In a report from the BBC, it was revealed that the the British intelligence community was considering ways in which it could commercialise its own electronic surveillance technology.
Security minister, Dame Pauline Neville Jones told the Science Committee in the House of Commons that Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, and the governement are “thinking about” adressing the “many, many ways” that the state surveillance technology could be packaged and sold on to the private sector.
Of course it is commendable that a national government is considering such far reaching innovations in order to maximise the return on the huge investment that has been ploughed into electronic surveilance. News reports have previously suggested that a budget of £1 billion (UK pounds) has been set aside for a project euphemistically called “Mastering the Internet”, or the Interception Modernisation Programme, with hundreds of billions of pounds already reportedly awarded to contractors.
“Mastering the Internet” is reportedly dedicated to massively expanding the surveillance capabilities if GCHQ to create a huge, government owned and controlled database, recording every text, email and telephone call made and every website visited by every person in the UK, which I have previously blogged about here.
Regardless of any privacy concerns about such a wide ranging project (which I covered in the earlier blog post). it is nevertheless interesting that the famously secretive folks at GCHQ are investigating the possibility of commercialising their services, interesting for a couple of reasons.
Firstly I imagine that if they commercialise their true top level capabilities then they surely run the risk of exposing the tools and techniques they use to public and international scrutiny, which may be to their detriment. Secondly, companies may be reticent to invite a governmental organisation, charged with intelligence gathering, into the heart of their corporate networks.