Communications Snooping

 Big Brother Extremism



16th August
2008
  

Stasi Britain...


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Government set to allow councils to snoop on peoples email and website records

Labour's listening Government powers to access millions of people's private phone records are set to be extended to email accounts and website records, ministers have said.

The news means that councils or quangoes could access private email accounts or examine internet phone records to snoop on taxpayers.

It has emerged that Sir Paul Kennedy, the spying watchdog, said they were not using their powers to examine phone bills and call records enough.

Since last October phone companies have had to retain information about all landline and mobile phone calls made by members of the public for one year, and hand over the data to more than 650 public bodies and quangos.

The move, approved by Parliament last July under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, was justified as a vital tool in the fight against terrorism but was then extended to enable council use to investigate trivial offences.

The Home Office said it wanted to extend the powers to include people's access to websites, email accounts and even phone calls made over the internet using services like Skype.

A Home Office consultation document on implementing an EU directive on electronic communications said the data would only be made available to assist in the investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime. [The government have also been busy redefining lesser crimes as 'serious']

The cost of the new plan is likely to be borne by internet and telecommunications companies, although the Home Office said this would form part of the consultation.

The move has been heavily criticised, with claims that extending the powers was further evidence of a "snoopers' charter".

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: Ministers have proven time and time again that they are not to be trusted with sensitive data, but they seem intent on pressing ahead with this snoopers' charter. We will be told it is for use in combating terrorism and organised crime but if RIPA powers are anything to go by, it will soon be used to spy on ordinary people's kids, pets and bins. Once again, the Government seems prepared to be more invasive than its EU counterparts in seeking to hold phone records for two years rather than six months.

Guy Herbert, a spokesman for the No2ID campaign, said the information would be made available to hundreds of official bodies responsible under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. He said: As ever with the database state this is a mass-surveillance measure for the retrospective convenience of officialdom in general.

The Home Office said that enforcement officers would only have access to where emails were sent or received from and not their content. A spokesman said: This data is a vital tool to investigations and intelligence gathering in support of national security and crime. Communications data allows investigators to identify suspects, examine their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time. It also gives investigators the potential to identify other forensic opportunities, identify witnesses and premises of evidential interest. Many alibis are proven or refuted through the use of communications data. Without the directive investigative opportunities will increasingly be lost.

 

19th August
2008
  

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Extraordinary new powers to monitor emailing, internet browsing and phone calls

Labour's listening Government

The Home Office is shortly to compel telecoms companies and internet service providers to keep details of all your emailing, browsing and phone calls for up to 24 months. And it will specify in what form the information is to be kept.

It is heartening that press and public have woken up to this snoopers' charter just as the final piece of the picture is hammered into place.

It is being introduced in the form of a Statutory Instrument enforcing an EU directive - which means it is unlikely to be even debated in parliament and cannot be amended by our elected representatives. Perhaps that is why this is being released while MPs are on holiday. They don't matter to the process.

The Home Office is taking the maximum powers allowed under the directive - which shouldn't be a surprise, as the directive itself was inspired by lobbying from Charles Clarke in the council of ministers when he was home secretary. The minimum six months' retention is probably what we will see in Germany, which resisted the exercise; the Home Office is taking powers for four times as long.

...Read full article from guardian.co.uk

 

5th October
2008
  

Update: UK Go Surveillance Crazy...

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Can't we just vote the fuckers out

China flag Every call you make, every e-mail you send, every website you visit - I'll be watching you.

That is the hope of Sir David Pepper who, as the director of GCHQ, the government's secret eavesdropping agency in Cheltenham, is plotting the biggest surveillance system ever created in Britain.

From his office in the agency's famous doughnut building, Pepper is masterminding an innocent-sounding project called the Interception Modernisation Programme .

The scope of the project, classified top secret, is said by officials to be so vast that it will dwarf the estimated £5 billion ministers have set aside for the identity cards programme. It is intended to fight terrorism and crime. Civil liberties groups, however, say it poses an unprecedented intrusion into ordinary citizens' lives.

Aimed at placing a live tap on every electronic communication in Britain, it will dwarf other big brother surveillance projects such as the number plate recognition system and the spread of CCTV.

Pepper and his opposite number at MI6, Sir John Scarlett, are facing opposition from mandarins in the Treasury and Cabinet Office who fear both its cost and ethical implications.

The spy bosses say a central database is essential to capture the array of communications between terrorists planning to attack Britain. Draft e-mails, chatroom discussions and internet browsing on encrypted jihadist websites are the preferred forums for Al-Qaeda cells to plan their attacks, they say. However, other officials and many in the business and academic community are wary.

A spokesman for the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, said yesterday that this summer he had called for a public debate about government proposals for the state to retain people's internet and phone records.

The commissioner warned that it is likely that such a scheme would be a step too far for the British way of life. Proposals that threaten such intrusion into people's lives must be properly debated,
the spokesman said.

Despite the lack of public debate, Pepper's officials have been aggressively marketing his plans in a round of White-hall briefings over the past few weeks.

But there are mounting concerns at the Treasury about the costs of Pepper's project. According to Richard Clayton, a security expert at Cambridge University, the system will require the insertion of “thousands” of black box probes into the country's computer and telephone networks.

Known as Deep Packet Inspection equipment, these probes will “steal” the data, analyse and decode the information and then route it direct to a government-run database.

No one yet knows exactly how to ensure police and intelligence agencies do not abuse their access to the database.

 

16th October
2008
  

Update: New Labour Database Monstrosity...

The innocent have nothing to fear...unless they share music, pay for sex, enjoy swinging, porn or fundamental religion

Big Brother Jacqui Smith plans broad new Big Brother surveillance powers. Telephone calls, internet use and email will be monitored by the police as part of a broad extension of the ability of the state to snoop on citizens.

Ministers were already planning a massive Big Brother database to log data contained in emails and phone calls but have decided to go even further in view of the current threat level.

The original proposal, which was this week criticised by Lord Carlisle, the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws, had been due to be put before MPs in the Communications Data Bill next month.

However, in a speech, Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, announced that she was delaying the Bill in order to expand the extent of surveillance powers open to the security services, while consulting further on the best way to win public support for the plan.

In the speech to the IPPR think tank, Smith said communications data was not at present being routinely stored, and needed to be if terrorists and serious criminals were to be prevented from striking. The plan would not include recording the contents of people's messages and appropriate safeguards would be put in place, but Smith said it was "vital" to maintain Britain's capacity to combat terrorism.

She added: There are no plans for an enormous database which will contain the content of your emails, the texts that you send or the chats you have on the phone or online. Nor are we going to give local authorities the power to trawl through the database in the interests of investigating lower level criminality under the spurious cover of counter-terrorist legislation.

Snooping extension to gaming and social networking sites

Based on article from guardian.co.uk

Facebook logo The government is drawing up plans to give the police and security and intelligence agencies new powers to access personal data held by internet services, including social network sites such as Facebook and Bebo and gaming networks.

At present, security and intelligence agencies can demand to see telephone and email traffic from traditional communications services providers (CSPs), which store the personal data for business purposes such as billing.

The rapid expansion of new CSPs - such as gaming, social networking, auction and video sites - and technologies such as wireless internet and broadband present a serious problem for the police, MI5, customs and other government agencies, the security sources say.

Sites such as Bebo and Facebook provide their services free, relying mainly on advertising for income. They do not hold records of their customers, many of whom in any case use pseudonyms.

Criminals could use a chat facility - they are not actually playing the game but we can't actually get hold of the data, said one official.

Criminal terrorists are exploiting free social networking sites, said another Whitehall security official, who added that the problem was compounded by the increasing use of data rather than voice in communications: People have many accounts and sign up as Mickey Mouse and no one knows who they are. We have to do something. We need to collect data CSPs do not hold.

Whitehall officials say that with the help of GCHQ - the electronic eavesdropping centre with a huge information storage capacity - the government is looking at different options that will be put out for consultation. They declined today to spell out the options but said that whatever is decided will need new legislation.

Despite this reticence, it is clear that the government wants to be able to demand that the new generation of CSPs collect data from their customers so the security services can access them The response from the networks is likely to be hostile, not least because of the potential costs involved.

If the government, as expected, offers to pay for any new data access scheme, it is likely to cost taxpayers billions of pounds.

The plan will need international cooperation since many of the new CSPs are based abroad, notably in the US.

Opposition: Winston Smith vs Jacqui Smith

Based on article from independent.co.uk

Winston Smith Jacqui Smith faces a parliamentary backlash over Orwellian plans to intercept details of email, internet, telephone and other data records of every person in Britain. Labour MPs joined opposition parties in expressing doubts about plans announced by the Home Secretary which could lead to a vast database of information about Britons' calls and internet habits.

