Results tagged “Communications Traffic Data” from Spy Blog - SpyBlog.org.uk

The private sector near monopolies which operate within the UK government regulated telecommunications / internet service provider market are inherently not to be trusted to look after the Privacy and Anonymity requirements of their captive customers.

For example, when registering a Vodafone Sure Signal device, which plugs in to your domestic or business broadband internet connection and acts as a short range 3G mobile phone signal booster femtocell.

Vodafone_Sure_Signal_3G_booster_450.jpg

Despite the fact that purchasers of such devices are doing them a huge commercial favour, saving them lots of money in otherwise necessary improvements to their 3G mobile phone network infrastructure, Vodafone have a cheeky / creepy "help" pop up on their Clear Signal device registration page.

Not content with demanding your Post Code and street address (but not your actual house / office number within the street), you have to give the Clear Signal device a Name, which is presumably available to their network engineers and other snoopers.

Vodafone_Sure_Signal_3G_broadband_backhaul_registration_450.jpg

Surname_Year_of_Birth_pop_up_444.jpg

Stuck for a name? Try using your surname and the year you were born.

Under the controversial Government proposals in the Communications Data Bill, if you were foolish enough to betray your Surname and Date of Birth in this way, which is not necessary for the proper functioning of the mobile phone network, then the information in this data field would undoubtedly be seized without a warrant as Communications Data and probably also fed into spamming / marketing databases as well, even though it is clearly "content" which should require an Interception Warrant. (not, unfortunately, actually one signed by an independent Judge)

It is likely that the Sure Signal Name will find its way into Call Detail Record (CDR) and other logfiles associated with each individual 3G mobile phone voice , SMS text or data call, which will be passed on to people or organisations who would not routinely have access to the Registration database or other Subscriber Data.

It is already a scandal that your financial bank and credit card details which you used to purchase a subscription, contract or phone handset with, are at risk of being snooped on or abused by people and organisations, who are only supposed to be doing simple "reverse telephone directory" lookups of who a particular phone or internet or email account is registered to.

Follow the latest Communications Data Capabilities Programme (CCDP) snooping news on Twitter via the #CCDP hashtag.

Parliament's Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill has now published its official Call for Evidence: (.pdf 83 KB)

It is interesting that there are 26 Questions, far more than normal for the Parliamentary rubber stamping process that is usual for a Draft Bill:

Most Spy Blog readers will have their own opinions about these "26 Questions (but a bitch ain't one)" and the ones which are missing from this list.

Here are a few points which spring to mind which might stimulate your own Evidence Submissions to the Joint Committee,

N.B. remember to take some precautions (c.f. ht4w.co.uk) if you are an "insider" and do not want to risk tipping off the vested interests who are promoting this Bill, who have the self-authorised power to snoop, in secret, on your Communications Data and that of the Joint Committee, without a warrant, c.f. the immediately previous Spy Blog article

[...]

Below are specific questions about the details of the draft Bill. The Joint Committee would appreciate written submissions on any of these questions on which you have evidence to contribute It is not necessary to address every question. The Joint Committee will also welcome other comments related to the draft Bill, even if not directly addressing the questions below.

GENERAL:

1. Has the Home Office made it clear what it hopes to achieve through the draft Bill?

The evasive media propaganda from the Home Office , including Theresa May the Home Secretary and the surveillance state éminence grise of repressive surveillance policies Charles Farr (why is he still in a position of influence under the Coalition after his disastrous New Labour policies ?), has contained no technical details whatsoever, so it is certainly not clear exactly what the scheme will or will not apply to.

2. Has the Government made a convincing case for the need for the new powers proposed in the draft Bill?

No!

They are in "Must Be Seen To Be Doing Something (No Matter How Expensive Or Stupid)" mode.

3. How do the proposals in the draft Bill fit within the wider landscape on intrusion into individuals' privacy?

More snooping, no effective counterbalances to prevent abuse by bureaucratic public agencies.

No specific abuse of Communications Data related criminal sanctions, to deter corrupt or evil individuals within such agencies.

4. What lessons can be learnt from the approach of other countries to the collection of communications data?

Plenty of other countries happily work with Judicial warrants for Communications Data, rather than the UK "self-authorisation" approach.

5. Are there any alternative proposals with regard to the technique and cost of obtaining
communications data that the Government could consider?

Data Preservation for specific, narrowly targeted investigations, restricted to Serious Crimes only, rather than massive Data Retention of almost entirely innocent data.

There should be no access to, say, Location Data, whatsoever for petty "general crime" investigations, especially not by non-Police or non-Intelligence agencies.

If, say, a Tax Investigation is serious enough to require Communications Data, then it is serious enough for a joint investigation with the Police i.e. no HMRC staff should have access on their own, like they do now.

6. The draft Bill sits alongside the Data Retention Regulations. How will these two pieces of legislation interrelate? Would it be preferable to have one overarching piece of legislation that governs the retention of communications data?

Please do not try to "policy launder" the repressive UK proposals and inflict them on the other 400 million innocent people throughout the European Union! The EU Data Retention Directive was originally proposed by the then Labour Home Secretary Charles Clarke when the UK held the revolving Chair of the European Commission and then the Government pretended that they had been forced to comply with it, because the EU told them to do so.

7. If it is concluded that the provisions of the draft Bill are essential, are there any other measures that could be scrapped as a quid pro quo to rebalance civil liberties?

They are certainly not essential.

There is a vast amount of repressive legislation brought in mostly by the previous Labour government (but with some old Conservative stuff as well) which must be repealed, regardless of this Communications Data Bill to "rebalance civil liberties".

Almost none of these repeals are in the much delayed and rather weak Protection of Freedoms Bill.

8. Will the proposals in the draft Bill pose a risk that communications service providers see the UK as a less attractive base. What might be the effect on business?

Increased prices to consumers

Vodafone etc. already minimise the tax they pay by not being wholly based in the UK.

This Bill will undermine the efforts of the Treasury and the BIS to attract them to invest in the UK.

COSTS:

9. Is the estimated cost of £1.8bn over 10 years realistic?

Where did this mythical figure come from ?

Draft Communications Data Bill impact assessment (PDF file - 309kb)

Since when has the Home Office, or any Government Department, ever been able to accurately predict costs 10 years into the future ?

Where is the detailed independent Impact Assessment ? The Home Office's Impact Assessment is just deluded wishful thinking.

The Home Office is literally financially innumerate and cannot be trusted
even to supply correct figures for its own accounts
, let alone to make reliable estimates for any major IT project whatsoever.

Look at their appalling inability to even guesstimate to the nearest billion pounds, anything to do with their, thankfully defeated, centralised National Identity Database Scheme.

Can anyone actually point to an example of a major IT system which the Home Office has been involved in, which has not been late, over budget and which has actually had a positive outcome on reducing crime etc. rather than just being "Seen To Be Doing Something" as part of the pretence to be "tackling" or "addressing" a problem ?

10.The Home Office suggests the benefits that could be delivered by the enactment of the draft Bill could be worth between £5-6bn. Is this figure realistic?

No !

Where is the detailed independent Impact Assessment ?

The Draft Communications Data Bill privacy impact assessment (PDF file - 516kb) is not detailed and is full of airy fairy hand waving wishful thinking about the alleged "benefits" of the proposals.

The Home Office regularly lies about the alleged financial benefits of its policies.

They really have no clue at all - Serious Crime is still being estimated
as costing the UK economy "between £20 billion to £40 billion a year" a figure which was used to justify the Serious Organised crime Agency and which is exactly the same wildly imprecise one which is being used to justify the replacement for SOCA, the National Crime Agency.

Not only do they lie about such estimates, they wage propaganda smear campaigns against even well researched academic studies which do try to estimate the cost / benefits of their policies (from ID Cards to Drug Policy etc.)

The cost justifications include "tax revenue" (something which the Home Office has no expertise in) and "criminal assets seizures" - something which the Home Office has utterly failed in. Why did the (criminal) Assets Recovery Agency set up by the Home Office have to be disbanded ? Because it was costing more to run and administer than the paltry amount of money that was being seized. How can this be a justification for alleged billions of pounds of "benefits" of the Communications Data Bill ?

SCOPE:

11.Are the definitions of communications data and communications service provider appropriate? Do they sensibly define the scope of the powers in the draft Bill?

No!

When the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act 2000 was "debated" (it was not properly scrutinised by Parliament) the politicians were told that Communications Data was "itemised telephone bill" information.

Over the years the deliberately vague RIPA wording was abused, without further Parliamentary debate, to include new forms of Communications Data especially Location Based Services mobile phone data.

Communications Data must be legally defined in the Bill / Act to clearly differentiate between:

a) Subscriber Data for landline telephone, mobile phones and internet service provider accounts - the only sort of Communications Data which, say, Local Authority Trading Standards departments should be allowed to request on their own - anything more serious which might need other Communications Data should involve the Police.

b) Mobile Phone Location Data has 4 levels of intrusiveness
- historical Locations Data where a voice call, SMS text message or internet data was sent or received from

- real time (or near real time) Locations Data where a voice call, SMS text message or internet data was sent or received from

- historical Location Data of the automatic handshakes between a mobile phone handset or other device and the network, typically every 10 minutes or so or when a phone is switched on or off - such data is not instigated by a human, but is automatic collected.

- real time (or near real time) Location Data of the automatic handshakes between a mobile phone handset or other device and the network, typically every 10 minutes or so or when a phone is switched on or off. - such data is not instigated by a human, but is automatically collected.

e.g. The Fire and Rescue or Ambulance services should have real-time mobile phone Location Data access when a 999 call is made for emergencies so that they can respond quickly and can try to detect fake 999 calls. They should not be allowed to see the historical Location Data History of a mobile phone (and very likely that of its owner). There are no conceivable circumstances for them to have access to the real time (or near real time) tracking of a mobile phone device which is not making or receiving a voice or SMS text or internet data call.

The forthcoming European Union eCall plan to put a mobile phone device in every
new vehicle sold in the European Union, which is activated when an airbag goes off in an accident is an example of something which must be covered by this Bill i.e. 999 call responders should have Location Data access when there is an accident, but even the Police should not have immediate real time access to the resultant automatic mobile phone device vehicle location tracking history, without an independent judicial warrant..

Unlike in 2000, when RIPA was "debated", an increasing number od SmartPhones and other devices now include Global Positioning System (GPS) chips within them. These are not necessary for the transmissionor reception of voice, SMS text or internet data calls. However the GPS latitude, longitude, elevation and location tracking history may be periodically upload automatically, with or without the knowledge or active intervention of the user.

The Communications Data Bill should make it absolutely clear as to whether such GPS data is forbidden from being collected, stored and "Filtered" as Communications Data or not, something which it is unclear at the moment.

