Police are trialling a new anti-terrorism measure in which owners of internet cafés are asked to monitor the content their customers access. Any suspicious behaviour pertaining to violent extremism is asked to be passed on to the Metropolitan Police for further investigation.
The trial campaign is to begin in Camden as part of the government’s £140m Prevent strategy to help counterterrorism. As previous terror convictions have included evidence of extremists using internet cafés to communicate in relative anonymity, Police believe increased surveillance of the establishments could lead to further anti-terrorism breakthroughs.
“Obviously every situation is different,” said Pc Beynsberger, a Prevent engagement officer for the Camden area. “We need to establish if there is something we need to investigate further, for example, if there’s a pattern forming.
“If the owner sees people looking at violent extremism they need to know who they can turn to.”
However, some detractors see the campaign as a step closer to installing a Big-Brother style police state.
“To ask internet cafes to spy on their customers and students is another step in the direction of creating a society of total surveillance,” said Arun Kundnani, author of Spooked: How Not to Prevent Violent Extremism.
“What is dangerous about this initiative is that it does not just focus on preventing access to illegal material but also material that is defined as ‘extremist’ without offering an objective definition of what that is.”
Would you feel safer if the Met closely monitored internet cafe use? Or is this an abuse of an individual’sright to privacy? Let us know how you feel in the comments below.