back to article Increased gov spy powers are NOT the way to stay safe against terrorism

As various unsavoury characters scrabble to grab the limelight after the Charlie Hebdo mass murders in Paris, the British government is using the atrocities to justify yet more intrusive snooping powers to use against ordinary people. The Home Secretary told Parliament that because the French authorities might have used …

  1. John H Woods Silver badge

    Where is ...

    ... the upvote article button?

    1. dogged

      Re: Where is ...

      I think they took it off as a result of Greens vs Lewis Page and Fandroids vs Orlowski.

  2. Busby

    Whether it's this time or on the 50th attempt it seems the snooper charter will not die and is bound to be passed eventually.

    It's disgusting that they always use the latest tragedy to justify more powers for the security service and Cameron, May et al should be called out publicly for it at every opportunity.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      What I want to know is what have the spooks got on May and Cameron that keeps them dancing to their favourite tune?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Best joke of the year so far.

    Oh El Reg, you have made me laugh, I wasn't sure I was following where the joke was going until I read the punch line:

    'Let's hope the Tories see sense before the General Election'.

    Hilarious, more like this please.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    General election? Hmmm..

    I too fear that if the mainstream parties continue getting elected, they will just continue to pass out this tripe and depend on the majority's inertia and general lack of access to reasoned debate to ensure that their stupid ideas become reality.

    I spoke with a US friend recently about Dave's brilliant initiative to remove encryption from UK communications. He had the perfect response "You first".

    A permanently hung parliament, or major victories for spin off parties like UKIP, Greens and Pirates might drive the message home though. It's either that or street demonstrations.

    Trouble is, most of the people who actually understand the implications of moronic security posturing are too lazy to leave the keyboard and vote.

    Stay tuned

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: General election? Hmmm..

      I agree with the friend who said: "You first." It's coming to my side of the Pond sure as Hell (which is what we are tending towards). As for getting away from the keyboard and voting, that isn't the problem. They deliver my ballot each election but the problem is who the fuck to vote for. All the choices are shit. Far too often I find myself picking whom to vote against in the primaries and then doing a protest vote in the fall. Don't even get me started on our Proposition process here in California. What to do?

      Which all reminds me of a sig on Slashdot I used to see all the time: Use these boxes in this order. Ballot, Soap, Bullet. [I may have the order of the first two wrong.] And that's damn sad.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: General election? Hmmm..

        "There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty:

        soap, ballot, jury, and ammo.

        Please use in that order."

        Ed Howdershelt.

        Regretably in the modern world:

        nobody listens to the first,

        the second has succumbed to the lure of lobbyist money,

        the third is beyond the financial reach of the ordinary citizen,

        which leaves the fourth...

        1. Mark 85

          Re: General election? Hmmm..

          Thus the actions by all (or it seems like all) governments with regards to citizen snooping and surveillance. Option 4 scares the hell out of them. In the States, the founding fathers believed this was a valid method to control the government. But over the centuries and decades of government's slide downhill to pandering to the voters and lobbyists (who now seem to have all the power) probably 90% would be horrified at that option.

          There's an interesting dichotomy here... we all want security in our affairs, encryption, privacy, etc. Yet government in that very name of security wants to take it away and expose everyone to the doings of those with evil intent.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    "Let's hope the Tories see sense before the General Election."

    Because we so desperately want to see these asshats back in power...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So then we replace the Blue Asshats with the Red Asshats - problem is, they are still asshats.

    2. omnicent
      Thumb Up

      +Upvote for using the word "Asshats" in a sentence. I can use that in scrabble now :-)

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Trouble is, the last time round

    Labour was pushing registration and monitoring for everything. Now it's the Tories' turn... I'm running out of people to vote for.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trouble is, the last time round

      I believe the green party are still an option as they oppose net monitoring

      National Security Agency (NSA) and Snowden, Whistle Blowing and Surveillance

      The Green Party of England and Wales believes that illegal mass surveillance must be opposed. The Green Party will campaign against such surveillance and will act to protect whistle blowers such as Snowden who oppose illegal intrusion by the state.

      If you pull the 'all parties lie' card at me, you will be unduly ignored as a troll.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Trouble is, the last time round

        Sure, the Greens talk some sense, but I'm still not voting for them because I'm in favour of nuclear power and airport expansion.

        1. cantankerous swineherd

          Re: Trouble is, the last time round

          your choices are

          1. nuclear power, airports and a totalitarian govt

          2. something resembling freedom

          your call.

          1. Steven Raith

            Re: Trouble is, the last time round

            Cantankerous - freedom isn't much good if you don't have grid power to heat your home with or perform your encrypted comms on.

            Vote for the Greens is a vote for rolling blackouts, basically. Their energy plans are a bad joke, because they don't see what's wrong with them.

            Edit: To point it's a shame as there is some good stuff in the Greens mini-manifesto. Just a shame it's all practically impossible to implement. Better insulation for all! Live in a listed building (aka a large chunk of NoE ex-mining towns)? Maybe not.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Trouble is, the last time round

            If you don't like the Greens you could always vote for UKPP* (No, not UKIP, that would be reckless)

            *Silly name, but pirate party still believes in freedom, so it's automatically better than voting for Huey, Dewey or Louie.

          3. robin thakur 1

            Re: Trouble is, the last time round

            (Unless you want to drive a car without ridiculous levels of tax being imposed on you and expect the road network to be properly maintained, look what the green ass-hats have done in Brighton, drivers are furious with them!)

