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UK Gov plans snoop database

UK Gov plans snoop database

The Home Office would like to keep information on every single electronic missive you make or receive.

If you worry at night about how much data Google stores about you with its famous multi-decade cookies, fret no more – because our friendly government wants to store even more.

The Home Office announced its plans this week to create a database that will store data on every mobile and landline telephone call, every e-mail, every fax, every MMS and SMS, and every web site you visit for a minimum of a year – and possibly up to five years.

The plan is built in to the Communications Data Bill, which is a draft piece of legislation that looks to improve the efficacy of – you guessed it – counter-terrorism investigations, and help make our lives safer. Gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, doesn't it?

Although government monitoring systems for civilian electronic communication systems are already in use – see ECHELON – this marks the first such invasion of privacy to be carried out completely openly by a major government.

An article in The Telegraph – how appropriate – explains the details of the project, including the fact that ISPs have already been told they will need to turn customer records over to the Home Office should the database get the go-ahead. What isn't mentioned is how difficult it will be for government officials to access the database, what kind of data security will be put in place to prevent data theft, or any rights that subjects may have to view and correct data held on them.

BetaNews estimates that there are around fifty seven billion text messages and one trillion e-mails sent annually to and from the UK, so if the government does go ahead with these plans, we're talking a server farm of pretty prodigious capacity. Perhaps they'll run it on Google Apps?

Anyone who's read George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four will be familiar with the concept of “Big Brother” - no, not the Endemol reality TV show – as an entity which sees all and controls all for the supposed 'safety' of the populace during a war against an 'evil' foe in a dystopian vision of the future of Britain. What Orwell couldn't have predicted, writing as he was in 1948, was that many of his cynical predictions would come true – massive surveillance by the government on its people via CCTV cameras, snooping on private communications, the requirement for citizens to carry mandatory ID, and even the 'management' of information regarding on-going wars – and that's just what gets reported in the mainstream media. The government is increasingly removing our right to a private life – and all in the name of 'counter-terrorism.'

There are ways around any monitoring system, of course – encryption being one of them. Freely available software such as the GNU Privacy Guard integrates with many e-mail clients and offers on-the-fly public key encryption that would take every computer in the world a dashed long time to break. Sadly, that's not as secure as it may have once seemed thanks to Section 49 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act which requires you to either provide the required passwords and decryption keys to the government on request or decrypt the files for them – or face up to two years in prison and a criminal record, even if the encrypted file is nothing more than your shopping list.

Still, we can always look on the bright side: the government will probably contract the database out to EDS – in which case the system will never work anyway.

Anyone here worried about the government's increasing intrusion into our not-quite-so-private lives, or is it simply the price we pay to live in a 'safe' society? Share your thoughts on the proposed bill over in the forums.

40 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Jipa 23rd May 2008, 08:20 Quote
Not long ago I saw a short video that said there are over 6 million security cameras in the UK and some already talk back the the pedestrians if they drop litter or something. And now this. Kinda makes me wanna watch V for Vendetta again... "One crazy police state on the way, please wait up."
Almightyrastus 23rd May 2008, 08:26 Quote
Have a read of Ben Elton's Blind Faith, a database on everyone and everything is one of the core parts of the whole story with the story's protaganist job being to work out different way to corrolate and track the data to predict what people will do and buy.

I laughed at the time but now.........
DAVEtheRAVE 23rd May 2008, 08:28 Quote
what a waste of storage space and power, isnt the government trying to be green??
BioSniper 23rd May 2008, 08:43 Quote
The sad thing is, dont bills like this have the ability to be simply implemented without vote of it is in the "interest of national security/counter terrorism" ?
Silver51 23rd May 2008, 08:44 Quote
Time to break out those Cold War code phrases in your emails.