They warned that MPs, emboldened by the Government's decision to ditch plans to hold terrorist suspects for up to 42 days without charge, would not accept this extension of state power.

The scale of the Government's ambitions to hold data on email, internet and phone use emerged as government sources made it clear they needed new powers to obtain details of social networking sites on the internet, video sites, web-based telephone calls and even online computer games.

Civil liberties campaigners have expressed horror at the plans. Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, warned: Extreme caution needs to be taken. The Government needs to ensure that information-gathering is targeted and wiped and not collected just because it's possible."

Labour left-winger John McDonnell called the proposals Big Brother gone mad , while Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, added: There is not a lot of confidence that we can hold on to data we collect already.

The plans were condemned by the Government's own terrorism watchdog. Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, the independent reviewer of anti-terrorist laws, said the raw idea of the database was awful and called for controls to stop government agencies using it to conduct fishing expeditions into the private lives of the public.

 

17th October
2008
  

Update: Hoon, Enemy of Freedom...

Hoon prepared to go quite a long way to undermine liberty
Big Brother

Good morning Mr Chips, citizen 14Z3J373/d.
You were monitored visiting spanking.com.
This is deemed 'inappropriate' for the
teaching profession.
Your teaching licence is permanently
revoked forthwith.
Rejoice that your economic prosperity
is safe from terrorist attack.

Plans to create a database monstrosity of mobile phone and internet records were defended last night by the Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon, who said critics of the scheme were giving a licence to terrorists to kill.

Speaking on the BBC's Question Time programme, Hoon admitted he was prepared to go quite a long way in undermining civil liberties to stop people being killed, and added the biggest civil liberty of all is not to be killed by a terrorist .

Hoon insisted the Government aimed to extend powers that already exist for ordinary telephone calls to cover data and information relayed over the internet: If [terrorists] are going to use the internet to communicate with each other and we don't have the power to deal with that, then you are giving a licence to terrorists to kill people.

 

19th October
2008
  

Offsite: A Database of Propaganda...

Das berdatabase: Inside Wacky Jacqui's motherbrain
Big Brother

Good morning Mr Smith, citizen 14Z3J373/d.
Your children were monitored
visiting musicSharing.com.
Please surrender your children to the
NewLabour Re-allocation &
Re-education Facility.
Rejoice that your family is
protected from terrorist threat!

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith isn't known for the clarity of her pronouncements on technology. And as she confirmed the government's plan to proceed with the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), she limited herself to the spin of building a universal communications surveillance apparatus.

The details of the accompanying Communications Data Bill will be opened to consultation in the new year, she said, with the aim of achieving consensus with "interested parties". Smith was keen to emphasise the content of every phone, internet and mobile communication will not be harvested, but the details of who contacts whom, when and where. That distinction is likely be the cornerstone of attempts to sell IMP to MPs and a public wearied by the erosion of civil liberties and major government data losses.

The follow-up propaganda push has already begun. In The Times an unnamed source, clearly with a strong desire to see IMP built, spoonfed a dubious and old story about the threat posed by Skype and other VoIP applications to counter-terror operations. The hungry Thunderer hacks swallowed the security services' line that internet phone calls are crippling fight against terrorism . No quotation marks in that headline, no opposing view in the story: it's being crippled people - fact.

...Read full article

 

19th October
2008
  

Downwardly Mobile...

The government will register all UK pay as you go phones

Jack & Jacqui
Jack: We'll need an army to sift
through this
berdatabase
Jacqui: Funny you should say that,
take a look outside!

Anyone buying a new mobile phone will have to show a passport as proof of identity and be registered on a national database, it was claimed last night.

But civil rights organisations warned the move represented another serious step on the way to creating a surveillance society in the UK.

It is understood any such move would apply to Scotland because it would come under the terms of the Data Protection Act, which is reserved by Westminster. It would also have to apply to the whole of the UK if it was to be effective in tackling terrorism.

According to a newspaper report last night, the office of Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, said it anticipated that a compulsory mobile phone register would be unveiled as part of a law which ministers would announce next year.

A spokeswoman was quoted as saying: With regards to the database, that would contain details of all mobile users, including pay-as-you-go. We would expect that this information would be included in the database proposed in the draft Communications Data Bill.

The creation of the register would affect the owners of all 72 million mobile phones in the UK. But it is the owners of the country's 40 million prepaid mobiles who are the real target.

The move aims to close a 'loophole' in plans being drawn up by GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, to create a huge database to monitor and store the internet browsing habits, e-mail and telephone records of everyone in Britain.

The 'Big Brother' database would have limited value to police and MI5 if it did not store details of the ownership of more than half the mobile phones in the country.

Simon Davies, of Privacy International, was quoted as saying he understood that several mobile phone firms had discussed the proposed database in talks with government officials.

The article claimed that contingency planning for such a move is already thought to be under way at Vodafone, where 72% of its 18.5 million UK customers use pay-as-you-go.

 

20th October
2008
  

Update: MrWhitehallSource vs MrMickeyMouse...

Anonymous government sources whinge at internet anonymity

Hugo Rifkind So I was reading about the security services' concern over internet anonymity, and something was bothering me. There was a line in The Guardian. 'People have many accounts and sign up as Mickey Mouse and no one knows who they are', a Whitehall source had said. 'We have to do something.' And I was perturbed.

Reading it again, though, it hit me. A Whitehall source? Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I had a sudden hunch. Maybe, I found myself thinking, a Whitehall source was not this person's real name.

Anonymity is the great democratic boon of the internet age. And yes, some people will exploit it in order to join social networking groups called People Who Want To Bathe In the Blood Of The Slaughtered Infidel , or whatever. Most, though, do not. They just use it in order to express views that they hold dearly, and perhaps passionately, without having to fear that those who oppose these views will come and lurk with a chainsaw in the shrubbery of their front gardens. Or arrest them. Or associate them forever with some comment which, on reflection, makes them look like a bit of a berk. You'd think Mr Whitehall Source would understand that. Even better than most.

 

21st October
2008
  

Update: The Evil that Smith Can Do...

Establishment rails at New Labour's Database monstrosity
Jack & Jacqui

Jack & Jacqui
Jack:
Good one Jacqui, but
isn't it a little expensive.

Jacqui: Wait until you see my
proposals for Citizen
Data Non Disclosure Charges

Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, faces a revolt from her senior officials over plans to build a database monstrosity holding information on every telephone call, e-mail and internet visit made in the UK.

A significant body of Home Office officials dealing with serious and organised crime are privately lobbying against the plans, a leaked memo has revealed.

They believe the proposals are impractical, disproportionate, politically unattractive and possibly unlawful from a human rights perspective , the memo says.

Their stance puts them at loggerheads with the spy-masters at GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, who have been driving through the plans.

The Home Office rebels appear to have forced Smith to stall plans to announce a bill in the Queen's speech authorising the database. She has instead ordered her officials to review the proposals.

This weekend a top law enforcement body further dented the government's case for the database. Jack Wraith, of the data communications group of the Association of Chief Police Officers, described the plans as mission creep . He said there was an inherent fear of the data falling into the wrong hands: If someone's got enough personal data on you and they don't afford it the right protection and that data falls into the wrong hands, then it becomes a threat to you.

Smith is already studying less explosive but equally effective alternatives. One option involves a system based on sending automated requests to databases already held by telephone and internet firms.

Update: DPP Unimpressed

22nd October 2008. See article from independent.co.uk

Sir Ken Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), told ministers not to "break the back of freedom" by creating irreversible powers that could be misused to spy on individual citizens and so threaten Britain's hard-won democracy.

 

24th October
2008
  

Update: Breaking the Back of Freedom...

Director of Public Prosecutions warns of Labour's database monstrosity

Crown Prosecution Service The Director of Public Prosecutions has given a warning of the dangers of plans for a massive expansion of Big Brother state surveillance and of the growth of a security state.

Sir Ken Macdonald, who heads the Crown Prosecution Service, said that the enormous powers of access to information that technology had given the state should be used with great care: We need to take very great care not to fall into a way of life in which freedom's back is broken by the relentless pressure of a security state.

Technology gave the state enormous powers to access to knowledge and information about each one of us. And the ability to collect and store it at will; every second of every day, in everything we do.

But Sir Ken, giving the inaugural Crown Prosecution Service lecture in London, called for level-headedness and legislative restraint.

We need to understand that it is in the nature of state power that decisions taken in the next few months and years about how the state may use these powers, and to what extent are likely to be irreversible They will be with us forever. And they in turn will be built upon on. So we should take very great care to imagine the world we are creating before we build it. We might end up living with something we can't bear.

 

6th November
2008
  

Update: Black Days...

UK government ready to insert black boxes to snoop the internet
Jack & Jacqui

Jack & Jacqui
Jack: Good one Jacqui, can't wait to
read the consultation results.

