View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 9 November 2009

Internet surveillance

The Home Office in the UK is going to ask communication service providers to retain records of who is in touch with who on the Internet. This applies mainly to social networking sites, e.g. Facebook and Twitter. Powers of intercept already exist for telephone communcations, and according to the government need to be extended to the Internet. This would be primarily in the fields of combating crime and safeguarding national security. The content of the actual conversation would not be divulged to the police or security services.

I believe that there is a distinct difference between phone tapping and monitoring internet traffic. Phone tapping is directed against one specific telephone connection; the above described proposals can be compared to the retention of DNA samples from anyone arrested, even if they were not subsequently charged or, following a trial, acquitted. This proposed policy goes one step further, in that any contact on the internet can be monitored without limitation - whether an offence has been committed or not, and whether national security is seen to be at stake or not.

I realise that there is a genuine case for monitoring internet traffic in combating crime and safeguarding national security. But this is an intrusion into people's privacy, and we all want to be able to be in touch with whoever we wish, without the state peeping over our shoulders. I hope that proper safeguards will be in place to ensure our privacy.

Monday 9 November

Overcast today with a line of rain moving in from the Atlantic. It'll be here before nightfall. Hurricane Ida is weakening as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico; current thinking from the National Hurricane Center places landfall between Pascagoula (MS) and Indian Pass (FL) overnight local time. The storm will just about be at hurricane strength. Beware of tornadoes and the rainfall totals, which could top 8 inches from the Gulf Coast to the Appalachians and the Tennessee Valley.

9 November 1938 - an organised mob of Nazi forces and sympathisers go on the rampage in towns and cities across Germany, smashing and destroying Jewish-owned property and businesses. It was to be a marker, to what was to come during World War II - the extermination of anyone deemed sub-human by the warped mind of Adolf Hitler and his henchmen. Jews topped their league of the unfit, closely followed by gypsies, the mentally ill and many many others. The Reichskristallnacht was a night of infamy, and not just to Germany.

9 November 1989 - a premature announcement about the opening of the East German borders leads to a spontaneous breaking of the border control points in Berlin. Nobody interferes, and the night is one of delirious happiness. The oppressive regime of Erich Honecker is at an end, something that the Soviet leaders had been anticipating and allowing to happen. It was the preamble to the collapse of another regime of oppression in Europe, that of communism.

9 November is referred to in Germany as the Night of Fate. Many key events in the country's history appear to take place on this date. I am very happy that the Wall came down in 1989, and hope that the Berliners have a great day of it today. I sincerely hope they do not forget that the Fall of the Wall ended what the Night of Broken Glass commenced.