August 3, 2012
On May 9th, 2012, Queen Elizabeth II addressed the British Parliament and dealt a blow to the privacy of every person living in or visiting the UK. From her speech:
My government intends to bring forward measures to maintain the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public, subject to scrutiny of draft clauses.
What is the UK government’s plan to implement this new power for law enforcement?
The Draft Communications Data Bill plans to expand the scope of data required to be retained by ISPs and telecommunications companies, as well as increasing the duration that data is to be retained. It also requires these companies to open their data centers fully to government inspection. What will this bill’s scope include?
- Every phone call you make or receive from a land line, mobile phone, or VoIP account (think Skype or Vonage)
- If possible, where you were when you made or received the phone call
- Every email you send or receive
- Every chat conversation you have
- Every website you visit, and what you viewed on that website
The scope of this bill includes accessing social networks outside the UK, such as Facebook and Twitter, which were not within the scope of previous laws.
All this information will be collected and routed to the GCHQ (similar to the NSA in the United States), where it will be analyzed in real-time.
In essence, the government proposes to violate your communications privacy … and the privacy of everyone you contact. The bill will affect you whether you are living permanently in the UK or just visiting.
We have all heard the arguments about why the government needs to collect this information. They need to keep everyone safe from terrorists, child molesters, and criminal organizations. But if we REALLY want to know why the UK government wants this bill, let’s dive into the details. Specifically, on page 25 (page 29 of the PDF), look for this section near the middle of the page:
(6) For the purposes of this section it is necessary to obtain communications data for a permitted purpose if it is necessary to do so-
(g) for the purpose of assessing or collecting any tax, duty, levy or other imposition, contribution or charge payable to a government department
Ah … so, in addition to all the other “criminals” the government claims they want to protect you from, they want to violate your privacy to make sure you are paying all the taxes they think are due … because you might be a criminal too! This authority can be granted to any UK government authority at any level who believes you owe them money. So this is NOT exclusively a tool for national security or law enforcement!
Planting Your Electronic Flag Elsewhere Is Essential
I don’t write these articles to scare readers … though the content is often both scary and offensive to those who value their privacy. I write this so that people will take action. Right now. Today.
The majority of people who read articles from International Man are looking at how to internationalize and diversify their assets and investments outside of their home country. This is often as much due to the opportunities that are available as it is to protect their assets, investments, and even themselves from predatory governments. To put your plan in place, you will be working with real estate brokers, investment advisors, lawyers, bankers and others from all over the world.
Why ruin all the work you are putting into your international diversification plan by doing all this from an email account in your home country? Or contacting your foreign residency and passport specialist from your home phone?
Simply put, you are planting banking, investment and residency flags internationally to get security, privacy, and opportunity. You need to plant electronic flags internationally for the same reasons.
We discussed how to select an international email service in a previous article here at International Man. Getting your email communications outside of your current jurisdiction makes it much more difficult for your home authorities to read what you are sending out. This is even more important when what you are internationalizing is not something that is required to be reported at home (such as directly-held international real estate for US citizens). Send and store your email about those activities on a system outside of your home country.
We have also discussed how to select and use a VPN service to give you privacy from governments and hackers alike when using the Internet. When governments take the step of recording all internet traffic, like outlined above, using a VPN service to protect all the data leaving your computer is the ONLY way to take back some of your privacy.
The Next Steps
If you are putting together a plan for international diversification, make a note in the plan to acquire an email account in another jurisdiction. (Ideally, in a different jurisdiction than one you are planning to live in, as well. Remember that all your flags should be diversified!) Getting an international email account will be one of the easiest steps in the plan, by far.
If you have already started working with people overseas and are discussing sensitive topics, get an international email account immediately, and start using it. You cannot remove the emails that the government may have already recorded, but you can stop sending them more.
Look into the various VPN options which are available. Various VPN service providers have been discussed in the International Man forum (if you’re not yet an IM member, you can join here for free). Make a decision, and subscribe to a service. Use this VPN when connecting to your international email account and any websites needed to access overseas accounts.