            1. Steven Raith

              Re: Trouble is, the last time round

              Don't be silly Robin, the Greens know that nobody *needs* to drive.

              Why, rather than driving to work in 1 1/4 hrs, I could take the train. Then change to another train half an hour after arriving. Then walk 3/4 a mile for a total time of two and a half hours to three hours, assuming the trains aren't late or blocked by three snowflakes.

              Or I could take the bus, which takes two hours and still drops me off half an hours walk from the office.

              Because I love getting up at 0530 to get to the office at 9am.

              Yeah, I'll stick to the car thanks, just like everyone who doesn't have convenient public transport, which is basically everyone who lives outside of the M25, and who doesn't live in a city/town centre.

              1. N2

                Re: Trouble is, the last time round

                @ Steven Raith:

                Because I love getting up at 0530 to get to the office at 9am.

                Perhaps there is a hidden agenda that they want you to remain at work!

                All night meetings followed by working breakfast, lunch & dinner

                Think of the productivity?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I'm in favour of nuclear power and airport expansion.

          Which Labour and Tory governments delivered for you ?

          Thought not.

          Given past performance (because I don't believe a word they say about the future) mainstream parties energy policies have been no better than the Greens.

      2. Efros

        Re: Trouble is, the last time round

        Unfortunately the last Green candidate that stood in an election I had a vote in, quite some time ago, advocated a return to the barter system. Don't know if that's still the party line but I don't believe it's a vote winner, although not being Tory or Labour certainly is for some.

      3. Thorne

        Re: Trouble is, the last time round

        "I believe the green party are still an option as they oppose net monitoring"

        The Greens are never an option as they are a total bunch of fruitcakes. The half a dozen things you might agree with isn't worth the million of stupid things they want.

        Screw living in a cave on recycled tofu..........

        1. Graham Marsden

          Use your brains, please - Re: Trouble is, the last time round

          What on earth are some people thinking? That if they vote for the Greens, suddenly all the nuclear power stations will be turned off? Builders will be told to stop construction on housing projects and start building yurts? Farmers will be forced to grow tofu?

          FFS, people, they aren't going to be forming a bloody goverment, but at least we'll get some people in power who think that the Government snooping and spying on everything we do and everywhere we go and everything we look at and everyone we talk to.

          Sure, not all their ideas are great, but would you prefer another five years of the Tories or the Red Tories or the even more Right Wing Purple Tories or the Yellow idiots who got shafted by the Tories?

          Or, as I've said before, don't vote for a colour or a face, try going to and seeing who actually has policies which you agree with. You might be surprised...

      4. Jess--

        Re: Trouble is, the last time round

        read the wording carefully...

        "The Green Party of England and Wales believes that illegal mass surveillance must be opposed"

        They say nothing about mass surveillance being opposed once it becomes legal

      5. johnnybee

        Re: Trouble is, the last time round

        Yes, but with the Green's forward-thinking energy policy, strong encryption would mean using a large rock to turn your (stone) tablet into a 512 piece jigsaw and then shaking the box.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It is the method favoured by regimes with dark secrets to hide"

    "It is the method favoured by regimes with dark secrets to hide and a vested interest in hunting down those who would unveil those secrets."

    You're spot on. The real aim is not to protect citizens from crime. It's to protect politicians and their friends from citizens - exactly what happens in any dictatorship.

    They don't want scandals become public, they don't want whistleblowers communicate with media to uncover those dark secrets. Who would try to tell somebody something about criminal, illegal, unethical acts or behaviours by politicians & C. if they can be easily snooped with just an approval from a *politician* and appointed by other politicians - not a judge?

    Politics became so remunerative those inside the system will fight to death to keep their place, against their competitors, and those citizens who are so "silly" to believe that politician should act in the citizens interest, not their own only.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem we have at the moment is that short of an act of God (and I've not seen him taking an active role recently) we'll have a Tory government voted in again in a few months. The only question is how far right they will have to go to get the kipper vote. With another five years behind the wheel I can't see any future that doesn't include a snoopers act. This really is a failure of democracy as we currently implement it - people will grudgingly accept a snoopers act because the opposition are even bigger muppets.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: an act of God

      God created Man in His image, with free will and intelligence.

      So stop expecting God to clean up the mess we made ourselves. It's our business, not His.

      1. h3

        Re: an act of God

        The Acid House manages to portray what that actually entails.

        Seems very unlikely somebody with that much power would be as collectively stupid as humans.

      2. Thorne

        Re: an act of God

        "God created Man in His image, with free will and intelligence."

        Maybe he made the first one with free will and intelligence but like a dodgy photocopier the later copies have faded and blurred.

        (I'd even go as far as to say that those most lacking free will and intelligence can be found amongst his followers)

        1. RhetoricComment

          Re: an act of God

          "God created Man in His image, with free will and intelligence."

          Unfortunately most people use their free will to not apply their intelligence to any given situation

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon

            Re: an act of God

            "Maybe he made the first one with free will and intelligence but like a dodgy photocopier the later copies have faded and blurred."

            I think the story is that the first man was ejected from Eden and so lost all his priveledges (like a 1000 year life-span etc.). Honestly, you couldn't make it up....or could you?

        2. Aggrajag

          Re: an act of God

          "God created Man in His image, with free will and intelligence."

          My eyes are tired, I thought that said free wifi and intelligence!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Err... I wish it was

    Quote: "This is a knee-jerk response"

    I hope it is. Have you ever given the through of what if it is not?

