From today, Internet users in the UK will be monitored more than ever by the British Government. Beware the Ides of March, all politicians are told, but that’s exactly when the new European law on email monitoring takes place. It will inevitably fail.
The scam being put upon all of us is a fraud perpetuated by a Government which consistently fails to understand even the most basic things about the Internet. The fraudulent claim is that the storage of the background details of emails that are sent or received within the UK will protect us from evil, such as terrorism.
The idea, apparently, is that by having all your email details stored the Government’s crime fighters will be able to track down those evil people determined to do us all harm. I’m not sure how my email to one of my clients giving them a useful web page link helps much. Nor the email I received from my mate with a joke the other day.
Proponents of the Government nonsense will tell us that it’s not these kind of emails that really interest the powers-that-be. Rather, they want to be able to find the instructions for bomb making sent by email, or the appointments being made between terrorists. Well that is going to take some search program to find things – there are more than 100 billion emails sent every day. Besides which, the content of emails will not be stored anyway – only the route, who it was sent to, when and who from.
But the most stupid aspect of this law – and the reason why it is a complete scam – is that terrorists will never be caught by it. Indeed, any one of us can avoid being found out. You simply use freely available web services to do two things. Firstly, you obtain a “disposable” email address without any need to sign up, such as Mailinator. And you use the service from Internet cafe’s so you remain anonymous. Even if the authorities do work things out, all they will know is that someone who used that Internet cafe used a specific email address, which by then will have disappeared.
Services that offer disposable, anonymous email addresses have been around for at least five years now. So it begs the question, why the law? Terrorists, or anyone else trying to avoid detection, already know how to do this. Indeed, they almost certainly use encryption methods that will take code-breakers at MI5 and MI6 hundreds of years to force their way through.
The law that comes into force today will ensure that every email you send is stored for a period of one year from the date it is sent. But emails from those wishing harm on us all will be “secret” and effectively outside the prying eyes of the Government anyway.
Anyone with even half an ounce of Internet knowledge would know this. So why don’t our legislators? Probably they do; but they reckon that most of the country doesn’t. The new law, however unworkable or ridiculous then has the benefit of making the Government appear to be acting on terrorism and taking the whole thing seriously. They know that’s tosh; what they don’t seem to realise is that most of us do as well and we can see through their ridiculous claims.
They should remember that on the 15th March in the year AD44, a group of people managed to plot in secret to act together to kill Caesar. On the 15th March 2009 there are bound to be groups of people discussing how to bring this Government down, either by fair means or foul. The problem is that this new law will be of no help to the Government. Those plots will all still be in secret – just like they were in Caesar’s day.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+