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Liberty News

2008: Oct-Dec

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29th December   

Pupil Watch...

Schools install CCTV and microphones in classrooms
Link Here

Schools have installed CCTV cameras and microphones in classrooms to watch and listen to pupils.

The Big Brother-style surveillance is being marketed as a way to identify pupils disrupting lessons when teachers' backs are turned.

Classwatch, the firm behind the system, says its devices can be set up to record everything that goes on in a classroom 24 hours a day and used to compile evidence of wrongdoing. The equipment is sold with Crown Prosecution Service-approved evidence bags to store material to be used in court cases.

Data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner has warned the surveillance may be illegal and demanded to know why primary and secondary schools are using this kind of sophisticated equipment to watch children. Officials said they would be contacting schools to seek proper justification for the equipment's use. A spokesman said the system raised privacy concerns for teachers, students and their parents. The use of microphones to record conversations is deeply intrusive and we will be seeking further clarification on their use in schools and, if necessary, we will issue further guidance to headteachers.

Classwatch is set to face further scrutiny over the role of Shadow Children's Minister Tim Loughton, the firm's £30,000-a-year chairman.

The systems cost around £3,000 to install in each classroom or can be leased for about £50 per classroom per month. The firm says the devices act as impartial witnesses which can provide evidence in disputes and curb bullying and unruly behaviour and protect teachers against false allegations of abuse – plus provide evidence acceptable in court.

Schools are required to inform all parents that microphones and cameras are monitoring their children.


24th December   

Update: German Super Stasi...

Bill to expand police snooping powers passed by upper house
Link Here
Full story: State Trojan Horses...State infects home PCs using Trojans

The German parliament's upper house has approved a Big Brother bill that gives police powers extensive new powers, clearing the way for it to become law.

The upper house, the Bundesrat, approved the bill by a vote of 35-34.

The new law reforms the federal police and give authorities powers to break into personal computers during preventive inquiries into terrorism and other serious crime.

The revised bill requires a judge to authorize police access to a suspect's personal computer and to oversee the search of data by law enforcement officers.

It also clarifies the jurisdiction for such searches between the federal government and state authorities.

Police have been studying whether they could either enter premises to plant monitoring devices in computers or send viruses to the computers via the internet so that investigators could covertly read the hard disks.

Legislators, clergymen and defense lawyers are fully protected from such searches, but journalists, other lawyers and doctors are not.

Michael Konken, chairman of the German Journalists Association has called the bill a farce: We are worried in the editorial department, because people no longer know what they should do with their information.


21st December   

Searching for Better Privacy...

Yahoo to limit search data retention to 90 days
Link Here

Yahoo threw down the gauntlet to rivals Google and Microsoft by cutting the length of time that it retains information about what its users are doing online.

It will now keep information about online searches for only 90 days - down from 13 months - before 'anonymising' the data by getting rid of any information about the computer address of the user.

Crucially Yahoo has also widened the scope of the data that is covered by its new privacy policy to include information about which websites its users visit and the adverts they see and click on.

Search engines have come under increasing pressure from privacy campaigners and regulators, including the European commission, to do more to protect the anonymity of their users.

Yahoo will make the switch next year, but it is unlikely to be in place across all its global operations until 2010.


18th December   


Opening up anonymously hosted Tor sites to the wider world
Link Here

Regular web users can now access anonymously-published websites that are masked by Tor's hidden services thanks to a new tool called .

The tool, created by former Reddit developer Aaron Swartz and WikiScanner creator Virgil Griffith, enables people to view these hidden websites (designated by the .onion domain suffix) without diving into Tor, which can be a pain for casual surfers.

The creators hope that the existence of tor2web will encourage more organizations to publish content anonymously through Tor, now that such a heavy access restriction has been lifted.

The Tor project is most famous as a tool that allows Internet surfers to access websites privately and anonymously from within the onion router. Put simply, it works by passing your requests to another node that acts as a middleman between you and a website, which in turn passes the request onto other nodes, and so on. Every step is encrypted except for the final exit node to the content server connection, and the network is run almost entirely by volunteers.

Tor's hidden services allow web publishers to publish content anonymously so that law enforcement (and general snoopers) can't detect where the information is coming from. The only problem with publishing websites under Tor is that they can only be accessed from within Tor, meaning that the available audience at any given time is infinitesimally small compared to the overall Internet-using population. This is the problem that Swartz and Griffith hope to address with tor2web.


17th December   

Euro Databases...

Big Brother databases to be available to all EU states
Link Here

Britons could find themselves forced to prove they are innocent of crimes abroad after the Government agreed to EU-wide access to its 'Big Brother' databases.

All 26 other member countries will be able to check against sensitive personal information held on driver registration, DNA and fingerprint computer systems.

Where there is a match, a suspect-could be extradited to face trial abroad or - at the least - be forced to explain their movements or provide an alibi.

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve warned last night: There is a real risk that a disproportionate number of innocent British citizens will be sucked into foreign criminal investigations.

Grieve said people could even be arrested in Britain for something which is not a criminal offence, or be whisked away to face punishment abroad after being tried in their absence: My fear is that ministers have magnified the risk of British citizens becoming the victim of miscarriages of justice that take place abroad but have effectively been sanctioned by their own government at home.

The agreement stems from the Prum Convention, signed in Prum, Germany, in 2005 between Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Austria. The then junior Home Office minister Joan Ryan signed the UK up to its terms in 2007. Officials are now preparing to formally approve the agreement, following technical talks.

Phil Booth, of the NO2ID privacy campaign, said the Government was allowing its own assault on the principle of innocent until proven guilty to be extended to other EU nations.


13th December

 Offsite: Villain's Charter...

Link Here
Full story: Human Rights Act...Government for curtailing human rights
A dangerous quid pro quo

See article from


12th December   

Just Rewards...

New Labour win the evil Big Brother Award
Link Here

Simon Davies, of Privacy International, has re-instituted the UK Big Brother Awards, to recognise some of the people who have been trying to keep the monsters of state and corporate mass surveillance , snooping and control at bay.

At a ceremony held at the London School of Economics, the evil Big Brother Award, with the boot forever stamping on the human face, was awarded simply to New Labour.

