back to article UK gov rushes through emergency law on data retention

Emergency law is expected within days to be pushed through Parliament that will force ISPs to retain customer data to allow spooks to continue to spy on Brits' internet and telephone activity, after existing powers were recently ruled invalid by the European Union's highest court. The planned legislation crucially has cross- …

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: What's the emergency?

      I seem to remember a Philip K Dick novel in which the population were kept in shelters undeground as they were under threat.

      I remember reading that when I was in short trousers and thought that it was too far fetched and that it would never happen.

      And then I watched 'Brazil' where the government did its best to keep up the threat.

      Again, I thought it could never happen. I can't even say that this is the thin edge of the wedge as we've seen that years ago.

      This is wrong, all very wrong and it is enough to drive me to tears.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's the emergency?

      "Are we suddenly under significantly increased threat of attack?"

      We will be after Cameron joins the Yanks and Israelis in their next Middle Eastern massacre.

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This makes my skin itch!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    squek squek

    such laws wouldn't be passed in anything even remotely similar rush in Switzerland. But they can and will be (again) in the UK, because they know the Brits are spineless. Emergency, my ass! First thing I saw on the beeb was the headline "emergency data law set". So I asked myself: "like when I'm out on the street and they need to find who I am right?" And then I saw the first paragraph: "to fight "criminals and terrorists", David Cameron says." and I thought: "Ah, THAT emergency again! But of course, what was I thinking!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: squek squek

      Actualy Switzerland is now considering a far reaching data retention law extending the period from six months up to one year.

      But I really don't see why the UK government is insisting on one year, given that other nations only have a retention period of six months or none at all.

      If I know that my metadata is kept for one year, nothing prevents me from laundering my trafick through a country with six months or zero data retention.

      So after six months, all the UK data is worthless.

      And that's not even accounting for Tor or vpn.

      Also the Communications Act only requires retention of IP addresses, it does not prove which contents was sent or received, and it does not apply to information services like cyberlockers, online forums or instant messanging.

      You can't use the metadata to prove that a file with a specific hash was uploaded by IP address x.x.x.x. because cyberlockers are either outside the UK and are not legally required to keep any logs.

      And best of all, if someone uses another's wireless connection tunneling through vpn, Tor or any proxy chain wherein one of the hops keep no logs, the forensic trail is cold.

      1. Lars Silver badge

        Re: squek squek

        "Also the Communications Act only requires retention of IP addresses, it does not prove which contents was sent or received, and it does not apply to information services like cyberlockers, online forums or instant messanging.". So why this fantastic need to collect that data.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: squek squek

      When did the Brits become so spineless?

      On 9/11 I was working on a project in Frankfurt on the approach to the airport, in a tower block and I was staying on the other side of the road on the 44th floor of the Marriott.

      That night the French, German and US colleagues all booked out of the Marriott and moved into German hotels around the town. The Brits had the attitude of "we won't let the b*stards affect us!" And stayed in the hotel and paid tribute in the bar...

      Now it seems that the UK is turning into a bunch of sheeple that do whatever they are told.

      When I was growing up, my parents talked about the IRA attacks and said that no matter what happenned, they wouldn't let it affect how they lived their lives. That is how I carried on after the attacks on 9/11, but now it seems that that attitude is uncool and I should be grovelling to the government to put me under ever more surveillance "for my own good."

      "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

      1. lurker

        Re: squek squek

        It's not that we are spineless, more just that we are massively cynical and have an 'oh not this shit again' attitude which results in a tendency towards political apathy. The fact that all three political parties are in on this gives you some idea why, we pretty much have one political party with three different colour schemes and a 'monster raving racist' party as the only alternative.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: squek squek

          Apropos... I miss Screaming Lord Such!

          Looking at what is happening in the UK from here in Germany, it is sometimes embarassing when friends ask me just what is going on...

  3. JimmyPage

    And todays word from history ...

    Abwehr ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And todays word from history ...

      Bloody good word of the day!

      (Post 1938 it would be phrase of the day from history: Amt Ausland/Abwehr im Oberkommando der Wehrmacht)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Words that are friends ...

