back to article Das überdatabase: Inside Wacky Jacqui's motherbrain

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith isn't known in these pages for the clarity of her pronouncements on technology. And yesterday, as she confirmed the government's plan to proceed with the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), she limited herself to the spin of building a universal communications surveillance apparatus. The …


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  1. James

    If you have nothing to hide...

    ...that won't stop them looking, just in case.

    Bah, guess anyone posting at the end of an article like this (or writing one, tut tut) is likely to be analysed, so I'll see you all in Guantanamo.

    The only way a system like this can be put in place is if for its operation are determined before it is put in place. It should be proven that those rules can be enforced, and those rules must be enforced 100%. Those rules mustnever be bent regardless of circumstances.

    Experience shows us that this will not be the case, that new uses will be thought of for the technology and passed through, further eroding any rights we have. A system is only as trustworthy as those that run it, and I trust the government of this country about as much as I trust bloke in Spain offering me a watch from a coat pocket.

  2. James Green
    Paris Hilton

    Likely to work?

    Not being daft here (well I might be) but are they really going to log the source and destination of every packet out there? If not then surely someone using a custom written protocol is going to slip right through the system. Now for Joe Bloggs on the street this isn't likely, but these hugely well funded international terrorists (who've done so well out of the film piracy we're told) are just going to employ/recruit someone to make this.

    So basically, like all the other counter terrorism ideas, all this does is shaft the little guy (I don't mean by making their data available to law enforement, I mean by giving them the £12bn in extra taxes).

    Paris since.... well can't really think of a reason but do I need one (let's face it our dear home sec doesn't)

  3. Shagrat
    Thumb Up

    naughty girl

    Big sister wants to watch you. And not in a good way.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Non-UK providers

    So how is all of this going to work with out of country, or non-ISP, mail services? They aren't going to voluntarily send information to GCHQ out of the goodness of their hearts are they?

    So. Here I am, Jonny Terrorist, and I want to provide email for all of my naughty pals. I rent a server hosted in country X. Set up TLS for SMTP and IMAP and give all of my pals accounts on there. We make sure that all of our plotting is done via that email server. What do the authorities have? The best they are going to get is that I've been making connections to the server. Is this illegal? Not that I can see.

    The only thing it can be used for is to catch stupid criminals or for fishing operations or to sell to companies for profit. Well worth £12bn.

  5. Xander

    Oh god...

    I remember when this was *the* conspiracy theory. Echelon I believe was the common parlance. A massive system, built under Area 51 which harvested all communication within the US and looked for keywords.

    Of all the pieces of science fiction I wanted to come true, this one ranked pretty low. Just under nuclear holocaust.

    Anyone know if NO2ID or similar are staging a march against this?

    Any why post AC when they would be able to track it all anyway? *sigh*

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Consultation already took place

    Article 4 says she *has* to take no for an answer.

    The uberdatabase is not legal, and the police should recall that they should not be lobbying for things that are illegal.

    ISP and Telecom companies likewise. If you comply with her central database, her nonsense will be struck down as illegal, and you will be financially and legally liable for your actions.

    You will also have no sympathy, because she is trying to get this past by bypassing Parliament, so the ability to hide behind a 'democratic' law won't be there.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Big sister? No...

    Big brother?


    It's Ceiling Cat, I tell ye! Watching you.



  8. Paul

    I see one big problem with this....

    How exactly are they going to pull out the infomation of all those people who have diplomatic imunity. I cant imagin the Russian embbasy being to happy with this for a start.

  9. H2Nick

    I fully trust the gov to ...

    a) Get the costs subsidised in return for access to the data by Phorm-like peddlars

    b) Let the scope creep - after all, the prevention of terrorism has now been used to :

    - Keep the MP Walter Wolfganh out of the Labour conference

    - Freeze Icelandic bank assets in the UK

    - probably more....

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If she can't stay within the law....

    how can she be a fit and proper Home Secretary?

    Article 4 is perfectly clear, and it forbids this silo she's building. But it's also quite shocking that she's so departed from basic freedoms that she thinks it's a good idea. This has no place in a free democratic society, and since she's Home Secretary and unable to realize that she's breaking the law and doing something that future UK dictators would love, she is not a fit and proper minister. She should just go quietly.

    Article 4

    Access to data

    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 and in accordance with national law. The procedures to be followed and the conditions to be fulfilled in order to gain access to retained data in accordance with necessity and proportionality requirements shall be defined by each Member State in its national law, subject to the relevant provisions of European Union law or public international law, and in particular the ECHR as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    The whole Iceland banking business...

    ...showed everyone their true colors I think.

    The idea that anti-terror laws can be expanded without warning to cover anything under the sun (certainly not fighting terrorism anyway...) that the government sees fit was very amply demonstrated with the Iceland asset seizure episode.

    No wonder our nordic friends are pissed off - we should be n'all.

    Bad times as they say.

  12. An nonymous Cowerd
    Black Helicopters

    as for skype

    this has reached urban IT myth status; the german security people recently complained about problematic skype monitoring (although they have the lawful intercept trojan) but at the same time the austrian security people expressed that they had no problem with monitoring skype type VOIP. Methinks there was a reason to pay the estonians a few billion dollars and get the servers moved to wherever eBays head office is, maryland?

  13. Goblin
    Thumb Down

    Given the government's track record

    with large-scale IT projects, we shouldn't have to worry about this one going live for a long time to come.

  14. Colin Millar
    Black Helicopters

    Your scenario......... actually a screenplay.

    For at least a dozen movies.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    For fearing of sounding like Donald Rumsfeld....

    ...... a system like this one needs to do be able to collect and correlate ALL of the following:-

    - the information we know that we know about a "target",

    - the information we don't know but should know, about a "target", and

    - the information we need to know to correctly authenticate a "target"

    so the system will not be effective unless it can correctly identify a "target" and provide all the referential information of where and when the "target" was at the time of communication, the referential information of the person(s) receiving the communiation at the time of the communication, and also the referential information of where the "target" and recipients were NOT at the time of communication (to invalidate any alibis). Piece of piss, really.

  16. Mark


    The only safeguards I would accept would be the summary execution of anyone using the data for anything other than a reactive search for terrorists.

    Summary execution for any MP or other official (Lord/Judge/Policeman/...) asking for the remit of this database to be extented.

    And the summary execution of any MP supporting such a move.

  17. Z

    IngSoc here we come

    Excellent article worthy of Private Eye. I quite like the semi-recent el-reg move to reporting UK politcal stories alongside it's IT coverage.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Soon we wont be allowed to make jokes or stories out of things without the explicit permission of the authorities.

    Hayho. I didn't like freedom anyway.

    Reminds me of the seen with the song bird at the start of appleseed, they all live in the perfect utopia yet she throws herself out of the window after setting the song bird free. A life without risk, failure, hate, pain, death, destruction, challenges, a life without the negative aspects is no life at all, it's a prison. Even if you arn't locked away, you have no power over your life, if you can't make the wrong choice why bother making choices at all?

  19. Steve
    Black Helicopters

    @ Xander

    "I remember when this was *the* conspiracy theory. Echelon I believe was the common parlance. A massive system, built under Area 51 which harvested all communication within the US and looked for keywords."

    The bit about Area 51 is just them trying to sound glamourous and it probably wasn't *all* communications. However, we do have an American listening base at RAF Menwith Hill in Yorkshire. So you're probably looking for an old airbase somewhere in the mid-west with very few actual planes and an unusually high proportion of Oxbridge educated Brits.

    We can't spy on our own people, but you can spy on ours and we can spy on yours and then swap data.

  20. FlatSpot

    Doesnt this breach the Human Rights Act?

    Article 8 - the right to respect for one's private and family life, correspondence and home

    Article 9 - the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

    Article 10 - the right to freedom of expression, freedom to hold opinions and freedom to receive and impart information

    Article 11 - the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association with others

    Or did I miss something??

    On another note, think everyone in Labour should be forced to watch "Taking Liberties" - A documentary profiling the actions of New Labour and the impact this has had on civil liberties in the UK...

  21. Alan Fisher
    Black Helicopters

    The famous saying about conjurers

    This is out in the open well and good.....but you should spend less time watching the hand you CAN see and focus on the one you can't, or are being convinced (by the furore and fuss) not to.