    1. Mark 85

      Re: Err... I wish it was

      Maybe those who come up with such schemes need a knee-jerk response in the groin from those they govern?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe the only way to prevent this

    is for every reg reader to vote on a single party and force the conservatives lower down the ranks.

    Suggestions? Or are you telling me all these techies can't at least try to influence the election in some way? Maybe we should try sublminal messaging on websites we work on. =]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe the only way to prevent this

      You are joking, when you suggest that we techies can or should use devious deceitful means to influence the election, aren't you?

      Leaving aside the unethical nature of your suggestion, I think the politicians have that particular game sown up - we are but children compared to them.

    2. robin thakur 1

      Re: Maybe the only way to prevent this

      Whilst the latest "ban encryption" is a bad joke, I can't imagine anyone who isn't in a union would be willing to hand the reigns of a recovering economy (that is what's important, stupid) to Ed Balls and gap-year-Milly. "Recovering" that is, from the last time they drove it off a cliff. I'd rather vote for UKIP just to see what amusement would follow, but will sensibly vote Tory as usual in the end because we don't want to be responsible for the rise of a 4th Reich.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Maybe the only way to prevent this

        I rarely have anything good to say about Labour, but to say they drove the economy off a cliff is utter rubbish. The greed and recklessness of the investment banks drove the economy off a cliff. This is why so many other countries also have trashed economies, or are you going to blame Labour for that too?

        1. YetAnotherPasswordToRemeber

          Re: Maybe the only way to prevent this


          Labour, particularly Gordon Brown, certainly helped with light touch regulation of the banks believing they've regulate themselves and, various other government policies that allowed the bankers to do the damage they did. Ed Balls was also complicit in a lot of this stuff as well, as an advisor to Gordon Brown, and he'll be the next chancellor!

          So yes, they're as much to blame for what happened as the bankers

          1. SolidSquid

            Re: Maybe the only way to prevent this

            Light touch regulation of banks which hasn't been strengthened in any meaningful way since they left power (and I believe they discussed weakening them further to "boost the economy"). Labour didn't do particularly well at regulating the banks, but neither did their predecessors and neither have their successors, there's too much banking money in politics for them to be willing to go along with that (if nothing else, a significant number of politicians have immediate family working in banking)

  11. Julian Bond

    "had the Charlie Hebdo murderers under surveillance until six months before". Can you name any terrorist outrage in recent years where the powers that be didn't have the perpetrators under surveillance already?

    I'm amused by the Catch 22 here. If they say they weren't tracking them, we wonder why they aren't doing their jobs better. If they say they were tracking them, we wonder why they failed to take action and so weren't doing their jobs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And the LAST last thing a government wants is to look like they could've prevented a disaster of 9/11 caliber (or even worse) from happening. It's the kind of thing that can destablize the government in power, if not the country itself. After all, if government is powerless to stop a determined existential threat, what's the bloody point of civilization in the first place?

      1. ratfox

        After all, if government is powerless to stop a determined existential threat, what's the bloody point of civilization in the first place?

        You are falling into the trap. Terrorism is not an existential threat. There are orders of magnitude more people who die of car accidents, cancer, or killed by their partners than because of terrorism. Terrorism is flashy; but as a threat, it barely registers.

      2. John Sager

        Terrorism *isn't* an existential threat. The Soviet Union might have been during the cold war but not a bunch of fulminating islamists. They are just a pinprick and we (including politicians) ought to man up and deal with them as such. There will be casualties, but that's one of the prices you have to pay sometimes for living in the sort of free society we do live in. And it is pretty much free, despite government trying to nibble away at the edges.

        I've just been reading a book about Operation Sealion (Seelöwe), the putative German invasion of England in WWII. The restrictions on individual liberty then were pretty much on the scale of a military dictatorship, and people put up with it because of the perceived threat.

        The lesson is that restrictions should be consonant with the threat to be acceptable, and IMHO the threat is real, but overblown.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Is, was, always will be an existential threat for one reason: they're willing to take themselves with you and have "God" on their side saying, "The human race is not worthy!" Plus with the continued proliferation of destructive knowledge, sooner or later one man or some completely insular inner circle will gain the means to force multiply not just by thousands but by millions if not billions. Think a home-built nuke or some kind of superflu grown in weasels. You cannot rule them out because they're low-incidence but high-consequence and the kind of think that can rattle civilization itself like the Black Death did.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            There are a couple of guys killing a dozen people with AK-47s, so we should be afraid of home-built nukes or superflu.

          2. SolidSquid

            Are they really high consequence though? As was pointed out, there are far more people killed by cars every year than terrorists. The fact that a small proportion of murderers claim religious motivation doesn't mean they can somehow wipe out an entire civilisation in the way the Black Death did

            Also home-built nukes are exceptionally unlikely due to the difficulty of enriching uranium. Dirty bomb maybe, but radioactive material which would work with this is dangerous enough and controlled enough that this is pretty unlikely too.

            As for creating their own super diseases grown in weasels, that's just... not how biology works. Cross-species illnesses are exceptionally rare, and without some seriously heavy duty equipment (the kind that throws up red flags to police as potentially being for drug manufacture) the chance of self infection without hitting your target is ridiculously high. It's like suggesting NASA is a threat to civilization because they could potentially redirect a meteorite to land on your country. Yes, in theory and given the right circumstances they could, but the odds are so staggeringly long that it's almost certainly not going to happen

            Most of the power these people have doesn't come from the act of killing itself, but the panic that forms around that. Their entire goal is to generate the most fear with the smallest impact, because small impact is the most they're ever likely to get. Bigging them up as some threat to all civilization just helps them with this goal by exaggerating what they're actually capable of and raising them in people's eyes beyond the simple murderers they are.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Birth rate?

