Internet cafés asked to snoop on customers

Owners of internet cafes are being asked to monitor their customers as part of a counter-terrorism scheme, but with no clear explanation of what exactly to look for.

Internet cafés asked to snoop on customers

The scheme is part of the Government’s Prevent Terrorism campaign, and

is being trialled in Camden, Harrow and Westminster, after being successfully tested in Tower Hamlets.

Should café owners see that customers are accessing information “they deem inappropriate or offensive” they are encouraged to contact a police officer, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police told PC Pro.

It’s about the police being aware, not necessarily to arrest people, but to be aware of people who are under threat of being radicalised

“The reason that it’s under the Prevent [Terrorism] campaign is that there is a process of people becoming radicalised that often starts online,” he added. “The main reason is to prevent the unlawful use of the internet.”

However, there is no clear definition of what exactly the “inappropriate” material is, with the decision being left to the discretion of the store owner.

Voluntary scheme

“The initiative is voluntary and owners have the right to tell us to go away – and many have,” he continued, explaining that café owners will be approached by two policemen and a community support officer, who will discuss the scheme with them. Participating outlets will display posters and screensavers explaining the campaign.

“It’s about the police being aware, not necessarily to arrest people, but to be aware of people who are under threat of being radicalised.”

At least two attempted terrorist attacks have been planned using internet cafés. In 2006, a group of men were arrested for planning to blow up seven planes using liquid explosives, after coordinating their plans in internet cafés.

In addition, two of the suspects arrested in a 2007 plot to explode cars in financial centres in New York and London used internet cafés to email each other.

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