back to article Super-snoop bid: UK government hits panic button on EU data retention ruling

Home Secretary Theresa May has claimed "there is no surveillance state" in Britain today as she once again called for a change in law to prevent the internet becoming "an ungoverned, ungovernable space". The Snoopers' Charter champion, speaking to dignitaries at Mansion House in London last night, did not once mention the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    « [...] claimed that Brits were in danger of being "misled". »

    By her, apparently.

    1. Vimes

      Re: « [...] claimed that Brits were in danger of being "misled". »

      Things seem to have worked so well with that undersea cable tapping and so forth when it came to predicting or just limiting the violence in places like Iraq...

      Perhaps somebody ought to remind her that the coroner at the 7/7 inquest basically came to the conclusion that any additional information at the time would have been useless given the way in which the terrorists were communicating?

      What has changed since then I wonder?

  2. nsld

    Here we go again

    We already have mass surveillance and it clearly doesnt work, all that Treasonous May wants to do is add a legal shine to what they have been doing for some time.

    If she doesnt want the British public to be misled then she should resign to prevent that happening.

    As for the Labour party and its plans for IMP, they can fuck off as well.

    1. Vimes

      Re: Here we go again

      As always, if you want the real reasons then try following the money:

      There seems to be a revolving door between government and business when it comes to careers (just ask Patricia Hewitt or Ian Livingston, both of whom have been connected at some point with BT as one example).

  3. Disgruntled of TW

    Are *any* of them qualified to talk about this?

    ... groan. Just groan. They ask for complete trust from the public, having demonstrated repeated inadequacy to manage databases of information that they collect. Until they earn trust, they will get none. In the process of earning that trust, they will perhaps learn all the reasons why collecting the data is an unnecessary and unwarranted privacy violation. Perhaps not.

    If I hear "it will keep us safe" one more time, without anyone providing clear, objective data and arguments underpinning that statement, I will vote UKIP in protest. Well, maybe not that far.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are *any* of them qualified to talk about this?

      " I will vote UKIP in protest. Well, maybe not that far."

      My impression of UKIP candidates is that they are libertarian only when it allows them the freedom to do things they want. Otherwise they appear to wish to prevent anyone else doing anything that might offend their sensitivities.

      1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Are *any* of them qualified to talk about this?

        They aren't a libertarian party by any means, despite their constitution. They've purged the higher profile ones they used to have and the rest just walked away. Party officials still use the label in the hope of attracting fresh votes, though.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The very idea...

    Theresa May: "The very idea that we could or would want to monitor everyone and all their communications, trawling at will through their private lives, is absurd."

    Well, I agree it might seem like an absurd idea, Theresa ... but it does seem to be exactly what you've been doing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The very idea...

      Meanwhile Charlie Farr is saying they have to monitor everyone's communications as they can't tell us apart.

      So Ms. May, is it untruthfulness, negligence or incompetence?

      1. Justice

        Re: The very idea...

        Meanwhile Charlie Farr is saying they have to monitor everyone's communications as they can't tell us apart.

        Sounds a little racist to me.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The very idea...

      It is clear that the "security services" want to have the information retained so they can do exactly that. Perhaps not in real time, but so that they can go back and look at things in hindsight. Once someone has been identified as a "baddie" they want to be able to see exactly what have been doing and who they've been communicating with. You can't capture information in hindsight, so they have to capture and retain all this info and any information that is stored will leak and will be abused.

      Mrs. May, would you be prepared to have CCTV cameras fitted in your bedroom and your bathrooms etc...? To have your most personal and private moments monitored in case anyone became interested in you or your actions at some point in the future?

      This isn't a silly example, because today, many, many people live their private and personal lives online. They treat their Internet connection in the same way they might treat their bedroom or perhaps like a hotel bedroom. They expect it to be private.

      1. Dr Dan Holdsworth
        Black Helicopters

        Re: The very idea...

        Modern encryption renders this argument completely invalid.

        Say we have a widely-dispersed cell of terrorists. They want to talk, but they would prefer not to let GCHQ in on their plans. So, each member publishes a public key, keeping their private keys secret. Whenever each fancies a chat, he creates a document, encrypts it with the public key and publishes it on Usenet in a binaries group. He doesn't send it to anyone specifically, only the entire world including GCHQ, but only the intended recipient will be able to decrypt it.