"The Red Herring flies at night!" oh... wait.
Ryu_ookami 23rd May 2008, 08:48 Quote
so who will be the first to start sending out the bulk emails with trigger words in them you know words like "kill" + "assassinate" etc etc just to see how much extra work you can cause someone :)
yakyb 23rd May 2008, 08:49 Quote
it will only get leaked at some point
BlackMage23 23rd May 2008, 09:08 Quote
the goverment keep using the terrorism excuse to continue to erode any rights we have. Soon you wont be able to go to the tolet without the goverment knowing about it. Its just another way that they can try to control the population that works for them makeing sure that we pay our taxes to cover all their 'expences'.
They all know that they wont really stop the criminals. You only have to look at the fact that the UK has 1% of the worlds population and 40% of the worlds CCTV cameras and yet crime is not going down at all.

Anyway, I think that is enough of a rant for now.
liratheal 23rd May 2008, 09:08 Quote
Remember remember the fifth of November.

Or.. Something.

I'll be laughing my little toes off when they screw it up and publish the info on a live website.
sotu1 23rd May 2008, 09:32 Quote
efficacy, that's a good new word to me, i like it.

Gareth, point of criticism, i find there's too many external links for my liking. it's distracting when i want to just read the article. I don't feel all of them are really neccessary. The link to Google Apps? That's starting to look more like subtle advertising Google have paid for!

back on topic, what's the best way to stop this from happening? The recording of EVERYTHING is just unneccessary. I can kinda understand trying to get data on terrorists and genuinely prevalent issues, but 99% of calls are totally innocent. It's too big-brother-esque.
Gareth Halfacree 23rd May 2008, 09:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sotu1
Gareth, point of criticism, i find there's too many external links for my liking. it's distracting when i want to just read the article. I don't feel all of them are really neccessary. The link to Google Apps? That's starting to look more like subtle advertising Google have paid for!
Criticism noted, although I respectfully disagree. The links are there to provide additional information (especially in the cases of information which could be seen as anti-government, which is backed up with links to mainstream media stories and/or links to the relevant information on government websites), and the Google Apps link is in case the reader doesn't know what Google Apps is. I'd rather provide the links and have people not click on them than not provide the links and stand accused of providing unverified information.

And I can assure you that Google pay me nothing for linking to their site, worst luck. Although if anyone at Google is reading this, PayPal is acceptable.
Paradigm Shifter 23rd May 2008, 09:46 Quote
Well, if we're very lucky, due to Labour losing the Crewe by-election, they'll turn on their supposed 'leader' and effectively commit suicide. Just wait until they lose a disc containing hundreds of thousands of people's personal de... oh, wait, sorry, that already happened. Or screw over their traditional voter base by scrapping the basic tax rate... oh, sorry, they've done that, too.
steveo_mcg 23rd May 2008, 09:53 Quote
Yeah once the torries get in this idea will just disappear in smoke


read understand enjoy... life imitates art, and tbh these ideas are far from new and have lived over many governments

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Brother_(Yes_Minister)
Paradigm Shifter 23rd May 2008, 10:11 Quote
No, the Tories are no better, and neither are the Liberal Democrats. What we need is a hung Parliament where no party has a large enough majority to just be able to force nonsense like this through. However, our voting system pretty much guarantees that it's two-party politics swinging from one extreme to the other, so until the voting system is changed to something like Proportional Representation, it's never going to change.

Chances are that it would never change anyway, though.
steveo_mcg 23rd May 2008, 10:19 Quote
Minority governments and PR aren't all there cracked up to be tbh, nothing ever gets done due to party politics always trying to one up each other. Just look at the farse that the SNP government is causing up here. Your right it does temper the individual parties but it doesn't really provide an environment for change or reform just stagnation and stupid party politics which rarely benefit the populace. Any large projects like this would still get through because the opposition doesn't want to be seen to be weak on national security.
freedom810 23rd May 2008, 10:58 Quote
OMG guys we just lost the Disc with everybodies personal data on! .............again.
Kode 23rd May 2008, 11:09 Quote
"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" - Benjamin Franklin/Richard Jackson, i believe that was quoted by someone in another thread some time ago, but it holds true, and makes me very angry that the government can get awaywith things like that. Gareth, how about putting any external links at the bottom of the article, so those interested can check them out, and those that only want to read the article dont get distracted? personally it doesnt bother me either way, just a suggestion.
Flibblebot 23rd May 2008, 11:39 Quote
Do you really, really think that the government will be able to do something like this? Really?

