back to article Private firm may run UK spy über-database

A private sector firm may be given the job of maintaining a proposed super-database tracking the telephone and internet records of Brits. The option of turning over the task of running the planned communication database to a private firm, due to feature in a Home Office consultation document due out next month, would be …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    More money down the pan

    "Ministers hope that putting the project into the hands of the private sector will help to reduce costs."

    Reduce? don't they mean double the costs?

  2. Steve

    Definition of insanity.

    "Ministers hope that putting the project into the hands of the private sector will help to reduce costs."

    What's that saying about repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Good luck with that...

  4. Chronos

    OK, fess up...

    Who the hell is this Sir Ken Macdonald and how did a competent person ever get into a position of power? There is a failure of standards here and lessons must be learnt. I also failed to see a single buzzword or one piece of spin, so I suggest this man skipped the mandatory training. Not acceptable, people! PR are going ape over this and Wacky Jacqui is breaking things (in an opposition member's office, naturally).

    In other matters, Mr Burn 'em was found crouched in a corner of the cabinet office rocking back and forth and gurgling to himself about filters. Please could the canteen staff keep the coffee machines fully stocked in future? This sort of thing does us no favours with the proles.

    Proceed, because they will.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Ye gods

    No doubt the database will be staffed with thoroughly vetted, high-quality, well-paid staff, all of whom will be wise beyond temptation; and not for example a group of unvetted temps procured from the local recruitment agency en masse, assigned to work computers that have unmonitored internet and email access.

  6. Julian I-Do-Stuff
    Thumb Down

    Mea Culpa

    No doubt any "unfortunate" leak of information will be excused on the basis of novel interpretations of the doctrines of "implied consent" and "the public interest", accompanied by much hand-wringing, expressions of bemusement as to how such a thing could have possibly happened and a promise to appoint a Privacy Czar of All the Databases (probably in early October).

    Someone's bound to let the genie out of the bottle, so why put a genie in a bottle in the first place?

  7. Michael Fremlins

    I vote for EDS

    They have a history of bringing projects in late, which don't work properly, and three times over budget. That's about right.

  8. Nomen Publicus

    what else did we expect?

    Just wait until the government announces that the ID database will be kept and maintained by a US company...

    Impossible? Lockheed Martin are running the data processing parts of the 2011 census.

  9. Secretgeek

    [Insert deity name here] help us.

    That is all.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Rusty Shackleford says

    I for one welcome our Nu Liebour overlords and will feel so safe from everything once my day is completely monitored. From my early morning poop into the 'state invasotronic poop checker' throughout my day to the 'state nannybot tucker in o matic citizen sleep o mat'.

    Non specific deity forbid that I be tasked with thinking for myself. I will simply hand over all my life, money, possessions etc to the state who keep me safe from eevill turrists and assorted bad things. I think what they want me too and I'm as happy as they tell me to be.

    Think I'll have to emigrate to a more non fascist state. Wonder if Burma will accept political asylum seekers.... who elected these feckwits?

  11. Anonymous Coward


    It'll go to BT and phorm then...

  12. Ad Fundum
    Black Helicopters

    History repeats itself


    "Ministers hope that putting the project into the hands of the private sector will help to reduce costs."


    Blackadder: It's the same plan that we used last time, and the

    seventeen times before that.

    Melchett: E-E-Exactly! And that is what so brilliant about it! We

    will catch the watchful Hun totally off guard! Doing

    precisely what we have done eighteen times before is

    exactly the last thing they'll expect us to do this time!

  13. Vaughan

    Remember remember

    Remember remember

    to vote out the members

    who thought up this treasonous plot

  14. Rich

    Merkins must do it better

    "By Nomen Publicus Posted Wednesday 31st December 2008 12:32 GMT

    Just wait until the government announces that the ID database will be kept and maintained by a US company..."

    The MI5 mailing list is managed from California ....

  15. David

    I suspect someone's being paid off..

    Some of these insane database proposals give me the distinct impression that someone's getting a back-hander.


    1) Lack of popular support - nobody wants it

    2) No cost-benefit analysis

    3) No clear benefits

    4) Anyone with half a brain would know that such a system will be a dismal failure and possibly a gross violation of personal privacy and human rights.

    5) Fixation with contracting it out to private sector companies.

    So why is it being pursued ? Makes no sense to me unless someone's gaining from it!

  16. Chris Simmons

    Any bets

    on EDS?

    "Joke Alert"? I bloody well hope so.

