Stop government snooping on Facebook


Jo has tabled a Parliamentary motion calling for a halt to government plans to snoop on Facebook users.

A Facebook spokesperson yesterday described as “overkill” the government’s plans to force social networking websites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace to retain information on all users and their web-browsing habits. Facebook users are already setting up groups to campaign against the move.

The government argues that intelligence will be lost in the fight against terrorism if social networking accounts are not monitored along with emails, phone calls and other internet usage, however existing law already allows police to monitor the accounts of individuals suspected of criminal activity. Campaigners fear that a government database of sensitive information about law-abiding citizens may not be kept secure, in light of recent scandals involving misplaced data.

Commenting, Jo said:

“There are times when it makes sense to monitor people who are suspected of breaking the law, but the police can already get a warrant to do that. All kinds of personal information can be found on Facebook, including people’s political views, sexual orientation and who they’re dating. The government has no need or right to know those things about innocent people. Not only would it be expensive to gather and store that information, but people – quite understandably – don’t trust the government to keep it confidential. I hope Ministers will come to their senses and abandon plans to snoop around on innocent people’s Facebook accounts.”

The full text of Jo Swinson’s Early Day Motion appears below:

EDM 1191

SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES AND GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE

That this House notes with concern the Home Office’s consideration of a government database for monitoring activities of law-abiding citizens on social network websites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace; highlights that these sites contain sensitive data on individuals which the Government has no right to know; further notes recent failures by Government Departments to keep confidential data secure; further notes that police can monitor social networking accounts of those suspected of criminality, under existing warrant procedures; and urges the Government to drop any plans for blanket monitoring of all users on social networking websites.

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