              I think everyone in the "capitalist west" is missing the bigger picture.

              Terrorism isn't going to enforce Islam around the planet, the Islamic birth rate will.

              With a birth rate at least double the rest of the world, it's only a matter of time.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "As for creating their own super diseases grown in weasels, that's just... not how biology works. Cross-species illnesses are exceptionally rare, and without some seriously heavy duty equipment (the kind that throws up red flags to police as potentially being for drug manufacture) the chance of self infection without hitting your target is ridiculously high."

              The very reason weasels were used is that they're known to jump to humans...easily. And if you're willing to infect yourself with a superflu and then go globe-hopping, passing through Heathrow, JFK, and so on, I'd say no holds are barred at this point. Let's not forget what happened with the Avian Flu of 1918, and that one actually was worse on the healthy because it killed mostly by immune overreaction.

              As for nuclear fuel, all it would take is enough fuel for ONE bomb, I can think of several possibilities: Iranians, Norks, hidden uranium mine, taken from an unaccounted Russian weapon supply, or find a way to bypass the safeguards and launch one of America's own weapons. Then launched from the middle of nowhere in South Dakota and detonated 20+ miles up, too quick to intercept and creates massive EMP that covers the entire US lower 48.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Well said

    A well-written article, especially this bit:

    "... we don't need to copy the methods of those we spent most of the 20th Century fighting against. You cannot save freedom by destroying it."

    I also liked the subtlety of the URL for this article - "...theresa_may_david_cameron_stupid_surveillance_encryption_ideas"

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: Well said

      "... we don't need to copy the methods of those we spent most of the 20th Century fighting against. You cannot save freedom by destroying it."

      Yes, that is the crux of the matter. I was a small child in the 1960's in East Anglia, surrounded by US Air Force bases, and I really used to lie awake at night worrying about a nuclear attack. I even drew plans for a nuclear shelter we could build in our garden!

      When my parents became aware of my worries, they didn't tell me not to worry because they would stop it happening. They explained why we had to oppose the Communist regimes: these governments were repressive, you couldn't walk down the street without carrying papers to prove who you were, they were spying on their own citizens. All this to a child under 10!

      I have never forgotten that. I went on to read Solzhenitsyn as a teenager and I have been committed to freedom of thought, writing and speech ever since. I wish Cameron had had the same explanation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well said

        >>... I was a small child in the 1960's in East Anglia, surrounded by US Air Force bases...

        I was also a small child once and I spent some time growing up in West Germany as a dependent of a soldier in BAOR in the 70s. I knew how to look for bombs under our car at a very early age. It was standard practice to always do a quick check underneath and around the wheel wells.

        Quickly, from memory and direct experience: Rheindahlen's E mess ended up with bits of it destroyed and several cars adorning the trees. People were shot in drive by attacks - I can remember a SSgt at least, being shot in his car outside a NAAFI.

        Can't remember our Govt getting more uptight back then than they do now. I'm not saying that things were worse then as such but it's not as though the world has changed that much. Mind you at least we don't have the threat of armageddon any more ..... 8)

        FFS - terrorism has been around for ever but it is not a good excuse to fuck up our few abilities to keep other baddies out.

        The internet allows people from across the world to try and hack my home and my bank account. Unless the state can guarantee that they can keep those buggers at bay then fuck off from my encryption.



        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: Well said

          "The internet allows people"

          You could have just put a full stop right after that and you would have your reason for what they are trying to do.

  13. Bloodbeastterror

    The Shock Doctrine

    By Naomi Klein.

    This book, which I mentioned in another security article, proposes exactly this scenario - a massive shock to the public on which those neo-con right-wing vultures like May swoop to intruduce extended powers which the frightened populace not only don't retreat from but actively encourage. Little by little our privacy and freedom are eroded.

    And the more people realise that these people are doing this, the better equipped we'll be to tell them where to put it.

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    What to do?

    I'm in my middle 60s and would be happy to manage another 20 years or so, but not so keen in the regime that (what used to be) my country is becoming. With the whole world seemingly circling the same plug-hole I'm at a loss as to what to do or where to go.

    1. Leeroy

      Re: What to do?

      I'm just over half your age and in the same boat. Its changed for the worst in the last 10 years ( from my perspective) I'm worried myself but terrified for my kids !

  15. Eponymous Cowherd
    Big Brother

    Is May really that thick?

    If she was really concerned about protecting the public from Terrorist attack, she'd be concentrating on how the perpetrators manage to carry out these attacks despite being known to the authorities instead of using them as an excuse to push through universal snooping laws.

    But knowledge is power, and data on what the entire population is saying and thinking is a huge amount of knowledge, and a huge amount of power. Along comes Mr Terrorist, delivering the ideal excuse to grab that power.

    May knows that it will do absolutely bugger all to stop the terrorists. She is hoping that the rest of us don't realise this. We need to ensure that the rest of us do!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is May really that thick?

      At the risk of a flood of downvotes, no, I don't think she's thick.

      Arrogant - Yes

      Ignorant - Yes

      Self-serving - Yes

      Thick - No

      The real problem is she thinks the electorate are thick and she can get away with behaving as she does.