    Question; why, for this thing to be effective and do it's job properly, would they warn - WARN! - potential terrorists or exisiting ones about it, give them details, time to research and develop countermeasures? Think about it....

    If's either something learned from another former shadowing surviellence government (they called it Mashkirovka, or a theatre-like illusion)...let your 'enemies' know what you're doing, or what you want them to think you're doing and...smoke 'em out before playing your real hand and mopping them up nicely....this may not be the case but I wonder...

    also, tell us plebs about this and inject us with the right level of uneasiness and fear and, well.....nice sheeps eat grass...mmmmm graaaaass *munch*....

    these two scenaria might seem a bit OTT but then, going back to Xander's comment, this very idea was a conspiracy theory in the highest strata of crackpottery going and it's close to becoming real (if it isn't so, things which seemed impossible and stupid and believed only by the tin-hat brigade........

  22. Daniel Garcia
    Thumb Down


    The whole idea is a non-techie wanking-time.

    The "experts" behind all this are looking to get some profit, i smell someone has friends that want to get nice high profit contrats.

    I start to belive that Nulabor are not demi-stalininsts workshiping themselves as the only rightful Big Brother( and Sister), but just a bunch by proxy tax-money scammers.

    No Megalomaniacs but mere thieves.

  23. Nigel Wright

    In agreement with Goblin

    This is yet another failed HMGov IT project in the making.

    Except it will be an expensive one. :-(

  24. Craig Roberts
    Black Helicopters


    As soon as this starts happening, I'm ditching my sexy new contract phone and buying a cheap disposable pre-pay. Then I'll dump the usual email addresses and sign up anonymously via some proxy out in South IranIraqistan for a new one...

    ... And then I'll buy a Guy Fawkes mask (with cash) and start causing mischief...

    Do these people not watch movies/read books?!?!

    Pointless being AC 'cos... Ya know... El Reg probably logs everything we do ready to hand over to our Orwellian overlords too... Not that I blame you guys... Just remember to be on the right side when the revolution comes!

    On that note... I think we really do need a revolution! Who's with me? I'm free on Tuesday! :)

  25. Gavin Masters

    How is this practical?

    How can it be more practical to collect every single piece of data which passes through the internet, mobile phones and other media as opposed to targetting people already under suspicion?

    The sheer volume of information, and the fantastic ability of our government to lose or "misplace" a lot of what it already has, means I'm not too concerned about our Jacqui listening in on my dirty phone calls, more that a terrorist (or worse, a marketing bod) on a train could suddenly pick up a hard-disk telling him how much KY-Jelly I bought last month, along with the rest of the country.

    Besides, I'm just going to start using yoghurt pots and string - far safer!

  26. Anonymous Coward


    There are some very bright people working at GCHQ. Surely they can see that this isn't going to work? I suppose they've got a vested interest in it being attempted anyway though.


  27. jayeola

    the good news

    - If this is based on MS SQL then the jihadi massive have nothing to fear as the system won't work

    - If the system(s) are reliant on using under-paid, poorly trained, over worked staff and agency staff then the jihadi massive ... won't work

    - If anything has to go in the post...won't work

    - call centers won't have to "record your call for training purposes" cos some one else will

    - the entire population of <insert large Muslim community here> will melt the system every time it's Muhammad's birthday

    But seriously I can see the future;

    - no doubt that the yanks will bully the gov't for the data and the UK yield to the yanks. special relationship, uk bends over <insert major crisis around the corner>

    - the yanks will probably demand that all eu nations have a silly system like this

    - the next step will be an integrated, international system

    - the next step will be a simple way to search for relevant information



  28. Anonymous Coward

    Look on the bright size

    The Database will be so big even HMG can't mananger to lose it in one go. It will take at least 2 or 3 goes before it's in the public domain completly..

    Being serious doesn't the bredth of the potential content and the "unhackable" status it will surely recieve, just present one big flashing neon sign to every hacker and his dog to break into, either to say they can, or to siphen off all the useful ID Fraud data in one easy go.

    ...m ines the one with the yottabyte UB stick in the pocket thats about to fall out on the train as I go home.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    And so the reluctance to prosecute Phorm slowly becomes apparent, as the ability to trial an 'innocuous' positioning of intercepting technology is too good to pass up...

  30. The Other Steve
    Black Helicopters

    Mmmm, doughnuts!

    Given that it's already possible, and even routine according to Wacky Jacqui, to use comms data to determine a persons network of interest, and given that it's also already possible, with the requisite warrants to intercept the communications of those networks in real time, what's her (presumably not actually her, but some cadre of techno fetishist spooks) hard on for all this ?

    OK, I get that the explosion of IP traffic has put a bit of a crimp in Cheltenham's style, hence the desire for all the new black boxes (I don't know how much the existing ones are able to look at IP traffic, I'd guess they were designed for other types of comms), but OTOH if TPTB go to an ISP, with a warrant, they can already get access to the IP traffic, and I'd be willing to bet it can be done in near real time.

    There's just no reason to have all of this shit centralised unless you intend to mine the data. Mining the data will produce gibberish, leading to (even more) massive injustice.

    Certainly, any such system will produce a crop of likely looking terrorist wannabes, it would probably have caught the idiot who thought that you can make bombs by dumping nails in plastic bottles full of "kerosene". But guess the fuck what ? He was already on the watch list. So just where are all the atrocities we could have stopped with such a tool ? Conspicuous by their absence. I for one would rather spend the 12Bn on something that might actually have a purpose other than traipsing an increasingly unlikely chorus line of fantasists, social inadequates, the mentally ill and the merely disenfranchised through the courts on trumped up "terror" charges.

    Because the ones who really terrify the spooks, and the ones who actually frighten me a little, are the ones with proper funding, proper training, and proper opsec. Who know how to use payphones and old fashioned codes, all the arcana of tradecraft.

    And you won't be able to stop them by building a fucking database.

    In fact, since the HO and it's spooky masters seem to have been spending rather a lot of time watching catch up episodes of "Spooks" in preparation for the new series, let me respond in kind by outlining a threat drawn directly from the plot :

    Bad Men With Guns (BMWG) wish to infiltrate UK and do Bad Stuff (BS), In the episode to which I'm referring, BMWG find out who MI5 are watching by nicking the watch list and send some of them on a sham suicide mission so that MI5 are looking the other way and fail to spot BMWG doing BS until it's (almost!) to late.

    Now that's fairly contrived, involving, as it did, not only a Mossad mole in MI6, but a massive false flag recruitment of potential jihadis by said agency, etc, etc.

    With an uberdatabase it would be oh so much easier to set up a shit load of false positives that absorb sufficient spooky resources to allow BMWG to waltz in under the radar and commit the One True Atrocity that (presumably) keeps the scenario fluffers up at night.

    12 billion quid is a shit load of money to spend to bang up a few wankers who are probably already "on the radar", and it won't stop "real" terrorists, or even intelligent dilettantes, if they sit down and think their opsec through properly.

    12Bn quid spent on road safety ? Public transport ? Health ? Education ? Or even, (ZOMGWTF!!!!) basic fucking scienctific research, or a space program to call our own ?

    BIG difference.

  31. Spider
    Thumb Down

    what happened?

    to this green and pleasant land?

    I'll see you all for the two minute hate.

  32. SkippyBing
    Black Helicopters


    'with the aim of achieving consensus with "interested parties".' Means everyone. I mean if they're intercepting my communications I'm pretty interested.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    She bypassed parliament and went to the police?

    Notice another pattern emerging.

    She discussed it with the police NOT Parliament, the police. She then went to the press to lobby for it. Again a contempt for Parliament even though Labour hold the majority, she's not convinced her OWN party would support her on this. Not surprising since Blair also knew he could not get this through parliament, which is why he drafted the request, waited for a terrorist incident, then went to the EU to insist on it, bypassing parliament via policy washing.

    Consider the biometric gates at the airport, she rolled them out already claiming it was a trial. No discussion first, straight to a live trial, even though we know the problems with that system.

    Finally consider the vehicle tracking thing. Everyone was opposed to vehicle tracking, so the Home Secretary and the police agreed to store ANPR camera readings in a central database. A defacto vehicle tracking system bypassing the democratic process that had already rejected it.

    She really isn't a fit person to hold a position of power. Brown should put the country above his political allegiances and sack her.

  34. Humph

    Guess this explains ...

