Govt favours online snooping over broadband investment
The government attracted criticism from some quarters earlier this month after revealing that the cost of implementing its controversial new communications data bill will be up to £1.8 billion over the next decade.
When the bill is introduced, police and intelligence agencies will have the right to snoop on the internet activity of all web users, from emails to social networking.
It won't allow crimefighters to view the actual content of any online exchanges, but they will be able to see which websites have been visited and who has been contacted.
The content of this piece of legislation is controversial enough, bringing up all sorts of issues related to online privacy.
But what's just as worrying is the fact that so much is being spent on this scheme, when just £680 million has been committed to the government's attempt to deliver super-fast broadband to 90 per cent of the country.
Financially, this decision doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. While it's undoubtedly tough to put an exact figure on the economic benefits of the communications bill, the Home Office claims it will produce £5 billion to £6.2 billion in the ten years from 2011-12.
It's thought these gains will come from measures such as supporting the seizure of criminal assets and preventing revenue lost through tax fraud.
That might sound impressive, but it really pales in comparison to the amounts that could be generated by super-fast broadband.
Just this week, Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee told the Bury Free Press that the technology will contribute something like £5 billion to the local economy. If that sort of gain can be replicated across the whole of the UK, the benefits will be huge.
It would certainly be positive to see the government displaying the same desire to improve broadband speeds as it clearly has to monitor our online activities.
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