I was a "scheduled speaker" at OggCamp in Liverpool over the weekend. OggCamp is a busy, eclectic melting pot of people connected by a shared affinitity for "free culture". That doesn;'t mean they like getting stuff for nothing (although, of course, everyone does) bu that all of us there are praticitioners and fans of the things that can be done when the designs, software, media and other resources are all held "in common" and people are thus free to be creative an innovative without needing to worry about whose feelings (or supposed property rights) they might be offending.
There was plenty of open source software represented, plus 3D printers, webcasting of various kinds, live music - and, of course, talks about digital rights. I spoke at the request of the Open Rights Group (where I am a volunteer director) to explain the Communications Data Bill (CDB), more commonly called the "Snooper's Charter" on account of the unprecedented ability it will give the security services, police, local authorities and civil court cases to observe the trivial minutiae of everyone's online lives in the UK.
This is yet another attempt by the Home Office to get the government of the day to legalise sweeping permanent surveillance powers that allow the automated aggregation of all the details of your online life. Well, all but the actual "payload" - the message bodies themselves in e-mail for example. But the other information surrounding your communications provides plenty of data to fill a "big data" tank and analyse heuristically to detect trends in who you communicate with, when, why, where from and how.
The legislation is modelled on (and absorbs) existing postal surveillance laws but to use those the police have to go to the sorting office and look at envelopes. The cost in time and effort to go there creates "friction" that means the power is not used all the time on all your mail. But CDB is "frictionless", allowing automated gathering of all the meta-data of your communications and making it available over the next 12 months for analysis.
CDB makes us all a suspect, all the time. Instead of being under surveillance when there is evidence of wrongdoing, you will be under surveillance by default, with a wide range of people able to "go fishing" for information to support accusations against you without your knowledge. No amount of "access controls" can make this sort of resource safe; once created, it can only grow in scope and use.
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