        Some words just seem to want to live together ... given the tone of Camerons recent edicts, perhaps we need a Secret State Police ... however I'm struggling with how we'd make it snappy. "SSP" is too generic. Now if we could run the words together, something like Ststpo ?

        Anyone any suggestions ?

        1. Graham Marsden
          Big Brother

          Re: Words that are friends ...

          Perhaps we could have one over-arching organisation to deal with everything like this.

          They could be called the GEneral STate POlice, perhaps...

          1. MrWibble

            Re: Words that are friends ...



            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              Re: Words that are friends ... @ Mr Wibble

              Of course GESTPO - if there was, say, another "A" in there it would sound like a very nasty group in nazi Germany! Not the image the British government would want to portray, what?

            2. Graham Marsden

              @MrWibble - Re: Words that are friends ...


              1. BongoJoe

                Re: @MrWibble - Words that are friends ...

                It makes no difference what we call it; it soon will be sold off for overseas organisations to run.

                At a cost to the taxpayer, of course.

        2. rizb

          Re: Words that are friends ...

          What we need is a committee for state security. You could call it by its initials but that might a) be a clue because such an organisation should clearly be secret and b) might look like cascading style sheets.

          So pick a language to use instead - Russia, maybe? Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti is a little clunky, how about we abbreviate that down....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Words that are friends ...

            you could simplify this (currently) un-warranted UK internal spooking organisation to "NSAGCHQHMGCCUKNTAC" (where's Carol or Rachel when you need them!) - there's deff an interesting word or two hidden in the above 'random' 3, 4, 5, 6 letter agency imaginings.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Enforcing ISP data harvesting is simply a smoke screen

    IMHO, this bill is simply to provide a way for law enforcement to construct a plausible trail of evidence that can be used in courts. The data is ALREADY harvested and stored en masse by the security services but can't be presented in courts for fear of exposing the true extent of the surveillance dragnet. By rushing through this legislation, law enforcement can continue to use the real dragnet data but then build a case retrospectively using the ISP sourced data.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Enforcing ISP data harvesting is simply a smoke screen

      "IMHO, this bill is simply to provide a way for law enforcement to construct a plausible trail of evidence that can be used in courts. The data is ALREADY

      harvested and stored en masse by the security services but can't be presented in courts for fear of exposing the true extent of the surveillance dragnet."

      Partially true, but you forget that the mandatory data retention regime makes it possible to track an internet subscriber by proving who was assigned a particular IP address at time xxx:yyy;:zzz.

      Without the law, ISPs caring about their customers' privacy could simply delete data not necessary to retain for billing purposes.

      Mandatory data retention is a dangerous slippery slope: It assumes that data not required for billing must be kept in order to facilitate a future government investigation because individually targeted monitoring is too expensive.

      It's like saying that every citizen must carry a GPS and be trackable by the government on the assumption that the information might be useful to law enforcement.

      But the worst consequence of DR is that the same info is available in private civil cases.

      Copyright trolling -- suing individual account subscribers is only possible because the ISPs must keep IP addresses.

  5. Jedibeeftrix

    Thank the Lord!

    "Some bodies will lose their powers to access data altogether while local authorities will be required to go through a single central authority who will make the request on their behalf."

    1. rizb

      Re: Thank the Lord!

      Trans - local authorities will be required to go through a single central authority who will accept the request on their behalf.

  6. JimmyPage

    Sunset clause

    At least it has a sunset clause (as indeed ALL "emergency" legislation should).

    Cameron won't be here in 2016 ....

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Sunset clause

      With the three main parties unconditionally supporting this, what are the chances that it will not be renewed?

      1. JimmyPage

        Re: Sunset clause

        Depends what parliament looks like after 2015. I have a hunch that despite valiant efforts from Cameron, Clegg, and Miliband to pretend nothing has changed, they are commanding the tide to turn back.

        The entire demographic of politics has shifted in ways unthinkable 30 years ago. The UK is no longer the easily partitioned LibLabCon landscape of days of yore.