12.Which public authorities should be able to access communications data under the draft Bill? Should it be possible for the Secretary of State to vary this list by Order?

When RIPA 2000 was first introduced, the number of public bodies was small i.e. mostly the Police and Intelligence Agencies.

There was a vast expansion later on, via Secondary legislation, by Order which , as always, Parliament failed to scrutinise properly. This lead to such stupidities as the Egg Marketing Board being given RIPA powers.

It also lead to the abuses (through ignorance and petty bureaucratic tendencies) by Local Authorities, leading to scandals like the Poole Council using RIPA directed surveillance powers to snoop on innocent families suspected of being school catchment area cheats.
There is every reason to suppose that similar abuses involve disproportionate use of Communications Data powers, but, the Interception of Communications Commisioner's Annual Reports are so censored of any meaningful detail that we cannot be sure.

There must be no Order making powers at all in the Communications Data Bill.

There is a Home Office / Ministry of Justice legislation slot in every Queen's Speech,
so any absolutely necessary amendments (usually involving the renaming of Agencies or Departments) can easily be accomplished through Primary Legislation, with a chance for proper debate and scrutiny and amendment by Parliament, something which almost never happens with hated Secondary Legislation by Order.

13.How robust are the plans to place requirements on communications service providers based overseas? How realistic is it that overseas providers could be pursued for breach of duty?

Completely unrealistic.

A few large US companies with subsidiaries in the UK may "voluntarily" comply, provided that there is a competitive "level playing field" i.e. provided that their main rivals also comply.

But why should any Chinese or Russian or Iranian etc. ISPs ever comply ?

USE OF COMMUNICATIONS DATA:

14.Are the circumstances under which communications data can be accessed appropriate and proportional? What kind of crimes should communications data be used to detect?

Make it the same as the RIPA section 1 definition for Interception i.e. Serious Crime only, defined as likely to attract a prison sentence of at least 3 years in prison for a first time offence if convicted.

There are many occasions where access to Communications Data, especially Location Data about a communication is actually more intrusive than the Interception of the contents of the communication, which may be very brief and / or harmless (or coded).

If as is not really clear at the moment, the plan is to use Deep Packet Inspection and Digital Certificate man-in-the-middle attacks on world wide web connections, then since , effectively, Interception is involved, the collection of Communications Data should be treated as such.

15.Is the proposed 12 month period for the retention of data too long or too short?

Far too long.

All the Mobile Phone Communications Data cases which , say, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner cited e.g. the Soham murders, did not require 12 months of Communications Data, only a couple of weeks worth.

The recent murders in Toulouse, France where 4 murders were carried out by a terrorist / petty criminal motorbike assassin, who was tracked down through his Communications Traffic analysis of web server log files of an advert for a motorbike placed by one of his victims also did not require months of Communications Data Retention, only a few days.

That case illustrated the problems with the vast amount of such data. The 576 IP addresses from the web advert log files is not very many, but it took the Police far too long to analyse the data they already had immediate access to, allowing the serial killer, who had already been on their list of possible terrorist suspects for years, to strike again.

This will not be improved in the UK by the Communications Data Bill - automatic Filtering devices will not magically produce actual investigative break throughs without sufficient trained human resources - "finding a needle in a haystack by adding more haystacks" is a strategy which is bound to fail.

SAFEGUARDS:

16.Applications for accessing communications data will be subject to a series of safeguards including approval by a designated senior officer within the public authority making the request. How should "designated senior officer" be defined? Is this system satisfactory? Are there concerns about compliance with Article 8 ECHR?

The "self authorisation" approach provides no transparency or public accountability tfor Communications Data access.

Keep and improve the idea of a Single Point of Contact with the technical and legal experience to reject disproportionate or multiply repeated or vexatious requests for Communications Data. Have this SPoC pass on the request to an independent Judge for a a proper, narrowly defined Warrant.

Publish this request and / or warrant automatically online as soon as the the need for immediate operational secrecy has expired i.e. as soon as an arrest has been made.

17.Would a warrant system be more appropriate? If you favour a warrant system should this apply to all public authorities including law enforcement agencies? Should a warrant be necessary in all circumstances? And what would the resource implications be?

Yes a warrant signed by an independent Judge (not one signed by the Home Secretary or any other politician or senior Whitehall bureaucrat) which can be challenged in Court if necessary should be required for all Communications Data snooping, including the Police and Intelligence Agencies.

Remember that snooping on Communications Data can be as intrusive or even more intrusive than the actual Interception of the contents of the same Communication.

18.Is the role of the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Information
Commissioner sensible?

No.

They do not provide any proper reassurance to the public with their existing budgets, under resourced budgets, and non-existent or heavily constrained criminal sanctions and a far too cosy relationship with the bureaucratic Whitehall Departments and Agencies and large companies they are supposed to be keeping an eye on.

They fail to do a proper job of in their existing roles, how can adding extra Communications Data Bill roles improve their performance at all ?

Scrap them both and start again with a proper Privacy Commission Department with ample technical and financial resources to deal with lots of individual cases directly affecting the public.

PARLIAMENTARY OVERSIGHT:

19.Are the arrangements for parliamentary oversight of the powers within the draft Bill satisfactory?

No !

Parliament has proved itself to be useless at scrutinising Secondary Legislation by Order. This is almost never rejected and can never be amended even slightly, so all kinds of evil is smuggled in by the the Executive, without any proper detailed scrutiny or even a cursory basic sanity checking second opinion.

Given the years or so that it took for all of the the Codes of Practice under RIPA to be published, Parliament should insist that any such Codes of Practice be published within a year of the passing of the Bill.

All of the Communications Data Bill should come into force at once, there should be no leeway for the Home Office to dither an not bring bits of it into force for months or years afterwards like they did , much to their discredit, with the Regulation of Investigatory powers Act 2000. If legal powers are not need now, then they should not be in the Bill.

There should be an automatic sunshine clause which repeals any of the parts of the Bill which have not been brought into force after say a year or two at the most.

There will always be a Home Office / Ministry of Justice Primary Legislation every year if minor amendments have to be made but the Internet and Telecommunications are such critical parts of our society and economy, that any further necessary changes in this area deserve their own specific Primary Legislation.

ENFORCEMENT:

20.Are the penalties appropriate for those communications service providers who fail to comply with with the requirements of the draft Bill?

No!

Why should the Communications Service Providers be penalised for the inevitable technical failings of the mysterious and obsolete even before thay have come into service "Filtering" black box single points of failure ?

Read the small print of your contact with your telecommunications or internet provider - they cannot be reasonably be held to be responsible for Acts of God,, adverse weather , power failures, faulty software upgrades by third party software suppliers etc. etc. for the services they provide. Why should they face penalties under the Communications Data Bill for exactly the same failures which affect the collection of Communications Data snooping ?

21.Are the penalties appropriate for those public authorities that inappropriately request access to communications data? Should failure to adhere to the Code of Practice which is provided for in the draft Bill amount to an offence?

That is the wrong question !

The existing Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 section 1 on Interception provides for criminal penalties of up to 2 years in prison for unlawful Interception of the content of communications.

There are no criminal sanctions at all for the unlawful collection or access to the possibly equally intrusive Communications Data.

The Communications Data Bill should be amended to include such criminal penalties specifically aimed at Communications data abuse by individuals either within Communications Service Providers or within the Authorised Public Bodies i.e. the Police, Intelligence agencies.

Unlike RIPA section 1 there must be no secrecy provision i.e. up to 2 years in prison for revealing the mere existence of an Intercept warrant.

All Communications Data requests (but obviously not the resultant Communications Data itself) should be published on the web immediately and automatically after the Communications Data is no longer needed for a specific investigation i.e. once an arrest has been made when there is no longer any need for operational secrecy.

That should result in far fewer frivolous requests, less chance of authorised insiders using the system for personal or celebrity stalking or corruption and will highlight attempts at disproportionate mass surveillance "data trawling" and fishing expeditions.

Perhaps then there might be same restoration in public confidence in the Home Office, the Police and Intelligence Agencies etc., all of whom have betrayed the high standards which the public rightly expects of them.

TECHNICAL:

22.Does the technology exist to enable communications service providers to capture communications data reliably, store it safely and separate it from communications content?

Hopefully not - this is a hugely difficult technical problem.

We do not want a Deep Packet Inspection Great Firewall of Britain, which could provide the infrastructure for current or future political repression.

23.How safely can communications data be stored?

Technically, quite safely using strong encryption, which is something which is not mandated in the current Code of Practice.

Code of practice for the acquisition and disclosure of communications data (PDF file - 970kb)

In practice, given the incompetence and corruption which has been shown by individual authorised insiders, even those with the highest security clearances, there is no chance that all such Communications Data will be stored securely, all of the time. There will be leaks and data breaches, in proportion to the amount of the data collected.

24.Are the proposals for the filtering arrangements clear, appropriate and technically feasible?

Until the Home Office clearly publishes a detailed technical specification of exactly which systems e.g. Web email, Twitter, FaceBook, Skype, Voice over IP, Peer to Peer Filesharing, Tor etc. and exactly which security encrypted protocols it is hoping to circumvent through Man-In-The-Middle attacks etc. ist is not possible to definitively answer such a Question.

All our experience with previous complicated Home Office IT systems makes us assume that this will be complete cock up, which will probably introduce previously exploitable vulnerabilities into our Critical National Infrastructure which will be abused by foreign intelligence agencies and criminals.

25.How easy will it be for individuals or organisations to circumvent the measures in the draft Bill ?

Until it is clear exactly which systems and protocols the Communications Data Bill will be applied to, that cannot be answered fully either.

It is not trivial to legally circumvent Communications Data snooping entirely, but it is possible right now, especially if you are a criminal and use stolen credit cards, stolen mobile phones etc.

See also ht4w.co.uk Spy Blog's Technical Hints and Tips for protecting the anonymity of sources for Whistleblowers, Investigative Journalists, Campaign Activists and Political Bloggers etc., who are forced to use some of the same techniques used by political dissidents living under dictatorships and by criminals.

26.Are there concerns about the consequences of decryption?

Strange Question. Decryption by whom, of what ?

Decryption by the Government of the encrypted Communications Data that the black box snooping Filters will collect ?

Decryption by the Government of Intermediate or Root Certificate Authority Digital Certificates to snoop on https:// by default services like Twitter or Google Gmail web email ?

The Deep Packet Inspection infrastructure which can do that can also be used by corrupt insiders to steal money flowing through e-commerce or internet banking or City of London financial trading systems and to snoop on and harass stalking victims etc. Is that really what the Government wants to create ?

You need not address all these questions.

"address" is not the the same as "Fully Answer" or "Solve the Problem"

Hopefully these 26 Questions and our brief notes will inspire you to write your own Evidence Submission to the Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill.

