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15th July
2016

 Offsite Article: UK government are still intent on banning strong encryption...

house of lords red logo But continue to spout double-speak to try and hide this

See article from theregister.co.uk

 

20th August
2016

 Offsite Article: Mass hacking questioned but mass communications snooping is ok...

gchq logo An independent review finds that the UK's mass-surveillance draft law grants spies incredible powers for no real reason

See article from theregister.co.uk

 

21st September
2016

 Campiagn: Don't Spy On Us...

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Opposing mass surveillance in the UK

dont spy on us campaign The Government is trying to pass a surveillance law that will give the Government, intelligence agencies and police the kind of powers you would expect in an authoritarian regime. The Investigatory Powers Bill will let the security services, police and government departments snoop on our private communications and Internet use.

Data about your emails, phone calls, texts and Internet use will be hoovered up. Everything you do on the Internet and on your phone will be recorded and stored for a year. This can be trawled through by Government supercomputers. The police and security services can hack your computer or phone.

You don't have to be suspected of a crime for any of these things to happen.

If the #IPBill is passed, the UK will have one of the most extreme surveillance laws in the world. We can't let this happen. Help us to fight the #IPBill.

campaign at dontspyonus.org.uk

 

23rd October
2016

 Update: Snooping on Facebook Messages...


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Government introduces an amendment to the snoopers' charter bill that frees ISPs from trying to track messages sent via websites
House of Commons logoThe UK government has introduced an amendment to the Investigatory Powers Bill currently going through Parliament, to make ensure that data retention orders cannot require ISPs to collect and retain third party data. The Home Office had previously said that they didn't need powers to force ISPs to collect third party data, but until now refused to provide guarantees in law.

Third party data is defined as communications data (sender, receiver, date, time etc) for messages sent within a website as opposed to messages sent by more direct methods such as email. It is obviously a bit tricky for ISPs to try and decode what is going on within websites as messaging data formats are generally proprietary, and in the general case, simply not de-cypherable by ISPs.

The Government will therefore snoop on messages sent, for example via Facebook, by demanding the communication details from Facebook themselves.

 

2nd November
2016

 Update: Lording over an end to privacy in Britain...


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Investigatory Powers Bill passes in the House of Lords

house of lords red logoThe Investigatory Powers Bill is one step closer to becoming law after it was passed by the House of Lords yesterday.

Open Rights Group's Executive Director, Jim Killock, responded:

The UK is one step closer to having one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy.

Despite attempts by the Lib Dems and Greens to restrain these draconian powers, the Bill is still a threat to the British public's right to privacy.

The IP Bill is a comprehensive surveillance law that was drafted after three inquiries highlighted flaws in existing legislation. However, the new Bill fails to restrain mass surveillance by the police and security services and even extends their powers. Once passed, Internet Service Providers could be obliged to store their customers' web browsing history for a year. The police and government departments will have unprecedented powers to access this data through a search engine that could be used for profiling. The Bill will also allow the security services to continue to collect communications data in bulk and could see Internet security weakened by allowing mass hacking.

ORG's concerns are outlined here .

The IP Bill will now return to the House of Commons for a final vote.

 

23rd November
2016

 Offsite Article: Recommending VPNs...

BBC logo The BBC makes a few suggestions for not falling prey to the Snooper's Charter

See article from bbc.com

 

26th November
2016

 Update: 48 breeds of snoopers...

So who will be watching over your shoulder as you surf the internet
1984 snoopers
 
Welcome snoopers!
 

The police, NHS and the tax man will now be able to hack into your phones and check your browsing history after the Snoopers' Charter was passed by Parliament last week.

The bill, officially called the Investigatory Powers Bill, forces electronic data to be stored by internet providers for 12 months, which can be subsequently collected by law enforcement.

Now a blogger has created a list of all the people who will be able to request to view your internet history. And the snoopers are...