    ... why HM Gov are so keen to avoid prosecuting BT and Phorm for doing the same thing. After all, if it's found to be illegal for business, surely it couldn't possibly, even remotely be illegal for our beloved government to do the same, now, could it?

  35. W

    About that umlaut...

    Either you're invoking evil *Nazi Germany* connotations (if so, Godwin is duly invoked)...

    Or you've got something against *modern Germany* and/or it's data protection laws etc (er, this is a UK issue)...

    Or, third option, you've added a heavy metal umlaut to signify "Gothic horror" (as per I'll take this option gladly.

    Яøĉķ ön, Hërr Ẅïllïämş.

  36. bertie bassett

    Dimensions are ridiculous..

    ok based on historic data that I am aware of (no names no pack drill) we saw mobile customers averaging around 250 call records per month (phone call, text, mms, GPRS session etc). So extrapolating that to 60M mobiles in the country would require a dbase to hold and process 15bn record just for one months data.

    Landlines seemed to genarate more call events (2x mobile as per my figures) but I think there are less (say 30M) which is another 15bn call records. So ignoring web sessions, voip calls etc, you're looking at 30bn call records a month, or 350bn records per annum.

    Having not developed dbases on that scale can anyone shed any light on how big a USB key I'll need to be able to put the data on so I can lose it, before the gov does..

    Hmm does anyone else think "M15 watching great terror plot unfold" reminds you a little of the day the sent the tanks to thierfrow.."get them scared and they'll sign away their rights'

  37. Doug Southworth
    Thumb Up

    Your brother from accross the pond

    ...feels your pain

    BIG brother from across the pond, however thinks this is one more neato tool with which to ensure that the average person has no privacy at all. I'm sure we are building this thing, V2.0, over here as we speak...after all, people can't be trusted when they aren't constantly being watched...sigh...

    Looks like the terrorists win again.

    Thumbs up for weaving in a LOTR reference...

  38. Jimmy


    Once we had the Thatcherite imperative: "There is no alternative". And now we have another conviction politician, utterly indifferent to the consequences of her actions, telling us she "wont take no for an answer".

    Exactly as in the case of 42 days detention, not one shred of coherent evidence is offered, and no other democratic nation in the world has, or proposes to have, this level of database consolidation for the purpose of spying on the lives of private citizens. Conviction, belief and faith simply don't cut it any more. Nor does the spreading of fear, uncertainty, and doubt persuade people that there is no alternative but to submit to the paranoid fantasies of this woman.

    The alternative is integrated intelligence gathering within the communities that have been identified as having radicalised elements in their midst, followed by targeted surveillance of suspects. Doh!

    We always get a spoonful of sugar with the medicine when Nulabour and Nanny Smith are going about their business of keeping us secure, so we are going to have "consultations" with "interested parties", subject, of course, to the opening proviso that there is no alternative.

    Here's a news flash for you, Jaqui baby: there are 60 million of us and having just witnessed the results of your faith-based conviction economics, we are in no mood for your equally flawed uberdatabase.

    Just tell us the date of the referendum, and 60 million "interested parties" will spell it out for you.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Anybody watch "True Lies" yet?

    If anyone has seen the movie True Lies yet, they will understand that all it will take to completely undermine any mass surveillance system system is for the "Terrorists" to go off the "grid" so to speak.

    Though slower, passing intelligence by hand from unknown contact to the next cannot be spied upon. The addition of a simple code makes it all the more secure. No PC, no email, no websites, no cell phone...NO Problemo!

    In my opinion, this kind of low tech can beat government high tech anytime; all while bankrupting the government and then the populace which will help recruit new terrorists.

    Sign me up for the Guy Fawkes mask. Seeing V for Vendetta a couple of years back, made me want to run out and buy a case of red spraypaint. Looks like all we'll need is a simple note pad and one time codebook.

    Guess we need a Guy Fawkes mask Icon now!

  40. DaAngel
    Thumb Up

    How long

    How long before they, start to reliase, in the future, that this is pinching their pennies. That they need to somehow market this information out so that this program for common good can be self supporting.

    How long before they ask someone with Phorm like privacy ideas to sit in the middle of all this data transfere, and send out adds on peoples telephone lines, email address and real home address. The goverment can recieve money from the ad revenue, and in return the customers ( sorry voters) get a great service that spys on them and helps keep them secure for free.

    How you trust this goverment with such data, when they will not prosecute BT for what they know to be illegal trials. How can you trust such people to show common sense when they currently show and demostrate no concern for peoples privacy.

  41. Pat


    This is a government plan, right? So surely we should be a bit more precise, and be asking about Jacqui Smith's need for a GIMP (Government's Interception Modernisation Programme)?

    Does she really need a gimp, or is it just some incredibly strong and perverse desire? We already know that Hollywood films influenced other parts of government thinking about IT.

    Quote = Smith was clear that she won't take "no" for an answer.

    (Cue the rhohypnol.)

    So, Jacqui's determined push it through and fully implement the gimp; that's got to be expensive.

    I eagerly look forward to finding out more about this; for instance, is she interested in only criminal activity or is it more a dominance/discipline thing? And I think we need to know more about Jacqui's "restrictions" and "naked propaganda".

    Keep it up, El Reg!

  42. scott
    Black Helicopters

    They don't like it up em!

    How do they plan to filter out MPs comms?

    Remember that not too long ago one of them went apeshit and it was headline news as he was accidentally recorded in jail speaking to a convicted terrorist (sorry, "constituent").

    Questions in Parliament, outrage, Wilson doctrine blah blah.

    The plods involved most certainly felt the wrath of Kahn (member for Tooting), as did the rest of the country in listening to the vertigo inducing hypocrisy of modern politicians.

    They - and only they - have the *right* to private communications. They rest of us, well - if we have nothing to hide etc.

    Well, fuck them - and the EU too. I have a web spider script which I'll leave on 24/7. It won't take me long to find IRC and Usenet equivalents. I'll set up a few skype accounts and route them through anonymous proxies. Let them try and find out my *real* comms in that lot. And I'd like to see them drop trojans on linux live boxes.

    Lets face facts here. If Al Terrrist wants to communicate, he will. He can send 1000 snailmail adverts for his camel cleaning service, and for one of them - the text means something a bit different.

    Or, the old steganography and web picture service.

    Or, stegged spam via bots.

    Or bounced via various anonymous proxies


    Lets face it. Your average 14 yr old can hack his neighbours wifi (if it's even secured).

    Drive-by connections are the perfect "one hit" input channel.

    There are literally millions of blogs, chatrooms, usenet groups where another drive-by recipient can pick messages up. Add the concept of one-time pads to this. Voila, perfectly anonymous *technical* comms. The slip-up will always be the human tho.

    BTW, I wonder how many functioning helicopters, hercules, IED-proof vehicles 12bn would buy?? Or how about basic things like body armour and housing that wasn't condemned as unfit for human habitation for those *really* out there fighting??

  43. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    Fire up the deed-polls...

    I should change my name to "DROP TABLE;" and watch the fun begin?

  44. Joe

    Nice article Chris

    Balanced and fair, nice. Exposing The Times' (barely) hidden agenda too!

    As pointed out in the last paragraph, encryption is easy to set up and difficult to crack. Surely that renders the black box capabilities useless for all but the dumbest criminals?

  45. Pid

    "The data won't be intercepted..." Huh?

    "This data won't be intercepted, but ISPs and telcos will provide it in real time from their own back end systems."

    Won't this mean that each ISP will be able see what GCHQ is searching for?

    Not a minor security issue that, I would think?

    Who the hell are the imbeciles advising the Home Office? My Mum could do a better job...

  46. Mark

    re: Dimensions are ridiculous..

    You've all got it wrong.

    They aren't doing this to be "tough on terrorists" but because they'll lock in billions in commercial companies to make and fail the production. They'll put a poison pill in so that if the contract is shot by another government, the penalties mean they still get the dosh.

    Meanwhile some REALLY lovely directorship and non-voting board jobs become available.

    Think: Where is Tony Blair working at the moment? At least two banks/investment companies.

    AND the penny circuit in the USA that brings in so much money "for our greatest leader of our friends the english, Tony Blair".

  47. Chris G

    Easy way round this

    For terrorists who wish to avoid detection through using telecoms, they merely need to revert to 1950s methods for spies. A cell system that says nothing over wire and uses either discreet personal contact when necessary but mostly dead letter boxes. Microdots are, whatever technology is used for detection in general, still an efficient way to move information. All this may be slower than mobies, land lines, email or VoIP but never the less , workable.

