. I haven’t read Gill’s text, yet, but suspect that Aldrich’s would provide a very contemporary look into GCHQ that would resonate with Gill’s own thesis that you’ve outlined.

  2. Thanks. I must admit to having been rather underwhelmed by Aldrich’s previous work, but this looks interesting…

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