THE BLOG

Shock Increase in Cost of Spying on Innocent Brits

30/03/2016 10:49 | Updated 30 March 2016

The UK Home Office has massively under-estimated the cost of introducing sweeping new powers to record everything we do on the Internet. Denmark planned to bring in a similar system but quickly scrapped it, for a second time, because it is unaffordable. The Home Secretary should do the same.

The planned Internet Connection Records (ICRs) would cover all of us, every UK Internet user, even if we are not suspected of doing anything remotely criminal. They want to record absolutely everything we do online - browsing, Facebook, Snapchat, Skype, dating, banking, shopping, email, the whole lot.

No other country apart from Russia treats all its citizens as suspects in this way. When Denmark tried it they found it was useless and it was scrapped. Two months ago the Danes tried again, using a method almost identical to the one planned by the British government.

But when they had the budget checked out by independent consultants they promptly dropped the idea again because of its huge cost. The equivalent cost for ICRs in the UK would be over £1,200M which is more than 7 times the government guesstimate.

The fact that the Home Office has spectacularly under-estimated the cost of introducing this controversial new snooping power won't surprise anyone. Only two weeks ago the Met Police scrapped their new 999 system having wasted £65M without it ever going live.

This news about the real cost should be the final nail in the coffin for ICRs. The government should admit they have got it wrong and delete it from the Bill currently going through Parliament.

We already know that technically it would be very hard to make it work. The Danes found that it was about as useful as a chocolate teapot for catching criminals or preventing terrorism and anyway it is very easy for the bad guys to evade.

What's worse is that collecting everyone's data would put every British Internet user at risk of having their most intimate information stolen by hackers, thieves, and blackmailers.

On top of all that, we now know that it would cost a fortune. That £1.2Billion could make us a lot safer if instead it was spent on reversing cuts in community policing rather than spying on every UK citizen.

That's what senior policemen are telling me and they know a lot more about what is happening on the streets than any Home Office mandarin.

Lord Strasburger is a Liberal Democrat peer who sat on the Parliamentary Committee that scrutinised the draft Investigatory Powers Bill

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