        I forsee coalitions as being a way of life. Remind me, who do I vote for if I don't want this shit ?

        1. Rich 11

          Re: Sunset clause

          I forsee coalitions as being a way of life. Remind me, who do I vote for if I don't want this shit ?

          The Greens.

          Got to start somehwere, else it's just same-old, same-old.

          1. JimmyPage
            Thumb Up

            @Rich 11

            I have already decided Green for me - despite the fact I disagree with almost all of their energy policy (something the big 3 have managed to fail at too ... looks like no party is going to build nuclear anyway, so I may as well vote Green).

            None of the big 3 are getting my vote ... and since it's taken 30 years for me to feel this way, it's unlikely they ever will again.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sunset clause

          "The entire demographic of politics has shifted in ways unthinkable 30 years ago. The UK is no longer the easily partitioned LibLabCon landscape of days of yore".

          For one thing - as I have been saying for years now - there is no longer any party that is conservative. The "Conservative" party could well be prosecuted under whatever has replaced the Trades Descriptions Act, except that of course, being politicians, they are immune to the law.

          As a lifelong conservative (small "s"), I find it frustrating that there is literally no one I can vote for. In the meantime, UKIP will have to do. As far as I can see, they are broadly in favour of less government (and hence less government interference).

    2. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Sunset clause

      The 19th century bill allowing income tax also had a sunset clause.

      They've renewed it every year since.

  7. Mike Smith
    Big Brother

    Before we all fall foul of Godwin...

    ... cast your minds back a few years.

    A "Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board..."


    "...on the American model"

    Doubleplusungood until otherproved...

    A sunset clause - plusgood.

    I'm not saying that allowing unrestricted snooping on all and sundry is a good thing - it ain't - but it is worth remembering that the last government wouldn't have even bothered with such ridiculous concepts.

    If you need reminding, El Reg has a lot of articles on the subject.

  8. Jason 41
    Black Helicopters

    Model T

    I do wonder if basing anything even remotely linked to privacy on an American model is actually doing us any favours?

  9. Alfred 2

    I think ...

    Descartes: "I think therfore I am."

    Cameron: "You think, therefore you are a dangerous individual!"

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: I think ...

      Descartes: "I think therfore I am."

      Cameron: "You think, therefore you are a dangerous individual!" .... Alfred 2

      Here is support for that view and opinion, Alfred 2 ......... “The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself…Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.”—H.L. Mencken, American journalist

      1. JimmyPage
        Thumb Up

        upvoted for H.L. Mencken quote ..

        "Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong."

  10. Shaha Alam
    Big Brother

    "The consequences of not acting are grave"

    why can't the consequences ever just be "whimsical"?

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: "The consequences of not acting are grave"

      Cameron is just being a spineless twat*, proven by his comment that he doesn't want to be a prime minister explaining why a terrorist attack occurred. He doesn't have the courage to say "Damn the terrorists, there is no significant risk, privacy is more important". Whilst he still isn't top of my Prime Minister Hate List (Thatcher and Blair still vie for first place on that one), he just went into the top three.

      * again.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "This makes my skin itch!"

    No kidding...

    Wasn't the original legislation stuck down because it was too intrusive and deemed illegal by the European Court?

    This 'emergency' legislation is therefore an attempt to legalise what has been doing illegally in the previous years.

    Weasels, the lot of them.

  12. John Sturdy

    An appropriate way round it?

    Perhaps the companies concerned, when approached for files containing the records, can say "The data you're looking for was in 114 files, which we have inexpicably lost. You know how it goes."

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: An appropriate way round it?

      Perhaps hints were given to the three main parties that the files were at the point of being 'found'?

      Yep, it's tinfoil hat time.

  13. M7S

    "This bill will simply replicate what currently exists"

    So its a duplication then? If so, why bother?

    Mind you, given HMG's drive to cut duplication and superfluous red tape, perhaps we can look foward to the same bill repealing all the preivous mish-mash of regulations, so that everything is nice and clear. Then again....

  14. WonkoTheSane

    Meanwhile in 2016...

    Parliamentary review of this "new law":-

    Politician#1: "Why has this got a sunset clause?"

