British intelligence agency tracks population amid COVID-19 lockdowns
LONDON, England, November 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Britain’s espionage agency GCHQ is tracking the British public’s movements amid the coronavirus-related lockdowns, passing up-to-date information directly to the prime minister.
The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this week that GCHQ, or Government Communications Headquarters, has “embedded” staff at Downing Street to give Prime Minister Boris Johnson the information he wants to help him decide on his coronavirus and lockdown policies.
“The Government’s intelligence-gathering and surveillance agency has deployed experts to work inside the Cabinet Office to sift through huge amounts of big data in an effort to give Mr Johnson the most up-to-date information on the spread of the virus,” the Telegraph reported.
“GCHQ analysts have been given access to mobile phone data to track the public’s movements during the national lockdown.”
Since November 5, residents of England have been confined to their homes, save for work, charitable activities, essential shopping, medical care, and outdoor exercise. Requirements and restrictions in other parts of the United Kingdom vary, although in these countries, too, there is a focus on restricting travel and assembly.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Johnson is relying on “up-to-the-minute reports” from GCHQ on the public’s “compliance” with lockdown rules to determine whether or not to lift the regulations on December 2.
The intelligence agency is also examining Google and other search engines for information about employment.
“The data — providing billions of pieces of information on job searches across the country — provides instant reporting on the potential, catastrophic threat to employment caused by Covid more quickly than official figures compiled by the Office for National Statistics,” the Telegraph stated.
Online information about vacation travel is also being sifted to assist the government in enforcing quarantines on travelers returning from places deemed COVID hot spots.
“Google holiday search data has also been subjected to extensive sifting, building up a picture of changing attitudes to travel that helps guide policies such as forcing returning holidaymakers to self-isolate.”
Currently, people traveling to Britain from most countries in the world, including the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain, must self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival. The quarantine is monitored by the National Health Service by phone, with NHS agents calling the quarantined travelers to establish that they know the rules.
LifeSiteNews can confirm that if a quarantined traveler in Scotland is not immediately accessible by “NHS Test and Protect Service,” he or she is threatened with the involvement of police.
The National Health Service has a “test and trace” app for cell phones, which the GCHQ worked on to ensure that “sensitive data” remains “secure and anonymized, preventing foreign hostile states from trying to hack into the app,” the Telegraph reported.
According to the U.K. government, the “test and trace” feature ensures that any user who comes down with symptoms of COVID-19 can be “quickly tested” for the virus and that users who have come in contact with COVID-19 positive people can also be tested or asked to self-isolate. Personal data the app reveals to the government is the user’s mobile phone number, the estimated date of infection (if the user declares himself positive), and his IP address.
The test and trace app is also used to “check into places like bars and restaurants without having to fill out any forms” when these venues are allowed to open. Users are supposed to be over 16 years of age.
The presence of GCHQ agents in the Cabinet Office itself is deemed “critical in providing non-partisan, independent data” to the Prime Minister, the Telegraph reported. The newspaper remarked that the Conservative government has been in danger of being torn apart from competing opinions from the Department of Health and Social Care, on the one hand, and the Treasury on the other.
The GCHQ describes itself as “a world-leading intelligence, cyber and security agency with a mission to keep the UK safe.” Normally its remit is to protect the country from terrorism, hostile states, and serious or organized crime. There are now almost 10,000 people working in the GCHQ, a direct descendent of the British Signals Intelligence division of the First World War. Founded soon after war broke out, Signals Intelligence monitored German radio signals.
“Within a year of the end of the war, the separate naval and military intelligence organisations had merged to become the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), GCHQ’s original name,” the agency’s website states.
“Its overt function was to protect British Government communications, with a secret mission to decrypt messages sent by foreign countries. Under the leadership of Alastair Denniston, GC&CS’s first head, the organisation was given space in Watergate House and officially came into being on 1 November 1919.”
During the Second World War, GCHQ worked from the now-famous Bletchley Park.
The agency has not made it a secret that they are now fighting microscopic enemies.
“We are part of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic; protecting the NHS, supporting the Government’s development of data science and improving our nation’s economic resilience,” it wrote. “We are also tackling a shifting serious crime threat that is looking to exploit the crisis.”