back to article Privacy watchdog bashes net snoop plan

Whitehall plans to order ISPs and mobile operators to gather massive quantities of data on every customer's internet use are vague, misleading, risky and possibly unnecessary, according to the Information Commissioner. In forthright comments on the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), Christopher Graham said the Home …


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  1. Julian I-Do-Stuff

    vague, misleading, risky and unnecessary


    Alas the same adjectives will probably also characterise the government's response.

    Pity none of the powers that be know the difference between Necessary and Sufficient.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Here we go...

    The die is cast.

  3. Adam Salisbury

    Kill Kill Kill

    Kill IMP and roll the £2bn over 10 years back into putting th country's finances back in the black, that is all

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Civil Penalties

    He mentions civil penalties for private sector abuse of communications data...

    I don't want civil penalties, I want criminal penalties (as is the case under RIPA/Computer Misuse/Fraud/Copyright at present).

    BT Directors need to be prosecuted by the Police and Crown Prosecution Service for the offences committed in 2006/7/8 during the trials of Phorm.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Come to the attention of the authorities"

    look for this to be interpreted as "Looked at a council employee's wife in a bar"

  6. Pat 11

    URL = content

    They are indeed disingenuous about the distinction between endpoints and content. If a URL is recorded, it is very often a pointer to content.

    ie will they record:

    your_ip <-> google_ip


    your_ip <-> google_ip/search?q=secret+ingredients&ie=UTF-8

  7. Dan 10

    The real question...

    is the gap between what the gov says it wants/what the ICO provides it's response against, and what the government really wants. No, I'm not being a conspiracy wacko, I simply note that the measures available to circumvent IMP mean that the only ones who will be successfully monitored are the (mostly) law-abiding, tech-ignorant general population. That's what the gov is after, not the targeted stuff against crims who you actually have to put some effort into catching. Why? Because at any time, they will be able to accurately assess general public feeling/opinion/anger etc, and tap into that to achieve whatever political goal presents itself. As well as catching the petty crims, of course.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fit CCTVs to every computer

    Look, it's very simple. You may be a terrorist and in order to protect you from you, we need to fit a CCTV to monitor every computer you use.


    You are very cunning, and by using the computer you think you can evade us. So we need to maintain capability by investing in a massive surveillance network and pretending that we can't tap the internet.

    See when packets go into the internet, they can take many different routes, and we have no way of catching all those packets. They leave your computer, and go into the internet without any place where we can stop them and take a look.

    Then they travel by magic to terrorist land opening a portal where terrorists can climb through.

    You may think that we can tap the cable, but that would need a warrant and we can't get those for random searches like that. That is considered invasive

    You may think we can ask the ISP to route the traffic with a warrant. But here's the problem. we take the view that RIPA lets us get it WITHOUT a warrant, and we want sooooo soooo much data on soooo many people that the ISPs can't track it all.

    So we a lot of technology to catch it all. Especially the stuff critical of us, then plan to mine it for stuff.

    See then we filter out the massive amounts of data we collect, using smart mining algorithms that the IBM salesman assures us work. Then we go get a warrant and do the proper LEGAL search, then any we find something on, we go arrest.

    For this we need CCTV on every computer. But I promise we're not interested in YOUR little lives, we're interested in EVERYONE's little lives.


  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    This new ICO is looking promising

    "Effectively... where the private sector, either through their own provision of services or through being placed under a legal obligation, are intercepting communications of services' users, there are gaps in the regulatory regime."

    Does that mean the ICO now agree with the EU on this? If so, that is excellent news.

    Remember when our Dear Leader said categorically there were no gaps whatsoever in the regulatory regime in this area.

    Makes me wonder if the ICO had any input at all to the governments (still secret) response to Comissioner Reding's list of questions...

  10. EdwardP

    Great, but

    ...don't give a flying fuck.

    All the independant organizations that had the power to stop this sort of thing were neutered and thrown out the window back in 1997, along with personal responsibility and assumed innocence.

    We're now in a situation where every privacy group, every newspaper and every watchdog could cry foul, and the gov would just ignore them, or at best regurgitate the same weasel words and rename the project.

    Nanny states produce babies. We're too disconnected, too used to being lied to and too used to accepting it. At this stage, we have no power left with which to fight offensive and illegal legislation. Whats worse aparently the majority don't care or know enough to want to.