    Maybe it would be better to use 12billion to recruit and train better cops and spooks. It would even be worth giving half a billion to Jaqui Smiff and telling her to fuck off.

    One other thing about this technology , if it ever works, is the potential for misuse. It is not only what can be done with an individual's private information but the potential for industrial espionage and for the gov ' to spy on any one individual or organisation that may not be in total accord with the current gov' thinking. Being a shade on the paranoiac side I am inclined to think one of the reasons for the US attitude to lap tops is in order to do a bit of trawling to see if anything interesting or profitable comes up.

    Of course once it is in place no government worth it's salt will ever dismantle it whatever they may say now and if it is started now, I bet if a conservative gov should win the next election they won't repeal it, or anything else that removes liberties, taxes us or generally makes the population more controllable.

  48. Richard

    How to catch a terrorist in Britain

    (With apologies to "How to catch a lion in the Sahara Desert")

    The Jacqui Smith method:

    1) Construct a huge database containing as much information about Britons as you can get.

    2) Observe that the set of terrorists in Britain is not empty

    3) You therefore have as much information on terrorists in Britain as you can get. Finding that information is left as an exercise for the reader.

  49. Paul Taylor
    Black Helicopters

    not the content of our email

    The most chilling part of this story is the vehement denial that they intend to store the contents of our phone calls and emails. We all know what it means when a politician denies something.

    I once thought that the quantity of data involved would be our safeguard, but Moore's law is against us. I'm sorry to day that every El Reg reader who has contributed to the spectacular improvements in hardware over the last 30 years has been an accessory to this new tyrrany.

    What kind of tyrrany is it? I have been trying to work this out. Plainly completely different from anything else in history. The nearest analogy I can think of is the Spanish Inquistion - a society in which conformity in minute detail is ruthlessly enforced. Whilst obviously there aren't going to be any burnings at the stake, Big Brother will think nothing of handing over the details of our lives and our opinions to our (potential) employers, insurers, etc, so that Heretics will be unable to get jobs or healthcare.

  50. Ishkandar
    Paris Hilton

    Interested parties ??

    I will bet anything you like that there will be a lot of "interested parties" - just the very people that the security services want to keep track of !!

    Then again, they may not, since all they have to do is to wait for someone to post a CD with all that data in it or leave it in the hard disk of a laptop conveniently left behind !!

    Does that silly female with the rabbit-in-the-headlights-look think all this will be secure and that it cannot be circumvented ?? What she knows about security can be written on a postage stamp using an elephant's backside !!

    All this will make even Miss Hilton weep !!

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Does she not get the point, this is supposed to be a democracy and she and the government are supposed to represent the people.

    It's a government policy, of course it's optional, saying it the way she does is pretty fascist and dictatorial.

    The way this Labour (in name only) government has worked to circumvent the powers of parliament and the oversight of the Lords and the judiciary is just plain scary.

    Taking all that aside you have to think that both the ID card scheme and this (no doubt they'll be linked together) are expensive luxuries during the current economic climate.

    Almost makes me want to come back to the UK so I could leave in disgust.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Sign the petition

    There is currently a petition against the new bill:

    If more people sign, maybe the powers that be will take note. It's worth a try! Stand up for your democratic rights! Fight INGSOC! Down with Big Brother!

  53. Jon Axtell
    Black Helicopters

    Old fashioned methods

    When all electronic communication becomes monitored, guess what method of communication the never-do-wells will use. Hint, it's not electronic.







    Good all fashioned snail mail. Pretty untraceable, no backups, and you can tell if it's been opened in transit.

  54. Robert Harrison


    Do you get the feeling that Wacky Jacqui sleeps with the light on, maybe she's just a frightened little girl inside. awwww!

    Of course, there are other players at work in this ridiculous parade.

  55. Jacob Reid
    Black Helicopters


    Good to see the .gov wasting more money while everyone who cares about privacy switches their connection to encrypted VPNs located in free countries.

  56. Col

    Sign the petition...

    ...and guarantee you'll be red-flagged for life when the database goes live.

  57. Tony Paulazzo

    Where's King Arthur?

    Wasn't he supposed to come back when his country really needed him. I'm thinking any time now would be good. Phorm spying, terrorist propaganda, using chldren to pass stupid unnecessary laws, I'm seriously beginning to miss the good old days when Thatcher ruled Brittania.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lucky TOR is free

    'Cos if they charged, they could make a fortune from everyone with a tiny bit of sense deciding this government is the scariest thing in Britain since Oswald Mosley decided that black really was his colour.

    Geoff Hoon is on TV right now saying he's prepared to go 'quite a long way actually' to undermine civil liberties (yep, he said that); and:

    'If they are going to use the internet to communicate with each other and we don't have the power to deal with that, then you are giving a licence to terrorists to kill people.'

    Won't be long before we're all called traitors.

  59. Dave
    Black Helicopters

    QUICK MI5! I've Spotted a Terrorist cell

    They're in London, They're plotting to overthrow democracy.

    The Address?

    10 Downing Street.

    Qucik send over a squad to give them a Brazilian!

  60. Stewart Haywood
    Black Helicopters

    Jacqui Jill went up the hill to get a pail of disinformation.

    Sorry, couldn't resist it.

    Now, if you were GCHQ and you had just really cracked the problem of monitoring all the VoIP traffic would you send up a cheer, let Jacqui know and have a party. I would have a bit of an off the record moan to The Times about how difficult it all is and how we are loosing. Then I would get Jacqui all fired up about a huge database that will never be financed before she gets the boot* as an MP, and how we need it to overcome our VoIP problem. Spreading this sort of disinformation should set the terrorists of using VoIP for all their calls home to Osama and we listen to the lot.

    *Not to difficult for us to arrange!

  61. Richard
    Thumb Down

    What passes for education these days?

    I do genuinely wonder if she's heard of the Stasi, East Germany, and repressive regimes in other countries.

  62. David Pollard

    Plus ça change

    "... we are trying to stop a criminal act and not investigate one which has already taken place.

    "We have to arrest early rather than late to protect the public. Sometimes we arrest when we have intelligence, but not evidence. We then have to work across different jurisdictions in different countries, unearthing the evidence we need."

    Jacqui Smith, 2008,

    “It is better that some innocent men remain in gaol than that the integrity of the English judicial system be impugned … Hanging ought to be retained for murder most foul. We shouldn’t have all these campaigns to get the Birmingham Six released if they’d been hanged. They’d have been forgotten, and the whole community would be satisfied.”

    Lord Denning, 1988,

  63. Anonymous Coward

    you've totally missed her whole performance

    The old goat already HAS your data. Now she's just trying to get permission to legally KEEP it.

    Kind of like AT&T sucking dubya's ass in the states. Oh yeah, we're going to just hoover up every bit of data coming over the lines....internal, external, international.

    Do you honestly think she hasn't already stepped; nay, skipped, over that line a long time ago and is only now playing the "we've just GOT to do it to protect (the children, the government, the people, the red electric-line-chewing squirrels)...

    Sorry, I don't believe her or her plans any more than I believe anything that comes out of any politico's mouth. When do politicians lie...when their lips move.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Googlecrypt anyone?

    How long before someone brings out an anoymous search enging that enables secure end to end encryption so that what passes through the ISP is garbage and you get to search for all the porn you want/need?

    Suprised really that this doesnt exist...I believe that the servers sitting in Iceland would be a great place, you could guarantee that none of your search data will ever be returned to the UK!

    I take it noone knows that this has already existed for the last 30 years in Northern Ireland... star network controlled by one company and all calls and data assessed for possible terrorism links by the Intelligence Agencies. And they still let shit happen, wonder what the next policy will be from Herr Smith... "no need for National ID cards as I have a great scheme for everyone to get a barcode tattooed on their arm, my great pal Adolf says this works a treat!"

    Anyone ever read George Orwell's "1984" where the country is fighting a faceless enemy known as "The Brotherhood", sounds a bit like al-Qaeda... I would love to know how this group got together under the nose of all the worlds secret services and can attack at will in any place, but until eight years ago where completely unknown. They must have a huge base, lost of money (if it isnt in shares) to buy the stockpiles of weapons from.... oops! I dont know who sells them the weapons, do you?