        Our hypothetical terrorists will be a chatty bunch of criminals, limiting themselves to one document out per day, but burbling on about this and that even if they've got nothing of great import to say. This stops GCHQ spotting an upsurge in comms traffic and inferring anything from it. Nor would GCHQ be able to infer anything from who talks to whom, as they do not see any addressing info at all, merely encrypted gobbledegook that makes sense only to the recipient.

        This sort of trick is probably already happening even as I write these words. It is a simple way of avoiding leaking metadata; leak the comms to the whole damn world including the spooks (who can already snoop it) but rely on strong encryption to limit who actually understands it. As far as is known, strong encryption does not have any holes in it, so absent quantum supercomputers, encryption is secure.

  5. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: British representative

      I remember the 2 megabits per second transatlantic internet pipe going inbetween CERN to SLAC circa 1985, we thought "what are we going to do with a whole 2 megabyte/s!"

  6. nematoad Silver badge


    The Labour Party recently indicated that it was likely to resurrect the twice-shelved reworking of existing surveillance powers...

    I'd never thought I'd say this but "Help us Nick Clegg, you're our only hope."

    So if we vote Tory we get a "Snooper's Charter" and if we vote Labour we get a "Snooper's Charter." Looks like this piece of nonsense is a shoo in, so much for democracy. The Lib Dems are heading for a wipe-out, so not much hope of any salvation from them.

    I despair.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd

      Re: Help!

      And then there's UKIP who want to rescue us from the EU and ECJ "interference" that is the only thing actually protecting us from the "Snooper's charter".

      Despair, indeed!!!

      1. Michael Palmer

        Re: Help!

        Unfortunately I remember watching an edition of Question Time a while ago & Farage said he was quite happy for the security services to carry on doing what they were. At that point I decided not to bother voting for UKIP again.

        1. Lyndon Hills 1

          Re: Help!

          " At that point I decided not to bother voting for UKIP again."

          again !?!

      2. David Pollard

        Re: Help! @Eponymous Cowherd

        >> And then there's UKIP who want to rescue us from the EU and ECJ "interference" that is the only thing actually protecting us from the "Snooper's charter".

        Maybe you could take a look at the EU treaties and check how Europol has been set up and what options it has been granted. From what I remember, 1993 or so, they were given a mandate to do more or less anything they want.

    2. Evan Essence

      Re: Help!

      I'd never thought I'd say this but "Help us Nick Clegg, you're our only hope."

      Backed up by, god help us, David Davis.

    3. dogged

      Re: Help!

      > "Help us Nick Clegg, you're our only hope."

      If you vote Lib Dem, you'll a) get a Snooper's Charter and b) get another attempt at proportional representation, the only purpose of which is to keep the Lib Dems in every government ever forever.

      Time for a revolution.

      1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Help!

        People still vote Lib Dem? How quaint.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Help!

          > People still vote Lib Dem? How quaint.

          Best of a bad bunch. Surely you cannot prefer Labour, the Tories or UKIP?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Help!

      "So if we vote Tory we get a "Snooper's Charter" and if we vote Labour we get a "Snooper's Charter.""

      Our local MP was offended before the last election when told that the Blair/Brown government's snooping was unacceptable - and that the Tories were promising to roll back the excesses. The reply was that "The Tories can't be trusted to keep that promise". That has proved correct - and neither can be trusted with our privacy and liberties. They are in thrall to the media campaigns and the single-issue lobbyists - with the inevitable manipulation of the public's opinions as background noise.

      The Lib-Dems are castigated for not imposing more of their will on the coalition - and rarely credited with what they have blocked. It would be of academic interest to see if a Lib-Dem majority government appointed Home Secretaries as rabid as those since the 1970s. What changed after Roy Jenkins? It was expected that the children of the 1960s and 70s would go on to permeate the Establishment with liberal values. Maybe it's the old adage "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely"?

  7. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Dear all home secretaries

    fuck off.

    Honestly GCHQ must make it a priority to gather as much dirt on the Home secretary as possible. Every one in recent history has been a rampant authoritarian fascist on this subject regardless of their political persuasion.

    Either that or they are Manchurian Candidating every home sec upon apointment.

    1. Vimes

      Re: Dear all home secretaries

      The real problem is the legion of Sir Humphreys working in the background 'advising' ministers with vaguely ominous comments like 'that's a very courageous decision minister' whenever the ministers dare to suggest something that goes against what the civil servants thinks is best.

      Just look at Charles Farr. He was active during the last Labour government and was one of the supporters of the snoopers charter. He's still around too, but working as the head of the OSCT at the Home Office.

