Debate: Should the UK government have access to search engine records to help fight crime?

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Debate: Should the UK government have access to search engine records to help fight crime?

FOR - Conleth McCallan, MD of ISP Datanet

The ISP community are the custodians of the nation's internet services and it is now our time to stand up and be counted and do our bit for the security of the nation. Enquiries we have made suggest there is also a great willingness in UK businesses to assist in national security, even at the expense of surrendering some personal freedom.

Businesses are only too aware of the cost of crime and acts of terrorism, both in human and commercial terms. They are also aware that the internet has become an invaluable and critical business tool and, as such, should be subject to the same security considerations as the mail or telephone.

So, is it possible that real, reliable and helpful information could be made available that might lead to the identity or source of the criminal individual? Well, within reason, yes. Log files are kept for months and can be used to identify the source and destination of an email. Fixed IP addresses and Radius logs for dynamic IP addresses can be used to identify originating connections and PCs."

AGAINST - Mark Owen, security manager, securetrading

IT systems are connected to the internet un-patched and vulnerable. Criminal organisations are spoilt for choice when it comes to "borrowing" compromised computers to carry out their actions. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are instigated by a small gang of criminals, whereas the attack itself is performed by a far greater network of zombie computers.

Looking for criminal activity in search engine records might lead to the discovery of an imminent terrorist action in the UK, but the information could be deliberately planted by the terrorists to distract the government.

For those individuals unaware or unable to mask their identities, the use of such records could provide a starting point to discover an impending crime. But are they criminals?

The use of such information is in breach of a person's privacy, but if the information is of genuine use in the apprehension of criminals, or helps to thwart the next 9/11 or 7/7, then there is some merit in allowing the government access to it.

Copyright © SC Magazine, US edition

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