The British State’s desire for its citizens’ private data is becoming unquenchable.
As part of a minor act of disobedience, I decided to send two Freedom of Information requests. The first to the Home Secretary asking for her email metadata. The second to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey asking for her web browsing history. After all, if they can spy on me, why can’t I spy on how they’re using their taxpayer-funded computers?
Unsurprisingly, the Home Office rejected my request saying that it was “vexatious” and it was a “scattergun approach and seems solely designed for the purpose of ‘fishing’ for information without any idea of what might be revealed.”
Well duh! Of course, in so doing, they rather eloquently prove my point – trawling vast troves of data with no idea what you’re looking for is a dangerous pursuit.
What was more surprising is that Surrey Police approved my request!
I started out by making an FoI request on Twitter (a perfectly valid way to make a request).
— Terence Eden (@edent) November 1, 2015
After a few delays…
@edent Sorry for the delay. We're still processing your request & expect to send a final response within 2 weeks. Will update if any change.
— Surrey Police (@SurreyPolice) December 1, 2015
I received the answer…
— Surrey Police (@SurreyPolice) January 12, 2016
You can download the entire report as a PDF.
A few points to note…
- Fair play, I wasn’t expecting them to release this! It does somewhat undermine my argument that the state keeps secret information it desires from its citizens.
- It’s a PDF – so not quite open data – but good enough.
- I’m not convinced that the data are entirely accurate. Doesn’t seem like a lot of usage – and a suspicious lack of tracking data is reported (although that may well be hidden by their automated reporting tools).
- It’s possible to draw some (incorrect) conclusions from the data.
— Jacob Aron (@jjaron) January 13, 2016
— Lynne Owens (@NCA_LynneOwens) January 13, 2016
The Government want a lot more data that this – and will give it to potentially hundreds of organisations. The risk of your late night browsing sessions leaking remains high.
If you’re interested in joining the fight against the Surveillance State, please become a supporter of The Open Rights Group.