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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

British Government Will Scan Envelopes

Along with emails, the UK government decided to control snail mail as well. The country’s Communications Data Bill, which was especially designed for electronics, might also be used to monitor the snail mail.

The suggested legislation means that Internet service providers will have to store information on all emails passing through their systems, but the matter is that this provision is worded in such a way that it could force the Royal Mail to do the same thing. If it does, this will remove the established belief that the post is sacrosanct at least without a court order.

Media reports claim the Home Office knows that the suggested legislation covers this part, but yet has no plans to force the Royal Mail to scan paper mail. However, this is still a bit worrying: the experts start to believe that if the Communications Bill gets through, it’ll be under some bogus pretext that its aim is to save the world from terrorists.

According to the Home Office, the draft bill would only maintain existing powers over postal data and only information about mail, not its contents, would be retained. It means that the Post Office would have to scan every envelope and store it for a year.

According to the Communications Bill, the Royal Mail, along with other postal services, would be asked to retain whatever written on the outside of the items sent for 12 months and provide them to the police, security services and HM Revenue and Customs upon request. The only question is how this could help in the spying market. It suggests that each letter should have data on the outside about who and where it comes from.

This could work if each letter or parcel was signed “Blofeld, C/- Volcanic Island lair, Scotland”. However, criminal capers don’t usually involve such wholesale giveaways, and a pedophile won’t mark his post with a sticker “contains snaps of kids being raped” on the envelope either. Nor the parcels containing anthrax would warn about their contents or wear the code of the terrorist who sent them.

The civil liberties groups called this bill a “snooper's charter”, while it is strangely a bankruptcy charter as well. The suggested legislation also includes provision helping postal services and other communications providers install new equipment to comply with the legislation. This “help” is estimated at £1.8 billion over the next decade

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