back to article Info commissioner says comms database is leap too far

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said today that government plans for a communications database are a step too far and need proper public debate. Speaking at the launch of the regulator's annual report Thomas said: "I am absolutely clear that the targeted, and duly authorised, interception of the communications of …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of the 395 notices

    75% resulted in a complaint upheld in part or in full.

  2. b

    there needs to be the fullest public debate

    Good luck with that.

  3. Richard
    Black Helicopters

    I can think of a use for it

    Taking the "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" and "People in glass houses" maxims to the limit, if the lying, self-serving weasels ^H^H^H members of HM.Gov want unhindered access to telephone and internet logs, then I want said data to be cross-checked with their expense claims.

    Going north through Doncaster and York while claiming you drove? Moonlighting for National Express East Coast were we sir?

    The problem with the Parliamentary debates on the matter hasn't so much been a lack of debate as a lack of members of the Commons actually listening to the debate, choosing rather to spend the evening clubbing or suchlike before tipping up to vote, or simply giving carte blanche as soon as the magic phrase "prevents terrorism" is used a la the Manchurian Candidate.

  4. Sam


    Thomarse the wank engine? The one that let phorm lie to him?

    What the hell does he know about anything?

  5. Shagrat

    Think of the fun though

    You could soon make it worthless anyway. I assume they will be screening for key words..

    "Hi, I'll be home soon put some ricin, We'll have a curry"

    "Ill do some gardening when I get home, I need to murder that bush"

    "Tell the kids they've messed about too much, so we're having a telly ban"

  6. Adair

    Just give us all our own personal `watcher'...

    Okay, we haven't seen the actual proposals yet, but going on past form get set for another ludicrous bit of political grandstanding: trading on fear, and based on whatever wish-list happens to have floated to the top of the pile. It will, of course, increase the oppression of ordinary Joe and Jane public trying to go about their ordinary lives, do practically nothing to increase their security, and have virtually no impact at all on professional criminals, be they 'terrorists' or any other flavour; while at the same time be a black-hole for tax payer's money, and basically be useless by any rational and objective measure.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Him?

    Don't be so hard on the guy, he's the only one in a government appointed position who actually seems to be on our side. He's willing to publicly challenge the government on their record of taking away our liberty and though his powers are unfortunately not strong enough to overturn government policy, he's the load voice of opposition from within the civil service. He's a real thorn in the side of our government and I bet they wish they'd put their own lackey in the position. I'm honestly surprised they haven't found some way to get rid of him.

    Sure the Phorm fiasco wasn't dealt with exactly as most of us expected, but if Richard Thomas wasn't around things would much worse. If a labour puppet was in the role you'd never even know ICO existed.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whats the problem?

    By the time Phorm / Webwise / BT have finished intercepting all our internet clicks and typing, that is assuming the ICO allow the suspect trials to go ahead, all our data privacy will be lost anyhow.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Richard Thomas, the same Richard Thomas

    ... who imposed enforcement notices on HMRC and MOD for *accidentally* leaking personal data.

    But when BT *deliberately* conducts mass communication surveillance for 'targeted advertising', not once but twice, he does sweet Fanny Adams.

    Not even asking for technical data. Not even rebuking BT for misconduct. Not even an enforcement notice.

    Why is the man still in his job? Why is he still writing vacuous reports? Why is he wringing his hands over the state of the surveillance society?

    Go. Walk. Remember your coat. And mind the door as you leave. Its got a nasty habit of whacking your bottom.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Richard Thomas, the same Richard Thomas

    Totally agree with your comment. How he can see little problems out of one eye and miss the big problems out of the other mystifies me.

    BT should have been stopped dead in their tracks. Just because Richard Thomas does not understand the Phorm illegal technology doesn't mean Richard should bury his head in the sand! He should find out from an independent source.

  11. alex dekker

    Context for figures

    Out of interest, could you update the article to compare it with previous years figures on complaints?

  12. Watashi

    The breakdown of our system of government

    Once upon a time, our democratic system had five layers: PM; Cabinet Ministers; Parliament; Establishment; Electorate. For the Cabinet to get laws through they had to convince both the Parliament and the Establishment (ie Civil Service, Scientific Advisers, Foreign Office, Judges etc) that the new policies were a) workable and b) morally acceptable.

    However, when Blair got elected he had a big majority of Labour MPs, many of whome were so greatful to be in power that they were effectively a rubber stamp for whatever policies were put to them by the Cabinet. One level of democracy is bypassed. Next, because the Cabinet was largely made up of devout New Labour believers it had very few dissenters against the PM's line. This reduced the layers of our system to three: PM; Establishment; Electorate.

    In the years that followed Blair's first victorious election, Blair and his minions worked tirelessly to undermine the Establishment. Now we have a government that doesn't respect what anyone outside of Parliament thinks at all. Judges are lambasted whenever they say anything the PM doesn't like, the Civil Service has been beaten into blind obedience, military leaders are appointed on the basis of whether they are pro-government line, scientists are ignored whenever thier evidence isn't palatable. This gives us two layers of government: PM & Electorate.

    This wasn't the end of the changes made to our system. Ater a while it was noticed that Blair & Brown's Big Ideas were not fixing all of society's problems. To come up with new ideas, New Labour turned to political Think Tanks (they'd alienated everyone else) to come up with new policies. The Think Tanks do the job of 'understanding' society and suggesting fixes, and then the PM decides whether he think's they'll work or not. Our democratic system had become: Think Tanks; PM; Electorate.

    That was, until Blair left. Brown is so obviously out of his depth that he is incapable of moderating the loonie ideas being suggested to him by Think Tanks and the role of PM has become largely irrelevent. Brown is so afraid of losing the next election that he will agree to whatever ideas the Think Tanks suggest to him. Now government looks like this: Think Tank; Electorate.

    Ten years ago we had a well respected system created over many hundreds of years to ensure a good set of balances and checks despite having no written constitution and only one elected House. Today, we have a system where a few groups of shadowy unknowns tap directly into the ignorance, fear and predjudices of the Electorate to create policies whose ultimate purpose is unmoderated by either our elected officials, the experts in the fields concerned or the principles and traditions upon which our sense of Britishness is based.

    A modern liberal democratic system is supposed to do two things: 1) create a moderating buffer zone between the Electorate and government inner circles to prevent what is essentially mob rule from dominating policy making and 2) make sure that new policies are passed through a largely apolitical filtering system to stop extreme or unworkable ideas getting into the hands of the population. The break-down of this sytem was fundamental to the rise of many of history's worst governments, including Germany's National Socialist dictatorship and Zimbabwe's current despotic regime. What hapens to us will depend on how quickly we can get rid of New Labour, and whether our next government is up to the job of putting the peices of our system back together.

  13. MYOFB

    All Becomes Clear . . . Now!!

    It's a riddle, hidden inside a conundrum, all wrapped up in an enigma!!

    Well it is to most people. Because the majority of people just don't know WTF is happening and worse still, even if they had a clue, wouldn't give a FUCK!!!

    Apologies for that assault, I feel I have demeaned myself in your eyes with my foul mouthed outrage. Hopefully you will read further.

    To explain my outburst, I had just caught up with the news on El Reg and flipped 'channels' to the BBC when this caught my eye . . .

    I was hopping mad for many a reason, not least of which . . . I didn't see THIS on the Reg FIRST!! Couldn't believe my eyes!!

    Thankfully I know how to search for articles and found it here . . .

    There's quite a gap between 15:00 and 16:54 don't you agree 'El Reg' . . .You know, the time you reported on it (and buried it) and the time Auntie Beeb did (and didn't, hide it that is)???!!!

    What beggars belief even more is you didn't even maul this extract . . .

    "To ensure that the agencies can continue to use this valuable tool, the government is planning to bring forward the Communications Data Bill."

    Yeah, they're bringing it forward alright because it will probably be the last thing they ever do, whilst in POWER.

    Ooh! POWER, the word has them wetting their pants at every turn and the Libs & Tories too, even as they're deriding the 'Invasion of Privacy' someone's ass is getting kicked (and probably more)!!

    Why? Because they didn't think that angle up for themselves!!

    But they sure as a snowflake melts in hell WILL NOT bury the policy if they get in POWER themselves!!

    Do you believe I am wrong? Then prove it otherwise!!


    Our parents are Heroes/Heroines (mine in particular to me . . . as are yours) but you have to face the facts, YOU wouldn't go through or do the same things your parents did!!

    Whatever the era they (your parents) lived in, you wouldn't go through the same trouble and strife, wars, rationing, irrational behaviour, protectionist state, etc . . .

    Why are you doing it now??!!

    Politics aside, my last comment is intended to unlock the. . .

    "riddle, hidden inside a conundrum, all wrapped up in an enigma!!"

    Neville Chamberlain: " I have in my hand a piece of paper . . . "

    Todays' Leaders: " I have in my hand a USB stick, SD card, what-you may-call-it" . . . . . .

    . . . . . To fuck you over once again just like "Ma-father-and 4-fathers-did" and all my offspring will do to you in the future!!

    Just checked my Lotto tickets from the last six weeks . . . guess what?

    I won and I'm outta here!! Bye-bye!!

  14. David McQuillan

    Put a microphone in every house

    Surely we need microphones installed in every room in every house in the country and every few square yards elsewhere. Law abiding people need fear nothing from this but law breakers beware! Every word you terrorists,paedophiles, and scum haranguers at party conferences will be stored in the 10*21 byte/sec database. Future enhancements will include extnding the curren visible and infra red video surveillance to sitting rooms bedrooms toilets and any other place crime may be committed.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Cross checking with MP's data is a good idea:

  16. Kieron McCann

    Reg Quiet On Phorm

    The Reg has gone all quiet on Phorm - have you moved on? Is the issue not bossting readership? Do you still care?

  17. Jonathan


    They already do have a communications interception database - its called Phorm, and its been given the blessing of the Government already.

    Isn't corruption grand?

  18. Mr Chris

    @ AC

    "Totally agree with your comment. How he can see little problems out of one eye and miss the big problems out of the other mystifies me."

    Are you mental? You consider the Phorm targeted advertising nonsense to be worse than HMRC losing *25 million sets of bank account details*? That's a "little problem"?

    Your perspective has clearly been skewed by spending too much time on the internet.

  19. NHS IT guy
    Black Helicopters


    Plans such as this are just going to drive both normal people like you and I, and the "baddies" into hiding. I have nothing to hide, but I also don't fancy whatever outsourced agency the government chooses going through all my data/calls.

    We're likely to see a huge increase in PAYG mobiles, and PAYG 3G dongles - and a fall in landlines/ADSL if this goes through. It's not like they can possibly trace those to anyone, and how do they decide whether a address is UK based - and would MS even hand over the data.

    But the biggest stopping point of all would be the UK's complete incompetence at collecting and storing data on ANY scale.

  20. Matthew Ellen


    For those out there worried that the government are going to use this data to spy on the conversations you have with other people; you need not worry so much. The data being stored only details who communicated with whom and when. What was communicated is not stored.

    The issue is that the Home Office is going to take the data currently stored by ISPs and phone service providers and centralise it. The data is already stored and accessible by law enforcement once a warrant is obtained. This will remain the case with the centralised store. The Home Office believes that the centralised store will make finding the data easier. This obviously is wrong, and will cause more problems than the Home Office already have, while costing the tax payer millions of pounds.

    When the draft bill is published (I'm not sure if it has been, I haven't checked in about a week) take part in the debate and make your voice heard.

  21. Jonathan Schofield


    A neat succinct sum up of the way Nu Labour have stuffed us all. We are sleepwalking into an Orwellian nightmare...

  22. Robert Harrison

    Spring cleaning

    Does anyone actually *genuinely* believe that the removal of Labour from power will put a stop to the totalitarian survellience society that is steadily making its way in?

    I for one will certainly be glad to see the back of Labour. It's been a while since I've actually seen or spoken to anyone that thinks that Labour is doing A Good Job [tm]. But, supposing the Tories win the next election? When they're standing there with the keys to the estate as it were, are they actually going to say 'No, we'll relinquish the power and control amassed by the previous government"? Are they going to say "We're no longer going to bow and scrape to the EU, IMF, USA, etc and fight for the good of Joe Public"?

    Are they £$~%@%#

    I'd like to say do a bit of spring cleaning and toss all the current politicians (and their boxes of expense claims paperwork) onto the street. It's a nice daydream. Unfortunately having read 1984 we already know just how that daydream ends, smack bang in the middle of square one again.

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