back to article Snooper's-charter plans are just misunderstood, sniffles tearful May

Home Secretary Theresa May appeared before peers and MPs in Westminster on Wednesday afternoon to face questions about her proposed communications data bill, which has been almost universally rejected by people outside the security services bubble. Excellent Hallowe'en vampire makeup, Minister Her Hallowe'en session was the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to the Stasi State

    You have everything to Fear, most especially Fear itself.

  2. jake Silver badge

    "suffering from a heavy cold"

    Uh-huh. Sure. I guess. Maybe. If you squint.

    These people live in a dream world ... Do they really think we're that clueless?

    Don't answer ... instead, get off your lazy butts & vote.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "suffering from a heavy cold"

      Yup. One question, though : who the hell do we vote for? It seems that Lib/Lab/Con all have the same intentions. There doesn't seem to be a single politician of any stripe who is willing to stand up and say "Enough! This is not the way to go."

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: "suffering from a heavy cold"

        Yup. One question, though : who the hell do we vote for?

        I'm fairly sure the Pirate Party and possibly the Greens are against it

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "suffering from a heavy cold"

          they're against, sure, like the libdems were against tuition fees. Until.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "suffering from a heavy cold"

            Yep, and just like Labour were opposed to tuition fees - right up to the point they introduced them in the first place.

            The lesson here has to be that none of 'em can be trusted on anything...

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: "suffering from a heavy cold"

              NO the lesson has to be not to trust the civil "servants" who brief them.

              That's why the party changes but the policy does not.

              Like the Security Service you need to identify your *real* enemies.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "suffering from a heavy cold"

        "Yup. One question, though : who the hell do we vote for?"


        When this shower were in opposition they were against the Labour Government's plans for snooping on our online activity and a good many people voted Conservative on this basis.

        Now we have them introducing an equally draconian system.

        Anyone with half a brain knows this plan will only catch the most stupid terrorists and criminals and yet, like Labour, they forge ahead with the plan despite its vote-losing unpopularity, coming up with the lamest of lame excuses and justifications for it.

        You have to believe that either May, Cameron & co really are as stupid as dog shit, or someone else is pulling the strings.

        Personally I believe its a bit of both. They have been strung some half-baked scare stories by someone in the "security services" who is trying to justify their existence, and have swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

      3. Shonko Kid

        "Who the hell do we vote for?"

        If you don't like any of the candidates you're likely to be offered at the next election, then stand yourself. Use it or lose it.

        Who knows, you may be surprised at how much support you can get from the disaffected.

        1. Chris Parsons

          Re: "Who the hell do we vote for?"

          I'm surprised that some moron saw fit to downvote your very sensible post. It is a real problem. We have no politicians who are worthy leaders, not in any party. They are all self-seeking, interested in promoting the status quo rather than making things better. They have ALL forgotten they work for us. The USSR was a state at war with its own people, and we are slowly but surely going down the same road.

          Mrs May, you work for me, I would like to dismiss you for incompetence.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "suffering from a heavy cold"

      The bulk of the policy in the UK is set by the Civil servants in Whitehall, not the politicians.

      Hence why you see the same crap whoever's in power.

      Watch Yes Minister, too much truth in that program.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    We don't want to look at the content of these emails - this is sadly one of the myths that has appeared in public.

    The real myth is that we can trust the words and intentions of politicians. "We don't want" means nothing : "We cannot/will not" would be more encouraging.

    May said that "flexibility" needed to be built into any such legislation to prevent the Home Office having "to constantly come back because of too tight a definition."

    Err no - any stretch beyond what she expects us to fall for would be so intrusive that a return to parliament and full public scrutiny should be mandatory.

    I'm sure she knows that the stated intentions are by no means the real intentions, but I think she's hoping to have moved on to a more lucrative career by the time the falsehoods become apparent.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Oi, May...

    ...Sod off.

    1. John G Imrie
      Big Brother

      Oi, May...

      I'm watching you.

  5. Diskcrash

    We can trust them if you have nothing to hide.........just look at China.

    The security services keep saying that we have nothing to worry about if we have nothing to hide and that this can save lives.

    Based in that premise then randomly abducting people off the street, strip searching, drugging and water boarding the could also save lives and we shouldn't worry about that if we have nothing to hide.

    There are better more focused ways of catching criminals than snooping on everyone that uses the Internet for any and all reasons.

  6. David 45

    Nothing to hide?

    It all sounds a likely story to me. Tech-savvy terrorists will probably not use any form of communication that can be eavesdropped upon anyway. It's only one step away from our lovely government wanting to know the content of mails when they find that this half-baked horrendously expensive scheme of a white elephant isn't working and who's to say that this isn't going on already? I always thought that a democratically elected government was supposed to work for and with the people who elected them - not to go about working to their own agenda.