      Of course with a mainstream media for the most part unwilling to challenge her, as well as the Labour party also wanting to reign in us unruly proles, she'll probably get away with her shit as many people will be too poorly informed to realise what's happening until it's too late.

      Perhaps it's time for Private Frazer to utter his immortal phrase one last time?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is May really that thick?

        It's all posturing in the hopes of a leadership challenge. If Dave doesn't do too well in the election, she can play the 'strong leader' card and hope to be Maggie mk 2.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is May really that thick?

        "she thinks the electorate are thick"

        She's right, electorate, in general, in any political system, are thick. At least the mainstream, which votes you in or out, and this is what counts. No subtlety needed.

        1. Eponymous Cowherd

          Re: Is May really that thick? (the electorate are thick)

          Gullible and fearful are more apt descriptions of the mainstream voter, I'd say, which is why May spinning scare stories and fantasy solutions to them works, I guess.

  16. depicus

    Stupidity at it's best

    I'm not sure what is more incredulous - the fact that people in power believe that back door encryption keys are a good idea, in that I blame the political parties and some very stupid civil servants and contractors who think it could ever work especially when most of these companies are outside of the UK.

    Or the fact that "terrorists" are just building their own, ironically open source, encryption software (hence the reason India recently blocked Github) and are, I would guess, probably unlikely to want to hand over the encryption key for the "intelligent" services in the UK.

    I wouldn't trust ANYTHING the supposed spooks told me especially when they have a vested interest in their own budgets.

  17. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Of Babes and Sucklings ...... What else to expect of them in Novel Theatres of Virtual Operations

    Is this the same Ms May & Co.UK who cannot assemble a competent team of inquiry against a Westminster/City centric paedophile network? Such makes one jump to an impossible to deny conclusion that there be collusion to pervert and prevent the course of justice and law and order from defending the nation against the shameful actions of Parliamentarians and friends/acquaintances?

    Is the Wilson Doctrine still in play, which would appear to imagine that a sector of society is immune from and protected against covert and/or clandestine investigation? Or does intelligence dictate that such would be an abomination and recipe for disaster.

    England/UKGBNI expects that there is a whole lotta flaunting going on, and a great deal more too ……..

    And here be an inconvenient view ….. ….. but probably quite truthful.

  18. Robin 12

    False positive and wrong direction.

    To their surprise, detectives found no illegal images had been downloaded to individual computers. The IP addresses belonged not to the computers but to routers – the hub in your home that connects your device to the internet – which had been hacked using a botnet [sic]. So the suspected offenders whose computers had been seized were entirely innocent.

    This is an example of False Positive's. You have evidence that points to a crime being committed but then there is no crime because the evidence doesn't point to the correct person.

    As long as the government keeps gathering data, it will lead to many false positives. An interesting look at the issue.

    False Positive Paradox

    Another issue is the concept that these are extremists or radicals. If you look at the history of the religious background of these groups, they are just following their religious beliefs. It goes back hundreds of years. This is not a new issue with Islam.

    Read up on Wahhabi and Salafi religious beliefs and history.

    The way to fix the problem is education and stop the marginalization of individuals. Frustration with a persons place in society makes it easier to convert and the frustration makes it easier to want to fight back against the injustice they perceive.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: False positive and wrong direction.

      "Frustration with a persons place in society makes it easier to convert and the frustration makes it easier to want to fight back against the injustice they perceive."

      Unfortunately sometimes those frustrations are about what they perceive as the liberal values of our society. Extremists by their very mindset are extreme in their inability to see the value of anyone's point of view except their own.

      Getting people to live and let live can be difficult. It is achieved partly through encouraging people to experience each other's environment - not by segregation. The 1960s saw the removal of many barriers both educational and social. Those trends have been reversed in recent years as many people have started to assume "tribal" identities again but based on different criteria.

      It can be said that the 1960s removed the need for lip service to what was effectively religious dogma as a tool of government social control. The mob instinct of self-interest is still there to be fanned by demagogues and the media.

      People need education - and they need to be taught to understand when they are being manipulated. Education can too often morph into rigid indoctrination - as people forget the principles on which it was founded.

      No - I don't really understand what I'm trying to say either - there are too many intrinsic paradoxes in the whole situation. Give me another 60 years and I might have a better grasp of human nature - and of which outcomes are inevitably repeated.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: False positive and wrong direction.

        Which leave the completely closed-minded, utterly confident their way is the right way over and above anyone else's and impossible (due to their very irrationality) to educate. Some of these will feel marginalized simply due to their irrationality; it would be nearly impossible to avoid segregation if his beliefs are counter to established society, and he could be the type to plot revenge AND disguise that face in the face of perceived persecution.

        IOW, now matter what society does, it's going to have rejects. How does society deal with them while still maintaining the moral high ground?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    just an example of what will happen ...

    ... if increased gov spy powers are voted.

    It happened in France, last month, my aunt (70 years old) received a call from a woman who claimed she crashed into her car. Of course it never happened, and, upon meeting with the woman, my aunt just filled in a report for both insurance companies for a small scratch the woman spent 10 mins to find on her car. My aunt asked how the heck the woman could have obtained her name and phone number. Turned out, the local police (probably through a boyfriened) provided it to her, as she testified on the insurance report !

    So, end of the day, an insurance fraud is committed with the local police as accomplice !

  20. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Too much data

    Indeed, with the Charlie Hebdo murderers having been under surveillance that was later discontinued, it seems that we are seeing the rise of Big Brother states which cannot cope with the volumes of information they greedily seek access to.