We will see if their eventual Report is nobbled by the former Whips and politicians with too comfy a relationship with the Intelligence Agencies who are on this Committee.


The several parallel Metropolitan Police investigations into the News of the World "phone hacking" scandal, Operation Tuleta and Operation Weeting and Operation Elevden continue to produce no arrests and no prosecutions of corrupt Police or Mobile Phone industry insiders, with respect to the alleged abuse of Communications Data privacy, especially the abuse of Mobile Phone Location Data.

Surely it is obvious now even to the most technologically illiterate politicians and Whitehall civil servants, that there is no effective regulation of Communications Data investigation systems.

Communications Data snooping by the Police etc can be a powerful investigative technique, but only when it is clear that it is not being abused.

Public confidence in the use of these techniques has been damaged by allegations (so far without much hard proof) that disreputable tabloid newspapers have been able to gain access to this highly intrusive, private information, which can only have come via corrupt police or intelligence agency or mobile phone network staff.

BBC reports that lawyers in civil cases before Mr Justice Vos have claimed:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15794225

18 November 2011 Last updated at 16:29

NoW hacking victims claim investigator tracked phones

A private investigator was involved in illegally tracking mobile phones, hacking victims have claimed.

Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed for phone hacking for the News of the World, is linked to the so-called pinging of mobiles and computer hacking, a High Court civil case heard.

Pinging is tightly regulated and restricted to police, security services and a small selection of other bodies.

Mulcaire and News International have yet to respond to the claims in court.

[...]

The allegations were aired at a case management hearing in the civil cases for breach of privacy brought by hacking victims against News International, the owner of the now defunct NoW.

[...]

In July, the Metropolitan Police launched Operation Tuleta, alongside phone-hacking inquiry Operation Weeting, to probe allegations of computer hacking.

Operation Tuleta is examining breach of privacy claims received by police since January.


Sea also the previous Spy Blog article and comments back in July 2011:

NYT: NOTW bought mobile phone location data for $500 a time from corrupt police

N.B. under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, there are no criminal sanctions available against the Police or others who abuse Communications Data, of which Mobile Phone Location Data is a part, although there is a penalty of up to 2 years in prison for illegal Interception of the content of mobile phone voice or data communications, which is what the the News of the two News of the World employees were convicted of back in 2007.

The deliberate loopholes in this lax regime , brought in by the technologically inept yet authoritarian Labour government e.g. the totally ineffective and secretive Interception of Communications Commissioner, have not been tightened up by the dithering Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition government,

The proposals to slightly strengthen the roles of the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Intelligence Services Commissioner and/ or the creation of an Intelligence Services Inspector General outlined in the recent Green Paper on Justice and Security , do not apply to "normal" Police cases.
.

This New York Times article alleges that the News of the World had access to mobile phone Location Data from the police for "nearly $500" a time.

This is yet another reason why access to Communications Data must no longer be allowed to be self authorised by the Police or Intelligence Agencies or other public bodies - there must be independent judicial permission on an individual case by case basis.

A censored Annual Report by the Interception of Communications Commissioner does not provide any reassurance to the public about the system of Communications Data Retention and snooping.


New York Times

Murdoch Tabloids' Targets Included Downing Street and the Crown

By JOHN F. BURNS and JO BECKER

Published: July 11, 2011

(Page 2 of 2)


[...]


Separately, an inquiry by The New York Times, which included interviews with two former journalists at The News of the World, has revealed the workings of the illicit cellphone-tracking, which the former tabloid staffers said was known in the newsroom as "pinging." Under British law, the technology involved is restricted to law enforcement and security officials, requires case-by-case authorization, and is used mainly for high-profile criminal cases and terrorism investigations, according to a former senior Scotland Yard official who requested anonymity so as to be able to speak candidly.

According to Oliver Crofton, a cybersecurity specialist who works to protect high-profile clients from such invasive tactics, cellphones are constantly pinging off relay towers as they search for a network, enabling an individual's location to be located within yards by checking the strength of the signal at three different towers. But the former Scotland Yard official who discussed the matter said that any officer who agreed to use the technique to assist a newspaper would be crossing a red line.

"That would be a massive breach," he said.

A former show-business reporter for The News of the World, Sean Hoare, who was fired in 2005, said that when he worked there, pinging cost the paper nearly $500 on each occasion. He first found out how the practice worked, he said, when he was scrambling to find someone and was told that one of the news desk editors, Greg Miskiw, could help. Mr. Miskiw asked for the person's cellphone number, and returned later with information showing the person's precise location in Scotland, Mr. Hoare said. Mr. Miskiw, who faces questioning by police on a separate matter, did not return calls for comment.

A former Scotland Yard officer said the individual who provided the information could have been one of a small group entitled to authorize pinging requests, or a lower-level officer who duped his superiors into thinking that the request was related to a criminal case. Mr. Hoare said the fact that it was a police officer was clear from his exchange with Mr. Miskiw.

"I thought it was remarkable and asked him how he did it, and he said, 'It's the Old Bill, isn't it?' " he recalled, noting that the term is common slang in Britain for the police. "At that point, you don't ask questions," he said.

A second former editor at the paper backed Mr. Hoare's account. "I knew it could be done and that it was done," he said. Speaking on condition that his name be withheld, he said that another way of tracking people was to hack into their credit card details and determine where the last charge was made. He said this tactic yielded at least one major scoop, when The News of the World tracked down James Hewitt, a former army officer and lover of Princess Diana's, who had fled to Spain amid the media firestorm that followed the publication of his book about the affair.


Does the "Single Point of Contact" system for accessing Communications Data have a sufficiently robust audit trail to cross check when, where and by whom each of the thousands of mobile and landline phone numbers in Glen Mulcaire's (and other private investigators) already seized notes have been subjected to Communication Data demands ?

If the Rt Hon Sir Paul Kennedy, the Interception of Communications Commissioner does not investigate this scandal, he should resign, as there can be no public confidence in the office, whatsoever.

See RIPA: 2010 annual report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner, which like all the previous reports, is oblivious of any wrongdoing regarding Communications Data.

In order to try to restore public confidence , the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act should be amended with criminal penalties to discourage the abuse of Communications Data by individuals and organisations who have access to it.

sukey_kettle_logo_450.jpg

Some University College London students and others, have been trying out their Web 2.0 skillz by producing a smartphone App and Location Based Services web map called Sukey, in support of the student / anarchist protests, which are nominally about the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition Government financial cutbacks, due to the appalling state of the economy, which was ruined by the incompetence of the previous Labour government.

"Sukey" is meant to be a pun on the nursery rhyme "Polly put the kettle on, Sukey take it off again"

"Kettling" is the police jargon for the controversial tactic of surrounding crowds of peaceful protesters and preventing them from dispersing and going home for several hours, even when they are fed up with the protest. Demonstrators are also photographed and video surveilled and attempts are made to gather names and addresses from those who are ignorant of their legal rights not to do so unless actually arrested.

Despite making bold claims about the "security" of Sukey e.g. "Sukey is safe" and "Your data is safe with Sukey" here is nothing about any mobile phone anonymity techniques which might pose some problems to securocrats and their automated Single Point of Contact systems for grabbing Communications Traffic Data and Subscriber Details from mobile phone network companies

There is not even any basic advice about (not) taking anything but untraceable, disposable mobile phones to a demonstration or protest.

http://sukey.org/summary

Sukey

A tool for non-violent demonstrations.

Which, if it actually works, can also be easily misused by others.

Objective

To keep peaceful protesters informed with live protest information that will assist them in avoiding injury, in keeping clear of trouble spots and in avoiding unnecessary detention.

The application suite gives maximum information to those participating in a demonstration so that they can make informed decisions, as well as to those following externally who may be concerned about friends and family.

It should make full use of the crowd in gathering information which is then analysed and handed back to the crowd.

Success Criteria

The success of the project will be measured by user feedback according to the primary and secondary success criteria listed below.

Primary

Keeping people safe on demonstrations.

Anyone can use it.

Ensuring protesters are kept informed of the official demonstration route together with en-route amenities (eg WiFi, Toilets, Tube stations, First Aid, Coffee shops, Payphones etc).

Secondary

Provide a live viewing platform for interested parties not at the demonstration.

Which will also provide a Communications Data analysis and data mining opportunity for UK police and intelligence agencies, foreign intelligence agencies and corporate spies.

Key Elements of Solution

1. How we can help you to help each other

Website

Inform and educate.

Find out what is going on as it happens.

No matter what happens, sign up to the free SMS system.

SMS text messages are never free of charge.

Who is paying for this ?

What's in it for the user?

What are you getting?

Stay informed and make the right decisions during the demonstration.

Avoid trouble spots and risking injury.

Get live demonstration news as it happens.

Allow political organisers and manipulators to track the progress of the demonstrations they have organised, remotely, at a safe distance.

Allow political organisers and manipulators to feed false information to the police etc. and to manipulate some or all of the demonstrators into creating diversions to allow either peaceful media stunts or violent attacks, unhindered by the police etc.

Allow the forces of law and order / repression, yet another intelligence source to help to track the demonstrations they are policing or repressing, remotely, at a safe distance.

Why contribute information?

Help other peaceful demonstrators.

Provide an accurate view of events as they happen.

Accurate ? Just the facts, with all of the facts, with no political bias at all ?

Even large , well funded media organisations and the police are not capable of doing that.

Show what goes on in protests.

We exist to support decisions - be a part of it.

2. Sources of information

Information sources

Information crowd sourced from demonstrators out on the street.

Text

Photos

Video

The Sukey website urges people to publish digital photos to Twitpic and / or Flickr, but
it does not provide any of the easily available automatic software tools or even any advice, about removing or anonymising some or all of the Exif meta data embedded in such images, which can and will be used to help hunt down protesters and to prove that the photographers were present at a particular location and time.

None of the #sukey tagged photos on Twitpics, for example, appear to have had their Exif metadata removed, there are a couple examples of photos published from HTC Desire HD and HTC Wildfire phones

Up to the minute information from social and traditional media.

Other Options


3. Information Presentation

Simple to use, uncluttered display

Must have a degraded version for lower spec phones

Must show freedom of movement and support fast decisions

4. Back End Data Processing

Use of Swarming Algorithms

It seems unlikely that existing Swarming Algorithms which simulate animal behaviour in unconstrained free air or water space, can be directly applicable to the behaviour of crowds of humans

Computer simulation modelling of the various permanent and temporary barriers to movement across all of the streets and protest target buildings of central London, is far harder than the existing state of the art studies and simulations of people flows in comparatively simple and well controlled sports stadia or airports or railways stations etc.

Use location data to detect freedom of movement

Presumably the mean Twitter and Google GPS data rather than GSM or 3G mobile phone cell transmitter Location Based Services data and triangulation.

