In resurrecting the Intercept Modernisation Programme, the Government breaks a clear, basic and fundamental promise

Watching laptop More details are emerging on the astonishing news Dan covered earlier: the appalling "Intercept Modernisation Programme" is to continue despite the Conservative Party's recent pledge to reverse the rise of the surveillance state. Actually, do have a look at that last link. It's remarkable that they've left the paper on their website; perhaps the thinking is that everyone's so concerned with the spending review that nobody will notice the rank hypocrisy? Whatever the explanation, leaving it up breaks with the longstanding tradition of repainting the commandments on the side of the barn whenever Napoleon changes his mind.

And it can't be blamed on the formation of the Coalition, either. The Coalition Agreement promised to "end the storage of internet and email records without good reason".

Buried in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Government plans to introduce

a programme to preserve the ability of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain communication data and to intercept communications

Couple this with the disgusting u-turn on the Summary Care Record, despite similarly clear and concrete promises, and a troubling picture emerges; it is fascinating and dreadful to see the speed of bureaucratic capture, the reversion to bureaucratic authoritarianism on show – intrusions are piling up so fast that my extended essay published last week is already out of date.

The IMP will allow the security services and the police to spy on the activities of everyone using a phone or the internet. Every communications provider will be obliged to store details of your communications for at least a year and obliged in due course to surrender them up to the authorities. The authorities will be able to track every phone call, email, text message and website visit made by the public on the absurd pretext that it will help to tackle crime or terrorism.

Just see how the surveillance state is being reversed, eh!?

By Alex Deane

Posted by on Oct 20, 2010 in Online privacy | 8 Comments


  1. Demeter
    20th October 2010

    Colour me unduly cynical if you want, but you didn’t actually *believe* any of the dreck-as-manifesto the parties sprayed about before the last election, did you ?
    Been a long time since we could do that.

  2. Mike Hanlon
    20th October 2010

    Isn’t the EU’s Communications Data Retention Directive behind this? The government has simply realised that they can’t do anything about it even if they wanted to, given their predecessors have agreed to data retention (or simply been outvoted in EU institutions by people no-one here elected) and it’s now EU law.
    No proper critique of decisions like this can be conducted without recognising that the current order of policy authority in this country is in fact EU, Coalition Agreement, Party Manifestos. I fear it’s quite possible that even key figures within political parties who write such papers about reversing the rise of the surveillance state don’t realise the EU is behind things until they actually get into power. That, or, for political reasons, they prefer simply to blame their rival party instead of the EU. Then, once they get into office themselves, they don’t want to admit how powerless they are to change anything. So Brussels keeps making the rules and the charade of a national democracy goes on.
    This issue is just another example of how life in the EU makes elections redundant. The only option is to pressure our political class to do something radical like change fundamentally Britain’s relationship with the EU so elections mean something again and those we elect get to govern rather than just occupy office. Sadly there is no flexible middle way.

  3. guy herbert
    21st October 2010

    @ Mike Hanlon,
    No; rather the UK’s security agencies are behind the Data Retention Directive, which was going nowhere opposed by several countries until Charles Clarke took advantage of the London tube bombings to push it through the Council of Ministers:

  4. Jeremy Hower
    22nd October 2010

    This is a truly worrying revival of data retention plans and I’m sickened by the fact that the Liberals and Tories were giving Labour stick for it only to do the same thing.
    The problem with these plans is that they made no mention of the proportionality needed in order to access the info. No one was disputing that security forces may need info at certain points, but it was the fact that they could get it without there being an independent safeguard, such as a warrant being needed from a judge.
    We had to look at the intended or unintended (depending on your level of cynicism) consequences of law such as RIPA 2000 to see what could happen. It is not clear to me whether this law would be used in this situation (I think it probably would be applicable) but the ‘interception warrants’ under this law were not like ordinary warrants. They were secret warrants and there is no independent decision made on the proportionality of accessing your info.
    I think there may also now be the real risk that public bodies could get hold of this info under RIPA too, which does not have a sufficient safeguard against abuse (as we have seen on many an occasion) but allows for surveillance if the government deems it proportionate and not an independent assessment (ie by a judge)
    Yes, I was also under the impression that our ministers/authorities were using the EU to pass these measures in the first place. When the obligation under the directive was established it also allowed for the infamous practice of ‘gold plating’, that is going further than what was required. There doesn’t seem to be any way to stop this and I agree that our relationship with the EU needs to be addressed. Sadly, trying to get the main three parties to discuss this is a non starter as they all support the EU unwaveringly it seems.

  5. Mike Hanlon
    22nd October 2010

    @ Guy Herbert
    I don’t understand why you said ‘No’ and then confirmed there is an EU Directive.
    I didn’t say that the previous government opposed it. I don’t doubt they were encouraged by the security services or whoever to pursue it.
    But that’s by the by. The fact now is that, because the EU has passed it, it must be implemented regardless of party manifestoes or the coalition agreement.
    The EU’s policy trumps all – election result included.
    My point is that we’ll get nowhere with stopping these sinister plans if we don’t recognise that elections matter little anymore while we’re in the EU and start tackling the real problem that enables such things to be passed in law beyond democratic accountability.

  6. Alan
    29th October 2010

    I am appalled by this turn of events. Coalition – I am rapidly going off you!!! Another Government with the same old false promises.
    I am 66 years old and bloody stubborn. I will refuse to communicate with people unless face to face! I am buggered if I am going to allow myself to be snooped on!!!

  7. Christian Louboutin
    17th January 2011

    Let them do it on their own!

  8. DHodd
    18th January 2011

    “The IMP will allow the security services and the police to spy on the activities of everyone using a phone or the internet”
    – by the police, does this extend to employees of ACPO, including their various “intelligence units” – who technically operate without police powers?