    We reached that years ago. The Americans knew about the Sept 11th terrorists. Same in the UK with the Lee Rigby murder.

    This story on the BBC's More Or Less program deals with this exact problem: How to deal with all the information to spooks collect. In it, Stella Rimington (former head of MI5) says that even if they know every terrorist suspect, they can't monitor them all as it would require too much man power.

    Another problem (as highlighted by Robin 12 above) is false positives. If you have too much data you're more likely to finger innocent people as terrorists.

    The spooks don't need MORE data, they need to work smarter with the smaller amounts of data.

    1. Mark 85

      Re: Too much data

      The spooks don't need MORE data, they need to work smarter with the smaller amounts of data.

      And that is the crux of the problem. Many of us have been saying that for a long time....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too much data

      The problem is, as per Peter Hennessey's fine book The Secret State:

      During the Cold War, we spent an awful lot of time and effort against a single well-structured enemy - the Soviet Union. It was relatively easy to collect the opposition's 'secrets' - orders of battle, numbers and locations of warheads, and so on - and much harder to determine their 'mysteries' - what their leaders were actually thinking, their perceptions of Western actions as threats to their security, whether they would actually push the button, and so on.

      These days, the position is reversed. It's all too clear what the jihadist extremists are thinking, but it's much harder for security and intelligence agencies to collect their 'secrets' - groupings, allegiances, access to weapons, targets, and so on. So now, while the various agencies "know about" the various actors, and have some idea of the sort of attacks they might have in mind, it's much harder for them to spot when one is actually pulling a plan together to launch a specific attack against a specific target.

      It's harder still for them to do this, now that the extremists know (or believe) that their mobile phone or Internet use is being monitored. (By the way; thanks for your help with that, Edward Snowden.) So now they are using methods of communication that are much harder for the authorities to monitor - Facebook, WhatsApp, Tor, in-game chat on XBox Live, and so on.

      It's perhaps understandable, though not necessarily correct, for a politician to deduce that the answer is to ensure that we can still monitor their communications, regardless of the collateral damage. The alternative would be for them to look powerless in the face of this threat, and no politician of any stripe would want to do that.

      It's easy to say that "the spooks need to work smarter with less data", but... really, how? When, in practice, they know there are (say) 1000 potential attackers, but they don't know which of them might be about to murder a police officer or soldier, or launch a Mumbai-style attack on Oxford Street? And, short of running agents inside all of the potential groups, which would be incredibly difficult, unfeasibly risky and hugely expensive, how would they ever find out?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too much data

        'how would they ever find out?'

        That's 'exactly the very meaning of 'intelligence'. You have to outsmart your enemy. It needs the right people in the right places, clever enough to understand what's happening. Sure, they will never be able to achieve a 100% success rate, but the right people can do well without crippling democratic principles.

        The 'gather all' approach says 1) we have nor a real clue nor the right people so we pretend to do something and besides hoping we got something by chance, we could always explain *later* we got the data... even if nothing was done 2) protect politicians from dissent, cover scandals, bribes, crimes ensuring all communications, including whistleblowers and media, can be easily monitored...

        Just, this is not intelligence. It's plain stupidity to protect just a small part of the population, which happens to be the same pushing these rules...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Too much data

          Thing, it's hard to beat an enemy whose scruples are different from yours. They can play your scruples against you. Example, say they won't let you in until you kill a soldier and brag about it, essentially committing treason?

          How do you beat an enemy who's proud to fight dirty?

  21. Dan 55 Silver badge

    In the UK, wiretaps are not allowed as evidence in court

    And until they are, any additional powers the government try to push through are more about grabbing power and less about bringing criminals to justice.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: In the UK, wiretaps are not allowed as evidence in court

      The authorities use that as a fig leaf to hide the fact that a lot of their evidence is obtained illegally.

  22. Eponymous Cowherd

    One Bright Light

    The one bright light is the fact that so many of us that actually work with the technology the Government seeks to control are so set against that control.

    Without our support they shall not prevail.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One Bright Light

      It then becomes an issue of ethics in Software Development.

      1. A Twig

        Re: One Bright Light

        ethics - that's just east of London innit?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One Bright Light

      You are assuming of course that they would choose to hire you, given your comment history on El Reg ;)

      GCHQ is likely mostly staffed by graduates who don't have the life experience to know any better.

  23. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    all so "virtual"

    So one of our politicians is asking for increased powers to scrutinise electronic stuff that cannot be checked or verified (audited?) meaningfully until a non-event is confirmed (?) as not taking place OR a real event took place that was monitored partly, incompletely and not effectively making it a non-effective tactic in real terms?

    What are they on?

  24. Ketlan
    Black Helicopters

    Bullshit alert!

    The media is already laying out the government's propaganda for it.

    'Majority of Britons think the state should have more surveillance powers'

  25. Michael P

    It is this simple...

    While government powers are regulated and transparent, the "The Innocent Have Nothing To Fear" idea is defensible and can be accepted by the majority.

    When oversight and accountability is replaced by "Trust Us We Are Doing This For Your Own Good" it can be expected that the majority will either choose to adopt more secure practices or have secure practices thrust upon them as more and more services implement them as minimum best practice.

    But there is also the electorate's role in this - if we keep expecting our security authorities to be prescient and assume that the hindsight of post-incident analysis can become the foresight of predictive data analysis we are creating a narrative where the only way security authorities can meet our wildly unrealistic expectations is to go deeper into vaster volumes of OUR data. We, and our governments, have to accept that there are limits to what can be predicted and invest more into thinking of more intelligent prevention and mitigation measures.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: It is this simple...