Prioritisation of Messaging and Reports to and from crowd

Coalesce multiple reports of same event

Exactly the classical real time Command and Control problems faced by those who are policing such demonstrations.

There seem to be some reports that Sukey.org might be using the open source crisis mapping tool SwiftRiver to try to achieve this.

Must process footpaths and open spaces - not just roads

5. Security

User Security

No user identifiable data to be stored. Ever.

Regular User Security reviews throughout build

Encrypt locations on data requests

This is all very misleading !

This encryption of cannot do anything to hide the Communications Traffic Data cell phone Location Based Data Services and Subscriber Details ,which are controlled by the mobile phone networks and third party companies like Twitter and Google.

Such Communications Traffic Data is automatically handed over to the police and intelligence agencies, without any Court Order or Judicial Warrant of any sort, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Part 1 Chapter II Acquisition and disclosure of communications data

Neither the student protesters nor the Sukey App developers and operators have any control over this at all..

Neither do they have any control over the Google Latitude system, which they are encouraging people to sign up their smartphones to, and then to allow Sukey.org to track via Google Maps. What difference does any Sukey.org encryption make, when Google retains all your data and then sells or gives it law enforcement or intelligence agencies as requested ?

Encryption Keys to be generated either by users or automatically and undiscoverable by team.

Junk all identifiable data from Apache logs

System Security

Protected from DDOS and seizure

Hacksafe

Multiple routing options

Multiple servers/server locations

Multiple resilient, secure computers and communications infrastructure cost money.

Who is paying for this ?

Who exactly is in charge of the Sukey system ?

The "Security overview" page is partly re-assuring, but also rather worrying.

http://sukey.org/securit

Sukey is safe

At the very earliest stages of building Sukey we had a meeting where we divided the team into groups. The groups were: Data Input, Data Processing, Presentation, Security. In other words, security has been a key issue right the way through Sukey's design and build and has received as much focus as any of the more visible aspects of the project.

The team members involved on the security side are a mix of commercial information security experts and computer nerd under/post graduates who love nothing better than a complex algorithm. One of our key team members has technical commercial data security patents in his name and has provided information security consultancy to IBM, Lockheed Martin, and to the NHS.

All data received by Sukey is anonymised using secure encryption that is known to be unbreakable in less than 10 years using current computer technology. The process we use ensures that we can't decrypt any personal identifiers in the information sent to us. Even with a court order.

Attention to detail on security has been a hallmark of the project â€" both person identifiable security and the overall security and resilience of the Sukey service against infrastructure attack or failures.

Your data is safe with Sukey.

Is it really ?

The use of encryption does not automatically mean anonymity for users of or contributors to Sukey.org.

Following It would be much more reassuring if the Sukey.org people mentioned exactly which encryption algorithm they were using, instead of making speculative claims about its alleged strength. The fact that they have not done so gives rise to the suspicion that they have attempted to write their own encryption software, an approach which is fraught with danger for the users of Sukey.org.

What is wrong with using standard AES 256 encryption via a TLS session, especially for data which will be out of date in less than an hour after which it should be securely deleted from computer memory and never needs to be stored on a computer hard disk at all ?

it would be more impressive, if the Sukey.org team with their "attention to detail" had actually demonstrated their commitment to the use of strong encryption, by running a https:// session encrypted version of the Sukey.org website . However there is currently no Digital Certificate installed.

Similarly, there is no published PGP Public Encryption and / or Digital Signing Key available either, only Google gmail accounts, which are vulnerable Mutual legal Aid law enforcement requests

It looks as if the Sukey.org team need to be reminded that "Even with a court order." is irrelvant in the United Kingdom, - no court order is needed by the Police for access to Communications Data ( which must be Retained for at least a year) and none is required for Cryptographic Keys either.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Part III Investigation of electronic data protected by encryption etc. does not require a Poice constable to get the prior permission of any Court, before serving a Section 49 Notice on someone , forcing them to hand over their cryptographic de-cryption keys , or the de-crypted plaintext. A Court only comes into play if and when you are deemed to have refused to comply with such an order, when you are facing up to 5 years in prison or up to 10 years in prison if the magic words "national security" are mentioned.

It will be interesting to see if the Sukey.org team does actually release its software source code to the public as it has promised, whilst it works on an improved version for the next protest.

Until they do so, you should avoid using the Sukey.org App and website, from anything except an anonymous mobile phone, unless you wish to attract Police , Intelligence Agency and corporate surveillance onto yourself and your family, friends and business associates,

If Sukey is not (yet) suitable for the streets of London, then it would be positively dangerous to deploy it or anything similar, in trouble spots like Tunisia or Egypt etc.

N.B. mobile phones actually require quite a bit of effort to initially obtain and maintain in an untracked, anonymous state.

See our website http://ht4w.co.uk. Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers etc. which covers some basic mobile phone anonymity techniques, removing Exif meta data from digital images, and some other anonymity techniques.

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

It is also relevant to Sir John Chilcot's Privy Council Working Group review of Intercept as Evidence, and to GCHQ's Mastering the Internet plans, and to other Surveillance Database State policy issues like the National Identity Register / ID Cards scheme:

Briefing on the Interception Modernisation Programme (.pdf 57 pages)

Abstract

In this briefing we aim to provide some depth of understanding of the nature of the Home Officeʼs latest proposals on communications surveillance. We are sympathetic with the needs of the law enforcement community and we agree with the Home Office that the communications environment is changing. However we question whether the Home Office fully understands the extent to which the way in which surveillance activities are authorised would change were its wishes granted, in turn leading to a tipping of the balance in favour of state power and away from the individual. We are also concerned that there is a significant under-estimate of the burdens being placed on Communication Service Providers at a time where elsewhere in government there is a demand for universal broadband internet provision which industry is supposed to fund. This report was not drafted to respond to the Home Officeʼs Consultation document, but rather we are adding more expertise to the public deliberation on this policy. The report is the result of research we conducted with key experts across the UK and internationally.

Table of Contents:

The Guardian has a follow up article giving some details of the mechanics of the unsuccessful "Hotmail plot" by the anti-Gordon Brown faction of Labour Members of Parliament

Why plot to oust Gordon Brown failed

The rebels switched from email to texts on a disposable mobile but bid to oust PM was doomed

* Allegra Stratton, political correspondent
* guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 10 June 2009 21.48 BST

At 3pm on Monday 8 June, 15 people met in an MP's office in the House of Commons to agree that, for the time being at least, the Hotmail Plot had failed.

[...]

"The difference between getting 50 and the necessary 70 will be the disloyalty factor," one told the Guardian when the plot was in full swing. The Hotmail Plot -- so called because of the email address, signonnow@hotmail.co.uk, which MPs were asked to sign up to, calling for Brown to go, remained undetected for days until the Guardian revealed it at noon, shortly after Blears had resigned.

By Wednesday evening, the covert tactic unravelled as thousands of emails arrived. Apart from the odd one from genuinely sympathetic MPs, spoofs, foreign emails, and junk emails flowed in.

Exactly as predicted in the Spy Blog article signonnow@hotmail.co.uk - The Email Address Most Likely To Be Snooped On ? - Labour in crisis: the Hotmail conspiracy

One rebel said: "We got one email from brownn@parliament.uk [the email address of the chief whip]. It might be that they were hoping we'd publish a list and not notice his name was in it and then he could show all the names were ridiculous."

Did they check the full email headers to see if it was sent from the parliamentary email servers e.g. hpux13x.parliament.uk, hp3k17m.parliament.uk etc. and the outsourced anti-spam and anti-virus email service run by messagelabs.com , or was it simply a trivially spoofed email return address ?

[...]

Instead, the rebels adopted a tactic favoured by organised criminals and bought an untraceable pay as you go mobile, encouraging sympathetic colleagues to get in touch that way. It became a text message plot.

The use of SMS text messages was suggested in the previous Spy Blog article above.

It is wrong to imply that only organised criminals have a need for an "untraceable pay as you go mobile" - there was nothing illegal in this anti-Gordon Brown faction's attempt to gather support, and certainly no justification for any police or intelligence agency snooping, but. since knowledge is power, the temptation to do so without proper authorisation,or on some flimsy excuse invoking "national security" or "the prevention, detection or prosecution of crime", might be too great, and we the public, have no way of checking up on this.

Why did the anti-Gordon Brown faction not use SMS text messages right from the start, before the Hotmail email idea ?

Each of the core "plotters", should have obtained at least one such mobile phone.

Did these MPs claim the cost of these mobile phones from their office expenses ?

Perhaps they should read our Technical Hints and Tips for protecting the anonymity of sources for Whistleblowers, Investigative Journalists, Campaign Activists and Political Bloggers etc. (and anti- Gordon Brown factions in the Labour party)

One cabinet minister due to meet a rebel for dinner had their meeting cancelled - there simply wasn't a restaurant in London discreet enough.

That simply is not true, unless the Cabinet Minister's police protection team cannot be trusted not to blab.

Does the anti-Brown faction believe that they were/are under surveillance ?

Instead, that evening they would have the first of three phone calls. The cabinet minister was interested in the nature of names, irrespective of whether they had arrived by email, text or carrier pigeon.

Remember that the Wilson Doctrine regarding the Interception of the phone calls of Members of Parliament, does not seem to apply to Communications Traffic Data snooping on mobile phones or landlines i.e. who called or sent SMS text messages to whom, and when, which would reveal most of what is of interest in this scheme, to people within the Downing Street bunker, or those who might be trying to curry favour and influence there.

[...]

On Monday at 3pm the rebels met. All their info was collated on a five-page spreadsheet across which names, mobile phone numbers, "other telephone numbers" and personal non-parliamentary email addresses were set out horizontally along with the initials of the rebel MP who had brought them on board and vouched for them.

Zealots who wanted Brown out were given the number zero and those newly persuaded the number one. Zero zealots made up most of the first page; ones extended onto the second and together they came to 54. Short of the 71 crucial figure but over the 50 they had briefed journalists would trigger publication.

[...]

But there were other categories on that spreadsheet. Number four indicated friends of Brown and category three were people whose opinions were not known.

The category that was by far the longest, stretching to about 120 was number two (yesterday one rebel rang to say: "I've just seen that two of our number twos have got jobs with the government. Patronage is a big problem for plots".) The number two denoted: "Possibles, if..."

Zero Zealots ?

Who would be likely to use such a logical computer programming style, yet utterly inhuman, numbering system starting from 0, to categorise the people on the list ? Charles Clarke has a degree in Mathematics and Economics, but that does not necessarily signify much.

Another way to snoop indirectly on these Zero Zealots, would be to target The Guardian
journalists who have been given access to these details.

The Guardian newspaper has a story about The Email Address Most Likely To Be Snooped On over the next few days, which has some points of interest for political whistleblowers, political conspirators and investigative journalists and bloggers.

