Saturday, August 23, 2008

New Scientist: Surveillance Made Easy

Laura Margottini writes on

"This data allows investigators to identify suspects, examine their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time."

So said the UK Home Office last week as it announced plans to give law-enforcement agencies, local councils and other public bodies access to the details of people's text messages, emails and internet activity. The move followed its announcement in May that it was considering creating a massive central database to store all this data, as a tool to help the security services tackle crime and terrorism.

Meanwhile in the US the FISA Amendments Act, which became law in July, allows the security services to intercept anyone's international phone calls and emails without a warrant for up to seven days. Governments around the world are developing increasingly sophisticated electronic surveillance methods in a bid to identify terrorist cells or spot criminal activity.

However, technology companies, in particular telecommunications firms and internet service providers, have often been criticised for assisting governments in what many see as unwarranted intrusion, most notably in China.

Now German electronics company Siemens has gone a step further, developing a complete "surveillance in a box" system called the Intelligence Platform, designed for security services in Europe andAsia. It has already sold the system to 60 countries.

More here.


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