  17. William Bronze badge

    Lets make a lot of noise.

    Let us create a peacful revolt by creating a lovely little program that spoofs random connections, such as sending emails, visiting random websites, ftping, pinging to create so much traffic that the government has no hope in hell of being to store the sheer volume of information.

    And even by some miracle they manage to store all the volume without breaking the already slow Internet in this country then the information they have is practically worthless due to all the noise.

    Time to dust down the old programming gloves I think. (Anyone want to lend a hand?)

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Talk about -

    All your bases are belong to us.

    Now stop whining, blow your nose, sit down and shut up. 'Cause we know *exactly* who you were talking to *and* what you were planning to do.

    Hear that knocking on the door? That's us!

  19. Anna

    an insane database run by the private sector?

    I feel safer already.

  20. Bob

    It'll be fine

    From: Bob


    Subject: Wibble'); DROP TABLE PEOPLE;

  21. Khyle Westmoreland


    Yes yes yes yes!! With any luck the same program will have the dual advantage of ruining Phorm's database at the same time :-D

    No point in AC because the gov't and Orange already know who's using this mobile interweb connection...

  22. Jemma

    ...Made a note in my diary on the way here....

    .... simply says.... Bugger!...

    So we have a Hellmouth and Reichsfuhrer 'Wacki' Jacqui Smith.....

    Is anyone else seeing a Buffy christmas reunion special here... lets face it it couldnt be worse than the two ronnies again...

    You can imagine the tagline....

    /deep male voice with bad case of self-impo(r)tence

    "Once in every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against all the pedo's, the terrorists and the powers of human rights....oh, and Brazilian Electricians.."

    /segues into annoying indie rock cover of the Dixon of Dock Green theme...

    Starring - Anne Widdecombe as 'Please,no' - the saggy right-wing witch

    Michael Howard as 'Aww, hell' - the brooding (balding) love interest...

    need I go on?...

    Blackadder PPS: Miss Smith.. is something the matter?

    Jacqui Smith : You're damned right there's something the matter! Something sinister & something grotesque. And what's worse is that it's going on right under my very nose!

    Blackadder PPS: Ma'am, your moustache is lovely.....

  23. 3x2

    Towards ???

    <..>Macdonald argued that creating the über-database represents a further move towards a Big Brother-style "surveillance society". <..>

    über-database as opposed to ID,CCTV,DNA Db,NPfIT Db,Child Db,RIPA ............

    What we have already would have had the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit hanging their heads in shame. It seems that they just can't stop themselves.

    Oy NuGov - It's not the terrorists we worry about it is you clowns and your Nu Stasi State


  24. Dave Ross

    And after..

    ..we have done the "sensible" thing and voted out this bunch of profiteering scumbags and the next conservative government is in power, how long before they ressurect the same set of policies in the name of security ,one wonders?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Estimated cost

    Is that "£12billion" a 'reasonable & realistic' estimate; or, an Olympic-type deliberate underestimate that will end up costing 4x as much - i.e. £1,000 per man woman & child of this already bankrupt nation?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why stop with emails

    I'm almost surprised that Jacqui hasn't also proposed CCTV cameras and microphones in every lounge and bedroom, "to protect the children". It must only be a matter of time.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    The Database is Fait Accompli

    Any public consultation will be mere window-dressing, it already appears the government are determined to get this through. Look at all the work being done before it is even put to

    Parliament. I believe it has been suggested that the government intennd to set-up the database even if primary legislation isn't passed.

    I wonder why the government is going down this path. The security services seem to had just about every participant in major terror plots under surveillance (Omagh, July 7th, the Glasgow attackers, even that bloke who tried amateurishly to bomb that restaurant in Exeter). The reason follow-up didn't happen was lack of manpower. Surely such a database would just be one giant haystack that all the supercomputers in the world couldn't effectively disentangle? Jacqui Smith has said without it it would lead to a massive increase in intrusive surveillance by agents in the real world. So being able to have all my web-browsing isn't?

    What is the real motive? Well for a start you might not have to bother raiding MPs' offices, you could listen in at the flick of a switch. It would make it easier to track down whistleblowers & journalistic sources. With the current politicization of the police I'd be very disturbed by this.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Thats going to take a lot of storage space!

    and how many data centres are going to be needed for the data, the backups and the mirror?

    Theres money in them there racks if you can get the power to them if this goes ahead, although they will probably end up in some far away place.

    Paris, cos theres money in that rack as well

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re:Lets make a lot of noise

    "Anyone want to lend a hand?"