  7. Amorous Cowherder

    Utter ballcocks!

    ' May said that "flexibility" needed to be built into any such legislation to prevent the Home Office having "to constantly come back because of too tight a definition." '

    Give a politician an inch and they'll take 10 miles. You cacky-fingered, lying old witch, we're not stupid! We want you to come back time and again and ask when you need more powers. It's called accoutabiliy to us, the people who put your party in power and who want you to justify what you're wasting our taxes on when you're spying on us. You are not to be trusted with God like powers as you and your kind need to be kept in check, that's part of the fun dance called democracy. It's not always pretty and sometimes downright unfair to either side, but despite the neysayers we do still have some assemblence of a democracy and with remembrance day coming up I'd like you to remeber that it was hard fought and won, you scrofulous old sow!

    1. Ian Yates
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Utter ballcocks!

      Contrast this with her comment about not reading the email content.

      Today: "We have to decrypt the whole thing, but we only read the header"

      Tomorrow: "Well, it was already decypted, and we were suspicious. Oh, and the legislation said it was fine."

  8. Ben Tasker

    I suspect they're going to see a lot more encryption. I've nothing (illegal) to hide, but am considering tunnelling all our traffic over a VPN as a point of principle. Just have to make sure the end-point isn't in Blighty or the US.

    IMP is going to cost a fortune, yield little to no net benefit and give lots of room for scope creep (because having to go back and ask for more is so wrong?)

    1. Arrrggghh-otron

      VPS providers are pretty cheap (~£3 a month) and can give you around 100GB data xfer - chuck openSwan on there and hey presto - your own private VPN endpoint for peanuts. You can disable local logging too if you are really paranoid...

      Google for VPSs in Iceland (the country not the the super market).

      1. Luther Blissett

        Good spot there

        Iceland. Whose banks in the UK were shut down by McCavity under anti-tourist legislation.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Big Brother

      "IMP is going to cost a fortune, yield little to no net benefit and give lots of room for scope creep "

      Not so. It will make people *afraid* of what is known and who knows it.

      Which I suspect some civil servants are quite happy with.

      "(because having to go back and ask for more is so wrong?)"

      To a (senior) civil servant *any* questioning is clearly an annoying waste of their time much better spent building up their files.

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Theresa in the Dark? ....... Let there be Light

    "There's been quite a lot of discussion about the technicalities ... I'm willing to go into more technical detail in writing or for another private session," she [Theresa May, Home Secretary] retorted.

    Technicalities? What technicalities are there to talk about whenever current information and ethereal intelligence exchange and capture is/are, in the relative virtual field which manages Man and global events with news creation/phormed story-tellings, really just simply complex Present Product Promotions of Future Virtual Reality Packages/Fab Fabless Memes. And such are much more in the realms of AIMethodologies and Advanced Tautologies, which are SMARTR Head Spaces, and they are not of technology at all, but of shared selfless wisdom, tried and tested to failsafe, and delivered with all of the benefits that hindsight and practical experience in active future field testing have provided.

    Private sessions with Theresa to discuss all of that would ....... well, open up a whole new can of worms, at least, and create a whole new power dimension for remote administration by only the smarter of beings in private public partnerships servering the public with virtual government sector controls .... CHAOS Admin. for the Bedlam in Life :-) ........ which is what is quite spectacularly being failed to be effectively dealt with.

    However, that was before it was recognised as being a core element for corrective attention via IT Means and with Virtual Memes.

    And that is Real Spooky Active Territory protected with Need to Know classifications/compartments/departments within levels of AIdDefinite Vision and IntelAIgent Source Provision/CyberIntelAIgent Supply.

    1. Ian Yates
      Thumb Up

      Re: Theresa in the Dark? ....... Let there be Light

      I struggled to read the first paragraph three time before worrying I'd lost the power of comprehension... and then I saw who posted it

    2. Luther Blissett

      Re: Theresa in the Dark? ....... Let there be Light

      I am cool about having amfM sort Theresa out in private sessions - just as long as he brings an appropriately big ray gun along for the ride.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Binney mentioned that the NSA data cloud under construction in Utah is likely to be able to store the entire content of an internet, dimensioned for one hundred years of acquired data. If all Farr's UK IMP/CCDP DPI content & meta data isn't heading directly for the NSA then I'm a banana!

    1. Shonko Kid

      That's a lot of pr0n!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Indeed - does anyone else think this is not coincidental?

    3. Arrrggghh-otron

      "dimensioned for one hundred years of acquired data"

      Or about a weeks worth of kitten videos uploaded to youtube...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    she'd be the first one in the world to achieve that. But not in this world, it's a myth they keep chasing and never ever get any closer. But hey, it always works for throwing away billions of quid on this or that future-proof project. I'm sure she'll be able to come up with a specific estimate, "in due course". Not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: future-proof

      By "future-proof", she means that they don't need to keep asking for permission if they change how it works or what it does.