    If the £12 billion is going to be spent then please get a company in that wont screw it up as much as the existing companies running the NHS IT contracts! Imagine that amount of money going on an upgraded transport network, or god forbid, spending the money on a science programme instead, how many projects and people could be employed for that I wonder, all spending money and paying mortgages and kick starting part of the economy, sorry scrap that, bad idea!

    Ah well, at least that pretty much guarantees the jobs in the IT sector for the next 10 years! I wonder where I put SQL Server 2005 sys admin guide.... Can you imagine if they take in MS to provide the database... yes, your license is about to expire and the renewal is £30 billion next year or for £40 billion we can migrate your data onto the new version of SQL 2010. Call me cynical and untrusting but who will watch the watchers (key loggers on the pc's in the ubercentre to track them)?

    A little screen play, Jacqui plays the role of HAL and Joe Public is Dave Bowman:

    HAL: I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

    Dave Bowman: What's the problem?

    HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

    Dave Bowman: What are you talking about, HAL?

    HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

    Dave Bowman: I don't know what you're talking about, HAL?

    HAL: I know you... were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen.


    Dave Bowman: HAL, I won't argue with you anymore! Open the doors!

    HAL: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

  65. Neoc

    Old fashioned methods

    @Jon Axtell: "Good all fashioned snail mail. Pretty untraceable, no backups, and you can tell if it's been opened in transit."

    <laughs> Oh, I just love the innocents.

    Back in 1998 (yep, that's *10 years ago*, folks) I was doing some post-grad studies at U of Q and one of the assignment topics I had to do a presentation on was "computer security". So I did the usual: showed how to break into the Uni's computerised records (hole was fixed soon after, and I kept the method hidden from the audience) compared the normal shared-key encryption with this new-fangled (for the class) public-key encryption, showed journal extracts talking about surveillance systems the US military admitted they had, such as retinal scanners which read the reflection pattern of your screen off your retina, using the subjects REM to read the entire screen (hint: if the military admits to a range of 1Km, you can bet this is a *minimum* range) (BTW, Echelon *does* - or did - exist. No, it's not in Area 51 and its capabilities were blown out of proportion by the relevant outraged citizens. Still, it was impressive for the time), etc...

    *THEN* I went on to the "and for those of you who thought snail-mail was the answer" - I pulled out adverts from several US "law enforcement" magazines (*really* scary... the US has magazines for just about *anything* you'd care to name... I'm not sure about "left-handed Nordic historical crochet techniques", but it can't be too far). Anyway, I digress: one of these ads was for a nifty little spray-on chemical that would turn the outside envelope/brown-paper-wrapping of a snail-mail item virtually transparent for up to 15 minutes, evaporate and return the item to normal and be virtually undetectable unless you had your own chemical-analysis lab and could get to the envelope within 2 days. Scary. (oh, and only available to "US law -enforcement agencies", of course. Yeah, right)

    This was the state of play 10 years ago, based on a post-grad student's 2 months of research of published papers and relevant magazine advertising. I assume things have gotten a little more sophisticated since then.

  66. night troll

    @ Easy way round this

    "It would even be worth giving half a billion to Jaqui Smiff and telling her to fuck off."

    A better and cheaper alternative would be a lead ear ring applied with a .357. Much more satisfying for the rest of us as well.

  67. scott

    They're at it again today!!

    "Link between child porn and Muslim terrorists discovered in police raids

    Paedophile websites are being used to pass information between terrorists"

    Today's Times -

    So my comment earlier about steg pictures - they're rolling it out today.

    Want to lay bets that tomorrow's shocker is about "network security audit tools used by Terrrists" - and a call to execute anyone who even thinks about downloading a packet sniffer.

    X-ray glasses, as it appears mine have been upgraded with "see into the future" functionality

  68. Scott


    Its alright i hear on the news today that the goverment is going to pay for this by turfing out all the people with North Rock mortgages and converting there houses into silos.

    on a brighter note old wacky jacky can't get anymore wacky well unless they introduce ID cards that you have to use every where you go so the goverment can track you at all times? and with this they'll even know what your saying.

  69. Tony
    Paris Hilton

    @Gavin Masters

    "a terrorist (or worse, a marketing bod) on a train could suddenly pick up a hard-disk telling him how much KY-Jelly I bought last month, along with the rest of the country.

    Besides, I'm just going to start using yoghurt"


  70. BillPhollins


    By Xander Posted Thursday 16th October 2008 14:56 GMT


    I remember when this was *the* conspiracy theory. Echelon I believe was the common parlance. A massive system, built under Area 51 which harvested all communication within the US and looked for keywords.

    This is no conspiracy theory - it has existed for decades. And it's global, mostly funded by the US NSA, but participants include the usual suspects - USA, UK, Canada, OZ, NZ. Some other European countries joined in too, although, typically, France have their own system.

    They cover most transmission types, like fibre optics, satellite, phone etc. It's well documented, read anything by James Bamford and you'll get the (disturbing) picture.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Police State

    Over on the eForum:

    We see they are having a jolly meeting in January 2009 titled:

    "Taming the Wild Web? - Internet Regulation & ISP Responsibility"

    Up for discussion is:

    "This seminar will ask whether the UK needs its own ‘Great Firewall of China’: should the UK begin to filter the internet to protect citizens from possible harm."

    I'm sure all this will never be abused, not like in Russia where a dissenting blogger was "accidentally" shot in the head while under arrest in a police car:

  72. Anonymous Coward

    So the analogy would be...

    Everyone in Britain needs to give the police a set of house keys so that they can enter and have a good old look around any time they like without a warrant. They promise never to come around unless they have a good reason to believe you are a 'terrorist' - whatever that means these days.

    Today the police (and just about any other govenrnment agency today) can get a warrant based on reasonable suspicion, and have access to your ISP, mobile phone, banking and any other records they like.

    As Jacqui (henceforth know as "The Sow" ) pointed out, this happens in 95% of criminal convictions. So given that there are going to be no 'fishing trips' and that the authorities already have access to your information , why would we need this database?

    The only posible reason IS fishing trips. The irony is that the only people who have anything to fear are ordianry people.

    Serious terrorists (and I'm not talking about a retard with a flaming Jeep Cherokee) have absolutely nothing to fear.

    Tackle out gentelmen

  73. Rob Elliott

    Time to use the Number10 Petitions thingy

    Somebody start a ePetition asking for her to be sacked...

  74. Anonymous Coward

    Westminster eForum

    Does anyone have any idea how much influence these jokers have? Is it worth spending ca. £200 to have your say?

    Then again, what the fuck are people doing charging for admittance to this kind of "policy forum"? government for sale? Surely not!

  75. Ash

    Ways of avoiding & subverting the database?

    So, how can we corrupt the data so that the database is unusable? What technologies can we employ to avoid detection? This is something that us geeks are in the ideal position to counter.

    A few thousand people running webspiders that trawl through search results for 'jihad' 'bomb' etc should create enough false positives that any data mining becomes a lot more difficult.

    Widespread use of encryption and offshore proxies?

    If this crazy database that we cant afford goes through, I will do my best to fuck it up.

    If I don't post on El Reg again, you know that i'm hooded and shackled in some government torture chamber.

  76. 3x2

    Is it just me or

    does anyone else think this is a non starter, a fantasy fuelled by watching too many Bourne movies?

    I can see that it might work with mobiles - A contacts B, but IP?

    Isn't mining IP data a bit like setting wget loose on a website without reading the manual. A six (at most) degrees of separation where everyone is just one IP address away from an evil doer. I can just see the giant (Bourne like) screen go completely red (and useless) as it tries to render the comms of Ahmed and Ahmed starts torrenting the latest episode of "Heroes" while chatting on MSN.

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    On Skype and TOR

    "...the threat posed by Skype and other VoIP applications to counter-terror operations." Threat? Really? I would have thought that Skype was an absolute gift to counter-terror ops. On a land line you need a physical tap in place to monitor a call. Not so with Skype, where simple ARP poisoning is enough.

    TOR is not the answer to our security prayers. This law would give the government the budget they need to monitor packets going in to and out of TOR nodes on a large scale. Then it's simply a case of matching the packets going in to packets going out, as was proved recently. There are also concerns over packet modification techniques:

    In truth, the only true defence in these days of SIGINT madness is a good sturdy tinfoil hat. That and not doing anything worth knowing about...