      But to accept a limit is to accept that we could be next, which goes against our survival instinct.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a knee-jerk response to a problem

    I beg to differ, more like "a very good day to get out anything we want"

  27. Ray Foulkes

    Add Telephones, fax, and paper mail as well.

    Somebody should propose an amendment to expand the surveillance to include all telephone calls and fax as well as all paper mail (not permitting any exceptions for anybody including police and politicians). Why stop at electronic communications? Surely the goverment and populace would be happy with that? We really have to get this minor terrorist risk eliminated - surely there is nobody in the government who would steal, leak or misuse any of this data? Surely?

  28. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Orwellian principles?

    With the apparent growth of these Orwellian principles into attempted realities it is almost comforting to note the business efficiencies of UK civil servants are totally overwhelmed by the sectors inefficiencies.

    My guess is that much like NHS, income tax, ... , guvmint IT procurement as delivered or otherwise by appointed persons, ... , the system is not going to work effectively and class false positives along with false negatives will be the true narrative hidden by the guff of misinformation via official statements and press releases?

    I don't know what it (civil servant services that is) are like in other nations but in the UK it can be summed up nicely as: we want your money in advance and within the next 24 hours, your due service will take place in maybe a month or two or more (ie pay more/sooner, get less/later business model)

  29. PassiveSmoking

    Even the Daily Mail commentards are worried and appalled at the idea. That's got to tell you something when even the Hang 'Em High crowd aren't particularly thrilled with the idea.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      The Daily Mail has run a lot of stories in the past about councils abusing anti-terrorist laws to snoop on dustbins, so there's probably a high awareness amongst their readership.

  30. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Voting Green ...

    I'm not voting Green because I want a "Green government"

    Nor because I have any natural sympathy for their cause.

    However, a few Green MPs might be able to control the balance of power - particularly in a complex hung parliament (no *two* parties can form a majority). And curb the terrifying excesses of both Tories and Labour.

    Maybe this is the rise of the cynical voter as antidote to the cynical politician ?

  31. PapaD

    Lack of choice

    My biggest concern right now is the erosion of options at the ballot box - Last time I checked (last week), my only options in the 2015 General election were Conservative, Labour or Ukip - none of which I would vote for.

    I don't have an option that would allow me to influence a future vote on further snooping laws, as all of my options are in favour of it.

    Not entirely sure what to do about that atm.

    1. A Twig

      Re: Lack of choice

      NOTA - the None of the Above Party. A single issue party, with the aim of getting a "None of the Above" option added to the ballot paper.

      Interestingly, despite having previously been approved twice before, the party has now just been banned by the Electoral Commission...

  32. Sirius Lee

    Civil servants are supposed to be quiet, civil and servile

    MI6 has decided it is the exception to a policy that the heads of departments hide behind their political spokes person. This can mean that permanent secretaries do not take responsibility for their errors leaving the minister to carry the can (think of the number of Labour Home Secretaries that resigned in the wake on manifest failures by incompetent senior civil servants such as those in the border agency). But it also means the mandarins are not directly promoting policies.

    However the head of MI6 seems to have decided that this is not a policy for it. Not only has the famously secretive organization come in from the cold, it's head seems to think it right that he should speak out about public policy. The surprise is that this behaviour has not been slapped down by the politicians as interference. For me, putting this organization back in it's box is long overdue for fear that if it is not, it's claimed requirements will be promoted without anyone having the opportunity to scrutinize those claims. Or it should open up and let members of the public scrutinize its claims so there can be a real, not a one-sided, debate.

    1. All names Taken

      Re: Civil servants are supposed to be quiet, civil and servile

      It seems reasonable for elected members to define policies and debate those?

      It seems reasonable for appointed persons such as heads of service to debate operational policies and how to uphold policies?

      It seems a sham for appointed employees with senior rank to hide behind ministers?

  33. Andrew 99


    Government encryption backdoors - just another method to attempt to control and suppress the population, by identifying and nullifying those who may upset the 1% .

    Information gathering on a large scale isn't just on the internet. Its the smart meters, car monitoring, health monitoring and the like. They will be able to tell when you're at home and when you flushed the toilet and at what time did your heart race. Imagine all that info in the hands of a private company without humanity.

    On terrorists - extremists work with support from the moderates. Once the moderates withdraw support then the extremists become just another nutter fringe group without any power.

    Has there been any thought put to why moderates support their extremists? Perceived Injustices beyond a few cartoons? Known meddling in domestic affairs?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Save me from myself, please...

    So we're being saved from ourselves by these "security" measures. Two questions...

    How many people in the UK died in terrorist attacks last year? (No, I don't know the answer)

    How many people died in road traffic accidents? (Again, I don't know the answer)

    However, I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that 2 >> 1.

    Do we see the Home Secretary banning cars?

    I think not...

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Either they're lying or they're thick

    Either May + co are far too dense to understand the article, and are simply conned by the security services and the 'shiny new toys because...' argument, or they are more evil than even I'd generally give them credit for.

    The fact they persist with digging this up in the face of concerted opposition and common sense ad nauseum is depressing, but nowhere near as depressing as the fact the opposition is neither wall to wall, nor enough to lose them the election on its own. Not that it would make much of a difference, since the other shower would do exactly the same.