      An article you may find interesting:

      Only those who have tarried in the foggy corridors of the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Metropolitan police can have any notion of the Orwellian extravagance of these places. Agencies, units and groups cruise shark-like round the feet of terrified Home Office ministers. Their staffs, expenses, overtime and accommodation are crammed into London's Scotland Yard and Tintagel House. If challenged, they incant their motto: "We keep you safe."

    2. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Re: Dear all home secretaries

      @ Gordon 10

      I still believe that the problem is that somewhere amongst the various traditional bric-a-brac of chains, badges and sceptres of office that official Britain has built up over the last 1000 years is a small, unadorned gold ring, unremarkable except for the funny looking enscription that shows up if you throw it in the fireplace.

      Meanwhile, in Whitehall....

      "Yes, my preciousss....founded you while dredging the Thames barrier, my preciousss...Policy options you gives us, my preciousss"

  8. Graham Cobb

    Police state

    May is hopeless -- and her merging of snoops and police access doesn't help her or anyone else wanting a sensible debate on this subject.

    NCA's Bristow, on the other hand, is much more concerning. He seems to be a sensible man, and the arguments in his speech are well made and effective.

    Those of us who disagree with him need to be equally good in our arguing against his vision of a police state. In my view, the public don't understand what using Communication Data means. Collecting Communication Data is exactly the same as placing a police tail on you: the tail can't hear what you are saying but they track exactly where you go, who else is nearby, who you talk to (and for how long), what posters you stop and read, what shops and other building you go into. If the Snooper's Charter was in effect, the tail can follow you into the buildings and video everything you do there.

    Unlike a real police tail, this is not reserved for criminals or even suspects. The tail is put on EVERYONE. Even children. 24 hours a day. At home, work, out and about. Just in case you turn out later to have been a paedophile.

    Having a permanent tail on everyone seems like the clearest example of a police state that I have seen.

    I, for one, am very willing to sacrifice some protection to avoid living in that police state.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Police state

      "Just in case you turn out later to have been a paedophile."

      People are sold the idea that giving up their privacy is important so that in the rare event of them becoming a victim then the offender can be caught. Blanket coverage with CCTV has proved unreliable in that respect.

      In some cases the alleged victims are persuaded to formalise a complaint based on the attraction of lucrative compensation. There is also the off-the-record coercion of "If you do not say what we want to hear - then you will be punished as a collaborator with the (alleged) offender".

      The institutional mind is prey to seeing conspiracies everywhere. The more data they have - the more they interpret any coincidental linkages as proof to support their fervent desire for a particular result. By six degrees they can always find/concoct something to smear someone, and by association everyone, in that long linkage.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Police state

        ... a logic beautifully demonstrated in Monty Pythons "she's a witch, burn her".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Police state

      > I, for one, am very willing to sacrifice some protection to avoid living in that police state.

      So am I, starting with the protection enjoyed by those in power.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Well you know...

    At least I didn't here them actually say "Think of the Children"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well you know...

      It's people "thinking about children" that we need protecting from as there's so many of them apparently.

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Well you know...

      Well, they did throw out the tired old cliche 'catching paedophiles and terrorists'.

      1. dogged

        Re: Well you know...

        "May further defended the plans by barking the new government slogan ‘Paedo 9/11′ in response to questions and has commissioned a children’s cartoon where ‘Blinky’ the security eye helps people find lost car keys in a bid to make it less terrifying,

        May added: “It’s a well known fact that anybody planning to do something unspeakable, either with a bomb or their own penis, will chat about it at length with lots of other people using their own home computer and phone.

        “Paedo 9/11.”


    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well you know...

      No, it's the threat of fighters returning to Britain from Iraq now. Don't say you haven't noticed this latest "justification" for more surveillance. This, despite any evidence that they pose a threat or that surveillance will make any difference anyway.

  10. roselan


    do I always think about her as "Theresa Umbridge"?

    (and apparently I'm not the only one)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...claimed that Brits were in danger of being "misled""

    If anything sounds like the proverbial misleading crock, its when the GCHQ spokesdrone puts on its best Hazel-Blears-like voice and repeats that "lawful and proportionate" drivel for the Nth time since Tuesday, as if endless repetition will magically render it reasonable and reassuring as well.

    May should wise up to the fact that the public are backing the "wrong" horse here because British government of either hue has a lengthy track record of appaling form when it comes to lying through its collective teeth about their illiberal policies and tactics.

    1. thomas k.

      Wasn't it Goerring who said that if you just keep repeating a lie over and over, people will eventually come to believe it?

