Communications Surveillance: Justification and Efficacy


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Presented at Media, Communications and Cultural Studies Assocation conference, London School of Economics, 7 Jan 2010

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  • Surveillance Net Yields Few Suspects. NSA's Hunt for Terrorists Scrutinizes Thousands of Americans, but Most Are Later Cleared. By Barton Gellman, Dafna Linzer and Carol D. Leonnig Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, February 5, 2006; Page A01
  • Communications Surveillance: Justification and Efficacy

    1. 1. Communications surveillance: justification and efficacy Ian Brown
    2. 2. UK surveillance regime <ul><li>Communications data stored under Data Retention Regulations 2009… </li></ul><ul><li>… accessed using Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (504,073 accesses in 2008) </li></ul><ul><li>Interception authorised under RIPA (1712 in 2008) </li></ul><ul><li>Intercept Modernisation Programme: “It is deeply worrying that they now intend to monitor social networking sites which contain very sensitive data like sexual orientation, religious beliefs and political views” –Tom Brake MP </li></ul>
    3. 3. Human rights in 21 st century <ul><li>“ This is as much an issue of modernity as liberty. We are trying to fight 21st century crime by 19th century means. It hasn't worked. It won't work.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think these civil liberties arguments are a bit outdated.” – Tony Blair (2006; 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>“ advance passenger information, airline bookings and other travel data, passport and biometric data, immigration, identity and border records, criminal records, and other governmental and private sector data, including financial and telephone and other communication records … and in some cases the ability to apply data mining and pattern recognition software to databases, might well be the key to effective pre-emption in future terrorist cases.” –Sir David Omand (2009) p.9 </li></ul>
    4. 4. Trust us! <ul><li>“ Finding out other people’s secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules. So public trust in the essential reasonableness of UK police, security and intelligence agency activity will continue to be essential.” –David Omand (2009) p.9 </li></ul><ul><li>“ I have been impressed by the quality, dedication and enthusiasm of the personnel carrying out this work” –Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2007 p.2 </li></ul>
    5. 5. Efficacy of data mining <ul><li>~5000 Americans surveilled over 4 years; led to <10 warrants per year </li></ul><ul><li>“ [T]here is not a consensus within the relevant scientific community nor on the committee regarding whether any behavioral surveillance … techniques are ready for use at all in the counterterrorist context&quot; –US National Research Council (2008) p.4 </li></ul>
    6. 6. Conclusions <ul><li>Fundamental rights are not invalidated by modernity </li></ul><ul><li>“ Automated identification of terrorists through data mining (or any other known methodology) is neither feasible as an objective nor desirable as a goal of technology development efforts.” –US National Research Council (2008) p.4 </li></ul>
    7. 7. References <ul><li>US National Research Council (2008) Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists: A Framework for Program Assessment , National Academies Press </li></ul><ul><li>I. Brown & D. Korff (2009) Terrorism and the Proportionality of Internet Surveillance , European Journal of Criminology, 6(2) pp.119-134 </li></ul><ul><li>D. Omand (2009) The National Security Strategy: 
Implications for the UK intelligence community , Institute for Public Policy Research </li></ul>