Thursday, 13 March 2014

GCHQ: Spying on on innocent people's cyber sex sessions in order to "protect" them

In late February 2014 it was revealed that GCHQ had used a hacking programme codenamed "Optic Nerve" to spy on Yahoo chat and steal screenshots from millions of conversations between people that were not suspected of committing any crime whatever.

The mainstream press focused on fact that some 11% of all the pictures that GCHQ stole contained nudity, but the bigger story here is not that the UK government spent taxpayers' money harvesting images of hundreds of thousands of innocent people all over the world having cyber sex, it is the fact that they clearly consider absolutely everyone to be a potential target and "fair game" for unwarranted surveillance.

In my view there is a case to be argued that the state has a duty to spy on people that are a clear threat to the rest of society (terrorists, murderers, predatory paedophiles etc) however, there should be a legal framework through which such surveillance operations should be conducted, so that the system cannot be abused.

If the secret services have reasonable grounds to suspect that an individual is a threat to society they should have to apply for a warrant from a judge in order to hack into their communications. Additionally, all secret service activities should be conducted under rigorous democratic scrutiny, so that the intelligence services can't just spy on whoever they like with absolute impunity (until someone eventually leaks details of what they've been doing).

There is a massive difference between this kind of warranted and democratically accountable surveillance, and the invasive and legally dubious mass data trawling exercises that GCHQ have been caught out using.

Just a few days after the news broke that GCHQ had been hacking into hundreds of thousands of kinky webchats in order to steal screenshots, the Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood told the Lib Dem Spring conference that GCHQ has been subjected to "inaccurate criticism" by "people it is seeking to protect" as he attempted to defend this kind of unwarranted mass surveillance.

So presumably GCHQ were "seeking to protect" these people by stealing screenshots of their kinky cyber sex sessions and private personal conversations?

Attempting to dress GCHQ up as the innocent victims in this scenario is an absolutely shameful tactic. GCHQ are not the innocent victims, they are the violators of our right to privacy.

It is a clear demonstration of their out-of-touch arrogance that they can even consider dressing themselves up as the victims, and to create the absurd fiction that the only way to "protect" innocent people is to spy on them.

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How NSA overreach is worse than terrorism
The Tory "War on Justice"
Secret Courts and the very Illiberal Democrats
David Cameron's witch hunt against truth and openness 
The forgotten victims of 9/11
What is... Neoliberalism?
The "golden hammer" of neoliberalism
How David Cameron's internet firewall would change the Internet
Libeling the evidence, the Iain Duncan Smith fallacy


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