Jacqui: No need to wait, we just
listen in to what people are saying

Internet black boxes will be used to collect every email and web visit in the UK under the Government's plans for a giant big brother database, The Independent has learnt.

Home Office officials have told senior figures from the internet and telecommunications industries that the black box technology could automatically retain and store raw data from the web before transferring it to a giant central database controlled by the Government.

Plans to create a database holding information about every phone call, email and internet visit made in the UK have provoked a huge public outcry. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, described it as step too far and the Government's own terrorism watchdog said that as a raw idea it was awful.

Nevertheless, ministers have said they are committed to consulting on the new Communications Data Bill early in the new year. News that the Government is already preparing the ground by trying to allay the concerns of the internet industry is bound to raise suspicions about ministers' true intentions. Further details of the database emerged on Monday at a meeting of internet service providers (ISPs) in London where representatives from BT, AOL Europe, O2 and BSkyB were given a PowerPoint presentation of the issues and the technology surrounding the Government's Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), the name given by the Home Office its database monstrosity proposal.

Whitehall experts working on the IMP unit told the meeting the security and intelligence agencies  said the technology would allow them to create greater capacity to monitor all communication traffic on the internet. The black boxes are an attractive option for the internet industry because they would be secure and not require any direct input from the ISPs.

During the meeting Whitehall officials also tried to reassure the industry by suggesting that many smaller ISPs would be unaffected by the black boxes as these would be installed upstream on the network and hinted that all costs would be met by the Government.

A source close to the meeting said: They said they only wanted to return to a position they were in before the emergence of internet communication, when they were able to monitor all correspondence with a police suspect. The difference here is they will be in a much better position to spy on many more people on the basis of their internet behaviour. Also there's a grey area between what is content and what is traffic. Is what is said in a chat room content or just traffic?

A spokesman for the Home Office said that Monday's meeting provided a chance to engage with small communication service providers ahead of the formal public consultation next year.

 

16th November
2008
  

Offsite: A Retentive State...

Data retention laws: what they mean for ISPs

Stasi If you think you're making a private call, or sending a discreet message, think again. Under an anti-terrorism law passed in late 2001 in the wake of the atrocities of September 11, details of every website visited and the transmission of every email sent and every phone call made in the UK can be retained and made available to authorities. This may give individuals privacy concerns but for telcos and internet service providers faced with the consequent storage and retrieval requirements, it is cause for financial concern.

The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act (the ' ATCSA ') was a hurried piece of legislation which extends some powers introduced in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000 – better known as 'RIPA'. In addition, the EC Data Retention Directive, which was approved following the Madrid train bombings of 2004 and the London terror attacks of 2005 (and implemented in the UK in respect of telephone communications by the Data Retention Regulations 2007 and due to be implemented in respect of internet-related data no later than 15th March 2009) requires the retention of data by communications services providers.

...Read full article from out-law.com

 

22nd November
2008
  

Update: The Evil that Politicians Do...

Database Monstrosity Going Ahead Anyway
Jack & Jacqui

Jack & Jacqui
Jack: Good one Jacqui...you will be
able to monitor everyone calling you
cerebrally challenged

The timetable for setting up a giant Big Brother database is slipping after the scheme was dropped from next month's Queen's Speech.

The Independent has highlighted growing fury over government moves to collate details of every telephone call, email and internet visit.

Whitehall sources confirmed last night that the plans would not be included in the Queen's Speech on 3 December, in which the Government outlines its legislative programme for the next parliamentary year. Insisting they were committed to the scheme as a tool in the fight against crime and terrorism, they said a consultation paper early next year would set out options for collecting the information.

But there is no firm indication when the new Communications Data Bill will be published, raising the prospect of it being delayed until after the next general election expected in 2010.

The Bill would require telecommunications companies to keep information about calls and emails and pave the way for the information being transferred from the companies to a giant Government database.

It would list phone numbers telephoned and addresses to which emails are sent, as well as web-browsing habits, but would not details of phone conversations or contents of emails.

But the government would be easily able to scan the database to see what people have been viewing and who they are communicating with.

The Home Office has been stung by the strength of opposition. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, has condemned it as a step too far while Lord Carlisle of Berriew, the Government's terrorism watchdog, said it was awful as a raw idea.

...BUT...its going ahead anyway

Based on article from theregister.co.uk

The government Interception Modernisation Programme (gIMP), a plan by spy chiefs to centrally collect details of every phone call, text, email and web browsing session of every UK resident, could be in place by 2012, according to a Home Office minister.

Lord West told the House of Lords yesterday the government is aiming to have the enormous database of communications and black box interception hardware in place around the same time as BT completes its 21CN transition to an all-internet protocol network: Exactly how quickly that [BT's new backbone] will come in is difficult to predict, but it will be complete by about 2011-12. That is the sort of timescale we are looking at.

Independent Register sources in politics, the civil service and industry have all said that the gIMP is proceeding anyway with initial funding of almost £1bn. It's been reported that government estimates say the final cost of collecting and storing information about every electronic communication will be £12bn. Lord West said no decisions have been taken on which way to go.

The gIMP won't record the content of communications, but the central database will be linked to wiretap hardware. The two parts of the system will together allow government eavesdroppers to easily dial into the content of any IP stream of interest.

 

1st January
2009
  

Update: Database Rethink...

Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights condemns UK database monstrosity

Council of Europe flagBritain must rethink plans for a database holding details of every email, mobile phone and internet visit, Europe's human rights commissioner has said in an outspoken attack on the growth of surveillance societies.

Thomas Hammarberg said that UK proposals for sweeping powers to collect and store data will increase the risk of the violation of an individual's privacy.

Plans for the database of emails, phone calls and internet visits are to be published by the Home Office in January. These proposals have already been described by the Government's own terrorism-law watchdog as awful and attacked by civil liberty groups for laying the basis of a Big Brother state.

Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, told The Independent that surveillance technologies are developing at breathtaking speed. In a direct criticism of Britain, he said: It is therefore worrying that new legislation proposals intend to expand the authorities' power to allow personal data collection and sharing. Although safety measures are foreseen, the adoption of these measures would increase the risk of violation of individuals' privacy.

The retention and storing of data is delicate and must be highly protected from risk of abuse. We have already seen what a devastating and stigmatising effect losing files or publishing lists of names on the internet can have on the persons concerned. This is particularly relevant to the UK, where important private data has been lost and ended up in the public domain.

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs, supported Hammarberg's criticism, saying: A major database for email, mobile phone calls and the internet would be an astonishing and Orwellian step. 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not a blueprint.

Worthless Government Reassurances

Based on article from guardian.co.uk

The private sector will be asked to manage and run a communications database that will keep track of everyone's calls, emails, texts and internet use under a key option contained in a consultation paper to be published next month by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary.

A cabinet decision to put the management of the multibillion pound database of all UK communications traffic into private hands would be accompanied by tougher legal safeguards to guarantee against leaks and accidental data losses.

But in his strongest criticism yet of the superdatabase, Sir Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, who has firsthand experience of working with intelligence and law enforcement agencies, told the Guardian such assurances would prove worthless in the long run and warned it would prove a hellhouse of personal private information.

Macdonald said: Authorisations for access might be written into statute. The most senior ministers and officials might be designated as scrutineers. But none of this means anything. All history tells us that reassurances like these are worthless in the long run. In the first security crisis the locks would loosen.

 

12th January
2009
  

Update: Labour's Listening...

EU ISPs to retain email routing and websites visited from 15th March

Home Offie logoJacqui Smith will soon begin one of the Home Office's famed consultation exercises on new systems demanded by spy chiefs to snoop on internet communications in the UK. this is known as the  Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) .

But in the meantime, the imminently-in-force EU Data Retention Directive (EUDRD) is due to come into force on 15 March, as part of a European Commission directive which could affect every ISP in the country.

The EUDRD differs from Jacqui Smiths database monstrosity in that EUDRD mandates communications data retention by ISPs in house whereas the IMP could propose retention by the UK government in a centralised database.

Both were originally to be implemented by the Communications Data Bill as related but separate legal acknowledgements of law enforcement.

That marriage of convenience was cancelled, however, when it became clear its passage through parliament would cause the UK to fail to meet its legal obligation to transpose the EUDRD by March 15. Instead the directive is being made UK law by statutory instrument (secondary legislation without a parliamentary hearing).

In the meantime, Whitehall infighting over the much more ambitious IMP intensified, prompting Jacqui Smith to drop the Communications Data Bill from the Queen's Speech in favour of a public consultation, putatively scheduled to begin around the end of this month.

Based on article from independent.co.uk

Crown Prosecution ServicePlans for a Big Brother database holding records of every citizen's emails, internet visits and mobile phonecalls must include proper safeguards to protect the public from abuses of privacy, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service has warned.

Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, speaking publicly for the first time since taking up his post in November, said the Government, police and security agencies should only be allowed to collect and use that data where there was a clear legitimate purpose that justified the invasion of an individual's privacy.

Starmer said: By its very nature criminal investigation touches on privacy. I think the right balance for any investigation or prosecution has got to have a legitimate purpose. Investigation of crime is a legitimate purpose. But Starmer stressed, there must also be effective safeguards to act as a break on the state's invasion of the public's privacy.

His predecessor, Sir Ken Macdonald, described the database as an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information.

Big Brother: How much will they know?

Big BrotherThe wholesale collection and storage of all our email, internet and mobile phone records would allow the Government to know more than it has ever known about how we live our daily lives. By accessing mobile phone records and using GPS tracker technology it would be possible to discover where a phone-user is on any given day. Police or the security services would also be able to establish the length of each call as well as the number that was dialled.

Messages to and from social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace could also be subject to covert surveillance, meaning the Government would know both where we are and who our friends or associates might be. This information would be added to the records of all email traffic, allowing investigators to form a clearer picture of our social lives. This would include all emails, although not the content, from unsolicited sources.

The picture would be completed by a trawl of our internet history which might lead the police to draw conclusions about our interests and shopping habits. At no time would we know we were being snooped on.

 

31st January
2009
  

Protest: cc all your email to Jacqui Smith...

Protest against Jacqui Smith's database monstrosity

cc all your emails to jacqui Smith logo When Jacqui Smith unveiled proposals to track every e-mail, phone call and text message, she might have let herself in for more than she bargained for.

Thousands of civil liberties campaigners plan to flood the Home Secretary's inbox by copying her in on every email they send on 15 June.

Martin Allan Gray is spearheading the campaign. He said he aims to send the message: You want to see our e-mails? OK, here they are!

Ms Smith announced proposals for a communications database monstrosity, containing details of everyone's telephone calls, e-mails and internet use, last month,

A message from Mr Allan Gray on the campaign's Facebook page says: This is an immense infringement of civil liberties, not to mention a major risk to our private data – but it won't make us any safer.

Allan Gray has won the backing of Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, Welsh Assembly member Peter Black and the Bishop of Buckinghamshire.

In her blog, Ms Featherstone described the proposals as bonkers and said she was backing the e-mail onslaught because civil liberties is the Lib Dem middle name.

 

7th February
2009
  

Update: A Threat to Freedom...

Lords committee seeks dramatic reduction of surveillance state

House of Lords logoThe vast growth of surveillance and data collection risks undermining freedoms vital to the British way of life, a group of eminent peers has warned.

In a devastating critique of the spiralling use of CCTV, databases and information sharing, they warn that the growth of information collected about every man, woman and child in Britain is a serious threat to principles at the heart of the constitution.

The Lords Constitution Committee, which includes the former law lord, Lord Woolf, and the former attorney generals, Lord Lyell and Lord Morris of Aberavon, call in a report for new safeguards to prevent government and private databases damaging historic rights to privacy and civil liberties.

Committee chairman Lord Goodlad, a former Conservative minister, warns: The UK now has more CCTV cameras and a bigger national DNA database than any other country. There can be no justification for this gradual but incessant creep towards a situation where every detail about us is recorded and pored over by the state.

The peers warn that the collection and processing of personal information has become pervasive, routine, and almost taken for granted.

The report is being published as ministers prepare proposals to gain unprecedented access to details of every email, internet connection and telephone call made in Britain. Proposals to allow ministers to sanction the sharing of confidential personal data across Whitehall and beyond are also being debated by MPs.

The report calls for a dramatic slimming of the national DNA database, arguing samples should not be kept if people are not charged or convicted, and insisting the law should be changed to ensure DNA samples given by volunteers are removed.

The peers call for senior judges to oversee surveillance. They say ministers should review the powers of local councils to authorise surveillance and say compensation should be paid if people are monitored unlawfully by police or the security services. They also demand that a powerful committee of MPs and peers be established to oversee the data powers of the state.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow Justice Secretary, said: This is a damning indictment of the reckless approach of this Government to privacy. Ministers have sanctioned a massive increase in surveillance over the last decade, at great cost to the taxpayer, without properly assessing its effectiveness or protecting the privacy of innocent people.

David Howarth, the Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, said: This highlights how the Government has ridden roughshod over our freedoms in establishing its surveillance state. Ministers would do well to remember the British state belongs to the British people, not the other way around.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of pressure group Liberty, said: Our postbag suggests the House of Lords is more in touch with public concerns than our elected Government.

 

18th February
2009
  

Update: Destroying Privacy...

More criticism of government data sharing

BCS logoThe British Computing Society has joined the chorus of criticism of the way the government has hidden major changes to data protection law in unrelated legislation - the Coroners and Justice Bill.

The BCS said the bill runs counter to the intentions and provisions of the Data Protection Act (DPA) and severely curtails the independence of the Information Commissioner.

The organisation also said the law would be unlikely to pass muster under the Human Rights Act, could increase citizens' distrust of government and could have disastrous consequences in the hands of a less benevolent government. [Surely there can't be many less benevolent then the monstrosity known as NuLabour]

The Coroners and Justice Bill will allow more data sharing between government departments without any oversight from Parliament. In fact the bill will allow ministers to remove any legal barrier that might exist to data sharing.

Ian Ryder, BCS deputy CEO, said all the responses received from members agreed on one thing: These proposals are far too ill-defined and general for their stated purpose, and are as a result potentially dangerous, and will do more harm than good.

Ryder added that the laws, used wrongly, would permit the restriction - and ultimately the destruction - of the right to personal and corporate data privacy.

 

23rd February
2009
  

Update: Sharing a Warning...

David Blunkett to warn about the Big Brother state

David BlunkettDavid Blunkett, who introduced the idea of identity cards when Home Secretary, will issue a stark warning to the Government that it is in danger of abusing its power by taking Britain towards a Big Brother state.

At the 21st annual law lecture in Essex University's Colchester campus, Blunkett will urge ministers to rethink policy and counter criticism from civil liberties campaigners that Labour is creating a surveillance society.

He will come out against the Government's controversial plan to set up a database holding details of telephone calls and emails and its proposal to allow public bodies to share personal data with each other.

His surprise intervention will be welcomed by campaign groups, who regard him as a hardliner because of his strong backing for a national ID card scheme and tough anti-terror laws. The former home secretary will propose a U-turn on ID cards for British citizens, although he agrees with plans to make them compulsory for foreign nationals.

Blunkett will urge the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, to water down provisions in the Coroners and Justice Bill on data sharing between public bodies. He will warn: It is not simply whether the intentions are benign, undoubtedly they are, but whether they are likely to be misused and above all what value their use may have.

He insists that Britain is not yet a surveillance state but will warn ministers: The strength of our democracy is that we are able to challenge when the well-meaning, but sometimes misguided, take their own knowledge of the threats we face to be justification for protecting our mutual interest at the expense of our individual freedom. If we tolerate the intolerable, the intolerable gradually becomes the norm.

 

25th February
2009
  

Update: Spinning Straw...

Straw said to be worrying about Big Brother criticisms

Jack StrawThe Injustice Secretary, Jack Straw, will make a minor U-turn over sweeping new powers which were to allow public bodies to swap the data they hold on individuals.

In a clear sign the Government is worried about growing criticism that it is creating a Big Brother Britain , Straw is to rewrite his Coroners and Justice Bill to build in new safeguards to supposedly protect the public. He will table several amendments to the measure when it reaches its report stage in the Commons next month.

The climbdown comes after MPs from all parties and civil liberties groups warned that the Bill would mark a major departure from the principle that information collected for one purpose by the Government should not be used for another.

Straw revealed that he now accepts the provisions in the Bill were too broad. They said he has asked officials to draw up plans to tighten the provisions in an attempt to allay fears about a drift towards a surveillance society.

However, the Injustice Secretary predictably insists that there is still a case for more data sharing.

 

28th February
2009
  

Update: Too Far, Too Fast...

Information Commissioner warns about surveillance in Britain

ICO logoThe Laws that allow officials to monitor the behaviour of millions of Britons risk hardwiring surveillance into the British way of life, the country's privacy watchdog has warned.

Richard Thomas told The Times that creeping surveillance in the public and private sectors had gone too far, too fast and risked undermining democracy.

The Information Commissioner warned that proposals to allow widespread data sharing between Whitehall and the private sector were too far-reaching and that plans to create a giant database of every telephone call, e-mail and text message risked turning everyone into a suspect. In the last 10 or 15 years a great deal of surveillance in public and private places has been extended without sufficient thought to the risks and consequences, said Thomas: Our society is based on liberty and democracy. I do not want to see excessive surveillance hardwired into British society.

