back to article Big Brother is born. And we find out 15 years too late to stop him

The "Big Brother" comprehensive national database system feared by many MPs has been built behind their backs over the last decade, and even has a name for its most intrusive component: a central London national phone and internet tapping centre called PRESTON. PRESTON, which collects about four million intercepted phone calls …


  1. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Privacy huh?

    I wonder... How many people who speak up about privacy concerns have a Google account? How many of them are logged on with the system reminding your session so that you can easily log back on again?

    And then the real question: how many take action against websites which use Google analytics?

    Obviously this is just one player. You can easily swap 'm out for the more popular social networks as well (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

    On one hand people are very concerned about privacy while on the other they also easily allow themselves to get tracked and monitored. It's not just the big bad government at work here.

    1. Emperor Zarg

      Re: Privacy huh?

      The motivation of commercial enterprises is fairly clear. The motivation of Governments that want intimate details of our lives, much less so. And far more sinister.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Privacy huh?

        Oh? Ever heard of ITT?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You would have thought that if this not-a-database of information was so valuable to stop terrorists they would have managed to stop the 7/7 bombings (and perhaps not shot and killed an innocent man). Funnily enough though they were caught completely unaware by the 7/7 bombings.

    Since then I don't remember reading about any significant arrests or convictions of terrorists. There's been a few secret court cases and a few people arrested with potential bomb making equipment but in none of the cases did I get the impression they were really cracking a massive terrorist organization just some idiots that were probably more of a danger to themselves. I think we can be pretty sure that if we had managed to crack a large terrorist ring the powers that be would be shouting it from the roof tops.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I think we can be pretty sure that if we had managed to crack a large terrorist ring the powers that be would be shouting it from the roof tops."

      But you forget the adage: don't let the enemy cotton to what you're doing. Even if you crack the ring, there will always be stragglers and wild cards still on the loose. If you stay mum, you can mole them and keep finding conspirators. Usually, when the news releases word of cracking a ring, it's something shameful like drug dealing or child prostitution; but if it's something genuinely dangerous with positive motivation (like starting a revolution), they'll keep quiet to avoid a "no such thing as bad publicity" scenario.

  3. Hagglefoot

    Shhh! you dont know who's listening.

    So the guidebook was right we just didn't and still don't know how the decipher it. And evil was given credence at the end of the millennium by its advocates.

    Nosey parkers, create new rules each time they poke their noses into someone else's business and that someone pokes them in the eye. Then they escalate it to the point of making you a criminal. So I ask who is the portent of evil.

    It still makes me laugh that people put their ideas into the cloud so that bots can rake in the ideas and that way those on top stay on top by being nosey parkers while promoting security.

    There's none as insecure as those that trust the system to provide the security. As x-files would put it trust no one.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intelligence and accuracy

    I do hope 'they' are more adept at using our (sorry, their) information than the Home Office team which calculated the new Police funding amounts from the wrong data because the filenames were almost identical.

    A while ago I 'researched' (ok, 'Googled') instances where innocent people had been convicted on the basis of fingerprint evidence alone. One was a USA Police sergeant who had witnesses that she was several hundred miles away, with fellow police officers when she committed the crime. it turned out that the fingerprint database was wrongly attributing the actual villain's fingerprints to her.

    It is all very well having petabytes of 'data' to play with, but you need to be sure that it is actually accurate.

    As for protecting people from harm, I suspect that may of the people with access to the data are just looking at it, and have no remit to prevent paedophiles abusing children, etc. As the data was not officially collected, it does not exist, and therefore cannot be used without prejudicing the ability to obtain it. (You don't believe me? Well, ask a former resident of the Kincorra Boys' Home if he got 'value for money' from the Security Service's knowledge of what went on there. Not MI5's finest hour.)

  5. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Tales of Daeshing Clones and Crap Bull Shit Market Drones

    Are you able to imagine what the Big Brother meme has more morphed into over the past 15 years/67 years? Aided and abetted by Myopic Media Moguls and Bogus Barons ......... Sad and Mad and Rad and Bad Wannabe Emperor Types?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Tales of Daeshing Clones and Crap Bull Shit Market Drones

      Or perhaps you don't think and think such purveyors of subverted reality are blameless and innocent of crimes against humanity?

      J'accuse. The perverse virtual reality is quite obvious.

      Ask Militarised Intelligence, if it is their Wild War LOVE Child and Hot Baby? Or if they would want it to be in Remote Virtualisation Command of IT with Global Control Head Quarters?

  6. Brian T

    I vaguely remember

    the concept of freedom. But I am old now. Maybe my eyes are failing; that would explain why I see less of it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The greatest evil

    “The greatest evil is not done now…in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is…not even done in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result, but it is conceived and ordered; moved, seconded, carried and minuted in clear, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.”

    "they are the focus of evil in the modern world."

  8. Suburban Inmate

    Meh. My outrage fuse blew out long ago.

    *sigh* "God I hate being right all the time", except some Raptors and the odd T-Rex would be preferable to the slimy reptiles currently infesting Westminster. My shiny hat looks rather smart now.

    I'd post more but it's nearly midnight and I'm on the Kestrels so let's all have a little singsong to cheer us up for the stagger home:

    And a one, and a two, and a one two three four...