Name me one government IT system that runs like it should, with 100% accurate data that came on time and on budget. Even easier, name me on government IT system that runs almost like it should, with 95% accurate data that came in slightly late and slightly over budget.
steveo_mcg 23rd May 2008, 11:42 Quote
Which makes it worse. I think there is political willl for a system like this but their ability means it'll be several billion more expensive than the billions allocated, not fit for purpose and probably as porous as a win98 box.
Phil Rhodes 23rd May 2008, 12:27 Quote
There's a few great lines about ID cards on the home office website. Quite apart from the appalling privacy concerns and proven incompetence of central government in matters of information security, consider this:

"Other than some of the initial setup costs, the scheme will be funded, as with passports, mainly through fees charged to those applying."

Which will be more or less everyone.

Which makes that a very straightforward tax.

They can't even figure out what the damn things will cost. One part of the website says £30, another £93.

Fricken ID cards...
Toka 23rd May 2008, 12:28 Quote
Whats more worrying for me is the govenment storing all of the (gentelmen specific....) websites that I surf, all my sms messages, aim stuff? emails etc, and then doing a piss poor job of building / maintaining the database and either corrupting the information or allowing it to fall into undesirable peoples hands.

Is it technically possible to build a system as large as this, with the appropriate level of security?
DeSean 23rd May 2008, 12:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by BioSniper
The sad thing is, dont bills like this have the ability to be simply implemented without vote of it is in the "interest of national security/counter terrorism" ?

Not quite. I think it is the Civil Contingencies Act which gives huge powers in a serious emergency, but this can only be used in fairly extreme circumstances. They can get away with lots if we don't find out about it though, and just push the boundaries of what is already legal. This crap the papers are talking about would require an Act of Parliament.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradigm Shifter
No, the Tories are no better, and neither are the Liberal Democrats. What we need is a hung Parliament where no party has a large enough majority to just be able to force nonsense like this through. However, our voting system pretty much guarantees that it's two-party politics swinging from one extreme to the other, so until the voting system is changed to something like Proportional Representation, it's never going to change.

Chances are that it would never change anyway, though.

The big idea is that any coalition government would have to include the Lib Dems, and that a condition of them joining would be some sort of Proportional Representation. However:
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveo_mcg
Minority governments and PR aren't all there cracked up to be tbh, nothing ever gets done due to party politics always trying to one up each other. Just look at the farse that the SNP government is causing up here. Your right it does temper the individual parties but it doesn't really provide an environment for change or reform just stagnation and stupid party politics which rarely benefit the populace. Any large projects like this would still get through because the opposition doesn't want to be seen to be weak on national security.

At least in our system a government can implement their vision for the country once we have chosen them. However, this nonsense will certainly not get through parliament. It would be too expensive and too worrying for the vast majority of MPs. A free society should not choose its laws based on what the police and security services think is best.
Phil Rhodes 23rd May 2008, 12:37 Quote
> This crap the papers are talking about would require an Act of Parliament.

Which they are entirely free to do.

In other, not necessarily better-run but certainly more carefully set-up countries, this would also require a constitutional amendment, which is a useful additional blocker. The constitutional monarchy that is the United Kingdom has been operating far too long on the basis of a gentlemen's agreement about constitutionality.

Unfortunately we are no longer governed by anyone worthy of even a gender-unspecific alternative to the term "gentleman".
DXR_13KE 23rd May 2008, 14:01 Quote
and you guys voted on this gov? SHAME ON YOU!!!!!
steveo_mcg 23rd May 2008, 14:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
> This crap the papers are talking about would require an Act of Parliament.

Which they are entirely free to do.

In other, not necessarily better-run but certainly more carefully set-up countries, this would also require a constitutional amendment, which is a useful additional blocker. The constitutional monarchy that is the United Kingdom has been operating far too long on the basis of a gentlemen's agreement about constitutionality.