The 2008 UK Big Brother Awards Roll of Honour

  • Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP - one of the Liberal Democrat Members of the European Parliament whose Human Rights Committee has been trying to stem the onslaught of necessarily repressive legislation in the past few years.
  • Phil Booth, the National Coordinator of the cross political party
    NO2ID Campaign -against the Database State. Phil was recently described as the hardest man in NGO-world.
  • Helen Wallace from GeneWatch UK, who did so much to help educate politicians and lawyers and the media about the counterproductive evil policy of keeping innocent people's DNA tissue samples and DNA profiles, seemingly for ever, This has been overturned in the very recent European Court of Human Rights judgement in the Marper case.
  • Gareth Crossman - retiring Director of Policy at Liberty Human Rights
  • Becky Hogge - retiring Executive Director of the Open Rights Group
  • Rt. Hon. David Davis MP, the fomer Conservative Shadow Home Affairs spokesman, who was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Haltemprice and Howden, on the principles of freedom and liberty.


12th December   

Dismal New Labour...

Government adviser quits over Labour's dismal human rights record
Link Here
Full story: Human Rights Act...Government for curtailing human rights

One of the eminent outsiders brought into Gordon Brown's government of all the talents has revealed that he quit in disgust at what he describes as Labour's dismal lack of political leadership on human rights.

Lord Lester, a Liberal Democrat and distinguished human rights lawyer, quit as the prime minister's adviser on constitutional reform a month ago. In a scathing attack yesterday, he revealed for the first time how he felt tethered by the government, describing its record on human rights as dismal and deeply disappointing.

He was speaking on the 60th anniversary of the UN's declaration of human rights, and singled out the justice secretary, Jack Straw, for failing to produce a radical constitutional renewal bill or to defend the Human Rights Act.

Straw angered human rights campaigners by giving an interview in the Daily Mail this week in which he said many people felt the act, passed by the government in 1990 while he was home secretary, was perceived as a villains' charter.

Lester angrily described the interview as a sly attempt to undermine public support for the act. Under the headline Straw gets tough, the Mail described his pledge to reform villains' charter .

Lester went on to criticise the government's failures to fight for human rights across a range of issues.

He said the government's failures to pursue constitutional reform were why I decided, with regret, to cease to be a government-tethered 'goat' - that is, one of those flatteringly and misleadingly described as part of a government of all the talents. Lester is understood to be dismayed that Straw has allowed the constitutional reform bill not to find a firm slot in the Queen's speech, and fears the justice secretary is using his plans for a bill of rights and responsibilities to weaken rather than strengthen British commitment to human rights.


12th December

 Offsite: Sly Populism of the Worst Kind...

Link Here
Full story: Human Rights Act...Government for curtailing human rights
Freedom is taking a battering under kneejerk New Labour

See article from


9th December   

Genetically Disposed to Repression...

UK fail to respect private life by retaining DNA of innocent people
Link Here

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that it is illegal for the government to retain DNA profiles and fingerprints belonging to two men never convicted of any crime.

The landmark decision could mean the more than 570,000 DNA profiles in the National DNA Database belonging to innocent individuals will have to be deleted. Police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland currently have powers to take DNA and fingerprints from everyone they arrest.

The case was heard by the 17 judges of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. They unanimously found that UK DNA and fingerprint retention policies infringe individuals' rights to privacy.

Home secretary Jacqui Smith said: The existing law will remain in place while we carefully consider the judgement. In in April the Home Office committed itself to a consultation on DNA and fingerprint retention powers following today's ruling, regardless of the outcome.

The challenge was brought by two men from Sheffield. DNA was taken from Michael Marper, when he was charged with harassing his estranged partner in 2001. The charges were dropped when the couple reconciled. The second man, a teenager identified as "S", was charged with attempted robbery, also in 2001, but was acquitted.

The pair took their case to Europe after the House of Lords, the highest court in the UK, rejected their arguments in 2004. In November this year, the Lords voted that National DNA Database rules should be change to make it easier for innocent people to demand their profile is deleted.

In its ruling, the Grand Chamber said retention of innocent people's DNA profile was a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 8 states: Everyone has the right for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. It said it was not necessary to consider Marper and "S'" complaint under Article 14, which prohibits discrimination.

The 17 judges wrote: The Court was struck by the blanket and indiscriminate nature of the power of retention in England and Wales. In particular, the data in question could be retained irrespective of the nature or gravity of the offence with which the individual was originally suspected or of the age of the suspected offender; the retention was not time-limited; and there existed only limited possibilities for an acquitted individual to have the data removed from the nationwide database or to have the materials destroyed.

They were particularly concerned about the risk of stigmatisation caused by treating innocent people the same as convicted criminals.


8th December   

Coroners and Injustice Bill...

UK government enable data sharing by stealth
Link Here

Personal information detailing intimate aspects of the lives of every British citizen is to be handed over to government agencies under sweeping new powers. The measure, which will give ministers the right to allow all public bodies to exchange sensitive data with each other, is expected to be rushed through Parliament.

The new legislation would deny MPs a full vote on such data-sharing. Instead, ministers could authorise the swapping of information between councils, the police, NHS trusts, the Inland Revenue, education authorities, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, the Department for Work and Pensions and other ministries.

Opponents of the move accused the Government of bringing in by stealth a data-sharing programme that exposed everyone to the dangers of a Big Brother state and one of the most intrusive personal databases in the world. The new law would remove the right to protection against misuse of information by thousands of unaccountable civil servants, they added.

David Howarth, the Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, added: The Government shouldn't try to sneak through further building blocks of its surveillance state. Unrestricted data-sharing simply increases the risks of data loss. This is particularly troubling since the Government has already shown itself entirely incapable of keeping our personal data safe.

The data-sharing measure is referred to in the Coroners and Justice Bill outlined in the recent Queen's Speech. It could, for instance, pave the way for medical records to be sent to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to identify drivers who pose a health risk, or school attendance data being handed to the Department for Work and Pensions to verify social security claims made by parents.

NO2ID, a group which campaigned against government plans for ID cards and the associated National Identity Register, said the proposals went far beyond data protection and were intended to build the database state, concealed under a misleading name. The group's national co-ordinator, Phil Booth, said: This is a Bill to smash the rule of law and build the database state in its place. Burying sweeping constitutional change in obscure Bills is an appalling approach. Having proved – and admitted – they cannot be trusted to look after our secrets, they are still determined to steal what privacy we have left. Parliament needs to wake up before it has no say any more.


6th December   

We're All Hackers Now...

US considers lies about website entry conditions to be hacking
Link Here

A suicide case involving MySpace concluded last week, with the jury finding Lori Drew guilty of three misdemeanor counts of gaining unauthorized access to the popular social-networking site.