He criticised proposals going through Parliament to allow mass data sharing between government departments and the private sector. Campaigners have claimed that Section 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill would enable the transfer of health and tax records to private companies such as insurance firms and medical researchers.

Last year Thomas recommended to ministers that data sharing be allowed only in carefully defined circumstances such as law enforcement, improving public services and for research. They ignored his advice. The Bill needs to be narrowed , Thomas said. He called on Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, to write into it that anything to justify a data-sharing order has to come explicitly under one of those headings.

Whitehall sources told The Times yesterday that Straw would amend the Bill in the next few weeks to meet Thomas's criticisms. Previously Straw's department had maintained that there were sufficient safeguards, including a requirement for parliamentary approval for each data transfer.

Other government plans also risked undermining people's right to privacy, Thomas said. Of the Home Secretary's proposal to build a database to store information currently held by internet service providers and telephone companies, Thomas said: A government-run database of the communications of all citizens, every phone call, every e-mail, every text, every internet use; a database of all those activities held by the Government would be a step too far for the British way of life.

He dismissed Jacqui Smith's assurances that officials would have access only to data on who had contacted whom, rather than the content of the communication. That A has telephoned B on a particular date from a particular location is actually quite intrusive. If an MP logged on to a site selling Viagra, that tells you quite a lot. If a 16-year-old girl goes on to a website about abortion that tells you an awful lot about her too. I don't think there's a black-and-white distinction between traffic data and content.

Thomas made clear that he did not object to the monitoring of those suspected of involvement in terrorism and serious crime. But I think that's a very different situation from monitoring the communications of the entire population. We've got to have a much clearer distinction between those who are suspects and everybody else and I think we're at risk of making everybody a suspect if we go too far down this road.

Another area of concern for Thomas is the use of surveillance cameras: he criticised the police for pressing to have closed-circuit television cameras installed in pubs. We've come out against the requirement for pub licensees to fit CCTV as a condition of their licence. This is hardwiring surveillance into British pubs. It is unacceptable.

The Information Commissioner added his voice to criticism of ContactPoint, a computer database containing details on every child in the country: I can see the benefits of a national database of children at risk ... I'm less convinced that you need to have a database of every child in the country. Is it not better to have fuller details of children known to be at risk and make sure that information is used properly?

 

4th March
2009
  

Update: Doctors Sick of New Labour...

BMA warns the government data sharing will erode trust in doctor-patient relationships

BMA logoDoctors have condemned a Big Brother scheme to give the public sector and private companies much wider access to personal medical records.

Eight organisations, including the British Medical Association and the medical royal colleges, have protested against it. They have written a letter to oppose a proposed law that would make it easier for the Government to share data.

They are demanding that medical records be exempt from provisions in Jack Straw's Coroners and Justice Bill. The signatories have asked for a meeting with the Justice Secretary and expressed grave concerns about a clause of the Bill.

This clause appears to grant the Government unprecedented powers to access confidential medical records - and even share them with third parties. Ministers would simply be able to sign an order, allowing their department to share data.

The BMA argues much of the at-risk data could be used by medical researchers, potentially in the pay of drugs companies. In their letter, the protesting bodies said that the new powers would undermine the presumption of confidentiality, corrode trust in the doctor-patient relationship and could have a disastrous impact on both the health of individuals and the public.

It went on to state that the Bill could result in patients withholding information or even avoiding the healthcare system altogether.

 

8th March
2009
  

Update: Coroner's Inquest...

Straw kills of his data sharing proposals for a while

Jack StrawJack Straw has scrapped government proposals that could have allowed patients' medical and DNA records to be shared with police, foreign governments and other bodies.

In a victory for civil liberties campaigners, the justice secretary bowed to public pressure over the data-sharing provisions in the forthcoming coroners' bill, which would have allowed public bodies to exchange data without the knowledge or consent of individuals involved. Doctors and the Bar Council had joined privacy campaigners in warning of the potential risks to public trust.

The move will be seen as an olive branch to Labour MPs concerned about what they see as the erosion of civil liberties, and will raise eyebrows at Westminster where Straw is viewed as a potential future leadership contender.

He will now launch a fresh public consultation on how to implement more limited proposals from a review chaired by the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, which would allow government bodies to share information where there is clear benefit - for example, to ensure that bereaved families do not have to contact a string of official agencies to tell them someone has died.

Update: Formally Dropped

18th March 2009. See article from independent.co.uk

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, formally dropped proposals yesterday in which personal data, from DNA and medical records to tax and other information, would be shared across Whitehall departments, police and other public bodies.

The Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, David Howarth, said: "I am relieved that the Government has finally seen sense and scrapped these extraordinarily broad and dangerously ill-thought-out provisions."

 

15th March
2009
  

Update: Labour's Listening...

Deadline day for ISPs to retain your communications logs

Labour's listeningUK ISPs will be required to hand over records of customers' Internet surfing habits, including IP addresses and times of use, to police and intelligence agencies from Sunday.

As part of the EU Data Retention Directive, all ISPs must retain customers' names, addresses and user IDs, as well as records of e-mail and Internet telephony communications, for a year.

ISPs have been given an extra 18 months to comply with the regulations after some smaller providers complained of a heavy administrative burden - phone companies are already subject to the law.

 

18th March
2009
  

Update: Advanced Warning...

Founder of the internet warns about tracking websites

CERNSurfers on the Internet are at increasing risk from governments and corporations tracking the sites they visit to build up a picture of their activities, the founder of the World Wide Web said.

Tim Berners-Lee, whose proposal for an information management system at the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN 20 years ago led eventually to the World Wide Web, said tracking website visits in this way could build an incredibly detailed profile of who people are and their habits.

That form of snooping I think is really important to avoid, he told an anniversary celebration at CERN.

 

27th March
2009
  

Update: The Face of Big Brother...

A clear network of friends is way too tempting for Government snoops

Facebook logoMillions of Britons who use social networking sites such as Facebook could soon have their every move monitored by the Government and saved on their "Big Brother" database monstrosity.

The idea to police MySpace, Bebo and Facebook comes on top of plans to store information about every phone call, email and internet visit made by everyone in the United Kingdom. Almost half the British population – some 25 million people – are thought to use social networking sites.

The use of social networking sites has boomed in the last few years so Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister, has disclosed that social networking sites could be forced to retain information about users' web-browsing habits. They could be required to hold data about every person users correspond with via the sites, although the contents of messages sent would not be collected. Coaker said: Social networking sites, such as MySpace or Bebo, are not covered by the directive. That is one reason why the Government are looking at what we should do about the intercept modernisation programme because there are certain aspects of communications which are not covered by the directive.

Facebook boasts 17 million Britons as members. Bebo, which caters mainly for teenagers and young adults, has more than 10 million users. A similar number of music fans are thought to use MySpace.

Isabella Sankey, policy director at Liberty, said: Even before you throw Facebook and other social networking sites into the mix, the proposed central communications database is a terrifying prospect. It would allow the Government to record every email, text message and phone call and would turn millions of innocent Britons into permanent suspects.

Richard Clayton, a computer security expert at Cambridge University, said: What they are doing is looking at who you communicate with and who your friends are, which is greatly intrusive into your private life.

Chris Kelly, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said yesterday that it was considering lobbying ministers over the proposal, which he called overkill.

 

6th April
2009
  

Update: Watch Where You Browse...

UK ISPs retain website and email logs from today

Big Brother Details of every email sent and website visited by people in Britain are to be stored for use by the state from today as part of what campaigners say is a massive assault on privacy.

A European Union directive, which Britain was instrumental in devising, comes into force which will require all internet service providers to retain information on email traffic, visits to web sites and telephone calls made over the internet, for 12 months.

Hundreds of public bodies and quangos, including local councils, will also be able to access the data to investigate flytipping and other less serious crimes.

It was previously thought that only the large companies would be required to take part, covering 95% of Britain's internet usage, but a Home Office spokesman has confirmed it will be applied across the board to even the smallest company.

Phil Noble of privacy group NO2ID, said: This is the kind of technology that the Stasi would have dreamed of. We are facing a co-ordinated strategy to track everyone's communications, creating a dossier on every person's relationships and transactions. It is clearly preparatory work for the as-yet un-revealed plans for intercept modernisation.

Another EU directive which requires companies to hold details of telephone records for a year has already come into force, and although internet data is held on an ad hoc basis this is the first time the industry has faced a statutory requirement to archive the material.

 

25th April
2009
  

Update: Monstrosity Unveiled...

Government prepare to unveil their ideas for a searchable database of communications

Big Brother Every phone call, email or website visit will be monitored by the state in a searchable database under plans to be unveiled this week.

The proposals will give police and security services the power to snoop on every single communication made by the public with the data then likely to be stored in an enormous national database.

The move has alarmed civil liberty campaigners, and the country's data protection watchdog last night warned the proposals would be unacceptable .

