24 Nov 2013
November 24, 2013

GCHQ: Porn today, Fraud tomorrow?

3 Comments

Wherever you stand on the NSA/GCHQ debate, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll agree that there’s a lot more government collecting and inter-government sharing of information about us than we’d realised.  I’m in the ‘if-GCHQ-doesn’t-collect-stuff-on-me-but-shares-everything-with-the-NSA-which-does-then-that-means-GCHQ-has-all-my-stuff-anyway-and-that’s-a-bit-blinking-cheeky’ camp. But if you’ve never given it all that much thought, here’s a really super Guardian piece by novelist John Lanchester as a bit of fireside reading to get you going.

Anyway, it’s clear, even here at Westminster, that regardless of whether or not GCHQ has been a bit cheeky with the rules, the present law, framed in the stone-age, is not fit for purpose. Sir Malky Rifkind, chair of parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee and a thoroughly decent cove, is taking soundings, and so forth. New oversight legislation will likely follow. But at the same time, there’s been an interesting and little-commented-upon PR effort moving debate on from the ‘mass terrorism’ riff we’re all so used to. I’m certainly intrigued.

As John Lanchester notes (see above), we mainly kind-of trust our secret and security services because they’re out to catch terrorist-type folk who want really bad things for us all.  Terrorists want to blow up our children and behead our NGO workers (whose employers have saved cash by avoiding Kidnap and Ransom insurance – but that’s another story).  But as Lanchester also point out, since 2001 an average of only 4 people have been killed each year in the UK by terrorism. That’s probably less than the amount of penis-in-toaster tragedies.

So, aware that our trust in people who are after all simply regular civil servants, but who went into the secrecy world specifically because secrecy actually excites them, might be on the wane, the government and spy chiefs are seeking to show us that they are indeed more important to us that the relative penis-in-toaster statistics might suggest.

Hands up who likes a paedophile?  Why, no-one surely? Who, then, could object to the latest announcement that GCHQ is to help the cops with illegal porn detection on the ‘dark web’ (P2P, TOR, etc)?

Fair enough?  Well actually illegal porn, whlle vile, is a very long way from being the most serious crime our cops deal with.  Murder, rape, hideous atrocities short of killing. The lot. So surely it makes little sense having GCHQ helping the cops with porn but not with, say, serial murderers and rapists.

You can see where it’s all going, right?

The question is becoming not; ‘do we accept extensive GCHQ surveillance to prevent mass terrorism?’ but the truer, more honest; ‘do we accept extensive GCHQ surveillance to prevent crime?’  It seems to me that it’s no bad thing that the debate is moving on.  I hope that this greater relevance to most people’s lives will make more folk outside the chatterati interested in such an enormous issue.

In truth, I think the ‘murder and rape’ argument will be easy for the authorities to win.  It’ll be interesting to see where folk draw the line, though. Racist offences? Common Assault on old ladies? Fraud?

Actually, cancel that. At present rates of travel, by the time people get around to thinking where they want to draw the line, it’ll be way too late for them or their elected representatives to do anything about it.

 

3 Responses to GCHQ: Porn today, Fraud tomorrow?
  1. Not too much difference between loads of CCTV cameras and vast copies of online comms, of which little is ever referred to. Access to such should require appropriate authorisation and control imo, and copies for foreign use shouldn’t be made without even more strict scrutiny and higher authorisation. If that men’s the USA or other allies are upset, too bad.
    Thus far known abuse seems pretty minimal.

  2. I challenged a BNP supporter online over her whinges about abuse of CCTV & etc. “Show me abuse” I said. She claimed cameras had been used to help convict BNP raffle sellers of running an unlicensed lottery.

    • Interesting example. If you refer to a BNP conviction and note CCTV enabled it, most people will think that fine. And yet, the price for that conviction is the saturation of public places in the UK with 6 million CCTV systems. That saturation, way ahead of any other nation, largely happened by stealth and without meaningful public debate. The effect of NSA/GCHA surveillance is by many multiples greater than the effect of CCTV. Whether the cost justifies the benefit is entirely judged by our secret services, not the public. I hope the latter debate doesn’t go the same way as CCTV, but it’s looking awfully like it might.


[top]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>