Labour in crisis: the Hotmail conspiracy

Over past month 'rebellion of all the talents' has never met but plotted by email, borrowing tactics from Trotsky

* Allegra Stratton, Patrick Wintour and David Hencke
* The Guardian, Thursday 4 June 2009

[...]

They decided there would be a "tree" - a stalking herd - which would fan out across the parliamentary Labour party. Unlike previous rebellions which relied on huddles in corridors or face-to-face tearoom meetings, this would be ­better done virtually.

Recess came, recess went and at 10am on Monday morning a very respected select committee chairman came up to one rebel and asked for a meeting. "Because I think we're going to go aren't we".

And so it was. The next day a Hotmail account was set up. The address gave nothing away: signonnow@hotmail.co.uk. The idea was that sympathetic Labour MPs would be encouraged to send an email endorsing a single sentence. This sentence would then be printed off and added to parliamentary notepaper, with a list of all those who responded to the email address listed with the two-word battlecry: "I agree".

Wouldn't a mobile phone SMS text message "friendship tree" be more likely to be effective ?

Presumably backbench Labour MPs do actually have the mobile phone numbers of some or all of their colleagues ?

One "branch" of the tree joined the team two days ago to become an eighth member. The Guardian met this MP in the corner of a Pugin-decorated dining room and discussed the plot as glasses were arranged and crockery assembled for an event.

This MP has been involved in the plot for only two days and said he had been moved to get involved by Brown's behaviour over expenses and the way in which five MPs had been disciplined by the NEC's star chamber over expenses claims revealed in the media. "A lot of us feel that Gordon Brown is taking Labour MPs outside one by one and shooting them. His already lamentable performance has just got worse in the last few days. Gordon Brown is a liability."

Within the tree, there are concerns about the method chosen to assemble the signatories. One member said: "One of the problems with what has come out already is that an email sounds very ­esoteric. We are asking MPs to send an email into the ether which says they believe that Gordon Brown should not be the leader of the Labour party. That is very high risk. As it is, the Labour party has never sent out a group email and if it did I bet you'd get back 150 emails saying 'account not recognised' or 'mailbox too full'. Labour MPs are not very electronic and I have to say I am worried about this method."

[...]

Presumably The Guardian newspaper has chosen to publish this email address in order to tip off those "not very electronic" Labour MPs and their, perhaps more computer literate, staff assistants.

This all seems a bit amateur - perhaps the Labour party MPs and the Guardian journalists should read a few of our free Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Activists etc. - http://ht4w.co.uk

Some obvious questions pertaining to the anonymity of the identities of the "plotters" :

It is hard to see how Yet Another Censored Report by the Intelligence and Security Committee into the 7th July 2005 London bomb attacks will satisfy the victims and their families and many others, who want an actually independent Public Inquiry.

They still have not bothered to examine any possible links with the failed 21st July 2005 attacks.

Review of the Intelligence on the London Terrorist Attacks on 7 July 2005 (published 2009) [PDF 1,401KB, 108 pages]

There are a couple of points of more general interest, such as a graphical illustration of searching for a needle in a haystack involved in Communications Data Traffic Analysis, and some explanation of some technical jargon, which might interest tv and film scriptwriters or fiction novelists.

The scale of Operation CREVICE is demonstrated by the following diagram. It shows all calls assessed to relate to international counter-terrorism, between unique parties, between 1 January and 1 April 2004 (with each line representing one or more calls). There are *** unique numbers (tens of thousands) with *** links between them. Of these, 4,020 are linked to CREVICE. The vast majority of these were eventually assessed not to be related to the bomb plot itself, or even to the wider facilitation network, and were in fact wholly innocent or irrelevant. Each was a potential lead, however, that had to be checked to see if it was relevant or not. The diagram identifies two numbers which were later associated with Mohammed Siddique KHAN.

ISC_Comms_Data_Traffic_Link_Analysis_450.jpg

Of course, Jacqui Smith's plans for Communication Data Traffic Retention and Data Warehousing would simply throw several more haystacks full of data at such a problem - a waste of resources, with horrible privacy and security implications for millions of innocent people.

"Child Abuse" is one of the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse regularly invoked as a justification for ever more Government snooping and censorship of the internet, even though these problems have existed for thousands of years before the internet was invented.

Nevertheless, it is true that some, but not all, of the people obsessed with "child porn" images, collected, or swapped via the internet, are actual baby rapers of the most disgusting variety.

Last week in Scotland, the Operation Algebra case resulted in the conviction of a couple of such evil men, and 6 other of their child porn swapping / collecting associates

The mainstream media has reports about the shocking rapes and abuse, not just of children but of infant babies by the chief perpetrators David Rennie and Neil Strachan, who are being considered for "whole life custody" prison sentences.

Edinburgh based journalist Mike Wade, has published, on his Wades world blog, a fuller version of his article Paedophile gang preyed on children of close friends published in The Times, Friday 8 May, 2009, which includes some of the more interesting technical details of the investigation, which have been edited out.

See Wade's world: The men who preyed on their friends' kids

However, from a computer security, privacy and civil liberties viewpoint, the case has several points of interest.

  • No use of Encryption ?
  • Mobile Phone videos
  • Communications Traffic Data
  • Mutual Legal Assistance avoids RIPA ban on email intercept evidence ?
  • Tracking down a target computer abusing open WiFi connections
  • Digital Photo and Camera Forensics

The Daily Telegraph newspaper, used to be seen as a Tory leaning newspaper, but recently, it seems to have become a Labour government / Whitehall bureaucracy official mouthpiece. As such, it seems to be the only mainstream media publication which carries a denial of the report by The Sunday Times and The Register, regarding the internet snooping capability upgrade investment supposedly being made at the Government Communications Head Quarters GCHQ, electronic communications spying agency.

That story was sparked off by the job advertisement which mentioned the Mastering The Internet programme, as part of the Interception Modernisation Programme

See:

The Daily Telegraph report of the denial by the secretive GCHQ, published is without a named journalist's byline.

GCHQ - the Government's secret electronic eavesdropping agency - has denied that it was pressing ahead with plans to monitor all internet use and telephone calls in the UK.

Last Updated: 10:16PM BST 03 May 2009

However, there is actually an official GCHQ Press Release on their website:

GCHQ: our Intelligence and Security mission in the Internet age

The delayed and modified Home Office "consultation" on Communications Data snooping and retention.

Protecting the Public in a Changing Communications Environment (.pdf) 690Kb

Responses, by Monday 20th July 2009 to:

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

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

What have they been working on for at least the last 7 months ? This "public consultation" should set out several, carefully costed, detailed options, but it does not bother to do so.

You are invited to provide some responses to some Questions, but, astonishingly, of the three alleged Options, this "consultation" document has already ruled out two of them !

The false choice being presented, as the only possible proposal, without any alternatives, is referred to as "A middle way" (remember Tony Blair's vague NuLabour slogan hype about a "Third Way" ? )

As we have come to expect from the Home Office,when attempting to deal with complicated technological issues, they do not give any real practical detail about exactly what they proposing to do.

See Home Office response to Consultation on second phase of EU Comms Data Retention Regulations (internet email, internet telephony etc.) coming into force on 6th April 2009

10. Some respondents suggested that more technical detail should be provided within the draft Regulations. However, the Government's experience of working with public communications providers under the ATCSA voluntary code of practice and the first phase implementation of the DRD suggests that it is unhelpful to provide a high level of technical detail in the legislation as terms that might be meaningful to one business area, may be completely inappropriate for another or may already be given meaning within other legislation.

To whom, precisely, is specific technical detail "unhelpful" ? Not to the industry, and not to the public.

It is the Home Office's job to state clearly and precisely what technical details are required and which ones are exempt from the regulations.

Unless and until they do state in detail, what exactly is, and what is not to be logged and retained, then all their "cost estimates" in the Impact Assessment are fiction.

This response from the Government is not acceptable.

It seems that the Labour Government / Home Office are continuing with this patronising, arrogant "we know best, but we will not bother to to tell you the details", technologically illiterate attitude, with this latest "consultation" as well:

The "middle (or is it muddle ?) way" option:

If you search for news articles about the European Union Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC, you will, unfortunately find several articles, even from the computer and telecommunications technical press, which claim that the new mandatory requirement to store Communications Traffic Data logfiles for 12 months came into force yesterday, something which is not strictly accurate in the United Kingdom.

This Mandatory Data Retention is regardless of whether an Internet Service Provider or Telecommunications Company has any business need for this data any more , and which would therefore have been destroyed or anonymised under the Principles of Data Protection under the Data Protection Act. This data is not data identified as being useful for a particular targeted criminal investigation, but is mass surveillance snooping on the vast majority of the 450 million innocent people in the European Union.

The first part of this EU Directive, regarding landline telephones and mobile phones has already been in force in the UK since October 2007.

Remember that none of the "serious crime" or"terrorism" cases which were trotted out in support of this Data Retention policy actually involved any investigations which needed out of data communications traffic data as old as 12 months. The Soham murders investigation and the tracking of the July 2005 failed terrorist bomber who fled from London to Italy, all used current, Communications Traffic Data no more than a few days old or even in "real time", which would not yet have been deleted by the telcos in the normal course of their business anyway.

Like many other EU countries, the UK cried off from implementing the Internet aspects of the Directive for a further 18 months, which, based on the date on which the original Directive was passed, crudely puts the start data for the new scheme as the 15th March 2009 i.e.yesterday, a Sunday. - see the Official Journal of the European Union:

DIRECTIVE 2006/24/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC (.pdf)

However, the new Regulations do not appear to come into force in the UK for another 3 weeks, i.e. Monday 6th April 2009 - why the delay ? They have had at least 18 months to prepare for this date:

See the Draft Statutory Instrument, which will presumably be rubber stamped, without debate and without amendment, by being "laid" before the House of Commons and the House of Lords, sometime soon.

The Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009

Made

Coming into force 6th April 2009

[...]

The Home Office has now published its responses to the Consultation on

Consultation: Transposition of Directive 2006/24/EC

which closed back in October 2008.

This is the extension of mandatory Communications Traffic Data Retention, beyond what would be otherwise permitted under the Principles of Data Protection i.e. another end run around the protections of the weak Data Protection Act 1998, applied to internet access, internet email, and internet telephony.

This was set to be implemented on 15th March this year, 18 months after it was applied to landline and mobile phone telephony, but now the Draft Regulations state that they will come into force on 6th April 2009.

The Summary of the Responses to the Consultation does not include any reassurance for the public, or even anything to indicate that this was anything more than a "going through the motions" consultation exercise.

