Govt database U-Turn is nothing of the sort

Typing on keyboard
The government still wants to track your emails, Facebook connections and everything else you do online

In an unexpected press conference yesterday, Doctor Evil admitted that his unpopular plans for "sharks with frickin' laser beams" were "extreme" and too expensive, so the entire programme is being scrapped.

However, when journalists examined the details of the policy, they discovered that Doctor Evil's programme is still going ahead.

Sharks are still being fitted with laser beams, but Doctor Evil has renamed the beams as "big torches."

While he was doing that, Jacqui Smith announced the end of the super database that would monitor everything we do online. Smith's decision was based on privacy concerns, and she admitted that the plans were "extreme".

Ding dong, the database is dead. Isn't it?

Nope. Now, instead of monitoring everything we do online, the government is going to ensure that everything we do online is monitored.

Can't tell the difference? Neither can we. The only thing that's changed is that the government isn't going to store the data centrally. The data, however, will still be collected.

Let's look at the details. One of the concerns was that everything would be stored against a single ID, raising the possibility of "database fishing". Will the scrapping of the central database change that? Nope.

"Under the proposals an individual or household will be given a user ID so the company would be able to organise all the data linked to that ID," The Independent reports, and that data could be requested and collated by the same clowns who've been trying to spy on dog owners.

The government is still interested in tracking people's connections on social networks such as Facebook. And it's still going to cost money: to compensate ISPs and other communications firms for the extra costs of storing all that data, the government's going to spend £2 billion.

Most importantly of all, the government is still hell-bent on perverting the relationship between citizens and the state. Instead of identifying suspects and then starting to gather evidence on them, the powers gather evidence on everybody on the off-chance they'll do something dodgy in the future,

As Dr Richard Clayton of Cambridge University told The Register: "The Government seems to have bottled out from proposing a central communications database, because it is easy for anyone to understand how disproportionate it would be. But they are still proposing to force the ISPs and phone companies to record all the details about every website visit, every instant message, every tweet and every glance at a Facebook page."

In other words, nothing has really changed. The government has renamed "frickin' laser beams" as "big torches", but it's still sticking things to sharks.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.