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By GCN Staff

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Big Brother may listen in Britain

The British government's Home Office reportedly is considering building a massive database of virtually all the electronic communications generated by residents of the United Kingdom, including voice and data communications along with Web site views and other online traffic.

This information comes to us from The Times of London, along with more than 450 comments, most from Britons objecting either strenuously or cynically to the database proposal.

The Home Office may seek legislation to launch the new database, which reportedly will include data mining or advanced analytic features to assist authorities in their work against criminal and espionage activities.

Reports about plans for the database have evoked taunts aimed at the British government's multiple data security gaffes ' a topic familiar to our readers.

Many observers believe that similar information is available in the United States, although not in a single database accessible to law enforcement authorities.

Representatives of the U.S. intelligence community frequently cite the statutory limits they observe in their surveillance of U.S. citizens. The question of whether a so-called natural person is a U.S. citizen or a company is a U.S. person with regard to its corporate status can point to a legal quagmire that eavesdropping equipment would be hard-pressed to navigate.

If Britain does launch a database along the lines described by the Home Office, U.S. companies that sell data-mining software likely will line up to sell their products and services to Her Majesty's government. Those companies will be able to cite some of the daunting crime detection tasks they have carried out with their data-mining apps when analyzing massive federal databases that hold clues to multimillion-dollar health care frauds, among other types of wrongdoing.

Posted by Wilson P. Dizard III on May 27, 2008 at 9:39 AM


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