Responses to the consultation on transposition of directive 2006/24/EC (.pdf 493Kb)

5. A total of 54 responses were received and the respondents are listed
below. The general reception of the draft Regulations from public communications providers was positive. In particular, there was continued support for the Home Office's pragmatic approach to implementing the Directive in the UK

[...]

Many responses were from members of the public opposed to the Directive on principle (24 out of 54 responses). These responses did not distinguish between the Directive and the draft Regulations on which we were consulting

Nonsense - we certainly distinguished between the two.

As is usual with Home Office consultations, they deliberately Ask The Wrong Questions, assuming that the entire policy is going to be implemented, one way or another, when what they should be consulting on is whether aspects of the policy should be rejected altogether as a matter of principle or as a matter of technical complexity and cost to the public.

This Government Response is limited to issues which can be addressed in the Regulations. We would advise respondents whose comments are not directly addressed here to contribute to the forthcoming consultation exercise on how the Government can maintain its communications data capability generally

There is no indication of when the supposed Consultation on the Communications Data Bill, which it is rumoured, will go far, far beyond this EU mandatory Data Retention and snooping, will appear. It was promised "by the end of January 2009", but it is now mid February.

Question 2: Is the data required to be retained specified clearly in the draft regulations? If not, why not and can the specification be clearer?

9. The majority of respondents who had a view on this question considered there was a need for meaning to be given to certain terms and in particular "internet email" and "internet telephony". However, the DRD makes clear in Article 2(1) that the definitions in Directive 95/46/EC, in Directive 2002/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services (Framework Directive), and in Directive 2002/58/EC (Privacy and Electronic Communications) shall apply. For example the term "email" has the same meaning as "electronic mail" which is given meaning within the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, transposing Directive 2002/58/EC into UK law. Both terms therefore refer to:

    "any text, voice, sound or image message sent over a public electronic communications network which can be stored in the network or in the recipient's terminal equipment until it is collected by the recipient and includes messages sent using a short message service".

10. Some respondents suggested that more technical detail should be provided within the draft Regulations. However, the Government's experience of working with public communications providers under the ATCSA voluntary code of practice and the first phase implementation of the DRD suggests that it is unhelpful to provide a high level of technical detail in the legislation as terms that might be meaningful to one business area, may be completely inappropriate for another or may already be given meaning within other legislation.

To whom, precisely, is specific technical detail "unhelpful" ? Not to the industry, and not to the public.

It is the Home Office's job to state clearly and precisely what technical details are required and which ones are exempt from the regulations.

Unless and until they do state in detail, what exactly is, and what is not to be logged and retained, then all their "cost estimates" in the Impact Assessment are fiction.

This response from the Government is not acceptable.

11. The Home Office therefore proposes to continue the practice, initiated through the ATCSA voluntary code, of developing meaningful detail through bilateral consultation and specific agreements with individual public communications providers (in cases where the public communications provider's own business practices do not already meet Government's public protection requirements).

Note the utter lack of any involvement by members of of the public, citizens, taxpayers or customers in this cosy, secretive "bilateral consultation".

The BBC's Politics Show broadcast last Sunday, has collated some Freedom of Information Act disclosures on the financial payments made by Police Forces to mobile phone companies, to reimburse them for the cost of providing Mobile Phone Communications Traffic Data.

[hat tip to the BBC's Martin Rosenbaum and his Open Secrets blog about freedom of information]:

Police: Mobile phone payments...

The Politics Show has used Freedom of Information requests to find figures for 49 of the 52 regional police forces who, in total, spent £8.6m in the 2007/2008 financial year.

Twenty five forces spent over £100,000 and four spent over £500,000.

The Metropolitan Police Force was the largest, spending £1.4 million.

There is no standard fee for a search, and whilst it can be waived (and sometimes is) forces tend to be billed on a case by case basis.

The article quoted David Davis MP

On the Politics Show on 7 December, Former Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said: "Companies should have a sense of civic responsibility, and in my view, that means this sort of material should be provided free."

Unless and until, other effective safeguards are put into place, e.g. making it a criminal offence to request a disproportionate amount of data from the telecomms companies and internet service providers, then these requests definitely should not be free.

If the telecomms companies did not make any financial charge to recover these costs, then there would be massive abuse by the Police, intelligence agencies and by the hundreds of Local Authorities and Government quangos, and other bureaucrats and by rich libel or copyright lawyers in civil cases via a court order etc. who are authorised under the the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to access such data.

They would be tempted to demand, as they have already done in the past, excessive amounts of data, wholly disproportionate to the investigations or cases which they are involved with,

Currently, there are no other effective safeguards to prevent this sort of disproportionate Communications Data snooping and trawling, only the financial cost and audit trail mechanism.

The forthcoming BBC Panorama television documentary Omagh - What The Police Were Never Told scheduled to be broadcast on Monday 15 September on BBC1 at 8.30pm might be of interest to regular Spy Blog readers.

The Sunday Telegraph article

The words that might have saved Omagh

Could a coded message intercepted by intelligence have prevented the biggest atrocity of the Irish Troubles, in which 29 people died? Despite two trials, and millions of pounds spent, still no one is in prison for the Omagh bombing. In a special investigation, John Ware asks why covert monitoring failed - and why this and other pieces of evidence were not passed on to police hunting the killers

By John Ware
Last Updated: 1:32PM BST 14 Sep 2008

This does ask some hard questions about the inept or deliberate lack of communications between the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the Security Service MI5, and the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (called the Police Service of Northern Ireland since 2001).

The article, and presumably the documentary, does, however, include some technical nonsense about mobile phone tracking .

The article and documentary appear to publish the details of actual Intercept transcripts and some of the Communications Traffic Data details,

The article also claims that 6.4 million telephone records were trawled through by the Police. What exactly has happened to that data, almost all of which has nothing to do with the investigation ? When, if ever, was it destroyed ? Or has it already been lost or stolen on an unencrypted hard disk or other portable memory device or media ?

Will the former senior Police officers who have been talking to Panorama now be treated like other whistleblowers by this Labour Government, with criminal prosecutions under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 section 19 Offence for unauthorised disclosures. which is currently in force, or the Interception of Communications Act 1985 Schedule 2 Disclosure of messages etc., which was in force in 1998, or failing that, under the Official Secrets Act 1989 ?

Chapter 46, The Bastion Saint-Gervais, The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas, 1844 - text available online via Project Gutenberg:

"But why did we not breakfast at the Parpaillot?"

"Because we have very important matters to communicate to one another, and it was impossible to talk five minutes in that inn without being annoyed by all those importunate fellows, who keep coming in, saluting you, and addressing you. Here at least," said Athos, pointing to the bastion, "they will not come and disturb us."

"It appears to me," said d'Artagnan, with that prudence which allied itself in him so naturally with excessive bravery, "that we could have found some retired place on the downs or the seashore."

"Where we should have been seen all four conferring together, so that at the end of a quarter of an hour the cardinal would have been informed by his spies that we were holding a council."

"Yes," said Aramis, "Athos is right: animadvertuntur in desertis."

"A desert would not have been amiss," said Porthos; "but it behooved us to find it."

"There is no desert where a bird cannot pass over one's head, where a fish cannot leap out of the water, where a rabbit cannot come out of its burrow, and I believe that bird, fish, and rabbit each becomes a spy of the cardinal. [...]"

During the Parliamentary summer recess / news "silly season" the Home Office are going through the motions of Yet Another Public Consultation.

This one is entitled: Consultation: Transposition of Directive 2006/24/EC (.pdf - 47 pages)

This title seems to be deliberately obscure, but it is in effect about the planned increase in Mandatory Data Retention of Communications Data . This follows on from the European Commission's "policy laundered" Mandatory Data Retention scheme, which affects the 450 million people in the European Union states, but which was steered through the EU bureaucracy by the then British Home Secretary Charles Clarke, during pne of the the UK's 6 month turns at the presidency of the EU.

Several of the larger EU countries cried off fully implementing this scheme for 18 months, but they all implemented the bits dealing with conventional landline telephones and faxes, and mobile phones, as of 1st October 2007 - see SI 2007 No. 2199 ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS The Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2007

Included in the Consultation Document is a new Draft Statutory Instrument, which rolls up all the provisions of that SI 2007 No. 2199, and adds in the vague terms "internet access" and "internet e-mail" and "internet telephony", without clarifying exactly what they mean in detail.

N.B. there is no Data Retention of web site URL visits under this proposed implementation of the European Commission scheme,

However, that does seem to be the way in which the Home Office is dreaming, as part of the Interception Modernisation Programme

See The Register - UK.gov to spend hundreds of millions on snooping silo and, back in July, when Information Commissioner mildly criticises the Home Office's centralised communications traffic database plan

We have heard from people who have attended Home Office briefings to ISPs and Telcos, and they really do seem to imagine that they can inflict a massive secret database, which includes the content of emails etc. as well as the Communications Data logfiles, and that they can get industry to pay for most of it.

What actual use to the public, are Select Committees of the House of Commons, and the Reports which they publish ?

The Labour Government invariably cherry picks a quotation from the summary of such a Report, especially if it was written by a Labour Chairman of the Committee e.g. Government Response to the Home Affairs Committee: A Surveillance Society? (.pdf) leaped on the phrase ,

We reject crude characterisations of our society as a surveillance society in which all collection and means of collecting information about citizens are networked and centralised in the service of the state.

This allowed the Government to claim:

The Government welcomes the committee's rejection of the characterisation that we live in a surveillance society where the state is engaged in a centralised network of collecting and analysing information on the individual.

Anyone actually reading though the detail of the Report, will see that it really supports the premise that the UK is already a Surveillance Society.

See Home Affairs Committee report - A Surveillance Society ? - unenforceable recommendations which the Government will simply ignore

Incredibly, it seems that such Select Committee Reports, published in public, cannot be quoted, even in passing, in a Court of Law or a Tribunal, because that somehow infringes on the freedom of speech of Members of Parliament , according to the 1689 Bill of Rights - see:

Increasingly, the contents of the Select Committee report are leaked or briefed to the mainstream media, before its official publication. Such favoured media outlets are then either fed a line, or manage to draw the wrong conclusions.

Yesterday, for example, The Daily Telegraph managed to claim that

New internet watchdog to police Facebook

Internet users will be protected from abusive bloggers and malicious Facebook postings under proposals to set up an independent internet watchdog, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

By Nicole Martin, Digital and Media Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:27AM BST 30 Jul 2008

The body, made up of industry representatives, would be responsible for drawing up guidelines that social networking sites, the blogosphere, website owners and search engines would be expected to follow

[...]

Naturally, any suggestion of Yet Another Government Quango to attempt to suppress the free speech of bloggers, has understandably provoked a reaction against this stupid idea.
e.g.

However, when you actually read the Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Report into Harmful content on the Internet and in video games, it only mentions "blogs" once, in passing, concentrating on various worthy Child Protection chat forum monitoring schemes etc.