Unfortunately we are no longer governed by anyone worthy of even a gender-unspecific alternative to the term "gentleman".

Not entirely sure what your getting at by that post? Virtually anything serious needs a act of parliament and then an ok by the lords. It is the lords who act as a counter balance to the power of parliament not the queen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DXR_13KE
and you guys voted on this gov? SHAME ON YOU!!!!!

/looks at toes and shuffles feet uncomfortably..
In our defence it was that or another 4 years of the torries!
Ninja_182 23rd May 2008, 14:38 Quote
Theres only two things with 100% chance of happening if the government wins at monitoring much more everything.

One is, I will be leaving.
Two is, they will post the information on an unencrypted disk at the hands of the Royal Mail.
Ryu_ookami 23rd May 2008, 14:41 Quote
hopefully this joke of a goverment will get voted out next time round anything has to be better than this one.
Phil Rhodes 23rd May 2008, 15:17 Quote
> Not entirely sure what your getting at by that post?

I'm getting at the point that the actions of government are practically unfettered; with this ridiculous bipolar party system we have a straightforward choice between "bad" and "worse" who, once they're in, can do more or less as they like.

I would be the last person to hold up the US as a paragon of political virtue but at least there's -some- form of statutory limitations on government power. It wouldn't stop politicians being in it solely for themselves and it wouldn't solve the problems created by the complete *******isation of democracy we call "party politics", but it would at least be another barrier to overcome in their evermore energetic attempts to turn us into a parody of Starship Troopers.
steveo_mcg 23rd May 2008, 15:25 Quote
As i said the Lords is the "fettering" your looking for unfortunately fud over the last 20 years has allowed the powers of the lords to be curtailed by various governments. And before any one goes rambling about them being unelected, thats the point, by not being at the whims of the very fickle populous they can make decisions for the long term benefit of the country. The best example i can think of at the moment is the continued rejection of the extended uncharged period "terrorists" can be confined, this may be a vote winner with the daily mail reading electorate but its definitely a bad thing for the country. TBH i'd be very surprised if this got through the lords even if it did some how get through the commons.
cliffski 23rd May 2008, 17:50 Quote
In some ways the lords not being elected is good, as you say, but the problem is WHO they are. For one, there are a bunch of bishops there for some reason, and a lot of them 'inherited' their position from daddy. So it has a lot of 'landed gentry' sitting in parliament on the basis of accidents of birth, rather than interest in the issues, let alone actual ability.
Faulk_Wulf 23rd May 2008, 18:39 Quote
What should be noted is not whether or not this will succeed, but the fact that the Government doesn't see anything wrong with this.
And sadly, you won't read this in the daily paper I bet, nor on your local TV News. So the only ones that know about it are those who
browse tech-sites or things like Slashdot or Digg or whatever those "trendy hip kids" are using these days. And unfortunately, I bet that
means that that is a minority. A minority of typically 16-34 year olds. Which usually aren't listened to seriously by politicians ANYWAY.
cpemma 23rd May 2008, 18:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by cliffski
In some ways the lords not being elected is good, as you say, but the problem is WHO they are. For one, there are a bunch of bishops there for some reason, and a lot of them 'inherited' their position from daddy. So it has a lot of 'landed gentry' sitting in parliament on the basis of accidents of birth, rather than interest in the issues, let alone actual ability.
You really need to broaden your media information base.

If you read the HoL transcripts (or watch business on TV) you'll find the general quality of debate in the Lords is far, far higher than the petty point-scoring in the Commons. Being born to the 'landed gentry' doesn't guarantee high intelligence, but it buys you a superior level of education.
steveo_mcg 23rd May 2008, 19:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
> Not entirely sure what your getting at by that post?

I'm getting at the point that the actions of government are practically unfettered; with this ridiculous bipolar party system we have a straightforward choice between "bad" and "worse" who, once they're in, can do more or less as they like.

