Now exchanging mails, sending text messages, and disbursing information on social networking sites will assure you posterity. At least for one year.

Unlike most people who talk of censorship and freedom, I am quite excited about the UK government move for a new “spy plan” simply because it is so daft and also I have never had a nanny. So, if they plan to keep a “watch”, I am even willing to pay for changing some whiner’s e-diapers.

What’s the deal here?

Landline and mobile phone companies and broadband providers will be ordered to store the data for a year and make it available to the security services under the scheme. The databases would not record the contents of calls, texts or emails but the numbers or email addresses of who they are sent and received by.

The plan has been drawn up on the advice of MI5, the home security service, MI6, which operates abroad, and GCHQ, the Government’s “listening post” responsible for monitoring communications.

Now, this is true global reach. I have said this before. Even if the surveillance is not official, it is quite easy to know what’s happening. I have had obsessed people find out stuff that had been deleted long ago. They have no idea how much that helped me rediscover myself.

What gets to me is the intent, though: The London Olympics could be the target of terror attacks. Can there be nothing in this world that takes place without the word ‘terror’ in it? Calls, emails, websites all store data. How many intelligence agencies have traced culprits through these methods? I mean, didn’t David Headley had to visit India, and join a gym, only to get video details of prominent sites? Google maps would have done that. The U.S. drones cannot find the right guys, so they aim at all angles and end up with more civilian deaths.

There is another concern expressed regarding the spying:

Access to such information would be highly prized by hackers and could be exploited to send spam email and texts. Details of which websites people visit could also be exploited for commercial gain.

More than commercial gain, I am worried that spam would become a dodgy tool to spread terror, perhaps by those in charge of shielding. This whole exercise is not a preventive measure but one meant to create a xenophobic atmosphere. The UK has a huge population that lives in ghetto areas that it sees as risky. They do not need internet connections to trace them. Just position the big guys in the lanes and it might work.

Now, the tele-companies will hold the information. Since they have the authority to access IP addresses, phone numbers, network IDs, they will sell fear. Security devices. Bullet proof glasses. Paddocks. Pepper spray cans. Manuals. How To Identify The Guy Who Will Blow Up The Trampoline?

Just suppose you make a call or receive a call to or from a wrong number in “real time”, what will happen? I get many such calls and all I hear is heavy breathing. I wait for the person to catch her/his breath. It chalks up minutes. Will it register as a legitimate call? I may click on a website link that is considered unsafe. Even the person sending it may not realise it, for some little cookie might get embedded and one could end up with being suspect.

Just look at the recent history of how terrorists have been tracked and you will see that it had nothing to do with what they were downloading. And the recent discovery about the Osama bin Laden operation tells us that no one really knows what is happening. Did President Musharraf know about the Abbottabad 'safe house'? That means someone is protecting the former President inside Pakistan even today. It's also quite hilarious. They actually had an architect from the ISI for that rundown compound. If for nothing else, the ISI should feel ashamed of its utter lack of taste. Even caves look better.

I digress. Or maybe not. This is what we will get from surveillance. And people will have to just live with it, even though they already are. The government knows that WikiLeaks can reveal its own chinks, so how secure are ordinary people?

As for me, I am chuffed and quite complacent. In fact, I look forward to being given the glad eye.

(c) Farzana Versey

- - -

Image: Huffington Post


  1. FV,

    QUOTE: "The UK has a huge population that lives in ghetto areas that it sees as risky."

    Can we spell M-U-S-L-I-M?? Now that's good! Let's spell it again plz!

    That (or words to that effect) was your own comment on the Gujarat Court judgment about damaged shrines.

  2. I think the emails that are written and subsequently deleted without sending would be the most awkward to have paraded in public.

  3. F&F:

    Can depend on you to find 'me'. I've always been good at spelling and spelling things out. Now Wembley is a Modified ghetto, Southall Punjabified, Bradford Pakistanified and Brick Lane Bangladeshfied. So, the Fied-piper and the rats all live together and separately, and there is no one word. The cat will have to figure out where to get its cream.


    I know the feeling. Like dead man walking...


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.