  78. Arnie
    Paris Hilton

    Jacqui does it again

    someone give that bitch a spliff!

    paris cause like Jacqui she sucks and blows

  79. rasmus petersen

    Plans, Trains and Automobiles

    I wonder which form of public transportation a "back up" of the database can be found it

  80. Anonymous Coward

    A suggestion from a few years ago ..

    If terrorists wanted to stop the US knowing what they were up to, all they had to do was fax each other in handwritten Arabic. Lots of it. It turned out the CIA had a 2-week backlog on translation (which had to be done by hand) because there were so few *security-cleared* interpreters.

    To be honest , most UK crims could adapt the same idea, as the standard of English has fallen so far in the past 30 years, that anyone who communicated in Shakespearean english would slow MI5 down to a dead stop ....

  81. mh.

    Nice hat!

    (Currently illustrated by a witch's hat on the front page). Pretty appropriate as Jacqui Smith seems to be using Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter books as a role model. I think one of the biggest problems is that Home Office policy is based on populist authoritarianism rather than anything to do with being right or left wing. It's like the politicians' logic scene in Yes Minister, where Sir Humphrey explains that politicians feel that something must be done. This is something, therefore they must do it.

    While it may be possible to have massive databases collecting all kinds of stuff, being able to get anything meaningful out of them is a lot harder. It's the old problem that you don't find a needle by building a bigger haystack. There's also the problem of mistakes, including getting profiled because you dial a wrong number that happens to be on some watchlist (or what happens if a spammer sends out forged emails), and things like records not being updated when someone moves house. As mentioned on Mock the Week, if the Home Office says that 5% of the records are wrong then the true figure is probably more like 2 out of 3.

  82. Mike
    IT Angle

    Vacancy - Database & System Programmers - GCHQ - UK

    Contract: Long Term (Up to 15 years)

    Salary: £120,000 PA + Benefits + Council House

    Location: GCHQ, UK

    We are currently looking to recruit technians and engineers for our unified database and in particular welcome applicants from ethnic backgrounds to help with the UK's biggest security system. You will require experience with MS Office, especially Excel & Access with vast experience of being able to transfer data to USB Memory Stick and CD.

    We offer an attractive salary, 5 prayer breaks a day, halal dinners in our exclusive resturant and provide free email and phone facilities to phone home. We can provide a relocation package for properties up to 7 bedrooms if required.

  83. mittfh

    Easier way to avoid detection

    If the terrorists have ever read about the Second World War or an Andy McNab novel, they'll just use "clearspeech". The contents of their missives will sound perfectly innocuous - "Shall we come round to a roast at your Aunt's on Saturday?", whereas what they've agreed beforehand is that what they really mean is "Shall we hijack a tanker and drive it into Heathrow T5 on Saturday?"

    Hang on - I've just given the terrorists an idea. See you later, my next post will be from 1* accomodation in Cuba...

    Competition time!

    a) When will someone feel the need to download the data from this database onto DVD-RW?

    b) When will they "lose" this disc?

    c) What excuse will they use to avoid having to phone the DWP and claim JSA?

  84. Alan Fisher


    I wish it was fantasy mate but, the unfortunate pity is that, while this is montrously difficult, at least a far as I understand it, it's not impossible...gathering the data is quite easy, storing it is another matter but, with enough infrastructure and storage, it can and probably WILL be done....thank god i left the UK a couple of years ago and have no intention of returning!!

  85. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
    Paris Hilton

    Blow me up.

    Seeing the only politicians with any common sense were the Guy Fawkes clique and they were done for terrorism... there isn't an alternative opposition, outside of Arabia, with any power to defeat such scurrilous government.

    Seems to me that Bin Laden had a valid point. No wonder they never put anyone on trial out of all the prisoners kept in GITMO.

  86. OrsonX


    If John Twelve Hawks were dead... he'd be spinning in his grave!

  87. ShaggyDoggy


    Jacqui, how will the email reader handle encrypted text without the key ?

  88. A J Stiles

    @ mittfh

    As long as it's a DVD-minus-RW, it won't be a problem; as the data will be completely unrecoverable in any drive, not even the one that was used to write it.

    Now, if it was a DVD+plus+RW, there might be cause to worry .....

  89. Simon Painter


    "The bit about Area 51 is just them trying to sound glamourous and it probably wasn't *all* communications. However, we do have an American listening base at RAF Menwith Hill in Yorkshire. So you're probably looking for an old airbase somewhere in the mid-west with very few actual planes and an unusually high proportion of Oxbridge educated Brits.

    We can't spy on our own people, but you can spy on ours and we can spy on yours and then swap data."

    Or, this being America we are dealing with, they can spy on us and we can't spy on them.

  90. Anonymous Coward

    Lies, damned lies, ....

    "95 per cent of serious crimes since 2004, the Home Secretary said yesterday"

    This is so wrong... If the evidence is already available in 95% of serious crimes, why do we need this new law?

    And what's the definition of serious crimes? ABH and worse? GBH and worse? Mugging? Rape? None of which lend themselves to solution by communication intercept [ Except in the case of yoofs who feel the need to brag about their exploits on myspace etc.]

    Mine's the one with the tinfoil hat.

  91. George

    Snail mail

    So if they want to know who communicates with who(m) ... where is the provision for all snail mail, parcels, courier services etc to log and report who posted every single item of mail/parcel and where it went to? No more first class mail - everything must go recorded delivery and be stamped and tracked by/at the post office.

    Ms Smith's fear of technology being used by terrorists, apparently DOES know some bounds.

  92. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    DIY related accidents

    As accidents in the home involving DIY have accounted for more deaths in the past three years than terrorism, when is the government going to put in place a widespread programme of civil-liberty infringement in the name of combatting this menace? I demand the banning of all screwdrivers, and the immediate internment without trial of anyone who has ever been to B&Q.

    Incidentally, I was going to sign that petition, but I found on the site that : "You must be a British citizen or resident to sign the petition". Being a Subject rather than a Citizen, I find that I am neither, and therefore ineligible to sign. Shame.

  93. Jimmy

    Boiling a frog.

    The lipsticked porker is anxious to reassure us that the integrity of our data content is sacrosanct; only "communication data" involving your name and location will be recorded. Anyone who knows anything about the integrity of politicians will have spotted the elephant in the room by now. Move stealthily and take small incremental steps, just like boiling a frog, really. (Politician's Standard Operational Procedures Manual, page 666)

    If this turkey ever gets off the runway Wacky Jaqui will be along in short order to reveal that the bad guys are trying to elude her by using embedded microdot encryption, or steganography. Really, really, sorry folks - national security, reds under the bed, global crisis, our way of life threatened, think of the children, help the aged, your country needs you, penny for the Guy, buddy spare a dime, kiss my ass - but I am sure you will understand our need to trawl through the intimate details of your electronic existence.

    Mindful of her obligations to the House, the Home Secretary will, of course, be including a special exemptions clause in her amendment to the bill which will satisfy members need for privacy in their communications with constituents and other business.

  94. Anonymous Coward

    New Icon Required

    ...Can we have a Wacky Jacky Icon please..

  95. Rob Elliott

    Sack Ms Smith

    It appears there is already a petition to have her sacked.

  96. bobbles31

    Whats in the fucking water....

    down at the home office?

    It seems that since Jack Straw left someones been putting nazi pills in the water down there. Maybe we should just close the home office and create something new.

  97. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    I've just thought of a couple of other reasons for the pork barrel spending - control of the population, and knowing to what extent they can shut down all forms of modern day communication.

    Not sure about that second one though, surely they just need to cut all the telephone lines and knock down the mobile/cell towers and that would be that. Cheaper than monitoring all the traffic too.

    So I'll make a tin foil conspiracy out of the first one.

    If you know what people think then you can target propaganda at them and get them to spread around stock phrases from your propaganda. It can be repeated by the proles to each other, like a viral campaign.

    We've already got proles watching FACT propaganda and saying things like 'copying is theft' ad infinitum whilst paying dogy looking people a fiver for some dvd's in the street, or downloading music.

    You see? It works folks; we've had posters on here spouting that same stuff.


    War is peace

    Freedom is slavery

    Ingorance is strength

  98. Anonymous Coward


    re idea nobody else has a database/interception programme like this; wrong.

    Sweden has it, the USA is implementing it, France has been working on it, Australia is implementing something like it, China has it, the UK is mirroring the USA.