    I will. I'm brushing up on my skillset so I can join whatever private company this goes to. I suggest all right-minded Information Security techies do the same. Some of us will get in.

  30. Geoff Mackenzie


    Just what I was thinking. I like playing around with bots, spiders, etc. Let's have a whole horde of amanfrommars-style gibberers, conversing by email - a voluntary botnet of garbage-spouting decoys should make life a little more difficult for them.

    Alternatively, we could build an alternative to email that's more innately secure and private - I'm thinking of something inspired by the Mute network and similar projects, but for email-like messaging. I think something could be built that provided good anonymity and was extremely challenging for snoops.

    My programming gloves are getting a dusting down also. Let's get 'em.

  31. ElFatbob


    having contributed to shafting us all economically, this government now intends to piss more money up the wall.

    The continual 'outsourcing' to private sector mantra must by now seem suspicious to all. The Labour rats are preparing their new jobs prior to the good ship sinking...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does it matter?

    (apart from being a ridiculous idea that will cost a fortune and not give any tangible results, of course)

    ... because, whether it is public or private, the data will be left on a tube train anyway.

  33. Armus Squelprom

    Beyond Freedom & Dignity

    There can now be no doubt that the Labour Party's present leadership is dedicated to achieving a socially-engineered state. Their ideas for crime, health, security, benefits, ID, road safety etc are universally based upon 24/7 surveillance and judgemental punishments.

    As a left-leaning civil libertarian, I am now bracing myself to vote Conservative - but only if they plainly commit to abolition in their written manifesto, cos there's plenty of BF Skinners in their gang too.

  34. This post has been deleted by its author

  35. E


    Yup. On the west side the pond it is called pork.

    That does not make it less dangerous.

  36. Graham Marsden

    Hush, little ones, don't argue, just trust us...

    So Wacky Jaqui says she would publish a consultation paper in the new year.

    What she doesn't say is that it will be biased and one-sided and not give the full facts and even then she will ignore it if it doesn't give the response the Government wants.

    This Government has lost any connection with the real world, they know they've not got a hope in hell of winning the next election, so they're just trying to push through as much of their Control Freak, Big Brother, Nanny State legislation as possible before they're unceremoniously kicked out of office.

    Of course this doesn't mean that the *next* bunch we get in power (the Tories, most likely, by the rule of Buggins' Turn, given the way our electoral system "works") are really going to be much better. Ok, yes, they say they'll get rid of ID cards, but what about all the *rest* of the legislation New Labour brought in which infringes on our Right to Protest, Right to Privacy, Right to decide for ourselves what we can read or see, Right to go about our lawful business without let or hindrance?

    Will David Cameron give us a promise that he'll do anything about this? Or, if asked, will he just give us a weaselly, mealy mouthed statement about "well, we'll look at it and maybe get rid of it, but we can't say right now" and then, once he's in power, say "perhaps this isn't so bad after all, but maybe after the *next* election"...?

    The only Party with any real gumption to do anything this are the Lib Dems, but they're stuck in third place in a system that would require a massive shift in voting patterns to give them a chance of power and neither of the other two parties have any intention of changing that.

  37. E


    Curious that the private company was not named. I predict that if the plan comes to pass then the company board will be composed of political appointees and security service aparatchiks . Thus no private company at all.

    Here's a happy new year cheer to Buenaventura Durruti and all his friends. You Brits are gonna need such types if you let this go much further.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Personally, I'd rather.... in a world where you just took your chances against 'terrorism" by trusting in old fashioned policing.

    Rather than, living in a world where your every thought, message, conversation, email, sms, chat and turd is subject to recording and analysis!.

    Reminder: The chances of being even slightly injured in a terror attack are like 50,000,000:1

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    something to hide?

    Mind you, I do agree with him.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    What to call the uber database?

    How about "Carnivore"? Oh wait, no - they Yanks (allegedly) replaced that one years ago...

    Bet this goes to either EDS or CSC - ZaNew Labour have sold everything else that used to be British (our gold reserves, DERA/Qinetiq, our nuclear weapons facilities, our defence industry, most of the 'government' IT projects) off to the Yanks, so I bet this follows...


    M16 Jacqui Smith ammunition explosives detonate holiday camp Pakistan cell Bush Blair Brown airport Parliament intercept communicate secret TOP Secret Bottom Secret Labour party could not find their arses with a roadmap and assistance from both sides of the Atlantic. Feck the lot of them.