    If we couldn't prosecute or depose when we had admissable evidence of them: lying, stealing, dodging taxes, condoning torture and knowingly violating EU human rights bills; what on Earth makes you think a few jumped up watchdogs are going to have the slightest impact? As we've seen, for these people it's not about what's right, it's about manipulating the system (breaking it if needs be) to get what you want. Morality doesn't get a look in.

    We let them get away with murder, and then we did it again...and again. It's not just Labour either, it's all of them. For them this is now the norm. What comes next is all our own fault.

  11. lucky13


    Rite then, about time I suscribed to a VPN service.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE:Fit CCTVs to every computer


    So thats what the warm damp feeling is.

  13. Paul Gomme

    Why are the gov doing all this?

    After all, didn't they say that terrorism would never be allowed to affect our way of life and freedoms...? Or did I imagine that bit...?

  14. Nathan 13

    Terrorism for now, everything later

    After a few months of their new "powers" they will realise that terrorists are not stupid enough to use their home PC to discuss their dastardly deeds, so the Government will come up with a wonderful, vote winning idea... That idea being that if the investigate everyone, the police can catch a few more petty criminals without leaving their desks. You know the really heinous crimes such as planning an all night party etc

    I think thats why they want everyone in the UK to get 2MB broadband, so they dont miss anyone LOL

  15. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    "a step change in the relationship between the citizen and the state"

    What, you mean another one?

    They've been making a sustained attack on our liberties ever since they came to power, what makes him think that this complaint is going to make the slightest bit of difference?

    The only option is to get rid of the current shower in power but *not* replace them with "New Tory" who talk a good opposition, but, when they get into power are likely to say "you know, on second thoughts, maybe all this stuff might be useful, so we'll keep it..."

  16. Nigel Wright

    HMP Britain

    It's coming whether we like it or not. Britain is not a democracy. The government does not serve us, we serve it.

    Someone turn the lights out please.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Big Brother Is Watching You

    "In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down

    between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle,

    and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the police

    patrol, snooping into people’s windows. The patrols did

    not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered.

    Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was

    still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment

    of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and

    transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made,

    above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by

    it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision

    which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen

    as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing

    whether you were being watched at any given moment. How

    often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on

    any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable

    that they watched everybody all the time."

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Ladies & gentlemen

    Switch CSP's and go encrypted as per plan E.

    That is all.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Huh! Nice try by whitehall madarins

    Well, perhaps we know who might be bankrolling phorm?

  20. MYOFB

    I'm late again . . . I know already BUT!!!! . . .

    . . . the question I'm asking in my mind is . . . are Dan 10 and EdwardP reading my thoughts??!!

    I only ask because:

    1) It's pretty creepy and

    2) You've both saved me a lot of typing.

    I couldn't put what you have both posted any better myself!

    @ Paul Gomme . . . You didn't imagine it, it's all true . . . BUT . . . I suspect you know already (and if you don't, you will soon) that the biggest threat of terror is already upon us all . . . and it is certainly NOT from without our own shores.

    The majority of home grown "Terrorist Acts" originate from the Palaces of Westminster these days . . . if you catch my drift!!

    Beyond our shores, they emanate from a variety of persons with a "vested interest" in keeping the cycle of terror spinning . . . . I'll leave it up to yourselves to work out who!!

    All that said, I will ask this question:

    Is it not about time we had Magna Carta version 2 . . . Wherein, instead of the Barons forcing the King to be subject to law, that the personage of Parliament and Queen/King be forced to be subject to who pay their salaries and for them to perform their roles as deemed by the masses??!!

    Yeah I know, too simplistic but I would rather be living in the 21st century with my eyes open and savvy as opposed to living in the 13th century in blindness and ignorance!!!!!

    If you catch my drift!!!!!!!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Perpetual Failure, Endless War

    "Once probes are deployed, sources say they will be remotely configured by technicians at GCHQ in Cheltenham, to keep up with new applications and changes in how communications data is transmitted by existing internet services."

    So it's two billion pounds being spent, over ten years, perpetually playing catch-up. Two billion pounds to spend a decade losing a never-ending race. Sounds like a nice gravy train, though.

