In George Orwell’s book, 1984, virtually every aspect of people’s lives was monitored and controlled by the Party which was run by Big Brother. They knew what we watched, what we ate and what we said. They controlled where we worked and our family lives, including sexual relations.
In today’s world of technology, we are getting closer and closer to seeing the Party and Big Brother become a reality. The United Kingdom is about to take a giant step in that direction and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that our own government is already doing it.
The Security Service, better known as MI5, is Britain’s super spy intelligence agency and they want to start spying on everyone in the United Kingdom that uses the internet. They have proposed a program to place ‘black boxes’ on all ISPs to monitor and inspect all internet traffic. Once the ‘black boxes’ are installed, they will use a technology called Deep Packet Inspection to track and record all forms of internet communications including Facebook, Twitter and even Skype calls between friends and family. It will also track where people shop on line and what websites they visit on a regular basis, including porn sites.
Some members of Parliament are working on a Communications Data Bill, which would update and increase surveillance powers for the government and MI5. They argue that using the ‘black boxes’ with Deep Packet Inspection will give them almost immediate access to vital information dealing with any terrorist threats or high-level crimes.
Jonathan Evans, Chief of MI5 told Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee:
“Access to communications data of one sort or another is very important indeed. It’s part of the backbone of the way in which we would approach investigations.”
“I think I would be accurate in saying there are no significant investigations that we undertake across the service that don’t use communications data because of its ability to tell you the who and the when and the where of your target’s activities.”
Opposition to MI5’s plan has been mounting as many are concerned about an invasion of privacy. One such opposition group in Big Brother Watch, whose deputy director of privacy and civil liberties, Emma Carr commented about the proposal:
“Using highly intrusive technology to monitor how people use the internet is not something that a civil society should be using on every citizen.”
“The danger is that the whole communication, including content, is inspected and potentially stored, intruding on people’s privacy in a dangerous and unprecedented way.”
“This sends a highly dangerous signal to regimes around the world who are looking for justification to use similar equipment on their populations.”
“The fact that at no point does the Government need court approval, either to install, use or look at data gathered is a major concern and if it is to be used as a last resort should only be done so on the highest judicial authority.”
Open Rights Group is another organization that opposes the MI5 proposal. Executive Director Jim Killock expressed his concern, saying:
“’The really worrying part of this is the ‘filter’ the government wants to build.”
“This would put data from your mobile phone, email, web history and phones together, so the police can tell who your friends are, what your opinions are, where you’ve been and with who.”
“It could make instant surveillance of everything you do possible at the click of a button.”
As I was reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder about the chance of one corrupt MI5 person using the internet spying technology to gain access to personal banking and financial information of thousands, perhaps millions of people. What would stop this person from using that information to start stealing from British citizens? You can’t convince me that every spy or government employee is full honest and upright. In fact history proves otherwise.
There are a plethora of negative aspects about allowing any government agency become Orwell’s Party and Big Brother. Yet, much of Big Brother is already here and I’m afraid it will only get more powerful and intrude into every aspect of our lives, just like Orwell wrote. Orwell’s timing of 1984 may not have been accurate, but the society he described is fast becoming a reality and I hope and pray that I’m in the presence of my Lord and Savior before it gets as bad as in the book.