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News from a World gone mad

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Date

April 20, 2016

Brits blindly walking into Orwellian surveillance state, survey suggests

A CCTV camera is seen in front of a large poster opposite a London Underground Station in central London © Toby Melville

Britain is sleep-walking into an Orwellian surveillance state, with most of its citizens unaware of or disinterested in the far-reaching implications of the government’s Investigatory Powers (IP) Bill, a new survey suggests.

A poll conducted by broadband comparison site Broadband Genie reveals the widespread confusion many Brits are experiencing with respect to the soon-to-be-implemented legislation.

Known to its opponents as the “snoopers’ charter,” the bill will give UK law enforcement bodies unprecedented access to citizens’ online activities.

It will allow them to force broadband providers such as BT and Virgin to store people’s internet browsing history and hand over this data to the state in the absence of judicial oversight.

© broadbandgenie.co.uk

Intelligence agencies and government bodies such as the National Crime Agency (NCA) will also be allowed to hack citizens’ internet networks, personal computers and other devices.

While the government says the legislation is vital to combating organized crime and terrorism, privacy rights advocates say it goes too far. They argue unlimited access to citizens’ private communications and devices should be a real concern for British people.

© broadbandgenie.co.uk

Of 1,600 respondents surveyed by Broadband Genie, 75 percent said they had not heard of the IP Bill. Asked if they backed the government’s plans to ramp up mass surveillance in Britain, a third said they didn’t care either way.

Fifty percent of those surveyed said law enforcement agencies should not have access to citizens’ encrypted communications and devices.

Privacy International (PI), which specializes in the field of mass surveillance and privacy rights, says the IP Bill will give police deeply intrusive snooping powers, allowing for the installation of malware on citizens’ computers.

Such a move would empower UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies to spy on citizens by activating their microphones and webcams. PI also warns the draft legislation would allow UK authorities to remotely gain access to files on citizens’ computers and erode data security on their personal devices, without them knowing.

It currently remains unclear who will pay for the implementation and maintenance of the infrastructure needed to accompany these legislative changes. Experts suggest the cost could spiral into billions of pounds.

PI also warns UK citizens’ internet browsing history will be obtainable by police in the absence of a warrant, and the cost of turning Britain into an Orwellian surveillance state is currently unknown.

“A recent estimate was £1.2 billion [about US$1.7 billion], or more than seven times the highest Home Office estimate. This cost could be passed to you and would mean higher broadband and mobile phone bills. You will be paying for the police to spy on you,” the group said.

“With this money they could employ 3,000 more full-time police officers for a decade – at a time of spending cuts across police forces. Mass surveillance of the population does not make us safer, but police officers on the streets do.

“Our police already have very powerful investigation and surveillance capabilities. They do not need such intrusive powers that will impact on everyone’s right to privacy.
“We are calling on internet service providers to publicly oppose the bill in its current form.”

SOURCE: RT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Scientists May Soon Be Unable To Speak Freely About Their Research

photo credit: As Canada moves forwards, the U.K. takes a step back. lakov Kalinin/Shutterstock

Science is, by its very nature, objective. It uses data, backed up by demonstrable, empirical evidence, to try and explain as much of life, the universe, and everything as possible. The facts are often willfully distorted by politicians, though, particularly when it comes to man-made climate change and, on occasion, vaccines.

Sometimes, however, the facts are completely suppressed by political agencies. This was most recently and publically demonstrated in Canada under the Harper administration, when researchers funded by the state were banned from talking freely to the media. Even when they could speak out, their responses were highly moderated and censored by the government. Now, a similar thing may be about to happen in the U.K.

As reported by the Guardian, many British scientists will soon be legally blocked from speaking out on key issues affecting the nation, from genetic modification and stem cell research to dietary dangers and, yes, climate change. In a depressing state of affairs, the British government is about to adopt the very same Canadian-style gagging system just as the newly-installed Trudeau government there has repealed it.

“This is extremely worrying,” William Sutherland, a professor of zoology at the University of Cambridge, told the Guardian. “If they go ahead with this new anti-lobbying clause, then we will have many more poor decisions being made by government for the simple reason that it will have starved itself of proper scientific advice.”

Fracking researchers, if government-funded, may not be allowed to effectively speak out on any negative effects they may uncover. Calin Tatu/Shutterstock

As of May, researchers that received grants from the government – which covers a broad range of topics, and a vast number of academic institutions – will not be allowed to use the results of their research to lobby politicians for change. The aim of the edict, proposed by the Cabinet Office, is to stop non-governmental organizations trying to affect legislative change. Senior scientists and research groups see this, quite rightly, as a straightforward assault on academic freedom.

The now-scrapped Canadian system was primarily aimed at federally funded scientists working in fossil fuel extraction industries. It’s clear that not only are fossil fuels dooming the planet through dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, but their extraction is contributing tonnes of toxins to worsening air pollution. Fracking, a relatively new form of natural gas extraction, is proving particularly controversial.

Of course, stopping scientists talking about the negative effects of these industries will exacerbate climate change, while improving the short-term economic prospects of those industries. At the time, the Canadian government was keen to ignore the former and focus on the latter. With fracking on the increase in the U.K. thanks to its government support, this new gagging order will no doubt have the same effect.

Although the Cabinet Office said that it might consider waivers for certain researchers, allowing them to speak out on certain issues, nothing has come of it so far. Fiona Fox, head of the Science Media Centre, said that if passed, this clause will “be a victory for ignorance and a blow for the evidence-based policy that our politicians claim to want.”

Science is, at heart, a search for truth – it cannot, by nature, be gagged and still operate properly. If you are worried by this, get in touch with the government or sign this petition.

Source: IFLScience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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