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: My outrage fuse blew out long ago and was replaced with a circuit breaker trip switch

      Hi, Suburban Inmate,

      Take heart. The natives are revolting and evolving everywhere .......

      amanfromMars [1512190930] …. adding more on

      Many people believe that the restriction on free speech, the rise of the PC movement, the talk of microaggressions and safe spaces are about protecting marginalized minorities when in fact they are nothing more than tools used to entrench the positions of power, to eliminate resistance to their aims and objectives and to silence, once and for all every voice that fails to sing in the chorus of the State. The reason men like Cass Sunstein are employed by the State is because the veil has begun to fall. When people begin to question the veracity of the government, the next step, logically, is to question the legitimacy of the institutions that keep it in power. It is not a safe or reassuring thing to believe that your government is capable of plotting to kill you or those you love for it’s own ends, it is frightening, and demoralizing. It is also the first step in reclaiming our sovereignty. Just as no rational person would want to remain in a relationship with someone who repeatedly lies and cheats, neither would they be expected to offer allegiance to a State that would do worse. …. The problem when conspire usurps aspire

      Whenever a presumed dumb people, and easily enough led by media people, become significantly more intelligent than was ever previously thought able, do the heads of failing controlling organisations heed and rightly need to fear for their very own personal and institutional existence and the lives of all around and dear to them? Does the system turn grindingly slowly but ever more surely against them, and deliver them as valid targets, in order that command and control systems survive differently in the future in a brand new phorm phished from the ether?

      Or is that put in place by other men and/or smarter beings, with systems just doing their bidding in revised programs?

  9. Downside

    If you want to keep a secret

    Top Tip - If you want to keep a secret - don't tell anyone.

    I want access to my PRESTON phone records, because there are people I've lost contact with in the last fifteen years. If I post here, can GCHQ find out the numbers for Anna, Sue and Fraser? Steve and Andy? They live in Weymouth if it helps?

    All this info I've bloody paid for and it's no use to me. How annoying.

    (PS great article - I've read it open mouthed, don't know why, you've been banging on about it for 30 years. Keep up the good work)

  10. Jove Bronze badge

    Why would you expect anything else

    Well, be thankful that at least some people in Government are not swayed by by the mob.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Why would you expect anything else

      Well, be thankful that at least some people in Government are not swayed by the mob ..... Jove

      By Jove, methinks that can easily mark them as being legitimate targets for the mob and mobsters alike, Jove.

      'Tis a strange new mad mad world in deed, indeed, is IT not?

      1. Tail Up

        Re: Why would you expect anything else

        Would you really want it?

        "Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by The Daily Bell". Lawyers. I have then corrected the post, cravenly.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Parallel Construction

    That bit about 'telling the police if people are innocent'?? That's cover for parallel construction.

    They told police in secret who to arrest and for what and where to look. And the police did that, found the 'evidence' they were told to find, and created the fake evidence trail for the court.

    And maybe it was evidence and maybe it was planted. Since the court never examines the real evidence we won't know. All we know is the police lied in court to cover the mass surveillance. So they were complicit in hiding the crime from Parliament.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Parallel Construction

      And that other story, where the police were visiting people who had downloaded a DDOS software, the police visited them to deter them before they might commit crime...

      I guess we now know where all the information on who downloaded what when and where came from.

      No wonder the police think they get to define pre-crimes if they have access to all the private information on their political leadership.

  12. Timmay

    Keyboard-warrior outrage

    I do wonder sometimes, with all the keyboard-warrior outrage at the Security Services' actions, what exactly people think they should do. General consensus appears to be that yes, we do need them, but it seems to me that people just want them to stay over there, don't invade our privacy or collect any information about us, but somehow magically know who The Bad Guys™ are and therefore keep Us Good People™ safe.

    There's also the other angle of "okay, so they're collecting all this information about us, and for what, we still see bad things happen to Us Good People™", blindly ignoring the fact that bad shit is being planned and prevented all the time - those one or two bad things that do happen are unfortunately what slip through the net.

    The good guys only have to fail once for bad stuff to happen. The bad guys only have to get something right once.

    1. Emperor Zarg

      Re: Keyboard-warrior outrage

      I think the problem of what the Security Services should do is actually quite clear to most people. They are there to protect Us Good People from The Bad Guys, to paraphrase what you wrote. They do not appear to be actually doing this.

      The number of Bad Guys is infinitesimally small. The drag-net approach being used at present hoovers up everything belonging to Us Good People. Pretty much all of that is material that no Government has any business collecting. Even if they do nothing with the information, the problem is: they still have it.

      We have, in most, if not all Western countries, a basic presumption of innocence and a right not to have our lives and correspondence interfered with by the State. These basic tenets of law appear to have been trampled in the rush to find Bad Guys. Any surveillance action which finds itself suspecting the entire population of the planet is very clearly mad, out of control and a long way down a very dangerous path.

      It must be stopped.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: Keyboard-warrior outrage

        "The number of Bad Guys is infinitesimally small."

        But they're very much like high-yield bombs. One guy can do a lot of damage, people die, and if the government can't stop them before they slay innocents, the public will ask what good are they?

  13. Lord-a-miytee


    I just typed 'tinkerbell' into Google maps, for a laugh. It took me to "Tinkerbell Privacy Resort", Thailand. I suppose that query is on The Database, now.

  14. Robert Grant

    I don't know what's more disgusting

    The years of mass surveillance, or the fact that a part of it was called CATSUP.



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