    Politician#2: "We don't need that! Let's delete it."

    Politican#3: "OK. All in favour?"

    Direction: All present raise hands

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What The Fuck is happening in this country

    We have laws like this coming in and the public swallow it up.

    We have people locked away for wearing tshirts with slogons on them.

    And we have this law stating that someone who decides (lets put religion aside for a moment), to go and fight for what they believe to be right in Syria being locked up.

    In the 1930s normal working class people (miners, etc) were sick of Britain's pandering to the fascists, and took it upon themselves to go and fight with the people of Spain against Franco's fascists.

    It was generally seem as a brave and worthy thing to do by the British public.

    I stuggle to see what the difference is if someone does the same against Syrian tyranical rule ?

    Now it's seen as dangerous extremist terrorism ?

    And yet if the UK army went there tomorrow it'd be fine and dandy to fight against them.

    On the one hand, I cannot get my head around a law which states that I, as an individual am bound by the law of that country, even when I am somewhere else.. that is just ridiculous!

    If I am in Syria, or for that matter, the USA, china or the North Pole, I am bound by the rules of THAT country - not the rules of whatever fucking country I am a citizen of. Lets arrest every american 17yo that has sex in the UK on statuary rape charges for example.

    On the other hand, I can't see this stupid law being enforced if it wasn't for the connection with 'Islamic law'/Islam. Even as an militant athiest, this seems wrong to me. Sure if young people are being brain washed into it IN the UK, then we might decide we want to do something about it. That, I can understand - i.e. if instead of doing it for moral reasons, they are persuaded to do it because they are told their magical man in the sky wants them to, etc.

    However, 1000s of people are being killed in Syria. As an individual I may feel strongly this is wrong. I may feel strongly that I want to do something to protect them. My country does not feel this way. I am therefore, obviously a dangerous terrorist extremist if I go over there to do something about it.

    I don't 'get' the UK crime that is apparently being committed here. I just don't get it.

    Thankfully, as any devout religious person will tell you, as an atheist, my kind and I, am responsible for most of the world's wars anyway, and can feel I have already done by bit. :p

    1. Mad Mike

      Re: What The Fuck is happening in this country


      Your fundamental error is to apply logic and sanity to the situation and then try to understand the governments actions.

      People who go and fight in Syria may or may not become a risk when they come back to this country. All depends on individual beliefs and actions. However, the government is basically saying they are all risks and terrorists. This is nonsense. Sure, some may want to come back and bomb (or whatever) us, but just because one does, does not mean they all do.

      When looking at all this, you need to look ahead a few decades and see where it is heading. Basically, the government and governing bodies of the UK are looking more and more like the Assad regime every year. Yes, big gulf at the moment, but the first steps in that direction, which are gradually being followed by more and more. After all, who would have thought a decade ago that people would be locked up indefinitely by a secret court using information not available (even after the trial) to the general public? Yet it's now happened.

      This is all a slippery slope that only ends up one place. Look at all the tyrannical regimes of the past and note the gradual slide into the abyss. The continual increase in surveillance until you get something like the STASI. Locking people up for longer and longer on less and less information. Suddenly, secret courts appear etc.etc.etc.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What The Fuck is happening in this country

      With Syria, the government the gov's in a dilemma, I'm sure. On one hand they want to get rid of the current regime, and every little helps, even those poor bastards flying there via Turkey. And remember we usually do not hear what is going on behind the closed doors, i.e. whether our good masters haven' taken upon themselves to supply intelligence, weapons shipments, training, finance and advice to the rebels. On the other hand, they're scared, and rightly so, of young Muslims going there to get combat experience and weapons training. And it so happens that the current freedom fighters in Syria (i.e. opposing the evil regime of Assad which we used to make business deals with, happily, in the past) also mix up with the "very bad guys". And, being young, those Brits are easy to to convince that becoming martyrs and taking the fight to the REAL enemy, i.e. the western corrupt and evil society is THE way forward, man. And the reward is there, round the bend, in heaven, with all those willing virgins, etc, etc. I'm sure there's easily available little extra training on how to make a big boom back from where you come from. Obviously, it's only for the bestest and baddest fighters who can be trusted with such a challenging job, and our British Muslim brothers here, who have proven they are true believers, are the perfect weapons against the infideli...