  • Metropolitan police force
  • City of London police force
  • Police forces maintained under section 2 of the Police Act 1996
  • Police Service of Scotland
  • Police Service of Northern Ireland
  • British Transport Police
  • Ministry of Defence Police
  • Royal Navy Police
  • Royal Military Police
  • Royal Air Force Police
  • Security Service
  • Secret Intelligence Service
  • GCHQ
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Department of Health
  • Home Office
  • Ministry of Justice
  • National Crime Agency
  • HM Revenue & Customs
  • Department for Transport
  • Department for Work and Pensions
  • NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England that provide ambulance services
  • Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service
  • Competition and Markets Authority
  • Criminal Cases Review Commission
  • Department for Communities in Northern Ireland
  • Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland
  • Department of Justice in Northern Ireland
  • Financial Conduct Authority
  • Fire and rescue authorities under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
  • Food Standards Agency
  • Food Standards Scotland
  • Gambling Commission
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
  • Health and Safety Executive
  • Independent Police Complaints Commissioner
  • Information Commissioner
  • NHS Business Services Authority
  • Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust
  • Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board
  • Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Regional Business Services Organisation
  • Office of Communications
  • Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
  • Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
  • Scottish Ambulance Service Board
  • Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
  • Serious Fraud Office
  • Welsh Ambulance Services National Health Service Trust

 

11th December
2016

 Offsite Article: How to avoid the UK's new online surveillance powers...

tor logo If the government wants to hack you, it will, but you can stop the police from just scooping up your web history. By James Vincent

See article from theverge.com

 

21st December
2016

 Update: But will the government listen?...

European Court of Justice finds that the UK mass snooping regime is too broad and must be reigned in
The European Court of Justice has passed judgement on several linked cases in Europe requiring that ISP retain extensive records of all phone and internet communications. This includes a challenge by Labour's Tom Watson. The court wrote in a press release:

european court of justice logoThe Members States may not impose a general obligation to retain data on providers of electronic communications services

EU law precludes a general and indiscriminate retention of traffic data and location data, but it is open to Members States to make provision, as a preventive measure, for targeted retention of that data solely for the purpose of fighting serious crime, provided that such retention is, with respect to the categories of data to be retained, the means of communication affected, the persons concerned and the chosen duration of retention, limited to what is strictly necessary. Access of the national authorities to the retained data must be subject to conditions, including prior review by an independent authority and the data being retained within the EU.

In today's judgment, the Court's answer is that EU law precludes national legislation that prescribes general and indiscriminate retention of data.

The Court confirms first that the national measures at issue fall within the scope of the directive. The protection of the confidentiality of electronic communications and related traffic data guaranteed by the directive, applies to the measures taken by all persons other than users, whether by private persons or bodies, or by State bodies.

Next, the Court finds that while that directive enables Member States to restrict the scope of the obligation to ensure the confidentiality of communications and related traffic data, it cannot justify the exception to that obligation, and in particular to the prohibition on storage of data laid down by that directive, becoming the rule.

Further, the Court states that, in accordance with its settled case-law, the protection of the fundamental right to respect for private life requires that derogations from the protection of personal data should apply only in so far as is strictly necessary. The Court applies that case-law to the rules governing the retention of data and those governing access to the retained data.

The Court states that, with respect to retention, the retained data, taken as a whole, is liable to allow very precise conclusions to be drawn concerning the private lives of the persons whose data has been retained.

The interference by national legislation that provides for the retention of traffic data and location data with that right must therefore be considered to be particularly serious. The fact that the data is retained without the users of electronic communications services being informed of the fact is likely to cause the persons concerned to feel that their private lives are the subject of constant surveillance. Consequently, only the objective of fighting serious crime is capable of justifying such interference.

The Court states that legislation prescribing a general and indiscriminate retention of data does not require there to be any relationship between the data which must be retained and a threat to public security and is not restricted to, inter alia, providing for retention of data pertaining to a particular time period and/or geographical area and/or a group of persons likely to be involved in a serious crime. Such national legislation therefore exceeds the limits of what is strictly necessary and cannot be considered to be justified within a democratic society, as required by the directive, read in the light of the Charter.

