Internet cafés might spy to help combat terrorism

Internet cafés

If you are using public Wi-Fi in London any time soon then you had better be on your guard, the administrator of the Wi-Fi service may be watching you.

Apparently British police have asked all those who offer public web access in the UK capital to voluntarily keep an eye on what their customers are up to and to check what sort of things they are downloading, and of course to report any suspicious activity.

“It’s not about asking owners to spy on their customers, it’s about raising awareness” a police spokesman told Associate Press, anonymously, in line with the police force policy.

“We don’t ask them to pass on data for us.”

Of course they’re not going to say it’s spying, officially it’s all to counter terrorism, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the Metropolitan police are blatantly asking café owners to pry into what their customers are doing whilst on the net.

Some may think this is a positive move, the police obviously do, and will have no problem with it, others might see it as a step nearer to the big brother state and feel depressed about it, and then there are the civil libertarians who will be up in arms about it.

The system has been in operation for the past few weeks and posters with the Scotland Yard logo are appearing everywhere reminding people that they shouldn’t download “inappropriate or offensive content” although we’re not sure who decides what that is.

The thing is, anyone who thought they might indulge in dodgy activity and who sees the posters will either go somewhere else to do what they were going to do anyway, or they will cover up their tracks.

“You would expect any cyber criminal who had made the decision to use an Internet cafe to pretty much dust off their fingerprints” said Graham Cluley, a security expert with Sophos.

That being the case it means we’re less likely to catch them. All we’re left with is the issue of invasion of privacy as well as the problem of fear and irrational behaviour by panicked people.

“What you’re going to end up with is a lot of people reporting Muslims in Internet cafes” Simon Davies, the director of U.K.-based Privacy International told Associated Press.

“We don’t expect that our calls from a public phone would be monitored, anymore than we should expect our e-mails to be monitored” he said.

“As citizens we have to hold the line that there is a fundamental right of privacy of communications”.

So which camp are you in?

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