United Kingdom: Barcamp Transparency to discuss Internet monitoring by government

A new U.K. government plan to monitor all email, phone calls, and internet use as part of a counter-terrorism initiative has already sparked lots of negative commentary in forums and blogs. It makes even more timely an upcoming Barcamp Transparency meeting in Oxford on 26 July, 2009 where internet enthusiasts will discuss and consider how to support privacy, freedom of speech and web 2.0 ethics in the United Kingdom and around the world.

A “BarCamp” is a meeting format where networks of people organize a public event using the internet, collaborating openly on the agenda. The idea for BarCamp Transparency arose in April during a session at BarCamp Apache Oxford on cyberactivism that demonstrated substantial interest from attendees in discussing everything related to privacy online.


The U.K. may not be famous for its lack of privacy or freedom of expression, but readers of news articles about the government's new surveillance plans have left numerous concerned comments in online forums.

A BBC News article by Dominic Cascani is the subject of discussion on the RichardDawkins.net website.

Widecora from the UK, posts in response to the article:

What if I don't care if I get blown up by a terrorist? Can I have my privacy back, please?

Ficklefiend from Scotland, agrees:

WTF? p.s- exactly how many murderers do they estimate send the details of their exploits via email?

On Livejournal, a newspaper article from The Independent also receives many responses, including one from Mannygoldstein who thinks the reference to terrorism disingenuous:

Are things not now grotesquely out of proportion? There are many threats to the safety and security of the UK and its citizens but they cover a whole gamut of items including road accidents, swine flu and lightning! How many deaths and injuries have resulted from terrorism and how many resources have been spent on ‘security’ to protect the public from such a threat?

Spreading the word

Derryquinn has created a video on YouTube against government surveillance and censorship and writes: “Please spread this video around, refuse censorship of the web. Send this message to your local councillors, whatever country you are in. Tell them you will not stand for orwellian monitoring of the internet.”

Bloggers have also reacted.

Richard at How This Old Brit Sees It… thinks the new idea is insane:

Bloody brilliant, eh? That'll teach the bad guys, eh? That'll stop ‘em, eh? That'll certainly make us all a lot safer, eh?

Since the baddies won't be reading & hearing what everyone else now is, eh? So they won't increasingly simply start switching back to using all sorts of ‘good old fashioned’ low-tech stuff for their secretive plotting & planning, eh?

Nawh! Never!


On Twitter @lostmoya started a discussion linking to a BBC article, and received support from a fellow follower, @4TMSocialMedia:

@lostmoya I agree. Internet monitoring, CCTV cameras with microphones, anti-terror laws used against civilians. Orwell's 1984 has arrived.

… and thoughtful consideration from @glynmoody:

@lostmoya well, that might just take a long time to get round to doing things, hoping the next election supervenes

Reactions to the announcement will provide a basis for face-to-face discussion on this and other topics related to privacy in the UK and worldwide during Barcamp Transparency.


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