I have placed some of this blog entry into my author blog as it is a political subject, but it is an IT matter so it does belong here as well.
I am not sure who told me about it but once I googled it I found a number of posts about a plan by France’s prime minister Sarkozy making one step further in the direction of turning Internet Service providers into deputy cops. You can read more about it on Eric Bangeman’s blog on ‘ISP’s as copyright cops.’ The Internet has the opportuntity to be the great equalizer but it is used exactly the opposite way. Well, in some ways we all become EQUALLY transparent to governments …
There is no court authorization necessary for spying on the internet user in France and they are not the first to step into this direction. The EU has adopted a directive that authorizes its members to perform telecommunication data retention. Germany has been on the forefront of this trend. Since 1st of January 2008 all German ISP and telephone providers have to store connection information and also emails for six month. At least has the German Supreme Court decided to put the unlimited use of the recorded data on hold. But they are still recorded! That is much like the post office being instructed to open each letter and keep a copy! Sounds like Communist Eastern Germany doesn’t it? Some in Germany call it ‘Stasi 2.0’. How much longer will it take until each phone call is recorded just in case? Whenever the government wants to spy on its citizens then it is to stop terrorists or catch child pornographers. Strange enough that mostly other people are caught ‘by chance’ for tax evasion. The German government can by the way request a citizens bank details without his knowledge. Estimated cost for this data retention is between 100 to 300 million Euro. Obviously the ISP’s have to pass this on to their customers which means we pay them for spying on us. Very strange indeed.
The other direction governments take to improve citizen data collection and correlation efforts is a unique identifying number for all aspects of private life. For tax purposes those numbers already exist. In Spain for example you can virtually do nothing without this number, not even get a printed invoice! Well, the US is not much better. My PayPal records (and a few million other PayPal users by means of data mining) were supoened by the IRS because of my country of residence. There are legislation bills waiting to be approved in the US that will outdo the EU in empowering the government to spy on its citizens Internet use. Reminds me of this popular quote:
‘The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theatre.’ Frank Zappa