The Court makes clear however that the directive does not preclude national legislation from imposing a targeted retention of data for the purpose of fighting serious crime, provided that such retention of data is, with respect to the categories of data to be retained, the means of communication affected, the persons concerned and the retention period adopted, limited to what is strictly necessary. The Court states that any national legislation to that effect must be clear and precise and must provide for sufficient guarantees of the protection of data against risks of misuse. The legislation must indicate in what circumstances and under which conditions a data retention measure may, as a preventive measure, be adopted, thereby ensuring that the scope of that measure is, in practice, actually limited to what is strictly necessary. In particular, such legislation must be based on objective evidence which makes it possible to identify the persons whose data is likely to reveal a link with serious criminal offences, to contribute to fighting serious crime or to preventing a serious risk to public security.

As regards the access of the competent national authorities to the retained data, the Court confirms that the national legislation concerned cannot be limited to requiring that access should be for one of the objectives referred to in the directive, even if that objective is to fight serious crime, but must also lay down the substantive and procedural conditions governing the access of the competent national authorities to the retained data. That legislation must be based on objective criteria in order to define the circumstances and conditions under which the competent national authorities are to be granted access to the data. Access can, as a general rule, be granted, in relation to the objective of fighting crime, only to the data of individuals suspected of planning, committing or having committed a serious crime or of being implicated in one way or another in such a crime. However, in particular situations, where for example vital national security, defence or public security interests are threatened by terrorist activities, access to the data of other persons might also be granted where there is objective evidence from which it can be inferred that that data might, in a specific case, make an effective contribution to combating such activities.

Further, the Court considers that it is essential that access to retained data should, except in cases of urgency, be subject to prior review carried out by either a court or an independent body. In addition, the competent national authorities to whom access to retained data has been granted must notify the persons concerned of that fact.

Given the quantity of retained data, the sensitivity of that data and the risk of unlawful access to it, the national legislation must make provision for that data to be retained within the EU and for the irreversible destruction of the data at the end of the retention period.

The view of the authorities

david andersonDavid Anderson, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation gives a lucid response outlining the government's case for mass surveillance. However the official justification is easily summarised as it clearly assists in the detection of serious crime. He simply does not mention that the government having justified grabbing the data on grounds of serious crime detection, will share it willy nilly with all sorts of government departments for their own convenience, way beyond the reasons set out in the official justification.

And when the authorities talk about their fight against 'serious' crime, recent governments have been updating legislation to redefine practically all crimes as 'serious' crimes. Eg possessing a single spliff may in practice be a trivial crime, but the law on possession has a high maximum sentence that qualifies it as a 'serious' crime. It does not become trivial until it goes to court and the a trivia punishment has been handed down. So using mass snooping data would be easily justified to track down trivial drug users.

See  article from terrorismlegislationreviewer.independent.gov.uk

The Open Rights Group comments

See  article from openrightsgroup.org

open rights group 2016 logoThe judgment relates to a case brought by Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson MP, over intrusive data retention powers. The ruling says that:

  • - Blanket data retention is not permissible
  • - Access to data must be authorised by an independent body
  • - Only data belonging to people who are suspected of serious crimes can be accessed
  • - Individuals need to be notified if their data is accessed.

At present, none of these conditions are met by UK law.

Open Rights Group intervened in the case together with Privacy International, arguing that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), rushed through parliament in 2014, was incompatible with EU law. While the Judgment will no longer affect DRIPA, which expires at the end of 2016, it has major implications for the Investigatory Powers Act.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

The CJEU has sent a clear message to the UK Government: blanket surveillance of our communications is intrusive and unacceptable in a democracy.

The Government knew this judgment was coming but Theresa May was determined to push through her snoopers' charter regardless. The Government must act quickly to re-write the IPA or be prepared to go to court again.

