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The Intercept Modernisation Programme is a plan to centralise communications data in a government database, where it would be much more available for data mining for unusual patterns of behaviour.
A typical application would be tracing the structures of individuals’ friendships and communications patterns.
In addition to this, it is planned to field Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) equipment that will look at the content of people’s Internet communications in order to determine who is talking to them in cases where this is not evident from the source and destination of the data packets.
For example, DPI boxes could record people’s coordinates in Second Life, and their webmail inbox screens. It is most unlikely that the average citizen will agree with the intelligence agencies’ argument that this is merely ‘traffic data’; an attempt to define full URLs as traffic data was defeated during the passage of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill.
The Government trailed the idea of taking powers to do all this in primary legislation; the story now is that there will be a consultation in May 2009. Meanwhile we understand that the construction of a prototype of the database is under way.
The fact that communications data is currently kept in separate locations under the control of telephone companies and ISPs provides a practical safeguard against abuse; agencies have to serve notices on these companies to retrieve specific data.
They must also cover the costs of doing so, which provides an incentive for officials to consider the proportionality of requests.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has commented that the plans are “a step too far for the British way of life” and said that:
“...before major new databases are launched careful consideration must be given to the impact on individuals’ liberties and on society as a whole. Sadly, there have been too many developments where there has not been sufficient openness, transparency or public debate.”
Given this assessment, the public opposition, the huge cost of the exercise, and the intent to reduce the costs of surveillance to the point that, instead of being able to watch anybody, the intelligence services would be able to watch everybody, the Foundation for Information Policy Research rate this as Privacy impact: red.
Review on Amazon
Was IBM, "The Solutions Company," partly responsible for the Final Solution? That's the question raised by Edwin Black's IBM and the Holocaust, the most controversial book on the subject since Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners. Black, a son of Holocaust survivors, is less tendentiously simplistic than Goldhagen, but his thesis is no less provocative: he argues that IBM founder Thomas Watson deserved the Merit Cross (Germany's second-highest honor) awarded him by Hitler, his second-biggest customer on earth.
"IBM, primarily through its German subsidiary, made Hitler's program of Jewish destruction a technologic mission the company pursued with chilling success," writes Black. "IBM had almost single-handedly brought modern warfare into the information age [and] virtually put the 'blitz' in the krieg." The crucial technology was a precursor to the computer, the IBM Hollerith punch card machine, which Black glimpsed on exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, inspiring his five-year, top-secret book project.
The Hollerith was used to tabulate and alphabetize census data. Black says the Hollerith and its punch card data ("hole 3 signified homosexual ... hole 8 designated a Jew") was indispensable in rounding up prisoners, keeping the trains fully packed and on time, tallying the deaths, and organizing the entire war effort. Hitler's regime was fantastically, suicidally chaotic; could IBM have been the cause of its sole competence: mass-murdering civilians? Better scholars than I must sift through and appraise Black's mountainous evidence, but clearly the assessment is overdue.
The moral argument turns on one question: How much did IBM New York know about IBM Germany's work, and when? Black documents a scary game of brinksmanship orchestrated by IBM chief Watson, who walked a fine line between enraging U.S. officials and infuriating Hitler. He shamefully delayed returning the Nazi medal until forced to--and when he did return it, the Nazis almost kicked IBM and its crucial machines out of Germany. (Hitler was prone to self-defeating decisions, as demonstrated in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II.)
Black has created a must-read work of history. But it's also a fascinating business book examining the colliding influences of personality, morality, and cold strategic calculation. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The publisher has ordered a print run of 100,000 copies, indicating that they expect high demand for this contentious expose. The author asserts that a collusion existed between IBM Corporation and the government of the Third Reich, wherein IBM supplied the technology enabling Nazi authorities to systematize their persecution of European Jews. Expect much discussion in the press and on the street about this very controversial book. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.