While most of the press attention has been focused on the specifics of the case, the more important issue is the potential impact this could have on the Internet in general.

Web site terms of service, which end users universally ignore, suddenly have teeth: violating them is now considered a federal hacking offense, punishable with jail time. The days of being able to freely lie on the Web could be coming to an end. This could mean serious trouble for people who lie about their age, weight, or marital status in their online dating profiles.

The specifics of the Lori Drew case are messy and emotional. The important fact is that there is no federal cyberbullying statute, so the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles turned to a novel interpretation of existing computer hacking laws to try to punish the woman. The general idea is that in creating terms of service, a Web site owner specifies the rules of admission to the site. If someone violates any of those contractual terms, the "access" to the Web site is done without authorization, and is thus hacking.

Unfortunately for Internet users everywhere, a jury bought the theory last week and found Lori Drew guilty of three misdemeanor violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, punishable with up to one year in a federal prison and a $100,000 fine for each of the three counts.

Until the Drew case is overturned, terms of service would appear to have the power of federal hacking laws to back them up, at least in cases where an ambitious federal prosecutor is interested in making a name for himself.


6th December   

Identity Papers...

Yet more new powers for the UK police to abuse
Link Here

UK officials are to be given powers previously reserved for times of war to demand a person's proof of identity at any time. Anybody who refuses the Big Brother demand could face arrest and a possible prison sentence.

The new rules are presented as a crackdown on illegal immigration, but lawyers say they could be applied to anybody who has ever been outside the UK, even on holiday.

The civil rights group Liberty, which analysed clauses from the new Immigration and Citizenship Bill, called them an attempt to introduce compulsory ID cards by the back door.

Liberty said: Powers to examine identity documents, previously thought to apply only at ports of entry, will be extended to criminalise anyone in Britain who has ever left the country and fails to produce identity papers upon demand.

We believe that the catch-all remit of this power is disproportionate and that its enactment would not only damage community relations but represent a fundamental shift in the relationship between the State and those present in the UK.

One broadly-drafted clause would permit checks on anyone who has ever entered the
UK - whether recently or years earlier. Officials, who could be police or immigration officers, will be able to stop anyone to establish if they need permission to be here, if they have it, and whether it should be cancelled.

No reasonable cause or suspicion is required, and checks can be carried out in country - not just at borders. The law would apply to British citizens and foreign nationals, according to Liberty's lawyers. The only people who would be exempt are the tiny minority who have never been abroad on holiday or business.

A second clause says that people who are stopped must produce a valid identity document if required to do so by the Secretary of State. Failure to do so would be a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of 51 weeks in jail or a £5,000 fine.

Currently, police are allowed to ask for identity documents only if there is a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed an offence.

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: Sneaking in compulsory identity cards via the back door of immigration law is a cynical escalation of this expensive and intrusive scheme.

LibDem spokesman Chris Huhne said: Ministers seem to be breaking their promise that no one would ever have to carry an ID card. This is a sly and underhand way of extending the ID card scheme by stealth.


5th December   

Section 27 Football Fan Abuse...

More frightening powers for the UK police to abuse
Link Here
Full story: Football Policing in UK...Police vandalise the concept of justice

Frightening new police powers have emerged following the shocking treatment of Stoke City fans prior to their team's away fixture with Manchester United on Saturday, November 15, 2008.

An estimated 80 Stoke supporters visited the Railway Inn pub in Irlam, Greater Manchester, on their way to Old Trafford. The pub was a natural stop-off point, being on en route to the stadium via the M6 and a local railway station. By all accounts that the Football Supporters' Federation have heard it was a relatively quiet atmosphere, with little singing, never mind trouble.

However, at 1.15pm a number of officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) entered the premises and told fans they would not be allowed to leave the pub, would be forcibly taken back to Stoke, and not be allowed to visit Old Trafford.

Each supporter was then issued with a Section 27 from the Violent Crime Reduction Act of 2006. This allows police to move someone from a specified area for a period of up to 48 hours. You do not actually have to have committed any offence for the act to be enforced. Section 27 gives police the powers to move anybody, from any place, at anytime, if they think there's a possibility an alcohol related offence may be committed.

Stoke City fan Lyndon Edwards, who is making a formal complaint to GMP and the Independent Police Complaints Commission, was one of those in the pub: I asked for it to be stated on the Section 27 form given that I was not intoxicated and that there was no evidence of any disorder on my part. This was refused so I refused to sign the form. I was told to sign it or I would be arrested. We were then loaded onto buses and had to sit there for what seemed like an eternity.

There were no football chants being sung at the Railway Inn and no evidence of disorder whatsoever. If there had of been we would have left the pub and made our way elsewhere.

The Stoke supporters were then driven back in convoy to Stoke city centre, regardless of whether this was actually where they were from.

I have spoken to a number of Stoke fans who were there and I am quite satisfied that they did absolutely nothing wrong, but they end being hauled back to Stoke against their will and missing the game, said Malcolm Clarke, chair of the FSF and a Stoke City fan: They were treated very badly by the Greater Manchester Police. This new law gives the police a great deal of instant power which can severely affect the basic civil rights of football supporters, if they happen to be in the wrong pub or on the wrong train at the wrong time.


5th December   

Update: German Remote Forensics Trojan...

Just think of the devastation if crooks and blackmailers got hold of the ideas
Link Here
Full story: State Trojan Horses...State infects home PCs using Trojans

German police will get sweeping new powers to hack into people's home computers with 'Trojan' viruses sent through the internet.

Under a compromise between the hardline Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and dissenting MPs, Germany's Parliament is put unprecedented power in the hands of the Federal Criminal Police (BKA). Under the compromise, the police will need a judge's approval before using the Trojans, even in an emergency.

Trojans will carry Remote Forensic Software that can search hard drives and send evidence back to investigators without their having to enter the suspect's home.

Rolf Tophoven from the Institute for Terrorism Research and Security Policy said: We need this. The masterminds among the terrorist groups of today are highly qualified, very sophisticated people. The police need as much power as we can give them so that they can remain at the technological level of the terrorists. After all, the terrorists already have a huge advantage: they have the first shot."

Based on article from

In practical terms there are many potential drawbacks to this Trojan approach.

For starters, infecting the PC of a target of an investigation is hit and miss. Malware is not a precision weapon, and that raises the possibility that samples of the malware might fall into the hands of cybercrooks.