The Information Commissioner has commented on the Home Office's wretched plan to scrap the current system of obtaining Communications Traffic Data from the Communications Service Providers i.e. the telecomms and internet companies, and instead slurping all those log files into a massive centralised, and secret, Government database

15 Jul 08 - A communications database would be 'a step too far' (.pdf)

Speaking at the launch of his annual report,

Information Commissioner Annual Report 2007 - 2008 (.pdf)

Richard Thomas will say: "I am absolutely clear that the targeted, and duly authorised, interception of the communications of suspects can be invaluable in the fight against terrorism and other serious crime. But there needs to be the fullest public debate about the justification for, and implications of, a specially-created database - potentially accessible to a wide range of law enforcement authorities - holding details of everyone's telephone and internet communications. Do we really want the police, security services and other organs of the state to have access to more and more aspects of our private lives?

"Speculation that the Home Office is considering collecting this information from phone companies and internet service providers has been reinforced by the government's Draft Legislative Programme which, referring to a proposed Communications Data Bill, talks about 'modifying procedures for acquiring communications data'."

See our previous blog article Communications Data Bill announced:

Will there be strict limits and adequate safeguards regarding exactly who has access to such retained log files ?

Will there be a cheap, easy, rapid, fair and decent error correction and complaints procedure for individuals and businesses ?

Will there be criminal penalties for data abusers, generous financial compensation and prompt public apologies from senior officials and politicians when, not if, things go horribly wrong ?

Can pigs fly ?

Richard Thomas believes that there has not been sufficient parliamentary or public debate on proposals to collect more and more personal information without proper justification, citing the expansion of the DNA database and the centralised collection and retention of data from Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras as two recent examples.

The Information Commissioner is not being tough enough - he should be threatening to prosecute the Home Office for planning to breach the fundamental principles of Data Protection, with this disproportionate scheme.

This Home Office scheme would circumvent even the weak auditing and alleged safeguards provided by the single, censored and increasingly deliberately delayed annual reports to the Prime Minister, of the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Intelligence Services Commissioner.

It would make it easier for secret disproportionate speculative "data trawling" through innocent people's data, instead of narrowly targeted, proportionate searches of actual terrorist or serious criminal suspects.

It would also allow secret exports of the data to foreign governments, without any oversight from the UK RIPA Commissioners, or any private individuals or companies in the UK.

This plan would circumvent even the weak auditing and alleged safeguard provided by the single, censored and increasingly deliberately delayed annual reports to the Prime Minister, of the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Intelligence Services Commissioners, and would presumably make it easier to do speculative "data trawling" through innocent people's data, instead of narrowly targeted, proportionate searches of actual terrorist or serious criminal suspects.

These RIPA Commissioners are even weaker than the Information Commissioner, as they have no legal powers to prosecute any abuses, and no budget to investigate any complaints from the public.

The Earl of Northesk has asked four Questions in the Lords about the Home Office's Interception Modernisation Plan. The Home Office's former Admiral Lord West of Spithead fails to convince us that the Home Office has any clue about the technical feasibility or costs involved in this project, even to the nearest billion pounds - i.e. a replay of the wretched ID Cards scheme all over again.

Part of this Interception Modernisation Plan presumably, includes the secret centralised Communications Traffic Data snooping database.

The Earl of Northesk's Questions:

Communications Data Bill announced

|

Gordon Brown has, either for genuine transparency in Government reasons, or, more likely, for cynical short term "Must be Seen To Be Doing Something" reasons just before the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, pre-announced a list of forthcoming Bills, which would traditionally have been first revealed in the Queen's Speech in November.

See the document with the meaningless slogan title "Preparing Britain for the Future" - Government's Draft Legislative Programme 2008/09 (.pdf)

These include Yet Another Police Bill, and a Transport Security Bill - more on those in later blog postings.

The one which caught our attention most is the Communications Data Bill which will increase the Government and Police snooping capabilities, regarding Internet usage logfiles etc. Telephones and mobile phones are already subject to the mandatory Data Retention scheme, brought into force last October, as a result of the "policy laundered" European Union Directive on Data Retention ("we have to do this because the EU told us to" - even though it was the UK Government which was on of the prime movers who helped to inflict this wasteful and intrusive policy on all 450 million European Union citizens in the first place).

Even though UK Goverment was one of the proponents of this scheme, they, along with several other EU states cried off impementing the Directive for internet email, web traffic and peer to peer filesharing etc. for 18 months after doing so for mobile and landline telephony.

See the Data Retention Is No Solution wiki

Will there be strict limits and adequate safeguards regarding exactly who has access to such retained log files ?

Will there be a cheap, easy, rapid, fair and decent error correction and complaints procedure for individuals and businesses ?

Will there be criminal penalties for data abusers, generous financial compensation and prompt public apologies from senior officials and politicians when, not if, things go horribly wrong ?

Can pigs fly ?

There is a promise of "pre-legislative scrutiny"of this Bill, but, given the fiasco of the Public Consultation conducted by the Home Office on the topic of RIPA Part 1 Communications Traffic Data statutory Code of Practice, back in 2006, we are extremely wary and cynical, and fear that it will be another sham.

The Labour Government actually went ahead regardless and introduced and then rubber stamped into law, a Statutory Instrument Order which went ahead and implemented one of the Questions on which it was allegedly "consulting" the public about, right in the middle of the 12 week Consultation process, without even pretending to "listen" to the views of the public or analysing their responses.

See The Consultation Process paras 17 to 20

Details of the Bill:

11. Communications data bill

About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog attempts to draw public attention to, and comments on, some of the current trends in ever cheaper and more widespread surveillance technology being deployed to satisfy the rapacious demand by state and corporate bureaucracies and criminals for your private details, and the technological ignorance of our politicians and civil servants who frame our legal systems.

The hope is that you the readers, will help to insist that strong safeguards for the privacy of the individual are implemented, especially in these times of increased alert over possible terrorist or criminal activity. If the systems which should help to protect us can be easily abused to supress our freedoms, then the terrorists will have won.

We know that there are decent, honest, trustworthy individual politicians, civil servants, law enforcement, intelligence agency personnel and broadcast, print and internet journalists etc., who often feel powerless or trapped in the system. They need the assistance of external, detailed, informed, public scrutiny to help them to resist deliberate or unthinking policies, which erode our freedoms and liberties.

Email & PGP Contact

Please feel free to email your views about this blog, or news about the issues it tries to comment on.

blog@spy[dot]org[dot]uk

Our PGP public encryption key is available for those correspondents who wish to send us news or information in confidence, and also for those of you who value your privacy, even if you have got nothing to hide.

Current PGP Key ID: 0xA165A29480CFAA4C which will expire on 6th September 2014.

pgp-now.gif
You can download a free copy of the PGP encryption software from www.pgpi.org
(available for most of the common computer operating systems, and also in various Open Source versions like GPG)

We look forward to the day when UK Government Legislation, Press Releases and Emails etc. are Digitally Signed so that we can be assured that they are not fakes. Trusting that the digitally signed content makes any sense, is another matter entirely.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Dissidents

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link: http://ht4w.co.uk

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

Links

Watching Them, Watching Us

London 2600

Our UK Freedom of Information Act request tracking blog

WikiLeak.org - ethical and technical discussion about the WikiLeaks.org project for anonymous mass leaking of documents etc.

Privacy and Security

Privacy International
United Kingdom Privacy Profile (2011)

Cryptome - censored or leaked government documents etc.

Identity Project report by the London School of Economics
Surveillance & Society the fully peer-reviewed transdisciplinary online surveillance studies journal

Statewatch - monitoring the state and civil liberties in the European Union

The Policy Laundering Project - attempts by Governments to pretend their repressive surveillance systems, have to be introduced to comply with international agreements, which they themselves have pushed for in the first place

International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance

ARCH Action Rights for Children in Education - worried about the planned Children's Bill Database, Connexions Card, fingerprinting of children, CCTV spy cameras in schools etc.

Foundation for Information Policy Research
UK Crypto - UK Cryptography Policy Discussion Group email list

Technical Advisory Board on internet and telecomms interception under RIPA

European Digital Rights

Open Rights Group - a UK version of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a clearinghouse to raise digital rights and civil liberties issues with the media and to influence Governments.

Digital Rights Ireland - legal case against mandatory EU Comms Data Retention etc.

Blindside - "What’s going to go wrong in our e-enabled world? " blog and wiki and Quarterly Report will supposedly be read by the Cabinet Office Central Sponsor for Information Assurance. Whether the rest of the Government bureaucracy and the Politicians actually listen to the CSIA, is another matter.

Biometrics in schools - 'A concerned parent who doesn't want her children to live in "1984" type society.'

Human Rights

Liberty Human Rights campaigners

British Institute of Human Rights
Amnesty International
Justice

Prevent Genocide International

asboconcern - campaign for reform of Anti-Social Behavior Orders

Front Line Defenders - Irish charity - Defenders of Human Rights Defenders

Internet Censorship

OpenNet Initiative - researches and measures the extent of actual state level censorship of the internet. Features a blocked web URL checker and censorship map.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Reporters without Borders internet section - news of internet related censorship and repression of journalists, bloggers and dissidents etc.

Judicial Links

British and Irish Legal Information Institute - publishes the full text of major case Judgments

Her Majesty's Courts Service - publishes forthcoming High Court etc. cases (but only in the next few days !)

House of Lords - The Law Lords are currently the supreme court in the UK - will be moved to the new Supreme Court in October 2009.

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals under FOIA, DPA both for and against the Information Commissioner

Investigatory Powers Tribunal - deals with complaints about interception and snooping under RIPA - has almost never ruled in favour of a complainant.

Parliamentary Opposition

The incompetent yet authoritarian Labour party have not apologised for their time in Government. They are still not providing any proper Opposition to the current Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition government, on any freedom or civil liberties or privacy or surveillance issues.

UK Government

Home Office - "Not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope, it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management systems and processes" - Home Secretary John Reid. 23rd May 2006. Not quite the fount of all evil legislation in the UK, but close.

No. 10 Downing Street Prime Minister's Official Spindoctors

Public Bills before Parliament

United Kingdom Parliament
Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.

House of Commons "Question Book"

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

FaxYourMP - identify and then fax your Member of Parliament
WriteToThem - identify and then contact your Local Councillors, members of devolved assemblies, Member of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament etc.
They Work For You - House of Commons Hansard made more accessible ? UK Members of the European Parliament

Read The Bills Act - USA proposal to force politicians to actually read the legislation that they are voting for, something which is badly needed in the UK Parliament.