      I guess it's easier (and much cheaper) to browbeat the wannabes by arresting those who have already been (look boy, this is what happens - we can track you from the satellite when you play a warrior out there!) slapping anything, say... terrorism charges, then to track many others later when they do come back home.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What The Fuck is happening in this country

        " On one hand they want to get rid of the current regime, and every little helps..."

        Why do they want to get rid of the current "regime"? (Have you noticed that, whenever our masters want to overthrow another country's government, it mysteriously becomes a "regime"?)

        OK, Assad and his government may have committed a lot of violent acts, and they may throw their weight around. BUT present-day Syria is (or was, before the violent revolutionaries started tearing it apart) the most secular, non-fundamentalist, tolerant country in the Middle East. As was Iraq, before it was literally destroyed in order to save it from Saddam. And Libya under Qaddafi wasn't that bad.

        All these things are relative. Look, if you will, at Saudi Arabia - the most barbarous, extremist fundamentalist regime in the world. But their royal family, which runs the country in a literally medieval way, are our good buddies so no one can say a word against them. Virtually all the Gulf States are similar: absolute monarchies in which you can disappear permanently just for whispering any comment about the government, or for a wide range of offences against their religious law. Those are countries in which slavery is both widespread and officially approved of - indeed, they couldn't get by without it. Yet we line up on their side against countries that are relatively secular, liberal, and to a certain extent democratic. It's almost as if someone was trying to make (and keep) the Middle East as primitive, violent, and ghastly as possible.

  16. Silviu C.

    Pfft logic

    "Unless they have a business reason to hold this data, internet and phone companies will start deleting [comms data] which has serious consequences for investigations – investigations which can take many months and which rely on retrospectively accessing data for evidential purposes."

    If the EU directive that allowed for a law to gather that data has been shot down, then how can they say that they will be able to use said data as evidence? Shooting down that directive means that such evidence is illegal, thus not usable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pfft logic

      the EC Data Retention Directive was declared "invalid(*)" but wasn't exactly completely struck down forever, the ECJ court suggested that the Directive needed around 10 modifying clauses to make it acceptable, to comply with the human-rights embedded principle of proportionality. As far as I know, only Austria has quietly repealed the DRD nationally, Germany never bothered to implement it as it obviously wasn't constitutionally valid, UKUSA is obviously worried about potential or actual court cases.

      The ECJ said this positive thing about the DRD "... the retention of data for the purpose of their possible transmission to the competent national authorities genuinely satisfies an objective of general interest, namely the fight against serious crime and, ultimately, public security."

      However, they were critical that the DRD as implemented isn't just focussed on loosely defined "serious crime" - but seeks everyone's data, all the time

      They further criticised that there are little controls on who in the national authorities might use the data, currently anyone vaguely in UK .gov may use all of DRD for anything? (anecdotally the various EU Police forces simply haven't used DRD to the extent claimed, it's purely an intelligence device)

      The judges noticed that there were little to no safeguards against abuse of the DRD data, and that as some of the 28 EU nation's DRD retained data might be hosted outside the EU that there was this further risk of DRD data-leakage, should some large shadowy national security organisation or two, not already have their hands on it.

      It remains to be seen if this not-yet/not-ever debated LIBLABCON emergency law does accurately answer the ECJ list of points, which would be great, or is it just another data-rape?

      (*)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 is invalid.

  17. GreyWolf

    I was sad in 1989 when the Iron Curtain came down..

    ...that all those wonderful Communist jokes would disappear, and in only a few years, no-one would understand them...

    Now I see that our beloved Government is working to make them all relevant again...and a new generation of stroppy kids will be ridiculing our masters...

  18. Mike Shepherd

    How helpful...

    How helpful of the US to claim only a few days ago that increased airline security was needed. It is remarkable how "pressing" legislative needs so often follow high-profile "security" stories.

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