      1. Graham Marsden
        Big Brother

        @thomas k.

        Goebbles was alleged to have said "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself", however there seems to be no confirmed attribution of it to him.

        However there is:

        "[...] voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

        Herman Goering

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But he probably took "...without sounding like a disfunctional replicant" for granted. Hazel Blears wasn't born when he said it; had he heard her banging out a few of her favourite looped mantras ("five-a-day, five-a-day" etc) he might have added the odd caveat.

      3. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge

        "Wasn't it Goerring who said that if you just keep repeating a lie over and over, people will eventually come to believe it?"

        It was Joseph Goebbels allegedly*, but you make a very good point (+1) - and the full "quote" is even more enlightening...

        “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

        * [Citation needed]

      4. Gannon (J.) Dick

        Yes, I think was Goering, but perhaps we ought to think differently about that observation.

        Repeating a lie over and over provides a tactical retort to arguments to reason based on Occam's Razor (Lex Parsimoniae) when the lie is simpler than the truth. Lies about Technology are a special case. Sir Isaac Newton could explain gravity to you, but you would be very hard pressed to explain Velcro to him without saying something like "it's magic FFS!". My point is: Occam's Razor fails to distinguish between magic and mendacity after the first iteration.

        One can not base a strategy or Government Policy on "creeping up" on Fairness and Justice.

  12. heyrick Silver badge

    Theresa, we need protecting...


    ...from the likes of you.

  13. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge

    Er right...

    Hi Theresa,

    Perhaps I could interest you in a "special" roll of double-sided sticky tape to keep your home free of dragons, vampires and hobbits terrorists and paedophiles.

    It works on basically the same principle as your proposed legislation, except that it doesn't involve burning down your house to protect it.

  14. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    One massive, misleading, argument

    SigInt people are going to monitor whoever they like as long as the technology exists, regardless of the legality of it. Since what they do is, by definition, secret, and it would be against the national interest to do so, nobody is going to be prosecuting them.

    On the other hand, giving the government the powers to snoop on us wholesale, and without oversight, is an incredibly bad idea. They are our elected representatives, not our rulers, or indeed the police.

    Modern politicians seem to want to have their hands in too many pies - they should not be dictating moral values to the public, assuming roles that should be filled by the police or legal system, or getting directly involved in military matters. The drawing of power to themselves is a worrying trend.

  15. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    governed by strict rules, etc

    A few comments here, and indeed the actual speech that is referred to in the article, make it seem like this snooping is happening despite the law.

    If Snowden's revelations on the NSA have taught us two things it was 1) that we were indeed being snooped upon in vast numbers with means and processes that go way beyond what a judge would issue a warrant for, and 2) that it is all perfectly legal.

    So, the fact that some government official promises to play by the rules is doubly insulting since a) it suggests that said official could not play by the rules and b) is demonstrating how much of an idiot said official is taking us for by making us think that such words actually hold a promise.

    Sorry, government official, but it is your sworn duty to play by the rules since you took office. Playing by the rules is a given that should not even be worthy of mention.

    So, promising to play by the rules just means "we promise to keep on doing what we're doing right now" since that is exactly what they're already doing.

    The issue at hand is that more and more _citizens_ are rising against these rules and for the respect of their private lives. It's a good thing J Edgar Hoover is dead, otherwise said individuals would all be summarily carted off to Guantanamo under the label "Dirty Commie Terrrist".

  16. teebie

    Oh, it's "automated"

    That's ok then. Because computers are magic and will fix all of our problems.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It's vital for us to keep the public safe"

    Is anyone really buying this sh*t anymore?

    Oh, I have no doubt that some part of the spying network is used to catch bad guys. But the sheer extent and range of abuses that have come out and are now well documented, shows how this is a plaything of the elite, whether its to spy on other elites or dissidents... From OWS Protesters, to Political Spying (Germany / Brazil), Diplomatic Spying (Mexico / Brazil), Defence Spying (UN), Corporate spying (Brazil / France).... Just to mention a few...

    Hey I don't blame them... What's the use of power if you don't abuse it! ... I imagine anyone with access must find the temptation irresistible....

  18. David 45

    Lies or just terribly naive?

    Just who, exactly, is she trying to kid? Must think we were all born yesterday!

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Re: Lies or just terribly naive?

      With apologies to Mark Twain:

      "There are lies, damned lies, and Theresa"

    2. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Lies or just terribly naive?

      Unfortunately most people fall for this egregious nonsense.

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