  36. cortland


    One approach used by insurgents -- and terrorists -- is to copy what government does, turning people against their own governments even if those really are defending them. Considering how many exploits and scripts are already running around wild, it seems additional surveillance can create an excess of less (shall we say) benign intrusions. There's no good way the average person can say who's taking his picture, writing down his licence number, reading his email or scanning his HDD when government insists on doing all of those and says he can't make it known or do anything to stop it.

  37. Tyche

    As an American, you have my apologies

    I will admit that, as a citizen of the United States of America, I am not familiar with the UK point of view. However, I do see some similarities. Unfortunately, those similarities seem to have been imposed upon you by the bureaucratic incompitence of one of our Agencies. And for that I apologize. We, too, have had our unfortunate spat of less-than-worthy politicians, all the way from county and municipal governments to the President of the United States. We also have our problem with conservative (spell that 'unintelligent') groups driving their agendas into politics. And we've had our problems with out-of-control funding of politicians by businesses and banks. Again, sorry. It seems to have slopped over onto you.

    I wish I had a good solution to the problem of governments attempting to remove our freedoms from us, but I do not. It may be that it would take another revolution in this country -- this time against our own government -- to make the leadership understand that they do NOT have a guaranteed paycheck. I would hope that it doesn't come to that. But, at 69, I'm too old to really expect that they will come to their senses as long as the paychecks keep coming in. After all, I live in a state that has two less-than-qualifiied Senators. John McCain, who spouts the Republican wing-nut party line on 99% of the topics. And Jeff Flake, who is a flake. Trust me, I've written to both of them from time to time and gotten the polite "We are concerned about this topic and, trust us, we will . . . ." In other words, the political brush-off.

    Unlike you, we effectively have only two parties -- the Democrats and the Republicans. The only thing I can say with any surity about them is that they lack the intelligence to even act as a garbage can liner. This is what happens when business buys the politics of a country. Try to avoid it, if you can.

    Again, I apologize for the fact that America seems to have infected your government with such a nefarious disease.

  38. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    re: an act of God


    Man created God in his image and saw it was good

  39. Claire Sweet

    Tory Voters

    Lets hope the kind of people who vote Tory see some sense before the next general election.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Symbolic Retaliation

    What we are seeing here, is good old-fashioned gov't sponsored VooDoo retaliation. In other words, having no practical or even effective way to deal with suicidal mass-assassins (suicidal fanatics who wish to kill as many targets and innocent bystanders as possible) the ruling elite proposes to do something completely unrelated to either the assassins or their activities...and thus resolve the problem. We, the sheep, aren't supposed to notice that the remedy is expensive, ineffective, and happens to further an agenda that is unrelated to the terrorist actions in question. The mere fact that our gov't professes a cause & effect relationship (ie. a VooDoo connection) between strawman proposal and flesh & blood terrorist organization is supposed to be enough. Baaa.

  41. Charles Smith


    How else would a Prime Minister and Home Secretary get their lucrative consultancy/directorships once forced from power, if they do not introduce the laws demanded by the Illuminati while in power?

  42. subject

    The stupid thing about the Gloucester fiasco is that the police don't need to examine anyone's computers to prove whether or not they've been downloading files from monitored web links. They can do all that simply by passive surveillance, looking at browser fingerprints. After all, the constabularies buy and sell Big Data. Used to be called business intelligence but tomato/tomayto, the media catch them buying, and from information they themselves have put in the public domain they sell the data from their (unregistered, unaudited, and undisclosed to the parliament) "intelligence" databases at vast profit. By inference they can buy the information if they don't already have it. Remember the Snowden-Schneier conversation: "It's not that the NSA woke up one morning and said, 'We want to spy on the Internet.' They woke up one morning and said, 'Corporations are spying on the entire Internet; let's get ourselves a copy'“.

    Conclusion: paying swarms of police to go around arresting people based on IP addresses and confiscating their computers is just inept and costly bastardisation (unless of course it's intended, thus an act of terrorisme (sic), pour encourager les autres...)

    I'm thinking of writing a pro bono app for the UK constabularies to identify automatically whether data subjects' computers have been compromised in the Gloucester fashion; and then automatically to email the subjects as to the fact. Would cost the police nothing in labour or money; and would be a very valuable public service. This of course is a subversive proposal, as it would put the police to strict proof as to whether their objective is to protect the public, rather than ramping up the politics of fear. The only downside is it would require the police/security services to plug in the relevant data (via API, not manually) thus exposing the scope of data processing operations, so it would be still-born. So I probably won't do it... In fairness to use it as evidence it *might* (I'm not updated in this area) also require the special judge's formal permission to collect the subject's browser fingerprint, which would mean actual paperwork, but that's bound to be cheaper than running around arresting people at random.

    However, it also might exacerbate exemplary damages in wrongful arrest, and its siblings false imprisonment and kidnapping, if it subsequently emerges they already had proof of non-involvement. Likewise if they even had the ability to determine non-involvement: interestingly, matching browser fingerprints is not a difficult technique to learn manually, I could teach it to laypeople such as coppers in 5-10 minutes. Any other lawyers or IT developers are welcome to develop these ideas.

  43. DerekCurrie


    "...We don't need to copy the methods of those we spent most of the 20th Century fighting against. You cannot save freedom by destroying it."

    EXACTLY. Don't fall for the foolishness and deceit kids. Otherwise the terrorists WIN! Totalitarian World is exactly what they want. Dimwit politicians and security maniacs are happy to oblige. :-P

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like