      Scary stuff

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Instead of a happy trawl through all of our dirty laundry "because we can", how about a bit of oversight before any data is collected? A judicial process similar to warrants, but stricter in which a request is presented to a judge with a list of requirements and justifications as to why collecting the information is necessary and proportionate. Not too bloody hard really. If the legislation is what they claim it is, they will already be doing most of the legwork for this to justify the resources to collate the data etc internally, so putting it on paper and justifying it to someone other than the boss shouldn't be too hard.

    Unless of course they're not telling the whole unvarnished truth.

    As time goes by it only becomes ever more tedious to watch politicians failing to get even the most elementary grasp of technology and and it's uses and potential for abuse. They are led, (too often willingly) time and again by people who really do know how to press their buttons. I think we're some way past the point of it being funny that the PM is too much of a thick cunt to use an ipod ( and seeing it as a badge of honour), we now need politicians who have the skills and knowledge to make decisions appropriate to the times in which we live, not those who think IT literacy is sending emails on a fondle slab. Technology, it's capabilities and consequences are not going away, and being governed by people locked in the mindset of second rate 17th century lawyers just doesn't cut the mustard any more.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Oversight?

      "Instead of a happy trawl through all of our dirty laundry "because we can", how about a bit of oversight before any data is collected? A judicial process similar to warrants, but stricter in which a request is presented to a judge with a list of requirements and justifications as to why collecting the information is necessary and proportionate. Not too bloody hard really. If the legislation is what they claim it is, they will already be doing most of the legwork for this to justify the resources to collate the data etc internally, so putting it on paper and justifying it to someone other than the boss shouldn't be too hard"

      It's called the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA)

      It already *exists*


      It's not real time and (as you've noted) have to specify *who* you want to watch.

      It's seems they don't have the staff to actually prepare a *request* but they do have the staff to watch *everyone*


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oversight?

        IIRC RIPA's oversight isn't judicial, it's an "officer" of a certain level - gov, council, police etc. Same organisation, no independence whatever, hence bored local authority staff taking the mick by using it wage war on bin overfillers and parents trying to dodge the school admission requirements, or just dig some dirt on the ex-best-mates new boyfriend. A genuine NuLab designed horror story.

        "Officer" sounds great till you've actually met a few. The judiciary may have their issues, but I'll take them over a job-sharing Diversity Implementation & Enforcement Officer any day of the week.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    one of the myths that has appeared in public

    She's actually trying an old one here, i.e. pulling up an irrelevant, easily dismissed claim which "has appeared in public" to imply ALL suspicions are as silly as this one, oh those poor, misinformed plebs..., I mean, the great honorable gentlemen and the great British public out there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: one of the myths that has appeared in public

      And if you don't have an appropriate myth to hand, just make one up.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Email red herring

    Is it an intentional sleight of hand that they keep saying they are not going to read email content?

    Where are the assurances that they are not going to store/mine the in-clear text used by non-email protocols to identify pages/files or content data? eg HTTP get; FTP control/data streams; NNTP news control/data; IM exchanges etc.

    As a character in an Asimov short story said - "Welcome to the goldfish bowl".

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Email red herring

      Look up the difference between Communications *Data* and Content.

      But whenever I this I mentally append the word "yet" to such statements.

    2. Evan Essence

      Re: Email red herring

      "Oh no, we're not going to record the content of the Web pages you look at, we're just going to record the URLs, so of course that'll be all right."

  15. JaitcH

    May is ether dumb, or a liar

    Most likely both.

    "Future proofing" is unattainable. Can they eavesdrop on Silent Circle equipped smartphones? Skype s now insecure. SFone is still pretty good.

    How about people who use pager/pay[hone combinations? This where one party calls from a payphone and sends a message, in numeric code, to a satellite pager. Totally untraceable. And if the pagers are leased, separately, in another country, they are even less likely to be traced.

    They already 'spy' on calling card users - payphones already retain the first three 'groups' of numbers in North America (telephone number to card service; calling card number and called number. But this can be made confusing when someone changes payphones, and the changes calling cards. How will electronic spying link these together?

    If the UK wanted to spy on anyone, they could either do it themselves, or ask another member of Echelon to do it for them. They don't need to spy on everyone.

    This is just another budget boost for GCHQ under the guise of fighting all these alleged terrorists.

    The proposed system is even more expensive than the Americans vainglorious system.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "we don't want to look at the content"

    It means shit. It means what she wants it to mean at this moment, if she herself knows what she means.

