The big question: should security services get access to your social media & online chats?

It's been called a "snooper's charter" and a move that will leave us living in an Orwellian world where nothing you do goes unmonitored.

A surveillance cameraClive Gee, PA Wire

The government plans to allow the security services to monitor every email we send, Facebook message we write and Skype chat we hold.

It will, they say, help them in their fight against terrorism, paedophilia and cyber crime.

Civil liberties groups say it is a horrible, unnecessary and expensive erosion of our freedoms.

Supporters of the plans say if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear.

As the plans come before the Commons and the Home Affairs Committee again, this week's big question is: should the security services be given access to your emails and social networking messages?

Zoe Vaughan

No: Zoe

So the government wants to stalk me. Actually, they want to stalk you as well.

No, they don't consider us guilty of any crime. We are innocent until proven guilty. They would, however, like to reserve the right to consider us guilty later. So they will be keeping track of all of our telephone conversations, Facebook postings, emails and Skype chats just on the off chance that we might turn out to be a terrorist mastermind.

I have nothing particularly interesting to hide - well, nothing that would in any way titillate a bunch of spooks locked away at GCHQ - but that doesn't mean I want everything I do and say recorded.

I have never expected much of my governments but protecting my freedom and my privacy is right up there at number one. It's what sets us apart from regimes in China and Iran.

It's not that I disagree with surveillance; I don't. I do, however, believe that the security services should at least suspect someone of a crime before they start following them about, tapping phones or reading their Facebook newsfeeds. And that they should apply to a judge before they start curtailing people's civil liberties.

I cannot think of any recent terrorist case where the perpetrators were not already know to police or security services. In fact, in many of the cases they were under surveillance and were either captured or through some horrible blunder went on to carry out their plot.

Then there's our track record on data protection: that we don't, can't, usually sell it. One can only shudder when you think of the "wrong hands" all of our information might fall into.

And what of mistakes? The Office of the Information Commissioner says that the moves could lead to innocent people being identified as criminals and terrorists. That there are one million innocent people on our DNA database doesn't exactly fill you with confidence.

For all this extra surveillance power, it will cost £2bn over the first decade. £380 per minute thereafter. This when the government has yet to advance a convincing argument as to what would have been prevented and who would have been captured were the crime fighters to have had this access to information before now.

We are already one of the most spied-upon countries on the planet. We can be snooped on for putting bins out on the wrong day for God's sake. We may have nothing to hide but we have everything to fear.

Nick Vaughan

Yes: Steve

If the government wants to look at my Facebook page and see which of my friends I have wished a happy birthday to or what inane message I have posted on my wall, then they are welcome. It is a waste of their time and money, but if they want the powers to do, go for it. I've nothing to hide.

Of course, it is not my Facebook messages or email conversations they want to monitor - it is terrorists, paedophiles, members of organised crime gangs, not you or me. Unless you are one of the above. As these groups find new ways to communicate with like-minded people and make plans for their criminal activities, the police and security services need the technological ability to monitor them and, with enough evidence, stop them.

Such groups are renowned for being ahead of the curve when it comes to hi-tech communications in order to avoid the authorities, and if the police and security services are unable to see who these people are talking to online, they will always be one step behind them. Without such assistance, how can they even hope to prevent these groups from carrying out their plans?

Have your say

Should security services get access to your social media and online chats?

3473 responses

  1. Yes

    17%
  2. No

    83%

It's not as though our Facebook sites are particularly secret anyway. Most of us take great pleasure in showing off to any "friend" we want where we have been, who we were with and when we were there. Most of it is so trivial, it barely interests our friends, never mind the spies.

Yes, that is flippant but the proposals by the government are only an extension of the powers that already exist. They already have the right to monitor our telephone calls. Internet service providers are obliged by an EU directive to keep details of users' web access, email and internet phone calls for 12 months.

Although the content of the calls is not kept, the sender, recipient, time of communication and geographical location is recorded. The government wants to update this to include social media and internet phone calls such as Skype. It makes sense to provide these technology assistance to protect the nation and its inhabitants.

Of course, the security services can't be allowed to do this without any kind of supervision or scrutiny. It cannot become open season on all our emails and Skype calls. So an independent body to insure there is no abuse of any system is essential along with the necessary safeguards and checks.

But when it comes down to it, these plans could save lives, prevent serious crime and stop people being victims of crime. Imagine if these proposals were scrapped and then there was a terrorist attack in this country or a paedophile ring was unearthed and it was discovered that these powers could have helped prevent the attack or the children from being abused.

How would you react to that? Surely that is more important than complaining about the fact that some spook could have a look at your embarrassing photos of a drunken night out with your mates on Facebook?