Even if a target does get infected there's a good chance any security software they've installed will detect the malware. Any security vendor who agreed to turn a blind eye to state-sanctioned Trojans would risk compromising their reputation, as amply illustrated by the Magic Lantern controversy in the US a few years back.


1st December   

Loitering with Intent to be Watched...

CCTV cameras to detect running and loitering
Link Here

CCTV cameras which can predict if a crime is about to take place are being introduced on Britain's streets.

The cameras can alert operators to suspicious behaviour, such as loitering and unusually slow walking. Anyone spotted could then have to explain their behaviour to a police officer.

It will also fuel fears that Britain is becoming a surveillance society. There are already 4.2million cameras trained on the public. The technology could be used alongside many of these to allow evermore advanced scrutiny of our movements.

Civil rights campaign group Liberty is sceptical. A spokesman said: Bringing expensive Hollywood sci-fi to our car parks will never be as effective as having police on the street leading the fight against crime.'

The cameras, trained on public places, such as car parks, are being tested by Portsmouth City Council. Computers are programmed to analyse the movements of people or vehicles in the camera frame. If someone is seen lurking in a particular area, the computer will send out an alarm to a CCTV operator.

The operator will then check the image and – if concerned – ring the police. The aim is to stop crimes before they are committed. If a vehicle is moving too fast or slow – indicating joyriding or kerb-crawling, for example – a similar alert could be given.

Tory Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: We will look at this carefully… but there is no argument for CCTV that invades your privacy without being effective in the fight against crime.


24th November   

Update: 'Voluntary' Fines...

ID cards holders open to £1000 fines if they fail to keep details up to date
Link Here
Full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

People who fail to tell the authorities of a change of address or amend other key personal details within three months will face civil penalty fines of up to £1,000 a time when the national identity card scheme is up and running, according to draft Home Office regulations.

The Home Office made clear that repeated failures to keep an entry on the national identity register up to date could ultimately be enforced by bailiffs being sent round to seize property.

But detailed regulations to implement the national identity card scheme make clear that they intend to avoid the creation of ID card "martyrs", by levying no penalty on those who refuse to register for the national identity card database in the first place.

But the regulations show that the main sanction they are likely to face is being barred from leaving the country when it is time to renew their passport.

The regulations confirm ministers' intention to make passports a designated document which means anyone applying or renewing their passport will be automatically issued with an ID card at the same time. Ministers claim that this does not amount to compulsion but ID card critics disagree.

The consultation on the fine detail of how the ID card scheme will work in practice published yesterday also makes clear:

  • The £30 initial fee for a standalone ID card valid for travel in Europe only is capped for the year 2009/10 when it will be compulsory for airport workers and on a voluntary basis for students. The regulations allow for this fee to be increased in future years including by 2012, when it is anticipated that mass rollout will take place with 5-6 million combined passports/identity cards a year expected to be issued. Passport fees will be on top of this basic charge.
  • If it necessary to change any of the details held on the card, such as name or fingerprints which entail a new card being issued, a further £30 will be charged. Changes of address or other details which do not appear on the card will not be charged.
  • Transgendered people: those moving from their birth gender to an acquired gender will be able to apply for two ID cards - one for each gender. The second ID card will use a different name, signature and photograph although they will be linked as one entry on the national ID card register. Nevertheless they will be charged two fees for the privilege of holding two cards.
  • Homeless people and others who live transient lifestyles will also be able to register under the scheme. The Home Office expects to be able to agree with homeless people a suitable place to be registered as their residence - presumably even if it is only a railway arch. Those who move around frequently for work will be able to register their principal residence without notifying each move.

But the draft regulations also set out in detail the escalating series of fines for those who fail to keep their ID card register entry up to date or fail to correct errors on it.

The kind of details that must be provided within three months are a change of address, a change of name perhaps because of marriage or by deed poll, a change of nationality, a change of gender, or a significant change in an individual's face or their fingerprints perhaps because of an accident.

The Home Office say they will not need to police this aspect as it will soon become apparent when somebody tries, for example, to get on a plane with a ID card/passport with an out of date address that does not match that the bank debit/credit card they used to book the flight.

They say they may well find themselves not being allowed to travel. Those who lose their ID Cards or have them stolen will have to report the loss within a month.

Fines for failure to update the register start at £125 going up to £1,000 for repeatedly failing to comply. As a civil penalty the bailiffs may be sent in to enforce payment.


23rd November   

Snooper Pooper...

Councils told to stop undermining public support by their abuse of snooping powers
Link Here

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker admitted the scale of council snooping on people was undermining public support for the anti-terror law, and promised action in the near future.

Authorities will be told to stop using hi-tech surveillance methods designed to crack down on terrorism and serious crime for petty offences.

They have been accused of abusing the power to catch residents out such as those putting their rubbish out on the wrong day, dog fouling or claiming to live in a different school catchment area.

The Local Government Association backed the move and said it was entirely inappropriate for councils to use the powers save in the most unusual and extreme circumstances.

The minister was appearing before the House of Lords Constitution Committee, which is investigating the surveillance society.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said: For too long councils have been allowed to use powers designed for terrorism and organised crime to spy on people's kids, pets and bins. This must be corrected now, not in the near future.


22nd November   

Update: The Evil that Politicians Do...

Database Monstrosity Going Ahead Anyway
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Jack & Jacqui
Jack: Good one 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

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.


19th November   

Update: NebuAddled...

US ad targetting eavesdropper NebuAd sued
Link Here
Full story: Behavioural Advertising...Serving adverts according to internet snooping

Net eavesdropping firm NebuAd and its partner ISPs violated hacking and wiretapping laws when they tested advertising technology that spied on ISP customers web searches and surfing, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

The lawsuit seeks damages on behalf of thousands of subscribers to the six ISPs that are known to have worked with NebuAd. If successful, the suit could be the final blow to the company, which abandoned its eavesdropping plans this summer after powerful lawmakers began asking if the companies and ISPs violated federal privacy law by monitoring customers to deliver targeted ads.

NebuAd paid ISPs to let it install internet monitoring machines inside their network. Those boxes eavesdropped on users' online habits -- and altered the traffic going to users in order to track them. That data was then used to profile users in order to deliver targeted ads on other websites.

The suit alleges the ISPs and NebuAd both violated anti-wiretapping statutes by capturing users' online communications without giving adequate notice or getting consent.