A consultation document on the plans, known in Whitehall as the Interception Modernisation Programme, is likely to put great emphasis on propaganda about the threat facing Britain and warn the alternative to the powers would be a massive expansion of surveillance.

But that will fuel concerns among critics that the Government is using a climate of fear to expand the surveillance state.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, the country's data watchdog, told the Daily Telegraph: a Government database of the records of everyone's communications – if that is to be proposed – is not likely to be acceptable to the British public. Remember that records – who? when? where? – can be highly intrusive even if no content is collected.

It is understood Thomas is concerned that even details on who people contact or sites they visit could intrude on their privacy, such as data showing an individual visiting a website selling Viagra.

The proposed powers will allow police and security services to monitor communication "traffic", which is who calls, texts, emails who, when and where but not what is said. Similarly they will be able to see which websites someone visits, when and from where but not the content of those visits.

However, if the data sets alarm bells ringing, officials can request a ministerial warrant to intercept exactly what is being sent, including the content.

 

28th April
2009
  

Update: Monstrosity Unveiled...

Government unveil their ideas for a searchable databases of communications

Big Brother Communications companies are being asked to record all internet contacts between people to modernise police surveillance tactics in the UK.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith stepped back from a single database - but wants companies to hold and organise the information for the security services.

Announcing a consultation on a new strategy for communications data and its use in law enforcement, Smith said there would be no single government-run database. But she also said that doing nothing in the face of a communications revolution was not an option.

The Home Office will instead ask communications companies - from internet service providers to mobile phone networks - to extend the range of information they currently hold on their subscribers and organise it so that it can be better used by the police, MI5 and other public bodies investigating crime and terrorism.

Presumably to add a networked SQL facility to enable the authorities to search across databases with such questions as give me a list of all mobile phone users in Heathrow last Thursday who regularly read jihadist websites.

Ministers say they estimate the project will cost £2bn to set up, which includes some compensation to the communications industry for the work it may be asked to do.

Advances in communications mean that there are ever more sophisticated ways to communicate and we need to ensure that we keep up with the technology being used by those who seek to do us harm.

It is essential that the police and other crime fighting agencies have the tools they need to do their job, However to be clear, there are absolutely no plans for a single central store.

What we are talking about is who is at one end [of a communication] and who is at the other - and how they are communicating,

Communication service providers (CSPs) will be asked to record internet contacts between people, but not the content, similar to the existing arrangements to log telephone contacts.

But, recognising that the internet has changed the way people talk, the CSPs will also be asked to record some third party data or information partly based overseas, such as visits to an online chatroom and social network sites like Facebook or Twitter.

Security services could then seek to examine this data along with information which links it to specific devices, such as a mobile phone, home computer or other device, as part of investigations into criminal suspects.

The plan expands a voluntary arrangement under which CSPs allow security services to access some data which they already hold.

The consultation document is entitled Protecting the Public in a Changing Communications Environment [pdf]

Responses, by Monday 20th July 2009 to:

Nigel Burrowes
Communications Data Consultation
Room P.5.37
Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Or by e-mail to: communicationsdataconsultation@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

 

4th May
2009
  

Updated: Expenses Allocated for Dubious Purposes...

UK Government snooping continues despite apparent climb down

Big Brother The home secretary has vowed to scrap a ‘big brother’ database, but a bid to spy on us all continues.

Spy chiefs are pressing ahead with secret plans to monitor all internet use and telephone calls in Britain despite an announcement by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, of a ministerial climbdown over public surveillance.

GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping centre, is developing classified technology to intercept and monitor all e-mails, website visits and social networking sessions in Britain. The agency will also be able to track telephone calls made over the internet, as well as all phone calls to land lines and mobiles.

The £1 billion snooping project — called Mastering the Internet (MTI) — will rely on thousands of “black box” probes being covertly inserted across online infrastructure.

The top-secret programme began to be implemented last year, but its existence has been inadvertently disclosed through a GCHQ job advertisement carried in the computer trade press.

Grabbing favourable headlines about the climbdown on a central database, Smith announced that up to £2 billion of public money would instead be spent helping private internet and telephone companies to retain information for up to 12 months in separate databases.

However, she failed to mention that substantial additional sums — amounting to more than £1 billion over three years — had already been allocated to GCHQ for its MTI programme.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said Smith’s announcement appeared to be a smokescreen. We opposed the big brother database because it gave the state direct access to everybody’s communications. But this network of black boxes achieves the same thing via the back door.

Update: GCHQ on Mastering the Internet

4th May 2009. See press release from gchq.gov.uk

GCHQ Presumably in response to the Sunday Times revelations above, GCHQ have issue a rare press release:

Just as our predecessors at Bletchley Park mastered the use of the first computers, today, partnering with industry, we need to master the use of internet technologies and skills that will enable us to keep one step ahead of the threats. This is what mastering the internet is about. GCHQ is not developing technology to enable the monitoring of all internet use and phone calls in Britain, or to target everyone in the UK. Similarly, GCHQ has no ambitions, expectations or plans for a database or databases to store centrally all communications data in Britain.

Because we rely upon maintaining an advantage over those that would damage UK interests, it is usually the case that we will not disclose information about our operations and methods. People sometimes assume that secrecy comes at the price of accountability but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, GCHQ is subject to rigorous parliamentary and judicial oversight (the Intelligence and Security Committee of parliamentarians, and two senior members of the judiciary: the Intelligence Services Commissioner and the Interception of Communications Commissioner) and works entirely within a legal framework that complies with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The new technology that GCHQ is developing is designed to work under the existing legal framework. It is an evolution of current capability within current accountability and oversight arrangements The Intelligence Services Act 1994 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 underpin activities at GCHQ - both existing systems and those we are planning and building at the moment. The purposes for which interception may be permitted are set out explicitly in the legislation: national security, safeguarding our economic well being and the prevention and detection of serious crime. Interception for other purposes is not lawful and we do not do it. GCHQ does not target anyone indiscriminately - all our activities are proportionate to the threats against which we seek to guard and are subject to tests on those grounds by the Commissioners. The legislation also sets out the procedures for Ministers to authorise interception; GCHQ follows these meticulously. GCHQ only acts when it is necessary and proportionate to do so; GCHQ does not spy at will.

Update: ISPs Unimpressed

4th June 2009. See article from theregister.co.uk

Jacqui Smith's plan to have ISPs create an enormous federated database of all online communications is receiving a frosty reception from the industry, multiple sources have revealed.

Many in the industry are currently working on their written objections to the proposals, which are known in Whitehall as the Interception Modernisation Programme.

ISPs are worried that the Home Office does not understand the scale of the technical challenge involved in monitoring and storing data on every communication via the internet. They fear the spiralling costs associated with government IT projects and resent being forced to devote resources to the plans.

 

10th June
2009
  

Offsite: Watching Over Our Shoulders?...

Fighting Nineteen Eighty-Four

Big Brother Sixty years ago today George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four was published, and this evening, as though to mark the anniversary of Orwell's last book, the former head of GCHQ, Sir David Pepper, slips from the shadows to tell the BBC's Who's Watching You programme that it has become necessary for the government to record all data from phone and internet traffic in the fight against terror.

Pepper, who was, incidentally, born as Orwell struggled over his manuscript in the winter of 1948, the year the author reversed for his title, makes a case for the total surveillance of society in order to catch the increasingly sophisticated targets. "There are plenty of people who will do all they can to make themselves difficult to find," he says. "The thing you worry about most is the attack that you haven't seen coming."

The unknown enemy is cast, very much like the ill-defined threat presented to Oceania in Nineteen Eighty-Four, as a pervasive, cunning and unseen foe that requires total watchfulness and, it follows, the sacrifice of the essential right of privacy. In the programme, Pepper explains the challenges that face his former colleagues at GCHQ with a diagram that shows how information is carried in discreet packets across the internet, a development which he implies must be met by granting the agency total access to all our communications.

...Read full article

How we should keep an eye on the powers that are watching us

 See article from timesonline.co.uk by Nigel Shadbolt

"Privacy is dead - get over it!” So proclaimed Scott McNealy, the CEO of Sun Microsystems, in 2000. It might appear that in an age of increased surveillance, with huge amounts of personal data floating around, he has a point. But privacy is a fundamental human right and we give it up at our peril.

Privacy is essential for the proper functioning of a liberal, democratic society. The right to privacy gives people a space for intimacy, independence of action and freedom of speech. Privacy is a public good and benefits society in the same way that clean air does. It is something we would do well to protect.

The problem is that technology enables the State, companies, all of us to collect and integrate more and more personal information. Every five years this capability increases tenfold. It has put an end to “practical obscurity” - you can no longer lose yourself in the crowd.

..Read full article

 

19th June
2009
  

Offsite: State Snooping...