Bichard Inquiry delving into criminal records and "soft intelligence" policies highlighted by the Soham murders. (taken offline by the Home Office)

ACPO - Association of Chief Police Officers - England, Wales and Northern Ireland
ACPOS Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland

Online Media

Boing Boing

Need To Know [now defunct]

The Register

NewsNow Encryption and Security aggregate news feed
KableNet - UK Government IT project news
PublicTechnology.net - UK eGovernment and public sector IT news
eGov Monitor

Ideal Government - debate about UK eGovernment

NIR and ID cards

Stand - email and fax campaign on ID Cards etc. [Now defunct]. The people who supported stand.org.uk have gone on to set up other online tools like WriteToThem.com. The Government's contemptuous dismissal of over 5,000 individual responses via the stand.org website to the Home Office public consultation on Entitlement Cards is one of the factors which later led directly to the formation of the the NO2ID Campaign who have been marshalling cross party opposition to Labour's dreadful National Identity Register compulsory centralised national biometric database and ID Card plans, at the expense of simpler, cheaper, less repressive, more effective, nore secure and more privacy friendly alternative identity schemes.

NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID bulletin board discussion forum

Home Office Identity Cards website
No compulsory national Identity Cards (ID Cards) BBC iCan campaign site
UK ID Cards blog
NO2ID press clippings blog
CASNIC - Campaign to STOP the National Identity Card.
Defy-ID active meetings and protests in Glasgow
www.idcards-uk.info - New Alliance's ID Cards page
irefuse.org - total rejection of any UK ID Card

International Civil Aviation Organisation - Machine Readable Travel Documents standards for Biometric Passports etc.
Anti National ID Japan - controversial and insecure Jukinet National ID registry in Japan
UK Biometrics Working Group run by CESG/GCHQ experts etc. the UK Government on Biometrics issues feasability
Citizen Information Project feasability study population register plans by the Treasury and Office of National Statistics

CommentOnThis.com - comments and links to each paragraph of the Home Office's "Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Scheme".

De-Materialised ID - "The voluntary alternative to material ID cards, A Proposal by David Moss of Business Consultancy Services Ltd (BCSL)" - well researched analysis of the current Home Office scheme, and a potentially viable alternative.

Surveillance Infrastructures

National Roads Telecommunications Services project - infrastruture for various mass surveillance systems, CCTV, ANPR, PMMR imaging etc.

CameraWatch - independent UK CCTV industry lobby group - like us, they also want more regulation of CCTV surveillance systems.

Every Step You Take a documentary about CCTV surveillance in the Uk by Austrian film maker Nino Leitner.

Transport for London an attempt at a technological panopticon - London Congestion Charge, London Low-Emission Zone, Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, tens of thousands of CCTV cameras on buses, thousands of CCTV cameras on London Underground, realtime road traffic CCTV, Iyster smart cards - all handed over to the Metropolitan Police for "national security" purposes, in real time, in bulk, without any public accountibility, for secret data mining, exempt from even the usual weak protections of the Data Protection Act 1998.

RFID Links

RFID tag privacy concerns - our own original article updated with photos

NoTags - campaign against individual item RFID tags
Position Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Products has been endorsed by a large number of privacy and human rights organisations.
RFID Privacy Happenings at MIT
Surpriv: RFID Surveillance and Privacy
RFID Scanner blog
RFID Gazette
The Sorting Door Project

RFIDBuzz.com blog - where we sometimes crosspost RFID articles

Genetic Links

DNA Profiles - analysis by Paul Nutteing
GeneWatch UK monitors genetic privacy and other issues
Postnote February 2006 Number 258 - National DNA Database (.pdf) - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

The National DNA Database Annual Report 2004/5 (.pdf) - published by the NDNAD Board and ACPO.

Eeclaim Your DNA from Britain's National DNA Database - model letters and advice on how to have your DNA samples and profiles removed from the National DNA Database,in spite of all of the nureacratic obstacles which try to prevent this, even if you are innocent.

Miscellanous Links

Michael Field - Pacific Island news - no longer a paradise
freetotravel.org - John Gilmore versus USA internal flight passports and passenger profiling etc.

The BUPA Seven - whistleblowers badly let down by the system.

Tax Credit Overpayment - the near suicidal despair inflicted on poor, vulnerable people by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown's disasterous Inland Revenue IT system.

Fassit UK - resources and help for those abused by the Social Services Childrens Care bureaucracy

Former Spies

MI6 v Tomlinson - Richard Tomlinson - still being harassed by his former employer MI6

Martin Ingram, Welcome To The Dark Side - former British Army Intelligence operative in Northern Ireland.

Operation Billiards - Mitrokhin or Oshchenko ? Michael John Smith - seeking to overturn his Official Secrets Act conviction in the GEC case.

The Dirty Secrets of MI5 & MI6 - Tony Holland, Michael John Smith and John Symond - stories and chronologies.

Naked Spygirl - Olivia Frank

Blog Links

e-nsecure.net blog - Comments on IT security and Privacy or the lack thereof.
Rat's Blog -The Reverend Rat writes about London street life and technology
Duncan Drury - wired adventures in Tanzania & London
Dr. K's blog - Hacker, Author, Musician, Philosopher

David Mery - falsely arrested on the London Tube - you could be next.

James Hammerton
White Rose - a thorn in the side of Big Brother
Big Blunkett
Into The Machine - formerly "David Blunkett is an Arse" by Charlie Williams and Scribe
infinite ideas machine - Phil Booth
Louise Ferguson - City of Bits
Chris Lightfoot
Oblomovka - Danny O'Brien

Liberty Central

dropsafe - Alec Muffett
The Identity Corner - Stefan Brands
Kim Cameron - Microsoft's Identity Architect
Schneier on Security - Bruce Schneier
Politics of Privacy Blog - Andreas Busch
solarider blog

Richard Allan - former Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam
Boris Johnson Conservative MP for Henley
Craig Murray - former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, "outsourced torture" whistleblower

Howard Rheingold - SmartMobs
Global Guerrillas - John Robb
Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends

Vmyths - debunking computer security hype

Nick Leaton - Random Ramblings
The Periscope - Companion weblog to Euro-correspondent.com journalist network.
The Practical Nomad Blog Edward Hasbrouck on Privacy and Travel
Policeman's Blog
World Weary Detective

Martin Stabe
Longrider
B2fxxx - Ray Corrigan
Matt Sellers
Grits for Breakfast - Scott Henson in Texas
The Green Ribbon - Tom Griffin
Guido Fawkes blog - Parliamentary plots, rumours and conspiracy.
The Last Ditch - Tom Paine
Murky.org
The (e)State of Tim - Tim Hicks
Ilkley Against CCTV
Tim Worstall
Bill's Comment Page - Bill Cameron
The Society of Qualified Archivists
The Streeb-Greebling Diaries - Bob Mottram

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke - Freedom off Information campaigning journalist

Ministry of Truth _ Unity's V for Vendetta styled blog.

Bloggerheads - Tim Ireland

W. David Stephenson blogs on homeland security et al.
EUrophobia - Nosemonkey

Blogzilla - Ian Brown

BlairWatch - Chronicling the demise of the New Labour Project

dreamfish - Robert Longstaff

Informaticopia - Rod Ward

War-on-Freedom

The Musings of Harry

Chicken Yoghurt - Justin McKeating

The Red Tape Chronicles - Bob Sullivan MSNBC

Campaign Against the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Stop the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Rob Wilton's esoterica

panGloss - Innovation, Technology and the Law

Arch Rights - Action on Rights for Children blog

Database Masterclass - frequently asked questions and answers about the several centralised national databases of children in the UK.

Shaphan

Moving On

Steve Moxon blog - former Home Office whistleblower and author.

Al-Muhajabah's Sundries - anglophile blog

Architectures of Control in Design - Dan Lockton

rabenhorst - Kai Billen (mostly in German)

Nearly Perfect Privacy - Tiffany and Morpheus

Iain Dale's Diary - a popular Conservative political blog

Brit Watch - Public Surveillance in the UK - Web - Email - Databases - CCTV - Telephony - RFID - Banking - DNA

BLOGDIAL

MySecured.com - smart mobile phone forensics, information security, computer security and digital forensics by a couple of Australian researchers

Ralph Bendrath

Financial Cryptography - Ian Grigg et al.

UK Liberty - A blog on issues relating to liberty in the UK

Big Brother State - "a small act of resistance" to the "sustained and systematic attack on our personal freedom, privacy and legal system"

HosReport - "Crisis. Conspiraciones. Enigmas. Conflictos. Espionaje." - Carlos Eduardo Hos (in Spanish)

"Give 'em hell Pike!" - Frank Fisher

Corruption-free Anguilla - Good Governance and Corruption in Public Office Issues in the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla in the West Indies - Don Mitchell CBE QC

geeklawyer - intellectual property, civil liberties and the legal system

PJC Journal - I am not a number, I am a free Man - The Prisoner

Charlie's Diary - Charlie Stross

The Caucus House - blog of the Chicago International Model United Nations

Famous for 15 Megapixels

Postman Patel

The 4th Bomb: Tavistock Sq Daniel's 7:7 Revelations - Daniel Obachike

OurKingdom - part of OpenDemocracy - " will discuss Britain’s nations, institutions, constitution, administration, liberties, justice, peoples and media and their principles, identity and character"

Beau Bo D'Or blog by an increasingly famous digital political cartoonist.

Between Both Worlds - "Thoughts & Ideas that Reflect the Concerns of Our Conscious Evolution" - Kingsley Dennis

Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair - the rich Uzbek businessman and his shyster lawyers Schillings really made a huge counterproductive error in trying to censor the blogs of Tim Ireland, of all people.

Matt Wardman political blog analysis

Henry Porter on Liberty - a leading mainstream media commentator and opinion former who is doing more than most to help preserve our freedom and liberty.

HMRC is shite - "dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of the HMRC, who have to endure the monumental shambles that is Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)."

Head of Legal - Carl Gardner a former legal advisor to the Government

The Landed Underclass - Voice of the Banana Republic of Great Britain

Henrik Alexandersson - Swedish blogger threatened with censorship by the Försvarets Radioanstalt (FRA), the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishement, their equivalent of the UK GCHQ or the US NSA.

World's First Fascist Democracy - blog with link to a Google map - "This map is an attempt to take a UK wide, geographical view, of both the public and the personal effect of State sponsored fear and distrust as seen through the twisted technological lens of petty officials and would be bureaucrats nationwide."

Blogoir - Charles Crawford - former UK Ambassodor to Poland etc.

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

Lords of the Blog - group blog by half a dozen or so Peers sitting in the House of Lords.

notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society - blog by Dr. David Murakami Wood, editor of the online academic journal Surveillance and Society

Justin Wylie's political blog

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

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Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at http://nuclear-weapons.info

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

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Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

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Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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Serious Organised Crime Agency - have cut themselves off from direct contact with the public and businesses - no phone - no email

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Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers