back to article Home Office defends retaining comms data

The Home Office has said that ministers have not yet decided how to retain data on all communications - but defended the importance of doing so. Several press reports have said that the government will build a single database to hold everyone's communications data, collected from all service providers – adding that this would …


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  1. Nomen Publicus

    A billion here, a billion there...

    One billion quid for the prototype?

    Have they _any_ idea about computers at all?

  2. Anonymous Coward

    What concerns me

    Is that if you have all this communication data then what is it for? I can see you can use it to find who is talking to who, but what about other means of conversation, letters, good old fashioned speaking, or is that covered by surveillance? Hardly 100% coverage and if it isn;t 100% how useful is it?

    When we see our liberties being eroded and innocent until proven guilty taking a battering, I am concerned that the innocent may all have to justify their contacts on demand.

    Can anyone remember why they called person x on Jun 12th 1998 at 21:42 and what they talked about. It's the kind of question we could all end up having to answer if this goes ahead. I for one can hardly remember who I spoke to last week never mind any longer than that!

    Mine's the one with "Do I come here often?" on the back.

  3. Richard

    EU Directive

    "It is also required of the UK under a European directive, ..."

    That's a nice bit of double-talk from the Home Office. That would of course be the very same EU Directive that the UK government itself laundered through the undemocratic European Commission after failing to get it through Parliament the first time. More links about this here:

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A breach of EU Law

    "It is also required of the UK under a European directive, and a bill is expected in the Queen's speech."

    No the European directive specifically says:

    "Member States shall adopt measures to ensure that data retained in accordance with this Directive are provided only to the competent national authorities in SPECIFIC CASES"

    A blanket capturing of data would conflict with this requirement and would NOT be legal, and it would also NOT be legal to bypass Parliament to implement it, and a violation of the privacy right to bypass a judicial process to obtain the data.

    ""At the moment, the police can get critical information from communications service providers such as telephone companies to help them solve crimes,""

    Yes RIPA, the violation of privacy rights, bypassing the judicial checks and balances that is misused hundred of thousands of times each year and desperately needs repealed and proper judicial checks put in place. A regulator appointed by the government is no substitute for the judicial process that was removed. Blair hated judges, but he was a lying toerag.

    "A Home Office consultation document on implementing the directive recommends minimising the duplicated storage of data"

    So you are suggesting what? That the telephone companies give their ONE AND ONLY copy of the information to the Home Office and Jacqui Smith lets them access this copy when they need to prepare bills or check records? To deduplicate it?

    No you are not suggest that at all, you are trying to find an excuse by which an incompetent minister, can do something that is illegal, and pretend it's some sort of efficiency thing.

    What they're proposing is not legal, not in any sense, RIPA should be overturned, it has no judicial check on it, it is misused repeatedly, there does not appear to be the willpower in NuLabour to fix it, people are afraid to speak out, because the rozzers view dissent as criminal.

    Britain is broken, it needs to be fixed, but only outsiders are free to speak.

  5. David Pollard

    Obscure questions?

    "Does the Organisation have adequate governance in place to support the current and evolving Information Governance agenda?"

    This translates quite simply:

    Can you employ more bureaucrats, bean counters and gauleiters? Have you overlooked any opportunities for surveillance?

  6. dervheid
    Thumb Down

    All your telecoms...

    are belong to us.

    "Papers Please, Citizen."

  7. The Other Steve
    Black Helicopters

    I for one welcome our new jackbooted goose stepping overlords, oh, wait...

    If all she wanted to do was upgrade the facilities for storage of traffic, she could spend a fraction of that amount by giving cash to ISPs and telcos to buy storage. In fact, telcos and ISPs can already get cash for this, as per the legislation the HO is trying very hard to hide behind, and I haven't seen any of them asking for anything anywhere near 12 bn quid.

    So this is fuck all to do with efficiency.

    I'm not buying the necessity in The War Against Terror either, if there was such a desperate threat, and the current system wasn't working, we'd be knee deep in dirty bombs by now, and we aren't.

    It would be, should it come to frution (thank fuck for ukgov IT cock ups), simply, a technology of political control. Read all about it in this European Parliament document from 1998 : "An appraisal of technologies for political control."

    From the executive summary :

    "It identifies the continuum of control which stretches from modem law enforcement to advanced state suppression, the difference being the level of democratic accountability in the manner in which such technologies are applied. "

    Hmm, no oversight, no judicial control, fuck all accountability, which end of that continuum are we at ? Don't wait until your door gets kicked in at 4am in the morning because a computer in a bunker says "yes"

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Time for TOR!

    Time to start running a TOR node methnks; obsfucates my own traffic and provides a service all in one :)

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Right to privacy suspended


    "It is also required of the UK under a European directive, and a bill is expected in the Queen's speech."

    So by European law - all human rights to privacy are now suspended.

    Will they have a special ceremony to burn the European Convention on Human Rights as well?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Re:Time for TOR!

    Personally I wouldn't trust TOR too much, especially if I was running a node.

    Even assuming you accept the risk of the type of traffic that may end up going through your connection, it isn't exactly perfect.

    For a start there are the untrustworthy exit nodes, busy scanning and/or modifying your traffic. Obviously end-to-end encryption can get you around this but it's something to consider.

    What's more of a concern are the nodes put in place by various organisations having an interest in your connection data. From what I saw there were enough nodes in place to give a good idea of the full end-to-end routing, particularly as the nodes appeared to be configured with a preference for forwarding traffic to other nodes they considered 'friendly'.

    So in theory at least they could achieve the current level of 'legal' monitoring of connection data, and nothing in particular prevents monitoring of the actual message contents at the exit node..

    It would be extraordinarily naive to have though there wouldn't be efforts in place to monitor something like TOR, and in practice it isn't particularly difficult to exploit the theoretical weaknesses by putting sufficient hostile nodes in place. And it's easy to see that any traffic run through something like TOR is potentially of interest.

    It's possible to negate some of the risk by excluding particular nodes in your configuration, but in practice it isn't really possible to eliminate the risk because you can't easily tell good nodes from bad. Only in a few cases are the indicators obvious. And there don't seem to be any comprehensive lists of the nodes to avoid.

    If you're really that concerned, don't use any network. Security of connection data just doesn't exist. And using an obfuscation tool just makes it more likely someone will decide to look at your message data too.

  11. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    Communications data...

    ... does not include the contents of a call, email or webpage

    I think someone missed out the word "Yet" :-(

    May I welcome our Stasi-emulating overlords...

  12. Someone
    Black Helicopters

    Turning Chinese

    To misquote The Vapors, I’m turning Chinese. I think I’m turning Chinese. I really think so… £12 billion to teach the population of the UK the wariness and evasion tactics of the Chinese. Secure connections to services hosted outside the country. Not using the local version of Skype. The use of VPNs and relay cascades such as JonDonym and, where appropriate, Tor.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I think it was the sci-fi writer Greg Bear who included a scenario in one of his books whereby there was so much data available on any given person that the police had to apply to a special committee (sort of a informed jury system) who considered all requests and acted as an oversight and access control system.

    Sadly while the 1'st part is coming true the 2'nd part is nowhere in sight.

    Judicial oversight is a key control element in Britiain, let's not forget that the government even without the approval of parliment has a lot of power and parliment effectively has unlimited power including restrospecitive laws (yes I know only in extreme circumstances etc etc).

    One of the worst things Blair did was dismantle control systems that had evolved over decades/centuries and put nothing else in place

    Thankfully he didn't manage to complete obliterate the House of Lords who over the last 10 years have been doing a lot of the work that our supposed elected representatives should have been doing in objecting to legislation.

    I left the UK this year (along with record numbers of others), it's sad it took a Labour government to create a situation where that was a viable alternative.

  14. Mark

    re: A breach of EU Law

    As soon as they said "It's not us, it's the EU making us" (as they did with biometric passports, the fuckers are shameless), I thought "Is this legislation that Tony pushed through on the EU so that he could push it back home, like the Human Rights Act, passed when El Presidente TB was in chrage?"

    It was a great coup getting Tony's legilsation passed there. If it was welcomed, it would be Tone's Opus. And when it wasn't, it was them nasty frogs and eye-ties making us do it. And the mouth breathers swallowed it.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Re: A breach of EU Law

    The British sent lawmakers to word a great deal of what eventually evolved into the ECHR, and it was worded like the Weimar Constitution.

    Go figure.

  16. Mark H

    What amuses me...

    is that when an article mentions the name 'Phorm' you get hundreds of angry comments with reference to people's privacy and threats to take action. But an article like this which is many magnitudes worse (especially with the government's poor track record of keeping data secure) is basically ignored (this being only the 16th comment in 6 days).

    People really need to get some perspective and attack the people who are really damaging our right to privacy.

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