Briefing on the Interception Modernisation Programme

Researchers from the Policy Engagement Network, based in the London School of Economics Information Systems and Innovation Group, have produced a 57 page report, which is essential reading for anyone worried about the Home Office's EU Directive based mandatory Communications Traffic Data Retention laws, and their vague plans for extending this even further the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), the review of Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) codes of practice and legislation.

Abstract

In this briefing we aim to provide some depth of understanding of the nature of the Home Office's latest proposals on communications surveillance. We are sympathetic with the needs of the law enforcement community and we agree with the Home Office that the communications environment is changing. However we question whether the Home Office fully understands the extent to which the way in which surveillance activities are authorised would change were its wishes granted, in turn leading to a tipping of the balance in favour of state power and away from the individual.

We are also concerned that there is a significant under-estimate of the burdens being placed on Communication Service Providers at a time where elsewhere in government there is a demand for universal broadband internet provision which industry is supposed to fund. This report was not drafted to respond to the Home Office's Consultation document, but rather we are adding more expertise to the public deliberation on this policy. The report is the result of research we conducted with key experts across the UK and internationally.

...Read the Briefing on the Interception Modernisation Programme [pdf]

 

2nd August
2009
  

Update: State Snooping...

ISPs condemn the far reaching internet surveillance proposed by the UK government

Linx logo Internet firms have condemned the government's Big Brother surveillance plans as an unwarranted intrusion into people's privacy.

The companies, which ministers are relying on to implement the scheme, also say the government has misled the public about how far it plans to go in monitoring internet use.

The criticism, contained in a private submission to the Home Office, threatens to derail the £2 billion project, which ministers claim is essential to combat terrorism and crime.

Despite hostility from opposition MPs and civil liberties groups, government security officials want to be able to monitor every e-mail, phone call and website visit of people in the UK. The government claims it wants simply to maintain its capability to fight serious crime and terrorism.

However, the submission — by the London Internet Exchange, which represents more than 330 firms including BT, Virgin and Carphone Warehouse — said: We view the description of the government's proposals as ‘maintaining' the capability as disingenuous: the volume of data the government now proposes [we] should collect and retain will be unprecedented, as is the overall level of intrusion into the privacy of citizenry.

This is a purely political description that serves only to win consent by hiding the extent of the proposed extension of powers for the state.


Apart from accusing ministers and officials of hiding the truth from the public, the internet firms dismissed the plans as technically unworkable. In a statement earlier this year, GCHQ denied that it planned to spy on every e-mail and website visit in the UK. The internet providers, however, made it clear they do not believe that denial.

These new proposals suggest an intention to capture anything and everything, regardless of the communications [method] used. We have grave misgivings about the technical feasibility of such ambition, they said: We are not aware of any existing equipment [an internet company] could purchase that would enable it to fulfil a legal obligation to acquire and retain such a wide range of data as it transits across their network ... in some common cases it would be impossible in principle to obtain the information sought.

The internet providers also complained that the new proposals might be illegal under European or human rights laws. They said the plans would involve the collection of data which is unprecedented both in volume and the level of intrusion into personal privacy.

 

7th August
2009
  

Update: Withdraw the Communications Bill...

UK government response to closed petition

10 Downing Street logo We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to withdraw the Government's support for the Communications Data Bill

The Communications Data Bill would give the Government the legal authority to collect a database of every phone call, e-mail and time spent on the internet by the public. Even though the Government insists that this bill would reduce terrorism (which it probably will not), this is an intolerable intrusion into the privacy of free citizens and a step towards a dystopian "Big Brother" state. The Bill must be quashed to protect civil liberties and halt the slippery slope towards an Orwellian 1984-type nightmare.

Result: Snooping On

Closed with 1210 signatures

Government Response:

The Government has not proposed to create a centralised database which would hold the content (what was said or written in a communication) of all phone calls and e-mails sent by the public.

In April 2009, the Government published a consultation paper “Protecting the Public in a Changing Communications Environment” which considers how best to maintain the capability of public authorities to obtain access to communications data. The existing capability is declining in the face of rapid technological changes in the communications industry. The consultation document does, however, specifically rule out a central database holding all communications data.

Communications data is the “who, when, where and how” information from mobile phone calls, texts, e-mails and instant messages but is not the content. The use of communications data is an important capability that is used by the police and other agencies to protect the public and fight crime and terrorism.

The consultation outlines ways to collect and retain communications data and seeks views on how to strike the right balance between privacy and security. The system the consultation proposes is based on the current model where communications service providers collect and retain data and where there are strict and effective safeguards in place to ensure that relevant public authorities can only access the data on a case-by-case basis, when it is necessary and proportionate to do so.

 

10th August
2009
  

Update: Stasi Britain...

One UK adult in 78 coming under state surveillance

Stasi The number of Big Brother snooping missions by police, town halls and other public bodies has soared by 44% in two years.

Last year there were 504,073 new cases. This is the equivalent of one adult in 78 coming under state-sanctioned surveillance.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said last night: It cannot be a justified response to the problems we face in this country that the state is spying on half a million people a year. The Government forgets that George Orwell's 1984 was a warning, not a blueprint. We are still a long way from living under the Stasi - but it beggars belief that is necessary to spy on one in every 78 adults.

The requests to intercept email and telephone records were made under the hugely controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. A total of 653 state bodies, including 474 local councils, are allowed to use its surveillance powers.

Huhne said it made a mockery of a supposed crackdown on the use of RIPA by the Home Office. He added: We have sleepwalked into a surveillance state but without adequate safeguards. Having the Home Secretary in charge of authorisation is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse.

Despite the huge number of requests, the Home Office says there is a need to go further than giving public bodies access to phone and internet records. Under plans unveiled earlier this year, the police and security services would gain access to the public's every internet click and phone call. This would include, for the first time, monitoring the use of social networking sites such as Facebook. Every internet and phone company would have to allocate an ID to each customer.

 

11th November
2009
  

Offsite: Internet Snooping Delayed...

Home Office aspires to read your emails

Big Brother Legislation for the interception modernisation programme will not be included in the Queen's speech next week. But do not relax: the Home Office has an unyielding ambition to grant itself and 653 authorities access to the data from every email, phone call, text message and internet connection.

This apparent withdrawal is in fact a long-range strategy that seeks to defuse the issue before the general election, at a time when there is increasing fear about Britain's surveillance state. How wise would it have been to make the Queen rehearse these dreadful measures in her speech, just a week after celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Stasi? The Home Office and Alan Johnson know better than to make a gift like this to those who question not just this government's motives but the relentlessly authoritarian agenda in the Home Office.

There are other good reasons for the delay, now that the idea of an expensive single database has been abandoned. The companies who will be charged with gathering and retaining information on their customers have raised doubts about feasibility, as well as privacy and cost. The Home Office must gain their compliance. So they have taken the heat out of the issue and are biding their time until a future Conservative government has been groomed by officials to see the overwhelming need for this massive spy system.

...Read the full article

 

17th November
2009
  

Offsite: Eavesdropping on a Nasty Government...

Email surveillance: ditch it for good

Big Brother Labour is right to think plans to snoop on our internet use will harm its election chances – but have they really been shelved?

The government is playing a two-handed game over its plan to snoop on all our communication and internet activity. On the one hand, officials have put it about that the scheme has been indefinitely shelved because of concerns raised in the public consultation on the proposals. On the other, Home Office insiders assure me that the government has no intention of putting the scheme on hold. Any statements to the contrary are designed to mitigate the risk of a negative campaign in the run-up to the general election.

The government quite rightly perceives an election risk because of its surveillance plans. It is, after all, proposing to reach deep into the private life of everyone in the nation. From your phone records and emails to your activity on social networking sites such as Facebook, the government wants to know everything you do.

The scheme is a political disaster in the making. Both the Tories and the Lib Dems have positioned themselves with a reform agenda on privacy. The mere existence of a surveillance plan of this magnitude would have created the sort of clear blue water that no government would want. Bad enough that it has already created a surveillance society second to none in the democratic world; even worse if it was seen to be moving toward a North Korean model.

....Read full article

 

26th December
2009
  

Update: Unanimously Unimpressed...

Mobile phone companies unimpressed by Government communications snooping

Every UK mobile network has serious objections to plans to intercept and store details of every communication via the internet, Home Office documents reveal.

Submissions to a government consultation from 3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone highlight the strength of industry concern over the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), which aims to capture lists of online contacts and log all website visits and VoIP calls.

The documents - obtained by The Register under the Freedom of Information Act - show how criticism forced the Home Office to stall the scheme after the consultation closed last month. They also voice doubts over whether the government is capable of implementing or maintaining the type of system it wants.

The mobile operators variously attack IMP's technical feasibility, its legality, its impact on customer privacy and its opaque £2bn cost estimate. They also question the consultation's assertion that the ability to access records of all communications is essential for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to do their jobs.