  99. Anonymous Coward

    Please Remember the 5th of November....

    There has been much talk. Some of it about mr Fawkes.

    Perhaps it's time to act?

    come with us for a perfectly legal walk......

    Mines the one with the distinctive mask in the pocket.

  100. Thomas Jerome

    die zauberflöte

    I hope that Jacqui Smith's guts fall out.

    And for good measure:


    Stick that in your silo and smoke it.

  101. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can a cow produce bullshit?

    Oh, yes she can. More of the wacky wonder's fertiliser over here.

  102. The Other Steve
    Black Helicopters

    Er, there is just one thing I might mention (well, say four)

    for all the "ooh, just encrypt it through a VPN", and "SSL will surely save us all" crew, just four letters :

    G C H Q

    A potted history (off the top of my head, so probably not the most accurate) :

    Just pre WW2, the Government Code And Cipher School (GCCS) was established from bits of other disparate code breaking teams that were lying around the place, their mission, should they choose to accept it, to break any and all ciphers with which they were presented. During WW2 GCCS was moved to Bletchley Park, where they successfully built on Polish cryptanalysis of the Enigma cipher machine and automated it's breaking using machines, invented a whole parcel of computing machinery to break other complex manual and machine ciphers, most notably pretty much inventing the digital computer in the form of Colossus to automate wheel breaking of the (then) fiendishly complicated Lorenz machine cipher, and broke literally thousands of other enemy ciphers, including some of the Japanese machine ciphers.

    Subsequently renamed GCHQ and moved into new headquarters in Cheltenham, they continued to be responsible for breaking codes and ciphers, as well as inventing new ones.

    That's their job. That's what they do, and they are demonstrably excellent at it.

    Now they have supercomputers, lots and lots of supercomputers. Don't count on them not being able to read you SSLd traffic or PGPd email.

    Also, don't forget that no matter how much encryption you throw at a problem, your traffic data (ip addys, etc) are still in the clear, and that no matter how many spurious web spiders you throw out, you still only need one site of interest to show up in a trawl to become a _person_ of interest, at which point your obviously suspicious web activity logs will make sure you _stay_ a person of interest. That's the truly scary Big Brother part, any attempt to game the system that can be detected will suggest that you have something hide and mark you out for further attention, so best behave nicely, and let auntie Jacqui see what you're up to, or she'll want to know why.

    Oh, and Echelon, not a conspiracy theory, a real system, part of UKUSA. Read about it here : section 4.4 "National & International Communications Interceptions Networks". That's a European Parliament report, so no tin foil required. Echelon is a poster child for mission creep in comms interception systems, since the US used it to spy on foreign commercial outfits to the benefit of their own national industries.

  103. You're my wife now Dave

    Method in the madness

    Found this working on a USB key I found in a taxi, labelled TOP SECRET MEGA UBER DATABASE DEV TEST SYSTEM

    Luckily there's only test data in the tables so no real security breach to report


    use orwellian_live_devsys -- ha ha this is so easy to do its money for old rope

    select, terrorist.address, terrorist.location, * -- we can charge these mugs £28Bn for it and £20Bn PA maintenance

    where is not in ('jackie smith',gordon brown','osama bin laden') -- gotta keep the bosses onside but you can remove the first 2 items when item 3 says so

    order by skin_colour, religion, ethnicity desc -- this is current standard do not alter EVER


    Mines the one with the GPS tag/camera/mic combo in the hoodie

  104. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Oh dear.

    Unless they dedicated a LOT of time for traffic analysis, won't you just be able to go through multiple proxies? The busier the better. This seems like a bit of an expensive joke aimed at uninformed politicians. Lets face it, they're going to be putting CPU time into people called Muhammad, not Robert.

    Oh and switch off Ad-Block- the more crap they have to wade through the longer it takes for them to get to the Foot Fetish porn and blackmail you into working for MI5.

    Paris because Jacqui really should have read the numbers more closely.

  105. scott

    @By The Other Steve

    So,all fine and well. GCHQ can tackle PGPd and steg'd comms. My analysis says they wouldn't have a chance if a small percentage of all comms were crypto'd. They just don't have the power (captain) - otherwise they'd have had the computational power to have solved the whole stable fusion power conundrum; or at least the current financial crisis.

    Even if they did - how *does* it get around the problem of doing your sensitive comms via neighbourhood cracked wifi?? Can't profile input that's not traceable to you ,my friend.

  106. Watashi

    Joined up thought police

    This is what New Labour thinks about humans:

    1) Humans are robots that are programmed through interactions with society.

    2) It is the duty of the State to make sure that citizens are given 'good' programming and protected from 'bad' programming.

    Given these two beliefs, it's easy to reverse engineer Blair, Brown et al's policies on justice. How do we know what programming people have inside their heads? Monitor their on-line activity and keep track of who they interact with. How do we prevent people receiving 'bad programming'? Make sure easily impressionable people have no access to dangerous ideas / people.

    Now, it seems quite likely that humans are deterministic entities that can be manipulated quite easily by the State. However, this does not give our leaders Carte Blanche to f*ck with our minds, and there are several important reasons for this. The first is that humans are not born with 'a clean slate' as is believed by Socialists and Neoconservatives. The genes we are born with mean that different behavioural manipulation tactics will have different effects on different people. Some humans are quite happy to live with the idea that 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear', but others are incapable of tolerating this principle at a genetic level, and no amount of reprogramming can change this.

    Secondly, Governments are notoriously bad at understanding the principles behind human behaviour. Most MPs are not even science grads and so live in a theoretical rather than an empirical reality. They have no concept of double-blind trials and the like, so there's no point expecting them to be able to deal with the latest ideas on evolutionary psychology or neuroscience. Think of your IT illiterate boss boss trying to install Windows on his work PC and you're about right for the ability of our politicians setting policy that will effectively indoctrinate people into being universally good citizens.

    Thirdly, 'human rights' legislation exist to protect citizens from the State. The complete lack of respect Labour has towards human rights shows how little perspective they have on their own activities. Other governments may have been fallible... but not this one! In the US, the Constitution serves as a reasonable means of protecting citizens from barmy political ideologies, but Brown and his cronies don't seem to understand the philosophical importance of this (despite Brown being a student of politics!).

    Fourth, any government has a duty to be representative of ALL its citizens, not just the ones who vote for it. Blair and Brown are true believers in the idea that the popular vote gives them a mandate to do whatever they want. What they ignore is the fact that most British governments are elected by a minority of the electorate, and so it is pretty impossible for any British government to ever have a true universal mandate. Policies that strongly offend the political ideals of a significant proportion of the population are necessarily unrepresentative of the wishes of the population, and should only be pursued in times of crisis. Imposing ID cards when a large percentage of the British people are against them is effectively the action of a state under Martial Law.

    Finally, and most importantly, the illusion of free will is immeasurably valuable to human society. It may be that free will is simply along for the ride whilst the subconscious does all the decision making, but the experience of having free will exists non-the-less. A government that explicitly treats humans as things to be manipulated threatens this illusion and so undermines the spiritual well-being of its people. Sometimes, doing the right thing is actually doing the wrong thing, and for many millions of British people, protecting the belief that we are in control of our own lives (irrespective of whether this belief is justified or not) is just as important as protecting children from paedophiles or buses full of commuters from terrorists.

    It may be the case that life is short, nasty and brutal, that we have no free will, that many evil acts go undetected and unpunished, and that New Labour style justice may make the world a safer place. But it should always be remembered that both Hitler and Stalin believed they could create Utopian societies and look what happened to their people. The difference between monkeys and humans comes from our human values, not our ability to use tools or language. Sometimes protecting 'good' humans from 'bad' humans runs contrary to protecting humanity as a concept. This is why history has so many martyrs; for better or for worse, placing our freedom above our personal well-being is what makes human beings human.

  107. O
    Thumb Down


    I only wish the election would come sooner, this Government are an absolute disaster on all fronts :-(

  108. Thomas Baker

    A fiendish idea

    Could be fiendish, could be not-thought-through-because-I'm-an-idiot but...

    What if everyone, as a signature on every email they send, everywhere around the world, puts in any sub-set of a generic block of words like: Kill Bush, C4, Assasinate Jacqui Smith, plot, Parliament, Death to Disney!, pr0n - (whoops, sorry, how did that get in there?), etc, including loads of words in arabic and pashtu and what have you, lots of "Allah will grant us victory over the decadent donkeys of the West", blah. If someone could cobble together a huge long list of words likely to get GCHQ's attention and then we all use a decent smattering of them in every email we send, all de day long, every damn day.