Data retention powers in the Investigatory Powers Act will come into effect on 30 Dec 2016. These mean that ISPs and mobile phone providers can be obliged to keep data about our communications, including a record of the websites we visit and the apps we use. This data can be accessed by the police but also a wide range of organisations like the Food Standards Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Department of Health.

 

26th December
2016

 Offsite Article: Abuse of trust...

tom dick and harry No matter how much governments spout bollox about mass snooping being used onlt to detect the likes of terrorism, the authorities end up sharing the data with Tom, Dick and Harry for the most trivial of reasons

See article from theguardian.com

 

10th January
2017

 Update: The People vs the Snoopers' Charter...

Liberty launches crowdfunded legal challenge to indiscriminate state spying powers in Investigatory Powers Act

Liberty logoLiberty is launching a landmark legal challenge to the extreme mass surveillance powers in the Government's new Investigatory Powers Act -- which lets the state monitor everybody's web history and email, text and phone records, and hack computers, phones and tablets on an industrial scale.

Liberty is seeking a High Court judicial review of the core bulk powers in the so-called Snoopers' Charter -- and calling on the public to help it take on the challenge by donating v ia crowdfunding platform CrowdJustice .

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said:

Last year, this Government exploited fear and distraction to quietly create the most extreme surveillance regime of any democracy in history. Hundreds of thousands of people have since called for this Act's repeal because they see it for what it is -- an unprecedented, unjustified assault on our freedom.

We hope anybody with an interest in defending our democracy, privacy, press freedom, fair trials, protest rights, free speech and the safety and cybersecurity of everyone in the UK will support this crowdfunded challenge, and make 2017 the year we reclaim our rights.

The Investigatory Powers Act passed in an atmosphere of shambolic political opposition last year, despite the Government failing to provide any evidence that such indiscriminate powers were lawful or necessary to prevent or detect crime.

A petition calling for its repeal has since attracted more than 200,000 signatures.

Liberty's challenge

Liberty will seek to challenge the lawfulness of the following powers, which it believes breach the public's rights:

  •   Bulk hacking -- the Act lets police and agencies access, control and alter electronic devices like computers, phones and tablets on an industrial scale, regardless of whether their owners are suspected of involvement in crime -- leaving them vulnerable to further attack by hackers.
  • Bulk interception -- the Act allows the state to read texts, online messages and emails and listen in on calls en masse, without requiring suspicion of criminal activity.
  • Bulk acquisition of everybody's communications data and internet history -- the Act forces communications companies and service providers to hand over records of everybody's emails, phone calls and texts and entire web browsing history to state agencies to store, data-mine and profile at its will. This provides a goldmine of valuable personal information for criminal hackers and foreign spies.
  • Bulk personal datasets -- the Act lets agencies acquire and link vast databases held by the public or private sector. These contain details on religion, ethnic origin, sexuality, political leanings and health problems, potentially on the entire population -- and are ripe for abuse and discrimination.

A major victory

Liberty is launching this challenge just weeks after a landmark ruling from the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) rendered core parts of the Investigatory Powers Act effectively unlawful.

 In a challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) by MP Tom Watson, represented by Liberty, the CJEU ruled the UK Government was breaking the law by indiscriminately collecting and accessing the nation's internet activity and phone records.

DRIPA forced communications companies to store records of everybody's emails, texts, phone calls and internet communications and let hundreds of public bodies grant themselves access with no suspicion of serious crime or independent sign-off.

Judges ruled the regime breached British people's rights because it:

  • Allowed indiscriminate retention of all communications data.
  • Did not restrict access to the purpose of preventing and detecting precisely defined serious crime.
  • Let police and public bodies authorise their own access, instead of requiring prior authorisation by a court or independent body.
  • Did not require that people be notified after their data had been accessed.
  • Did not require that the data be kept within the European Union.

DRIPA expired at the end of 2016 -- but its powers are replicated and vastly expanded in the Investigatory Powers Act, with no effort to counter the lack of safeguards found unlawful in the case.

Support Liberty's challenge by donating at www.crowdjustice.org/case/snoopers-charter .