    Unless all the data is monitored - contents as well as what the government confusingly call "communications data" - there's still room for terrorists and other criminal organisations to hide their real communications in. The government obviously don't understand the basic concept of stacks of network protocol layers. What's content in one layer may well be "communications data" in a higher layer. Unless you monitor all the contents, you leave room for secret networks to be established within the non-monitored contents.

    For IMP, Mastering the Internet, or whatever they're calling it now, to have a real chance of working, they have to go to the unacceptable extreme of monitoring everything. Even then, they're stuck with having to play catch-up all the time.

    This in turn gives terrorists the opportunity to subvert the whole operation on a massive scale. One of the things terrorists like to do is to burden the states they're fighting against. They like to burden them economically, and in other ways. And we've got a government that dumbly and enthusiastically goes along with being economically burdened in response to the perceived terrorist threat. Terrorist organisations can exploit these kinds of Stasi-state schemes, and the mentalities behind them, to increasingly waste national resources. It's an effective way of doing economic damage and weakening their enemy.

    Of course, this depends on the government following the terrorists' agenda, and seeing the terrorists' ploys as ever greater challenges to be faced with ever greater "investments". And this government's such a bunch of mugs they're sure to fall for it. And since this government loves the idea of taking more and more "responsibility" for the "management" of society (more and more control of us, the people), the government sees such consequences of their responses to the challenges posed by terrorists as useful by-products. Function creep ensues (otherwise opportunities to deal with criminals, such as paedophiles, are missed).

    The end result is a kind of perverse coalition of terrorists and government, each exploiting the other in their endless efforts against each other. The terrorists get their way, the government get their way, but us, the millions of innocent citizens, end up losing our basic rights and freedoms.

    Isn't this just like the state of perpetual war (real or staged) in Orwell's 1984?

    A smart government, and one which genuinely worked to protect, safe-guard and defend the rights and freedoms of us citizens, would instead accept that criminal organisations, including terrorists, will always be able to find ways of communicating secretly. Rather than waste billions running a race that cannot be won, but only perpetually lost, it would make a lot more sense to spend those billions in other ways (health, education, transport, etc, etc).

    The result is still much the same when it comes to, say, terrorism, as the terrorists (and other criminal organisations) can still communicate over the internet. But for the rest of us, we have our rights and freedoms preserved, and better services and/or lower taxes, with a healthier economy as a result. That's much smarter than dumbly doing far greater damage to our economy, society, etc, than the terrorists could ever hope to do directly.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Now for the very last time please Phuck off, you are not wanted.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In Iran & China mass surveillance = bad

    But in Western democracies = good?

  24. dave hands
    Black Helicopters

    Printing Press

    The Internet is to us similar to what the printing press was to the folks then.

    For the first time in a long time we can say what we want and talk to each other and compare experiences and accounts. This makes the job of governments much harder because their lies are found out much sooner.

    This cannot be allowed.

    And just as technically you may be able to publish anything in print (if you can afford it), in reality the printing press system is heavily controlled and you and I don't get a look in - so it will be with the internet.

    It is not acceptable that we should be able to communicate freely and share information - this does not tally with their idea of total information control. So, it will be curtailed, in the name of some bogus threat.

    Enjoy the internet while you still have it - it will not always be this way.

  25. Rob Foster 1

    Can someone tell me why...

    Why isn't this collection of everyones data a directe contravention of section 8 of the European concention on Human rights?

    "Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence".

    Snooping on everything I do shows no "respect" whatsoever for my private and family life or my correspondence.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    The invisible worm cries in the night...

    The Secret Master took no notice of Wall Street for the squamous power drill.

    Big Daddy opened the wardrobe under the dormouse.

    The lazy elephant licked its toenails on the London Underground.

    GCHQ spent several days seeking sense from complete cr*p.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    All those looking at VPN's etc

    who do you think is going to be more interesting to the authorities?

    Fred Bloggs looking for free porn on Google


    mr x with his encrypted VPN over a darknet?

    Fucking Geniuses (or should that be genii?)

    AC, because you aint seen me, right!

  28. Daily Mail Reader

    Not going far enough

    I have a friend who uses this thing called the "post office". Not only can you send anonymous communication by this means you can also send physical items - imagine that! Rather than download porn you can get it in a physical product! Will wonders never cease.

    Anyway I was thinking that this is a major problem in the government strategy. They should extend this law to allow all letters to be opened the "To, From and Subject" catalogued before resealing it and sending it along. Only this way can we be free from the terrorist menace which is everywhere!