The government asked mobile operators to comment on proposals that would compel them to intercept details of when and where each of their customers use third party communications services such as Facebook and Skype, as well as who they contact. The operators would process and store this information in massive datacentres, matching it to build searchable profiles of customers and devices for authorities.

 

20th October
2010
  

Update: Big Brother Dave...

Cameron to resurrect extensive government internet snooping plan

Big BrotherHugely controversial Big Brother plans to store details of every internet click, email and telephone call that we make are being revived by the Coalition, it has emerged.

Police, security services and other public bodies would be able to find out which websites a person had visited, and when, where and to whom a text or call was made.

The plan – which was kicked into the long grass by Labour amid a public outcry – will put the Government on a collision course with civil liberties groups.

They argue it is a snooper's charter which will allow the state to spy on millions of innocent citizens.

So far ministers have insisted they want to provide a correction in favour of liberty when it comes to the powers required to protect the public. But this is sounding pretty weak now ministers have been persuaded of the case to give the police and security officials enhanced rights to access the public's communications.

Firm plans will be published later this year on how the personal information should be stored.

 

4th November
2010
  

Petition: Intercept Modernisation Plan...

Stop the government snooping on every email and Facebook message

open rights group logo The government has announced that it will be spending up to £2 billion into new ways to snoop on email and web traffic.

This Kafka-esque Intercept Modernisation Plan , was stopped near the end of the last government, but was quietly revived in the 2010 Spending Review. While billions of pounds are being slashed from education, welfare and defence, the government plans to waste vast sums trying to snoop on our emails and Facebook communications.

We need to tell the government to stop this wasteful, intrusive plan for wholesale snooping on our daily lives.

Please sign our petition – and tell your friends:

Dear David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Theresa May,

I do not want the government to try to intercept every UK email, facebook account and online communication. It would be pointless – as it will be easy for criminals to encrypt and evade – and expensive, costing everyone £2 billion. It would also be illegal: mass surveillance would be a breach of our fundamental right to privacy. Please cancel the Intercept Modernisation Plan.

7284 people have signed so far

 

11th November
2010
  

Updated: Intercept Modernisation Plan...

Cameron avoids denying central communications database snooping facilities

David Cameron The idea of a a central communications database was already dropped by the New Labour Stasi.

Instead they had stepped down to to distributed database held locally by internet/communication service providers. These component databases would then be connected by some sort of query interface that would allow most of the functionality of a centralised database, albeit a bit slower.

However Cameron was rather noticeably not denying this current approach to a communication snooping facility.

Prime Minister's Questions
27th October 2010

Julian Huppert (Cambridge, Liberal Democrat)

Can the Prime Minister reassure the House that the Government have no plans to revive Labour's intercept modernisation programme, whether in name or in function, and that he remains fully committed to the pledge in the coalition agreement to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties and to roll back state intrusion?

David Cameron (Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative)

I would argue that we have made good progress on rolling back state intrusion in terms of getting rid of ID cards and in terms of the right to enter a person's home. We are not considering a central Government database to store all communications information, and we shall be working with the Information Commissioner's Office on anything we do in that area.

Update: Big Brother Dave

11th November 2010. Based on article from  theregister.co.uk

Home Offie logo Government measures to massively increase surveillance of the internet will be in place within five years.

In its departmental business plan, the Home Office said it aims that key proposals [will be] implemented for the storage and acquisition of internet and e-mail records by June 2015.

The plan is the latest incarnation of the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), a much-delayed initiative, backed by the intelligence agencies, to capture details of who contacts whom, when and where, online.

The Labour government shelved IMP before the election, but it has been revived by the coalition, despite a promise to end the storage of internet and email records without good reason .

Confusingly, the Home Office document says it will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason via proposals for the storage and acquisition of internet and email records .

It also pledges to introduce legislation if necessary . While in opposition the security minister, Baroness Neville-Jones, sharply criticised any move to gather more communications data without primary legislation.

The government has said it will give details of its proposals before the end of this year. It is currently unclear whether it will retain the IMP label, but the aims of the programme are unchanged.

 

7th November
2011
  

Update: Ubiquitous Surveillance...

Report outlines 3 million instances of snooping by British authorities

freedom from suspicion The astonishing extent of Britain's surveillance society has been revealed for the first time. Three million snooping operations have been carried out over the past decade under controversial RIPA laws allowing widespread electronic snooping.

The campaign group Justice is demanding the hugely controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, under which all the operations were authorised, be scrapped altogether.

The group's report, titled Freedom from Suspicion , says: The UK has, in the space of 40 years, gone from a society in which mass surveillance was largely a theoretical possibility to one in which it has become not only ubiquitous but routine.

RIPA, billed as anti-terror legislation , was passed by Labour in 2000 supposedly to regulate snooping by public bodies. But Justice, which has campaigned on privacy matters for decades, says the result has been a huge increase in intrusive surveillance.

Since the Act was passed, there have been:

  • More than 20,000 warrants for the interception of phone calls, emails and internet use;

  • At least 2.7million requests for communication data, including phone bills and location information;

  • More than 4,000 authorisations for intrusive surveillance, such as planting a bug in a person's house;

  • At least 186,133 authorisations for directed (covert) surveillance by law enforcement agencies;

  • 61,317 directed surveillance operations by other public bodies, including councils;

  • 43,391 authorisations for covert human intelligence sources .

In total, the report says there have been around three million decisions taken by state bodies under RIPA, not including blanket authorisations given to the security and intelligence services. The report comments:

RIPA has not only failed to check a great deal of plainly excessive surveillance by public bodies over the last decade but, in many cases, inadvertently encouraged it.

Its poor drafting has allowed councils to snoop, phone hacking to flourish, privileged conversations to be illegally recorded and CCTV to spread. It is also badly out of date.

The Coalition's Protection of Freedoms Bill will reform RIPA by forcing councils to get authorisation from a magistrate before they can go on spying missions. But Justice says the new safeguards are insufficient and RIPA should be scrapped. It calls for an entirely new regime to be put in place.  Justice's Angela Patrick said: The time has come for Parliament to undertake root-and-branch reform of Britain's surveillance powers and provide genuinely effective safeguards against abuse.

 

20th February
2012
  

Update: Stasi Dave...

Government revives mega-snooping plan on British internet and phone communications
tory lib dem stasiDetails of every phone call and text message, email traffic and websites visited online are to be stored in a series of vast databases under new Government plans. Landline and mobile phone companies and broadband providers will be ordered to store the data for a year and make it available to the security services under the scheme.

The databases would not record the contents of calls, texts or emails but the numbers or email addresses of who they are sent and received by. For the first time, the security services will have widespread access to information about who has been communicating with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook. Direct messages between subscribers to websites such as Twitter would also be stored, as well as communications between players in online video games.

Rather than the Government holding the information centrally, companies including BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone and O2 would have to keep the records themselves. Under the scheme the security services would be granted real time access to phone and internet records of people they want to put under surveillance, as well as the ability to reconstruct their movements through the information stored in the databases. The system would track who, when and where of each message, allowing extremely close surveillance. Mobile phone records of calls and texts show within yards where a call was made or a message was sent, while emails and internet browsing histories can be matched to a computer's IP address , which can be used to locate where it was sent.

Labour shelved the project - known as the Intercept Modernisation Programme - in November 2009 after a consultation showed it had little public support.

At the same time the Conservatives criticised Labour's reckless record on privacy. A called Reversing the Rise of the Surveillance State by Dominic Grieve, then shadow home secretary and now Attorney General, published in 2009, said a Tory government would collect fewer personal details which would be held by specific authorities on a need-to-know basis only .

But the security services have now won a battle to have the scheme revived. They are known to have lobbied Theresa May, the Home Secretary, strongly for the scheme.

Sources said ministers are planning to allocate legislative time to the new spy programme, called the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP) , in the Queen's Speech in May.

 

 Update: Warrantless Hacking...

Privacy International continues its challenge to the governments capability to hack and snoop effectively without needing judicial approval


Link Here 11th May 2016  full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism
privacy international logo Privacy International is reviving its challenge against the UK government's right to issue general hacking warrants.

The group has filed for the High Court to review the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) decision that ruled the general warrants are legal.

At the moment the government issues general warrants to organisations such as GCHQ, allowing them to hack computers and phones of both UK and non-UK residents without the need for judges to sign-off the warrant first.

Privacy International is worried about the scope of general warrants, saying that it could mean an entire class of unidentified persons or property, such as all mobile phones in Nottingham could be hacked. It said that:

The common law is clear that a warrant must target an identified individual or group of identified individuals.

The Snoopers' Charter, currently under consideration in parliament, is set to write this general government hacking capability into law.

 


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