U.K. Government to Start Monitoring Email and Web Usage

The government will be able to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK under new legislation set to be announced soon. Internet firms will be required to give intelligence agency GCHQ access to communications on demand, in real time.

The Home Office says the move is key to tackling crime and terrorism, but civil liberties groups have criticised it. Tory MP David Davis called it “an unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary people”. Attempts by the last Labour government to take similar steps failed after huge opposition, including from the Tories.

A new law – which may be announced in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech in May – would not allow GCHQ to access the content of emails, calls or messages without a warrant. But it would enable intelligence officers to identify who an individual or group is in contact with, how often and for how long. They would also be able to see which websites someone had visited. In a statement, the Home Office said action was needed to “maintain the continued availability of communications data as technology changes”.


Even if the move is announced in the Queen’s Speech, any new law would still have to make it through Parliament, potentially in the face of opposition in both the Commons and the Lords. The previous Labour government attempted to introduce a central, government-run database of everyone’s phone calls and emails, but eventually dropped the bid after widespread anger.

Chris Huhne, then the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, said any legislation requiring communications providers to keep records of contact would need “strong safeguards on access”, and “a careful balance” would have to be struck “between investigative powers and the right to privacy”.

Source: BBC News

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Queen Elizabeth Faces Pay Freeze in Austerity Measures

The Queen of England may be forced to scrimp on repairs to her palaces and lavish public appearances under a recently passed British law expected to reduce her income over the next several years.

“The squeeze on the monarch’s income is likely to delay a backlog of repairs to royal palaces,” the Daily Telegraph’s Matthew Holehouse reported Monday. “There will be no extra money from the taxpayer to pay for the court of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are rapidly emerging as global stars.” (Queen Elizabeth’s son, Charles, Prince of Wales, will continue to kick in to pay the salaries for staff for Prince William and his new bride, the Sunday Times, however, reported.)

Under the new legislation, which passed into law six weeks ago, England will employ a new formula for calculating the Queen’s taxpayer-funded allowance, as Americans might put it. “Under the new arrangement, the Queen receives 15 percent of the profits made over two years from the Crown Estate, whose portfolio includes Regent Street, Windsor Great Park and more than half the country’s shoreline,” Holehouse notes.

“Buckingham Palace is likely to boost its efforts to raise money from commercial sources, or to cut back on public appearances by the royal family,” Holehouse wrote. It’s unlikely, in all events, that the Queen and her immediate circle of relations will pursue the revenue-netting strategies that have won no small amount of notoriety for the commoners who have lately strayed into the Royal Family’s orbit–reality TV contracts, fashion merchandising endorsements, and the like.

Instead, as Holehouse notes, tradition will once again trump the passing travails of the royals: “The sums the Queen will receive will depend on the Crown Estate’s trading performance.”

 

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