    Oh, and anyone who read this now has "information of use to terrorists" (all those naughty words) so prepare to be visited by Wacqui Schmidt's Zanew Labour gestapo any day now.

    All your minds, bodies and souls are belong to us.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No one is above the law

    The EU Data Retention directive says clearly she can't have a blanket feed, so her blanket database is not legal and any company that supplies her with blanket access to their communications is exposing their company to an ocean of lawsuits.

    Note that you cannot hide behind the ltd Company structure for illegal acts, the officers can directly be held liable.

    Yes I know that 'No one is above the law' saying is bullshit, given the Israeli general in Manchester was able to simply ignore the arrest warrant for war crimes, and the El Al pilot and crew that aiding in evading arrest were never prosecuted and freely fly in and out of the UK.

    But still in theory, Israeli Generals are no more above the law than say, a Home Secretary or a member of the opposition party protecting the interests of the public when Home Office tries to conceal embarrassing info.

  42. stefan

    Too bigger nose.

    This poxy country wouldnt even have to worry about terrorism if this country would stop sticking its nose where it IS NOT welcome. Why do we feel the need to team up with the stupid fkin americans everytime they wanna go claim something as theres?. if we just closed our ties with that stupid country and stopped interfering all the time things would be better. i mean clear example bomb goes off in some far off country priminister feels the need to fly all the way to said country walk about the place it happened and go on tv saying rawr terrorism is bad mmmmmmkay we will get them. GET YOU SODDING NOSE OUT. sick and tired of this country getting into everything all the bloody time.

  43. John P


    We must avoid surrendering our freedom as autonomous human beings to such an ugly future. We should make judgments that are compatible with our status as free people," Sir Keith said.

    Of course, this makes a completely false assumption that we actually have a choice! Even if half the population of the country took to the streets in mass protest, they'd still do it.

    There are many individuals who do not want this Government to have even more data to leave on trains, but the depressing truth of this supposed democratic society is that we don't have any choice in the matter.

    Mines the one that smells of apathy.

  44. Brett Weaver
    Black Helicopters

    A Thesis Proposal...

    Democracies, if they are ever to be said to work, must deliver laws and support customs that the majority want (or need). By celebrating and encouraging diversity, or compartmentalisation of society, politicians ensure that they can reassemble majorities from disparate groups rather than having to be accountable.

    The only hope for a democracy is either under slavery, where all non slave voting "citizens" are similarly emancipated or where all citizens subscribe to a similar life phiilosophy (protestant or catholic anyone?).

    The only form of government that works in a group of diverse culture is a benevolent (hopefully) dictatorship. As we know from Douglas Adams, anyone who seeks the job should be automatically excluded as a candidate.

    I think giving the Royal Family more powers might be the answer.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This has fail written all over it...

    Let us examine the evidence....

    1. Government involvement is massive, poorly spec'd IT project

    2. FUD in place of requirements capture (unregistered PAYG / second hand phones / proxied VoIP = unknown particpants).

    Unless of course we're being mislead about the terror / paedo raison d'etre, could this be a tool to monitor those seditious of Zanu Labour....

    Papers, citizen.

  46. Robin Boldon
    Black Helicopters

    err... don't the Gov already have this?

    Surely it's called ECHELON?

    or is this an amusing ruse to get the necessary upgrades to plug the interwebs into it?

  47. Sean Charles

    Why oh why oh why oh why ad nauseam...

    Given that the retards currently in power are not much different than the retards that were previously in power or that will be assume power next election, you have to ask yourself where they get the ideas from ?

    And now I really do mean to shout when I ask, "WHO IS REALLY DRIVING ALL OF THIS INSANE CRAP?" rough-shod over the wishes of the people of the United Kingdom ? Who? WHO?? and WHY?

    Call me cynical and deranged but for a long time now I have oft wondered if there aren't aliens living amongst us who've realise that given the average lifespan of a human being, they can carefully manipulate *everything* by taking enough time and doing it slowly slowly catch-ee monkey fashion. Maybe we should examine history with all the analytical tools that computing offers instead of building better 'alternate reality systems' like PS3, Wii etc that take ones eye off the ball.

    It is all getting a bit too Orwellian for me: I read here that they want Passport / ID details in order to get a mobile phone.... next step... ALL public phone boxes require an ID swipe card... result: all your syllables are beling to us.

    Recession? Managed by dark forces I reckon.... result... there is one bank... result... the state takes control... result... no more petty cash in circulation... result... no more anonymous pub deals everything is logged by card transaction... result... total state monitoring of everything you buy and where and when you bought it and who from.