    I hear they do this sort of thing in prisons - so we have a precident to extend it to every person in the country.

    I am sure all those people that prefer to use this new "mail service" over the internet would approve of similar methods, to control these horrors on our modern world.


  29. EvilGav 1


    If terrorists are really interested in obfuscating their correspondence, it's so easy as to become ridiculous and the method existed long before the inter-webs.

    You simply use a key-text - usually a very long book. The correspondecne between the bad people is done plainly in the open, only referencing a series of three numbers now and again (page, line, word). It's not difficult to write a long letter or e-mail with enough numbers in it to create the message.

    Without prior knowledge of the key-text, it's gibberish and anyone with half a brain can write a banal e-mail with the relevant information in it.

    Remembering that thats at the low end of how to do this, not difficult to add in photographs to an e-mail and utilise RGB colour numbers to get the same page, sentence, word sequence. Hell, you could actually just have a couple of numbers mentioned in the accompanying text to give you the X, Y co-ords of where the message sequence starts.

    And thats off the top of my head and without utilising anything (barring the image), that hasn't been around for hundreds of years. Simple cryptography is still used because it works. Until someone with a basic understanding of that is involved, we're going to keep seeing the same idiotic arguments trotted out time and again form this imbecilic bunch of fuck-tards.

    Do we really have to wait until next year for an election ??

  30. Grease Monkey Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Retrospective Justification

    NuLabour have always worked on the principal of the ends justifying the means. However in this case they don't even know what the ends are. They are obviously hoping they will achieve some significant end by this means and can then justify their actions retrospectively. *IF* they manage to prevent some terrorist outrage by this then they can say afterwards that they were right. When they don't then of course they'll find some other less significant justification, like maybe catching a kiddy fiddler.

    Consider the war in Iraq. We went to war because Bliar said Iraq had WMD. After it became apparent that there were no WMD in Iraq then the justification for the war changed to a humanitarian one. To listen to Bliar we had gone to war in Iraq to put an end to human rights abuses and that had always been the case. So if they don't catch terrorists then the justification for this particular human rights abuse will be that they were trying to catch paedophiles/drug smugglers/DVD Pirates/illegal file sharers (delete where not applicable).

    Wouldn't it be great in business if you could write your business case long after the project had been completed?

    To be fair to NuLabour (hard though it is to do) in this case this looks more and more like something the civil service are pushing for. But to be fair to the civil service (even harder) NuLabour should not be bowing to the civil service. Many pundits did predict back in 1997 that the Civil service would be running the country with help from the government, and they were right in the case of Bliar and doubly so with the Broon. A man who bends in the wind before the wind even blows.

    The saddest thing is that, as usual, the real bad guys are way smarter than the law makers so the only people they are likely to catch are petty criminals. Do they not realise that anybody who is really up to no good will do their browsing and emailling using SSL through off shore anonymous proxies.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    @Grease Monkey

    ***"Do they not realise that anybody who is really up to no good will do their browsing and emailling using SSL through off shore anonymous proxies."***

    Any criminal or terrorist with half a brain will *already* be using those precautions. The problem with IMP is that it will prompt a great many *other* people to do the same.

    When we are all using encryption because we don't want Stasi-New-Labour snooping on our legitimate use of the Internet, how will they tell the difference between an encrypted holiday photo and encrypted terrorist plans?

  32. Anonymous Coward

    The End

    The end of Britain being a free and democratic society, that's what this measure is.

    The State will monitor your contacts, and draw inferences from them and they will be logged. The state will monitor and record data which will reveal your political affiliations, your religious beliefs, your sexual interests, what literature you read, what subjects you research; a constant, watching eye, peering over your shoulder and writing it all down (to be used against you, never for you, of course).

    The expansion of the power that this gives the state over all British citizens is immense. We, the people will not have access to the activities of politicians, civil servants, but they will have a complete record of our online lives, what books/newspapers/magazines we read and what causes we might support.

    Today, police are preventing both lawful protest and social gatherings. This is not the behaviour of a state that respects freedom or democracy. The big chill is upon us. This spying system is the end of free inquiry and association and the birth of the neo-stasi state.

    The threat to our freedom, or values and way of life didn't come from the terrorists, it came from those who would rule us.

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