Neither WideOpenWest nor Embarq, the two largest ISPs being sued, responded to requests for comment. Knology told Congress in August it had used NebuAd in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Alabama, but stopped in July after Congress started asking questions. The other named ISP defendants are Bresnan Communications, Cable One, CenturyTel, all of which admitted testing NebuAd's technology.

The suit seeks damages as well as an injunction against any similar behavior in the future.


18th November   

Offsite: Intoxicated by Power...

Across Britain, police are behaving like gangsters
Link Here

Aw'us a swig

The author of a new briefing document reports on how drinking control laws give the police absolute, unchecked power.

Most police powers are kept on a tight leash. If the police want to arrest you, search your house, or confiscate your property, they can only do this in particular defined circumstances – and the whole procedure is closely documented and recorded.

Yet now there is a whole swathe of behaviour-policing laws, where police – or pseudo-police such as community support officers – are given powers to use however they want, against whomever they want, in whatever circumstances they want. They are being signed legal blank cheques. One key example of this is drinking control powers: within 800-plus control areas across the UK, police officers can now ask peaceable citizens to surrender their can of lager or ale, or to tip it down the drain. 

...Read full article


16th November   

Update: Germany Create Super Stasi...

Bill to expand police snooping powers passed by lower house
Link Here
Full story: State Trojan Horses...State infects home PCs using Trojans

Germany's lower house of parliament has approved a hotly debated law vastly expanding the surveillance capabilities of the federal police.

Opponents lambaste the measure as an effort to create a super police -- and look forward to their day before the Constitutional Court.

The measure passed 375-168 with the strong backing of Chancellor Angela Merkel's grand coalition government pairing her conservative Christian Democrats with the center-left Social Democrats. The measure's backers hope to get the stamp of approval of the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament, before Christmas so that it can go into effect in early 2009.

The measures are specifically aimed at increasing the investigative powers of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). Among the increased powers would be the right to spy on people's computers using Trojans carrying so-called Remote Forensic Software that can clandestinely search through hard drives and send potentially incriminating evidence back to investigators. However, the measure does not allow the police to enter a home in order to put monitoring equipment or software on a computer.

The measure also allows the BKA to bug, film or photograph the homes of suspected terrorists or places where they are staying. Also permissible is the tapping of suspects' telephones and cell phones as well as tracking the location of mobile phone calls.

Finally, the measure will permit the BKA to perform data-mining searches as a preventative measure rather than as part of criminal proceedings following terrorist attacks. In certain cases, such data-mining can also include the use of data seized from private institutions.
All of these proposed powers would still require court approval. However, in cases of emergency, the measure allows the BKA to undertake activities without immediate court approval if such approval is obtained within three days.

The measure will also permit the BKA to perform data-mining searches as a preventative measure rather than as part of criminal proceedings following terrorist attacks. In certain cases, such data-mining can also include the use of data seized from private institutions.

According to the Interior Ministry, similar investigative powers are already enjoyed by the police forces of Germany's federal states as well as the other federal intelligence services, including Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND), the German army's military security service (MAD), and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).


9th November   

Update: Unconstitutional Surveillance...

German data retention restricted by Constitutional Court
Link Here
Full story: State Trojan Horses...State infects home PCs using Trojans

Germany's Constitutional Court has curbed Germany's wide-reaching data collection law by stating that the data can only be collected and saved in case of real danger to citizens.

The Court decided in response to a class action suit filed by 34,000 Germans, the biggest of its kind in Germany.

The data collection law went into effect in January 2008. It gave federal government broad access to stored telephone and internet data, including email addresses, for at least six months.

The bill, part of an EU directive immediately sparked controversy among free-market liberals, privacy advocates and civil rights groups, which criticised its scope. In Hamburg, demonstaters staged a mock funeral marking The Death of Privacy.

March saw the German Constitutional Court issue an injunction against the law, saying it needed further review. Authorities would only be allowed to access it under extreme circumstances, and with a warrant. Also, the law could only be used for serious crime investigations such as murder, theft, child pornography, money laundering, corruption, tax evasion and fraud.

Using the saved data for prosecuting individuals who illegally downloaded music and movies was ruled out completely.

The ruling finally puts an end to crossing the limits of constitutionality on citizen rights, critics say. Data can only be collected when the stability or security of Germany or another country need to be defended and life, limb, and freedom of German citizens need to be protected.

The ruling was seen as a serious blow to tighter security measures by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.


9th November   

Update: Identifying Price Escalation...

UK ID Cards and passports to increase in price to pay for fingerprinting
Link Here
Full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

Jack & Jacqui
Jack: Have you got your ID card yet?
Jacqui: Yes, but I lost it!

Passport fees to jump by a third to more than £100 to pay for fingerprinting. The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith also revealed that the cost to taxpayers of new identity cards will double from £30 to £60.

The huge rises were necessary to pay for taking facial readings and fingerprints for new biometric passports and ID cards.

From 2012 identity and passport service estimates that around seven million UK residents will apply for a card or a passport - with each person having to provide their fingerprints, photograph and signature in person.

This means that the additional cost of a biometric passport or identity card will be £28 each, on top of the £72 charge for a new passport. The cost of paying for an identity card will jump from £30 to £58.

The fee for a new passport has increased fourfold in the past 10 years, from £18 in 1997 to £72 today. If the fee in 1997 had increased by the annual rate of inflation it would be £23.67 today.

In a speech by Smith at the Social Market Foundation in London, Smith also revealed that some ID cards will be handed out next year to members of the public who were keen to have one.

Anyone who wants a card can register their interest on a website. They would be then selected at random to become early adopters of the cards. The cards will enable holders to travel around Europe without a passport.

ID cards will be compulsory for 20,000 airside workers at two airports - City of London and Manchester - from next Autumn, although the cost of registering them will be paid for by the Home Office.

From Nov 25 this year, ID cards are compulsory for foreign nationals who come to Britain for more than a holiday.


8th November   

Update: Stop and Search...

Simple PC image screening for Australian police
Link Here
Full story: Laptops at Customs...Travel dangers from Customs searching lap tops

Technology that claims to simply identify illicit images on PCs has attracted the interest of Australian cops. The software, developed in an Australian University, might eventually be used to screen PCs during border inspections.

Compared to breath test tools used by the police in a different context, the software - developed at Perth's Edith Cowan University in association with local police from Western Australia - is undergoing beta testing.

Described as Simple Image Preview Live Environment (SImPLE), the application is designed to be easy to use by law enforcement officers, even those with few computer skills. The main application of the technology is said to be hunting for images of child abuse though other application, such as border screening of computers, are under review.

The software runs off a Linux-bootable CD that can be put into the CD-ROM drive of a PC to load up a separate environment without affecting anything already on the PC. Copies of potentially interesting evidence are written to a DVD- writer.

Evidence obtained through the tool is admissible in court, at least in Australia.

Australian scientists hope to sell the software to law enforcement agencies worldwide following its release, scheduled for next February. The application is only capable of searching for dodgy content in existing files, not for deleted or partially overwritten files, unlike more powerful forensic tools.

Its developers say the tool will cut down on the workload faced by computer forensic specialists by allowing front line cops to perform a screening role. That might be good for the needs of law enforcement but it might encourage a stop and search culture of computers, particularly at border control, that is sure to raise objections from civil liberties activists and result in more random searches.


6th November   

Update: Black Days...

UK government ready to insert black boxes to snoop the internet
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

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.


2nd November   

Update: Untrustworthy Councils with Rubbish Priorities...

So how can they be trusted with new labours communications database monstrosity?
Link Here
Full story: Council Snooping...Concil snooping for trivial reasons

Control Room:
Westminster Refuse Revenue
Collection Service

More than half of town halls admit using anti-terror laws to spy on families suspected of putting their rubbish out on the wrong day.

Their tactics include putting secret cameras in tin cans, on lamp posts and even in the homes of 'friendly' local snitches.

The local authorities admitted that one of their main aims was to catch householders who put their bins out early.

Many councils have been spying on residents and fining them if they put rubbish out on the wrong day

The shocking way in which the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act - an anti-terror law - is being used was revealed through freedom of information requests made by the Daily Mail.

Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty said: Snooping appears to have become the favourite pastime in town halls up and down the land. Common sense has gone out of the window and instead of putting out more bins, councils spy on householders as if they were terrorists.

Although it is ostensibly an anti-terror law, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, or RIPA, is worded so loosely that it can be used to justify surveillance operations for a variety of reasons. These include spying to protect public health or the economic well-being of the UK. This 'means' that councils can use the powers granted by the Act to monitor families' treatment of household waste.

The revelations have raised fresh concerns about the Home Office's plans to create a 'Big Brother' database of every citizen's e-mail and internet records.

Ministers say that councils will not have access to the information. But critics point out that RIPA, which was passed as anti-terror legislation, is now being routinely used by town halls - and the same could happen with the database.

Phil Booth, of the NO2ID campaign, said that public bodies were assembling the tools of a totalitarian state.


1st November   

Update: Given the Pip...

Orange say no to Phorm
Link Here
Full story: Behavioural Advertising...Serving adverts according to internet snooping

Orange, the UK's sixth largest broadband provider, is not going to use Phorm's data-snooping technology.

Paul-Francois Fournier told the FT: Privacy is in our DNA, so we need to be honest and clear about what we are doing. We have decided not to be in Phorm because of that... The way it was proposed, the privacy issue was too strong. He said Phorm's model lacked clarity for customers.

However, the ISP has not given up on making more revenue from users' data. Fournier said the company would talk to customers about what data they would be happy to hand over, and what they would want in return.


30th October   

Update: The Battle of Newman Street...

Westminster Council want Banksy CCTV mural removed
Link Here

The case of Westminster council versus Banksy raises an interesting legal precedent. Normally permission to paint a wall is only required from a local authority if the building is of listed historic value or the painting is commercial in nature, but now artistic judgement appears to come into it.

Westminster council first sought to remove Banksy's painting One nation under CCTV on Newman street in central London on the grounds it was an unlicensed commercial.

The owner of the property itself is apparently happy for the painting to remain in place so Westminster council has now sought consultation with local residents in order to prove the painting is having a detrimental affect on the area.

Referring to the adjacent Post Office building who have sought the paintings removal since it first appeared Banksy said I don't know what next door is complaining about — their building is so ugly the 'No Trespassing' sign reads like an insult.

All of which leaves the possibility for what is believed to be the first recorded use of the 2003 Anti-social Behaviour act which for the first time gives councils the ability to enter private premises and force the removal of graffiti. A measure introduced by David Blunkett and which Banksy attacked at the time in a series of paintings and statements.


27th October   

Art Watch...

Westminster Council wound up by Banksy CCTV mural
Link Here

Westminster city council in London decided to paint over guerilla-artist Banksy's largest work in the city.

The council ordered the removal to send a message to graffiti artists.

Robert Davis, deputy leader of the council and chair, told BBC News, If you condone this then you condone graffiti all over London.

Banksy, who conceals his identity, is famous for his political and satirical street art. His works have been found everywhere from the Gaza Strip to New Orleans.

The seven-metre-tall mural being removed depicts a child painting the words One Nation Under CCTV on the wall. A dog and police officer holding a camera are painted next to the graffiti artist.

The mural is painted on the wall of a building shared by Royal Mail and another business.


24th October   

I Am Not a Nombre...

France plans internet ID cards
Link Here

An internet ID card would have a huge number of uses, claimed Minister for the Digital Economy Eric Besson, including (but surely not limited to) medical care, identification for work and banking sites, and also online shopping.

Besson was outlining France's Plan Numérique 2012 . Access is a major factor in the plan: describing the internet as an essential commodity of the 21st century, he said each French citizen should have a right to affordable access to broadband internet, costing no more than €35 per month (including materials). This part of the scheme is to be put in place no later than 2010.

He also proposes 400 cyberbases to be installed in primary schools to introduce the web to youngsters, and the appointment of 1000 internet ambassadors who will promote the digital life to businesses and groups previously left behind by the technology boom, such as the elderly.

Also included in his speech was France's switch to digital television - frequencies freed up by the move from analogue to numérique will be distributed among radio, television and mobile broadband services. The entire nation will be switched to digital by the end of 2011.

Ambitious plans, indeed, though the Minister's obsession with internet security will worry libertarians. France already has ID cards and chip-carrying medical cards: Combining the two in a card which can be read online does not require a massive leap of the imagination. Despite its reputation for hanky-panky, France has seen a swing towards conservatism in broadcast and internet, with parents groups complaining about the exposure infants and teens get to pornography, violence and advertising (yes, the three are grouped together in France). Add to this government concerns about the independence of blogs and you have the makings of a censorious future ahead, even if it is digital.


22nd October

 Offsite: Any Remote Chance of Freedom?...

Link Here
Full story: State Trojan Horses...State infects home PCs using Trojans
Trojanised Home Sec comes home to infect Parliament

See article from


21st October   

Update: Plumbing into the UK Spy Network...

Hide your BDSM and porn DVDs when tradesmen call
Link Here
Full story: Stasi Britain...Recruiting an army of snitches and snoopers

Tradesmen working for UK local authorities are to be asked to report signs of child abuse and neglect as they visit the homes of council tenants.

The plumbers, electricians and carpenters will be issued with a checklist of signs to look out for. Training will last just half a day.

But critics believe the use of workers untrained in such a highly complex field could backfire. They say that children who are at real risk could be overlooked because social workers with already bulging caseloads could be bombarded with baseless complaints.

One of the first councils to pilot the scheme will be Lincoln, which later this month is expected to approve the policy under which about 200 front-line staff will be given four hours' training on child abuse, with 600 backroom or office workers attending even shorter awareness briefings.

The front-liners include any employee who visits homes as part of his or her job, including rent officers. Council-employed sports coaches and leisure-centre staff, who come into daily contact with children, will also be trained.

Child welfare charity AIMS condemned the idea as 'ludicrous'. Its spokeswoman Jean Robinson said: This will just lead to a huge increase in the number of false cases being reported and you won't be able to find the needle because the haystack will be so vast.

This is a highly complex area and not one for amateurs. Of course, if anyone, council employee or not, saw a child who was clearly being beaten or starved, their basic humanity would hopefully lead them to report it but the idea of council plumbers and carpenters being semi-trained and seen as some sort of child-abuse spies by the people they are supposed to be serving is rather sinister.


21st October   

Update: The Evil that Smith Can Do...

Establishment rails at New Labour's Database monstrosity
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Jack & Jacqui
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

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.


20th October   

Update: MrWhitehallSource vs MrMickeyMouse...

Anonymous government sources whinge at internet anonymity
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

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.


19th October   

Downwardly Mobile...

The government will register all UK pay as you go phones
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Jack & Jacqui
Jack: We'll need an army to sift
through this
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.


19th October   

Update: Any Remote Chance of Privacy?...

EU G6 plus USA ministers discussing "remote searches of computer hard drives"
Link Here
Full story: State Trojan Horses...State infects home PCs using Trojans

Yes Gordon, of course people will
believe this is all about terrorism.
Make the lie big,
make it simple,
keep saying it,
and eventually they will believe it

This supposedly "informal" G6 group usually seem to manage to "policy launder" their decisions via the wider, full membership of the European Union, and then they can pretend that their latest Orwellian control fantasy which they are inflicting on our freedoms and liberties, has somehow been imposed on them by the EU, and is necessary to meet "international commitments", even though they themselves instigated the original policy.

From Hansard:

Written Ministerial Statements Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Home Department G6 and United States Counter-Terrorism Symposium

Jacqui Smith (Home Secretary; Redditch, Labour)

The informal G6 group of Interior Ministers from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom met in Bonn, Germany on 26 and 27 September 2008, along with the United States State Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. This was the third G6 plus US counter-terrorism symposium meeting. I attended on behalf of the United Kingdom.

The symposium was divided into four substantive discussion sessions:


remote searches of computer hard drives;


Is this a further development of what the German government has been attempting recently ?

Presumably this involves intrusive access to remote computers, by means of some sort of spyware, computer virus, trojan horse backdoor etc., or by on the fly deep packet inspection and sniffing of passwords or other security credentials,


19th October   

Hash Marks...

Black box with capability to detect dangerous pictures
Link Here

The Protect Our Children Act of 2008, S. 1738, signed into law this week by President Bush, allows ISPs to compare the "hash mark" - a unique digital signature - of each image file (even video) or document passing through its system with a list of the hash marks of known child porn images, and to report any hits to the FBI or other appropriate government agency.

Digital Entertainment has come up with a gadget known as CopyRouter, which ISPs could place in their data stream. According to an article on, CopyRouter's function is to compare the hash mark of each file passing through the ISP's computer system with the government's list, but it also takes the further step of blocking any flagged files it detects and substituting a file provided by law enforcement which contains a warning,  The hardware also has the capability of reporting the attempt to access the file to the government, together with the IP address of the file's intended recipient.

CopyRouter uses deep packet inspection, which MSNBC which can detect hash marks in real-time as the data is flowing through the system. Brilliant Digital claims that its unit can detect the hash mark of an encrypted file for comparison with the hit list.

Now, if it were simply the ISP itself that decided to use CopyRouter or some other child-porn detection software or hardware, and it made its users aware that it intended to scan all files flowing through its system, that would not present any constitutional problems. But there are a few flies in the ointment.

But if the ISP does its snooping on the sly, without informing its customers, that's clearly an invasion of privacy - and if it did so at the request of some government agency, that's a Fourth Amendment violation, since it would be a warrantless search - and it's unclear whether Cuomo's attempts simply to browbeat ISPs into performing the searches constitutes a similar violation.

Brilliant Digital thinks it can get around these problems because its CopyRouter doesn't look at the document itself, just its hash mark.

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) has expressed concern over what it sees as prior restraint of speech if an ISP blocks files based on the hash list.

You can't declare speech, or images, illegal without judicial proceedings, CDT's John Morris said: That creates enormous First Amendment problems. You can't have an agency or outside firm acting as judge and jury on these images...

Interestingly, the nutters of Morality In Media (MIM) also object to the law - because it doesn't go far enough. If S. 1728 comes up for a vote, it will pass easily because Congress can't do enough to curb sexual abuse of children, wrote MIM president Robert Peters in a press release: But if Congress is ready to spend hundreds of millions of additional dollars to curb sexual abuse of children, why doesn't it also spend several million to fight 'adult' obscenity?


19th October   

Update: Identifying Failed Propaganda...

Government website for youths to discuss ID cards taken down
Link Here
Full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

The Home Secretary's opinion-harvesting site for young 'uns,, has shut up shop and looks likely to drag its feet on publishing the research.

Jacqui Smith launched the site back in July to kickstart debate amongst the yoof about government ID cards. The only trouble was that opinions expressed by those using it were overwhelmingly negative.

The views posted did not seem to match the Identity and Passport Service's claims of majority support for ID cards among young people - the site being only for 16-25 year olds.

This morning, as scheduled, the survey ended and the site disappeared. This was despite promises from site admins that the results of this penetrating research would be published on the site itself.

Site admins asked the pesky yoofs to summarise the views posted by people on this site about the National Identity Scheme. And they did: ID cards are expensive, intrusive, unnecessary and just plain wrong and Don't need, don't want and won't have one were two of the pithier contributions.


19th October

 Offsite: A Database of Propaganda...

Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism
Das berdatabase: Inside Wacky Jacqui's motherbrain

See article from


18th October   

A Collage of Protests...

International protests against the surveillance society
Link Here

Mass surveillance is threatening the fabric of a democratic and open society and a healthy Internet. Mass surveillance is also endangering the work and commitment of civil society organizations - on and offline. That is why many conscious people got together on the 11th October to commemorate Freedom not Fear Day, with a variety of peaceful protests:

In Berlin the greatest protest march against surveillance in Germany's history took place: Participants in the 2 km long, peaceful protest march carried signs reading

  • You are Germany, you are a suspect
  • No Stasi 2.0 - Constitution applicable here
  • Fear of Freedom?
  • Glass citizens, brittle democracy.

Apart from related music tracks, loud chants of Belittle it today, be under surveillance tomorrow or We are here and we are loud because they are stealing our data could be heard. During the protests, which were supported by more than 100 civil liberties groups, professional associations, unions, political parties and other organisations, artists played parodies on surveillance society.

It all started with the opposition to a Data Retention directive in EU. Now it has evolved and become global, as expressed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF):

Freedom Not Fear has evolved into a more general warning: showing how fundamental freedoms like privacy, freedom of expression, and democratic participation lose when reactionary surveillance systems penetrate our open networks, justified by a hyperbolic rhetoric of fear.

Events took place in more than a dozen countries around the World, and hopefully in the years to come more voices will join to act against such abuses from Governments and companies.

From a big picture unveiled by Open Rights Group in London, to a meeting of up to 100,000 people in Berlin, activities in Argentina, articles in Chile, an informative talk in Guatemala, and a rally followed by a Statement for October 11, 2008 in U.S., many people joined efforts to express their opposition to the increasing surveillance and controls by governments and also against data retention.

The most important messages were to affirm international human rights, including freedom of expression and privacy protection, repeal legal authorities that permit warrantless surveillance, unconstitutional monitoring and tracking of individuals, and a call to end the culture of secrecy that allows government officials to hide mismanagement, fraud, and incompetence behind the veil of homeland security , i.e. a call to transparency.


17th October   

Update: Hoon, Enemy of Freedom...

Hoon prepared to go quite a long way to undermine liberty
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Good morning Mr Chips, citizen 14Z3J373/d.
You were monitored visiting
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.


17th October

 Offsite: Denial of Rights...

Link Here
The freedom of historical debate is under attack by the memory police

See article from


16th October   

Update: New Labour Database Monstrosity...

The innocent have nothing to fear...unless they share music, pay for sex, enjoy swinging, porn or fundamental religion
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

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

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

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.


13th October   

Update: Airing Opposition...

Airline pilots oppose the introduction of UK ID cards
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Full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

Plans to build support for identity cards by introducing them among 'guinea pig' groups, such as airport staff and students, are in crisis after 10,000 airline pilots vowed to take legal action to block them and opposition swept through Britain's universities and councils.

In a move that could wreck the government's strategy for a phased introduction beginning next year, the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) said it would seek a judicial review rather than see its members forced to adopt ID cards at a time when pilots are already exhaustively vetted.

Balpa's vehement opposition is a hammer blow for the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, who had hoped to win the wider public over to ID cards by demonstrating that they were crucial to anti-terrorism policies. She intends to introduce them among groups who operate in positions of trust in our society.

Balpa, which represents more than 10,000 pilots working on 28 airlines, backed by the Trades Union Congress, insists that ID cards will do nothing to enhance airport or flight security, and it fears that information about its members stored on a National Identity Register could be abused.

Jim McAuslan, general secretary of Balpa, told The Observer: Our members are incensed by the way they have been targeted as guinea pigs in a project which will not improve security. We will leave no stone unturned in our attempts to prevent this, including legal action to force a judicial review if necessary.

From late 2010 ministers intend to start issuing ID cards to young people , particularly students, on a voluntary basis in a further attempt to win the population round. Then around 2012 everyone applying for a passport will have to be on the National Identity Register.

However, the anti-ID card campaign group, NO2ID, is mobilising what it says is a wave of student opposition to ID cards on campuses across the country.

More than 40 local authorities, as well as the Scottish parliament and the Welsh and London assemblies, have passed motions opposing ID cards. Without the co-operation of councils, which would use ID cards to verify benefit claimants and those wanting to use public services, the entire project would fail to get off the ground.


10th October

 Offsite: Advanced Level Snitching...

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Are Britain's schools full of 'little terrors'?

See article from


10th October

 Offsite: Snoopers Convenience Trumps Privacy...

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The all-seeing state is about to end privacy as we know it

See article from


5th October   

Update: UK Go Surveillance Crazy...

Can't we just vote the fuckers out
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Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

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.


2nd October   

Update: InPhormed Consent...

BT start new trials of phorm for those that opt in
Link Here
Full story: Behavioural Advertising...Serving adverts according to internet snooping

BT is about to start further trials of a controversial internet advertising technology. Developed by Phorm, the Webwise system watches what people do online and shows adverts tuned to their interests.

From 30 September, a sample of BT's customers will be invited to "opt in" to a trial of the technology. Those that are invited to take part will see a special webpage appear when they start browsing the web. In a statement BT said customers would be able to opt in, opt out or ask for more information via the pop-up page.

A spokesman for BT said the trial would run for "at least" four weeks and that it hoped 10,000 customers would take part. He said the technical trial would help BT assess whether the Phorm Webwise technology works well in the field.

Earlier trials of the technology suggested that BT would have to commit a lot of resources, potentially 300 servers, to use the system for all customers.

If it goes according to plan it's our expectation that we will roll it out across the entire broadband customer base, said the spokesman. No decision had yet been taken on whether Webwise would be "opt in" when the finished system is rolled out, he added.

The web browsing traffic of those that "opt out" will pass through the Webwise system will not be profiled or copied by it, he added. BT was also working on a separate system that let people opt out at a network level so their traffic avoided Webwise more completely, he said.

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