    And then, when spoken by a politician, I'd read it literally, because later on they WILL want to weasel out of whatever they said earlier. "We don't want to" means exactly that. It doesn't mean "we're not going to", it doesn't mean: "we won't", it doesn't mean "we promise not to". Yes, I'd be particularly suspicious of the "we promise not to", because this is the surest sign it means shit, doesn't it, Mr Clegg?

  17. This Side Up
    Black Helicopters

    If a bill can be misinterpretted....

    then it's a bad bill. But what May really means is "you're actually right but I don't want to let on until after the bill has passed into law".

  18. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    *Party* justified on that £500m PA saving they plan to make. That's the "benefit"

    Now WTF does that come from *exactly*?

    A little thought experiment for you gentle readers.

    Consider *all* the communications channels (phones, landlines, email addresses, URLs) and who they link to.

    Imagine this is star pattern of coloured lines radiating from you.

    Now imagine that pattern overlaid with the patterns of *everyone* in the UK.

    Now overlay that with the pattern of (say) each of the 7/7/05 perpetrators to find the "hidden" terrorists.

    This is the ultimate *claim* of this technology. Pre-crime without the need for pre cognative ability.

    Of course there might not be *any* terrorists to find IE exhaustive search, but hey that's £xxxBn (£180m is the *starting* figure for a govt IT project and that is the *public* part) well spent, right?

    Sounds like BS to me and there's an NSF report that agreed.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Encryption is not a problem"

    One Lib Dem at an IT conference gave a talk about the bill (on Youtube somewhere). The security services said "encryption is not a problem". Not sure if VPNs or Tor will be adequate protections from eavesdropping (particularly if Tor withdraw from the UK, as they said they might have to if legally required to hand over data).

  20. Ru

    "Excellent Hallowe'en vampire makeup, Minister"

    I was getting more of a Palpatine vibe, no so much Nosferatu.

  21. Pen-y-gors
    Thumb Down

    Sauce for the Goose

    Some months ago I submitted an FOI request to ask what websites the Home Secretary had visited using the government network. The request was rejected. I appealed, and that was rejected. The rejection included the following:

    As to whether disclosure would be fair, this depends to an extent on whether the Home Secretary would have a legitimate expectation that this information would not be disclosed. I consider that she does.

    Although it is argued that the information relates entirely to the Home Secretary’s public life (on the ground that any website accessed by the Home Secretary would be related to the work of the Home Office), in fact this is not necessarily so. The Home Office policy on the use of the internet allows staff to make reasonable use of the internet in the office for personal reasons, providing it does not interfere with the work of the Department or take priority over work responsibilities.

    I consider that the Home Secretary does have a legitimate expectation that the identity of any websites she may have accessed will not be disclosed and that disclosure would be unfair.

    Even if we were to conclude that disclosure would be fair, it would still be necessary to meet at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 to the DPA. The conditions relevant to disclosure under the FOI Act are condition 1 and condition 6. There is no consent to disclosure, so condition 1 is not met. Condition 6 might be met if there was a legitimate interest by the public at large in the information, which was not outweighed by the legitimate interests of the Home Secretary. I consider that the legitimate interest of the public in

    disclosure of this information is limited, particularly given the theoretical possibility that some websites may have been accessed for personal use. In any event, such interest is outweighed by the prejudice which would be caused to the Home Secretary’s legitimate interests in the information not being disclosed.

    I conclude that disclosure of the information would breach the first data protection principle and that it is therefore exempt under section 40(2) of the FOI Act, as in the original response.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Sauce for the Goose

      And, of course, the websites that the Home Secretary has visited and/or visits is being used as leverage by us to ensure that we get what we want and the Office knows not to step out of line and try a rogue program on the quiet.

      Which has one pondering on the us and we in that case, but hey, one can't have incompetents at the controls of engines of state, can one.

  22. Interested Party

    I like how they've decided that it will cost £1.8b, but they are not able to justify that because they haven't worked out how much it will cost yet.

  23. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Does'nt she

    remind of RIPA when it was brought in to ferret out those nasty terrorists, drug dealers and kiddie fiddlers

    Then we find its being used to spy on people letting their dog shit in the wrong place, people who've tried to get their kids into the right school and people who've put non-recyclable stuff in their green bin.

    Yeah right .. dear May... we dont trust you with these powers .. fuck off and die... yours etc

  24. Glostermeteor

    It's amazing how our government criticizes the likes of China for snooping on its citizens and censoring the internet, but then our own government plans to do exactly the same. Seems like we will need to employ the same mechanisms here that they use in China and Iran to stop the government from snooping on private business (i.e. proxy servers, encrypted firewalls....e.t.c). The government has absolutely no elected mandate to do this, it will not only cost us more either as taxpayers or customers of ISPs, but also potentially have our lives constantly tracked by unelected officials.


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