    As we're all being treated like criminals anyway, may as well act like them right?

    And try sifting through that flood ye fokkers!

  109. Michael Dunn

    Won't take "No" for an answer

    Obviously she has never heard of democratic processes.

    It's the KGB uniform coat.

  110. Tom Paine

    crypto / offshore servers won't work keep traffic out of this system.

    As "As pointed out in the last paragraph, encryption is easy to set up and difficult to crack. Surely that renders the black box capabilities useless for all but the dumbest criminals?"

    No. See

    A lot of posters seem to have (deliberately?) misunderstood the fairly fundamental point that the plan (the public plan, anyway) isn't that the thing will automatically spit out names and addresses of suspects ad nihilo. It will be primed, as in the article's example, by good old fashioned human intelligence. ("Hello, the spooks? It's Bradford Agricultural Chemicals here, we've had an order you might be interested in...") The point of the thing would be to be able to pull that loose thread and extract an entire network from the haystack of other communications.

  111. Dan Keating

    Gravy days ...

    As the governments de facto stance is that we're all suspects - it's no surprise that they're throwing this kind of crap at us. I'm waiting for the day that VPN systems need to be licensed and the keys shared with (or even provided by) the government.

    The good news for IT contractors is that - as providing secure communications for terrorist networks is going to require a bit more thought - Al Quaeda will now have to pay a much higher rate. In spite of the credit crunch .. the gravy days are back again.

    Anyway .. better go .. can see blue flashing lights and just had a knock at the door.

  112. This post has been deleted by its author

  113. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What bomb threats?

    Apart from the London bombing, all other attempts at suicide bombing in the UK have been remarkably inept. The "ricin plot" did not have a nanogramme of ricin, which would have been quite harmless if it had been made and deployed in the ways intended. The attempted car bombs could not have detonated; the "liquid explosive" could not have been made in the way that was described.

    Yet English law is such that someone could be convicted on a conspiracy charge if the "explosive material" were to be anhydrous protium hydroxide.

  114. RogueElement


    ha - that's another 108 post thread the bastards are going to have to go over with a fine tooth comb - see you all in UberJail Britain.



    damn it, when will governments learn that the way for a free society is small government with a light touch led by intelligent perceptive people not some washed up corrupt school teacher looking for a job at EDS. I'm Irish in Eire but I know that this database will also be watchin me aswell

    Mines the coat with the PIRA on the back as no doubt thats what SiS has me tagged as already

  116. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They should call it the "Database of Terror"

    Well done government, youve put fear into the lives of ordinary citizens. They should therefore rename the database to the "Database of Terror"! or better yet simply "Al Qaeda"

  117. Matthew Brown

    Epic democracy fail?

    Just think, if old Gordon had actually held an election after he was handed office by Tony, none of this would be happening...

    Well, mostly.

  118. Sceptical Bastard
    Paris Hilton

    A Jihadi speaks

    (I'm not a Jihadi, of course - just want to waste a few minutes of someone's time at GCHQ)

    I'm just adding my voice to the legions who are sick of this repressive and reactionary autocratic government and, particularly, its rebarbative Home Secretard.

    There are some clever bastards in MI6 - and, doubtless, some complete wankers - and some equally clever people in the coms industry. Unfortunately, politicians are virtually all gullible morons.

    Anyway, monitoring IP traffic won't work. I do all my terrorist planning the traditional way - messages handwritten in invisible ink and left in hollow trees, a technique I learnt at Cambridge University back in the days when I was a communist before joining the IRA and ETA.

    Paris because she has a far greater intellectual grasp than Jacqui Smith - and far nicer tits.

  119. Dave Bell

    Data, or information?

    Old joke:

    362436 is data

    36-24-26 is information.

    In the past, interception of communications was a highly skilled job, depending on scarce human resources, and there was a strong incentive to direct those resources against significant targets.

    Some twenty years ago, BBS systems, working together in networks such as Fidonet, could provide the semi-hidden equivalent of Internet email. But there was nothing to stop a PC in an office in Cheltenham appearing to be a Fidonet node on a telephone line in Glasgow.

    It still needed some human skill.

    We now have the ability to collect huge amounts of data automatically. Turning that data into useful information, if you don't know where to look, is essentially an Artificial Intelligence problem.

    Our Masters and Overlords don't understand the difference between data and information.

  120. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crypto / Offshore servers can work

    Modern crypto systems assume your adversary has vast processing power - think of a computer the size of a grain of sand that can check a key in the time it takes light to cross it. Then imagine a cluster of them the size of a planet. That's the kind of power needed to brute force current crypto. Yes there could be short cuts - but it's unlikely that GCHQ knows about them and the rest of the world's mathematicians and cryptographers don't. Quantum computers could change this, but crypto can be designed with them in mind. Only certain algorithms can benefit from the quantum approach.

    Traffic analysis is powerful, but not always. Sometimes all it will tell you is that I use a particular webmail service (that's free, and based outside of Europe/USA).

    What if I use steganography and broadcast my messages... in say... comments on The Register?

    What if my access into the network is not traceable to me?

  121. Tom Chiverton Silver badge



    As No2ID are against 'the database state' as well as the more specific ID card system, I imagine so. Pop on down to your local group and get this stupid system stopped before any money is wasted on it.

  122. Julian I-Do-Stuff

    No no no!

    Where is the voice of sanity? This is not the beginning of the end, it is not even the end of the beginning. We *must* fight them in the chatrooms, in their facebooks. We shall never surrender our convictions - or yours - to the lily livered liberal do gooders such as Reichkanzler wotsisname. The terrorist stupid enough to try and blow up a plane with a shoe is surely bright enough to send his world domination MS Project file in the clear - and we must be ready when he does!

    The situation is extremely extreme and we must not hesitate to go quite a long way beyond their extreme if we are to prevail, in extremis. The uberdatabase is not only necessary (though I cannot tell you why for security reasons, I must keep the details under my rather jaunty imperial hat) - it is only by good fortune that our precious liberties have not already been wiped out by the careless jihadi - it is overdue!!! It's COMINT or COMMIE - which are you?

    Thank you very much for listening,



    Ah! Here's comes the nice lady with the sweets...

    PS It will also help us identify the (minority of otherwise law abiding) witches who are intent on casting nasty spells.

  123. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    The lights dim in London..

    Seriously, it is obvious that someone HAS done the math on this, otherwise they wouldn't quote a price. But the amount of STORAGE and PROCESSING for this is absolutely ridiculous. Without quoting details, I know that one telco's call data records for one year are about 12 Terabytes of raw data - knowing their marketshare I would estimate over 100 Terabytes per year including landline, mobile, and texts in the UK.

    But that doesn't even come CLOSE to the data volumes for clickstream data on IP-based networks, which can be up to an order of magnitude larger easily. So...anyone for at least a petabyte of raw data?

    Now storing that much data isn't a real challenge. But working with it in unstructured ways (i.e., data mining, non-indexed queries, etc.) IS a challenge, at least if you want it to run acceptably fast. Which is typically what you will want to do with it in this sort of application.

    But the real fun comes if they DO get it to work - those of us that have seen this type of data know that you can use it to build all KINDS of analytic models, like age , gender, social contact patterns, etc. You can in fact start building a detailed profile of all of the citizens via that route, IF you had access to all comms records. And while Google and Doubleclick might do that now to target advertising, this takes on an entirely new dimension when it is a government doing it...because what do THEY want to target? With a database like this, the answer becomes ANYTHING THEY WANT.

    The black helicopter, and posted anon, for obvious reasons...

  124. Andy Silver badge

    Secret telephone calls

    No need for VoIP: just use random public phone boxen. Sucks to your expensive silo.


  125. ben
    Thumb Up

    Good article...




    100,000 people die every year of smoking related illness.

    3000 die in car accidents. 4000 in domestic accidents. 800 get murdered.

    No one died last year from terror attacks. Even being generous with the stats, terorism currently kills as many as 5 people a year on average.

    Harold Shipman killed 200 people on his own.

    Conclusion? If you're worried about the sactity of life, there are probably more effective ways to spend £12Bn.

    And don't lose sleep at night worrying about terrorism.

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