Various UK government proposals to track UK citizens' emails and other online activity have been sharply criticised by vnunet.com readers, with a deluge of comments on our stories and a resounding result in our associated poll.
Asked whether the government should be allowed to track our emails and internet use, three-quarters of the 202 respondents replied either 'No, the government cannot be trusted with our data' or 'No, personal privacy is a fundamental right'.
Of the remaining participants, 16 per cent said 'Maybe, but only in cases of national security', while seven per cent said 'Yes, but strict procedures need to be in place'. Just two per cent said 'Yes, security trumps some freedoms'.
The vnunet.com stories covered the Home Office awarding new powers to the police and MI5 allowing them to hack into personal computers without a warrant; and the UK government planning to outsource the development of a super-database that would hold details of the phone calls, text messages, emails and internet use of every UK citizen.
These stories generated a huge response, with almost every reader who submitted a comment slamming the announcements as a major invasion of privacy and human rights.
One user going simply by the emoticon :) wrote: "That's a step too far. They should not get the right to just hack into someone's PC. They say they are going to use key-loggers. It's like going into someone's house, putting up cameras and mics without a warrant."
Another reader dubbed Frank asked: 'If the police have evidence or reason to believe someone's computer is being used for illegal activities, then what is wrong with seeking a warrant and thereby having to make a case for mooching through someone's personal files?"
Stuart Malcol wrote: "Thank you to our over-the-top government. We are now living in an open prison. The government and police CANNOT be trusted to not abuse these powers. Just because you can, does not mean you should."
However, at least one reader was not against the proposals. "If you have nothing to hide and are not up to no good you have nothing to worry about, and our streets will be safer. I'm not perfect and I don't lead a perfect life, but I'd rather the government nosey in on my life if we can lessen the threat of bad people," wrote Simon.
The news of the super-database has also been condemned by IT companies, which have questioned the need for such a centralised repository, and the security implications.
"It goes without saying that it's been a catastrophic year for data loss. Over the past 12 months, consumers have been left vulnerable because of the lackadaisical approach to protecting data," said Gary Clark, EMEA vice president at security firm SafeNet.
"All organisations have a responsibility to protect the information they hold. The public should be able to trust that [the authorities] are using stringent practices to secure data and have the necessary safeguards in place to protect it.
"These include identifying process weaknesses, adopting robust security standards and, most importantly, encrypting all sensitive data."
Chris Mayers, chief security architect at Citrix, added: "The government's responsibility is to uphold national security and protect the public. Building a single national database that holds information about every email sent will achieve neither aim.
"The information will come from ISPs and telcos. Today, law enforcement can simply request that these organisations provide the information under court order. A centralised database merely magnifies the security and privacy risks and associated costs of strict safeguards."
Similarly, unified communications security specialist Facetime pointed out that many citizens will simply find ways round this by using instant messaging and social networks to bypass these monitors.
Despite the vocal outcry against the moves, the UK government has shown no signs of reversing or altering its plans.
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