Voice over IP and Communications Traffic Data Retention

Voice over IP and Communications Traffic Data Retention

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology is what the entire telecommunications industry is moving over to. It is already available in large companies and as commercial boxed consumer products wich plug into or are part of home ADSL broadband internet connections.

  1. Do remember that Voice over IP systems, like Skype, whilst they do offer privacy regarding the contents of the the conversation due to encryption, do not offer anonymity against Communications Traffic Data Analysis i.e. who called whom and when, which is often enough for a "whistleblower" to be identified in a "leak investigation". See the comments below.

  2. Remember that VoIP operates in two modes - e.g. Skype to Skype, which is only useful if your journalist or blogger contact also uses Skype. Guido Fawkes does publish a Skype number, and Iain Dale has used Skype for video conferences etc. but does not publish his number. No major media organisations publish a Skype number, although this might well be arranged after an initial contact.

  3. The second mode is Skype (or other VoIP technology) to the normal land line or mobile phone network via a gateway.

    Obviously the normal phone network part of the call suffers from all the problems mentioned above, especially to mainstream media phones which are on the "terrorist alert" watch list.

    However, it is possible to use some Voice over IP systems such Vonage, to make it appear to Caller ID systems that your phone call is coming from another country. This is often enough to prevent Caller ID features on a UK land line and mobile phones from working to reveal the number you are dialling from, either through the 1471 callback feature, or on itemised phone bills of the sort which are sent to normal customers.

    This is only slightly more "secure" than pre-fixing your land line or mobile phone call with 141

    Neither of these techniques are enough to protect the number you are calling from being revealed to an official UK Communications Traffic Data request, since the Networks do retain this data during at least the current billing cycle and longer. The European Union has agreed a Directive to Retain such Communications Traffic Data for at least a year, for all 450 million EU citizens, who are innocent of any crime "just in case".

    Thankfully, has not been implemented, yet Unfortunately this Mandatory Data Retention of Communications Traffic Data came into force legally in the United Kingdom, in October 2007, initially for landline telephone and mobile phone data. There is an 18 month delay before this applies to internet data.

    i.e. VoIP to VoIP call Communications Traffic Data log files are not yet Retained, but VoIP to landline or mobile phone and vice versa is.

    Internet connection access logs and email server logfiles, together with "Internet telephony" log files, are due to be retained from March 2009 onwards, for 2 years at a time, when the full implementation of the EC Directive comes into force.

About this blog

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.

Some of these people will, in the public interest, act as whistleblowers, and may try to leak documents or information to the mainstream media, or to political blog websites etc.

Here are some Spy Blog "Hints and Tips", giving some basic preecautions, and some more obscure technical tips, which both whistleblowers, journalists, and bloggers need to be aware of, in order to help preserve the anonymity of whisteleblowing or other journalistic sources, especially in the United Kingdom, but applicable in other countries as well.

Whistleblower anonymity may not always be possible, or even necessary, forever into the future, but it is usuially crucial during at least the early stages of a "leak", whilst it is being evaluated by others, to see if it merits wider publication and publicity.

Email & PGP Contact

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


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.

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.


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CryptoParty London

CryptoParty London

Most months there is a CryptoParty London event. where some of these Hints and Tips and other techniques are demonstrated and taught.

Usually at:

Juju's Bar and Stage 15 Hanbury St, E1 6QR, London

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UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

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

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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.

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

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Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
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Open Rights Group

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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.

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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).

Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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

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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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."

Wikileaks.org - the controversial "uncensorable, anonymous whistleblowing" website based currently in Sweden.

Public Concern at Work - "(PCaW) is the independent authority on public interest whistleblowing. Established as a charity in 1993 following a series of scandals and disasters, PCaW has played a leading role in putting whistleblowing on the governance agenda and in developing legislation in the UK and abroad. All our work is informed by the free advice we offer to people with whistleblowing dilemmas and the professional support we provide to enlightened organisations."