I would be the last person to hold up the US as a paragon of political virtue but at least there's -some- form of statutory limitations on government power. It wouldn't stop politicians being in it solely for themselves and it wouldn't solve the problems created by the complete *******isation of democracy we call "party politics", but it would at least be another barrier to overcome in their evermore energetic attempts to turn us into a parody of Starship Troopers.

I was just thinking about this and you relies that the US is the worst example you could think off? The president is effectively the queen and has the power to veto any bill that comes before him, the difference is that the queen doesn't and really can't, and at least in GWB case, the US president does and very much can!

The US president has very little statutory limits pretty much only those imposed by their constitution (US types feel free to correct me). Your probably thinking the UK doesn't have a constitution well you'd quite quite wrong and in some ways correct. The UK does have a constitution but its not a single piece of legislation with amendments but it is just as difficult to get round, just look at the Lords they're still there after a decade of TB trying to get rid of them, if it was that easy for a government to pass what ever it liked with out "fettering" do you not think a Labour government with an unprecedented margin would have got rid of the very symbol of the class system in general and the upper classes in particular.
johnmustrule 23rd May 2008, 19:44 Quote
sorry encryption is totally broken, it's called quantum computing and the US government already has several computers that'll do it. And they'll break any encryption like it wasn't even there to begin with, hiding data is now pushed back to safes and -real- locks.
Cptn-Inafinus 24th May 2008, 11:05 Quote
Tin Foil Hats.
Veles 24th May 2008, 18:03 Quote
Are they gonna start steaming open peoples letters next?
leexgx 24th May 2008, 19:39 Quote
theres an bbc program called (The Last Enemy 5 parter) you got to watch it, very real way ot could happen, Problery is going to happen
StephenK 24th May 2008, 20:06 Quote
John,
Quantum computing is 50 years away, at least. That's if we can ever design a proper Quantum gate. At the moment we're playing with things like ultra cold quantum gases, seeing if we can use the superposition state of quantum vortices (flows clockwise and anticlockwise at the same time) in Bose Einstein Condensates to make quantum bits. We're only scratching at the surface of Q Comps, quantum encryption is something we can already do, sort of... the best we have at the moment is classical encryption combined with quantum key distribution. You need the key to break the code and as you cannot measure a quantum key without destroying it, the key provides the security, not the actual classical encryption.
cjmUK 25th May 2008, 01:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Criticism noted, although I respectfully disagree. The links are there to provide additional information (especially in the cases of information which could be seen as anti-government, which is backed up with links to mainstream media stories and/or links to the relevant information on government websites), and the Google Apps link is in case the reader doesn't know what Google Apps is.

I'm afraid I also disagree with you. You've got to assume that everyone is tech-aware on this site so links to Google Apps are superfluous, and even if not, if your article is overloaded with links, you need to separate the wheat from the chaff. Just because you can think of an appropriate link, doesn't mean you *have* to use it.

But my biggest gripe (and it's not just with your article) is that, periodically, a subject is discussed in the forums, that BT eventually picks up on for an article. Fair enough that it takes time to write the article and to schedule it, but either the discussions ought to redirect to the forum thread, or at least provide a link at the very start. The regulars in General>Serious aren't going to repeat their comments here....
Quote:
Originally Posted by leexgx
theres an bbc program called (The Last Enemy 5 parter) you got to watch it, very real way ot could happen, Problery is going to happen

Great drama, and food for thought.
EvilRusk 25th May 2008, 12:28 Quote
Quick guys, lets throw all the tea into the harbour! No taxation without representation! Oh wait, we're British...

This one is nothing to do with terrorism, and most of the anti-terror legislation is nothing to do with terrorism either. It's all about controlling the population. Every time they need to get through a controversial bill they send the tanks to Heathrow for an "imminent" attack, so the same will probably happen here.

If Britain had lost the second world war the politicians would have been over the moon with all that extra bureaucracy the Germans would have brought with them, it's a wonder they fought so hard to stop them.

Which reminds me, I'm already planning on putting myself down as Osama Bin Laden on the next census: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7231186.stm

Although I better not get a tan in case the police confuse me for a Brazilian: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7069796.stm
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