    Another hundred years or so and the intergalactic fast-food chain super UFO will arrive in Earth orbit and we will have all been brainwashed and primed for delivery. Apparently we taste good especially when kept in little cells (houses) and trained (dumbed down) not to resist, that way the stress chemicals don't spoil the taste.

    Yup, we are just long-term battery-farmed alien burger fodder. Scary.

    NUUURRSE! The tablets are wearing off.

    Happy New Year.

    Now where are those old 'V' recordings.....?

  48. Anonymous Coward

    The UK = HL2

    More like the game day after day!

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    the story is already written

    "A private sector firm may be given the job of maintaining a proposed super-database tracking the telephone and internet records of Brits."

    Ah, well, so, the 25 millions UK citizens personal records scattered all over the place record is meant to be beaten, then ?

    So the story will all go like:

    - 2010: the said private company will enjoy shitloads of money for all its investors. Everyone celebrating.

    - 2011: UK citizens will begin to worry and protest on the ground that some marketing companies apparently know what kind of porn they're interested in, despite making no purchases at all. Some will point fingers at the company.

    - 2012: Lots more people complaining, privacy associations making a lot of noise, ICO issuing the usual useless statement, a commission is formed, and an investigation starts.

    - 2020: results of the investigation is known. Maybe.

    Anon, just to see whether they'll send me marketing stuff for cryptography ;-)

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Once they start flinging these words around, you just know we're all predestined for a good rogering.

  51. Ian Holton

    VPN Browsing via non-US-allied countries?

    Some of us readers aren't IT - we just come here for the news. So is it a dumb question to ask if this government scheme would be powerless in logging my internet activities if I get a VPN browsing account with servers based in Russia or some other country with a more enlightened view of civil liberties than the UK and whose suppliers can't be required by UK law to supply lists of my nefarious online shopping activities to JaquiBoots and ZaNew Labour?

  52. kain preacher

    Let us Yanks

    Handle your data base. Hey al we can do is lose the data. It not like we cant get it if we want it :


  53. Dan


    I'm just going to add a load of suspect phrases to my email sig, and suggest everyone else does the same... government, civil liberty, bomb, assassinate, etc etc. Let's make EVERY message a positive hit, it could also be fun shouting the words randomly in the middle of a completely normal conversation...

  54. Florence Stanfield

    What about a vote of no confidence in this government

    We are the people who put them in office then let us all contact our local MP's telling them we have decided we have no confidence in the present leaderships ability to run the country. Request that they have had chances to prove the ability but with crackpot ideas like this they are not fit to run the country and the present leader was not elected by the people it was Blair that was voted in.

  55. Wayland Sothcott

    Give up our liberties for freedom

    As the East End London woman tells Alex Jones "Yeah I think it's right that we should give up our liberties for freedom"

    I think that technically it's a monumental task to process all this info but where there is a will there is a way. £12billion buys a lot of will.

    To those who are trying to analyse this based on what the government say this is for, forget it. Any intelegent person can see it won't do what the government say it's for, but that does not mean it won't do what the government want.

    I hear spain is nice.

  56. Anonymous Coward

    RE: VPN Browsing via non-US-allied countries?


    Yes, you (and several thousand other people) have already noticed the hole in the govt's plan.

    Strangely enough, I emailed the government just this morning to ask them what they plan to do about anonymising services. I also pointed out that any terrorist who is worth being scared of will already know to do this, just in case they ever end up under scrutiny.

    If I ever get a response, El Reg will be the first to know!

  57. Andrew Meredith

    Onion Routing & Opportunistic Encryption

    Check out Tor

    The idea is to make your web request emerge from any one of a shedload of IP addresses to completely scramble the continuity. It's more than that but you get the idea.

    As for email, if you set up your own self hosted mail server, arm it with a certificate and make sure you only communicate with others of similar setup, then the database can't see what you are doing. The mail doesn't pass through an ISP's mail servers and the data that does go through the ISP is encrypted. They can see it is on the right port for SMTPS but as for what's in it? Nada. I know that you cannot guarantee what everyone else is doing about their mail, but at least you won't be the one telling Jaqubooti all about yourself. They will at least have to piece your stuff together from the fragments that turn up in your less careful friends' ISP logs. It's not rocket science and it's not expensive. A great number of businesses already do this and have been doing so for years.

    Texts? You're stuffed there I'm afraid. Sorry.

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