back to article UK.gov plans central database for all your communications

The Brown government is considering a central database of all UK communications data including times and durations of phone calls, emails and internet access for every British citizen. The draft bill is still being considered by ministers and a Home Office spokeswoman told us no decision had yet been reached. The spokeswoman …

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Black Helicopters

It's all in the database

If the TV licensing can't get it right and not send me both a renewed TV licence and a summons to court for not having one in the same post - how on earth can anyone have any confidence in this type of Stalinist infiltration of my privacy?

"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

Sound familiar? It's Article 12 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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Black Helicopters

Numnuts

How dare the government gather my information like this.

I foresee a market for home mail servers too, and VPN's to a foreign server, and anarchy too.

Free society? Ahh the good old days, and we fought a war against this!

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Stop

*All* emails?

Seems a bit pointless to me, when anyone can circumvent the government's email storage plans by using Gmail (or any other offshore webmail provider) via https, or by running their own offshore IMAP/SMTP machine with SSL.

Duh...

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Silver badge
Alert

Yeah right!

1. They lost several important DB exports on CDs, "in the post".

2. Took them years to get a simple thing like the vehicle reg db up and running

3. The NHS IT systems are still in a mess after, what is it now 8-9 years?

4. They will most likely trust EDS to run and ultimately cock it up.

5. Cost shed-loads of public cash, given to orgs like EMC and HDS for the petabytes of storage required to do this

Piss-up and brewery, spring to mind!

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Pirate

RIP?

RIP Act:-

Freedom R.I.P.

Liberty R.I.P.

Privacy R.I.P.

One assumes Gordon Brown's unused first name is Kenneth or something similar - making his initials a highly apt KGB.

Although I will now install PGP or similar - just for the buggeration factor - it appears more and more than "Ownlife" is moving from being discouraged to being prohibited.

And if any tw@t misses the point completely, and chants the NuLab mantra "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear", then I'll swing for the b@st@rd...

Cue for a quick chorus of "Oceania 'tis for thee"?

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Can't Imagine that they can fit all of that data on CDs?

So how are they going to lose all of this information on a roundabout? or by posting it? Government are going to have to resort to some of that new-fangled interweb stuff to really cock this one up.

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Anonymous Coward

Spam

With the amount of spam mail the database will get full pretty quickly.

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Paris Hilton

Laugh or cry?

This just smacks of big brother, but in huge, massive letters. We are aready the most watched people on Earth. I heard a statistic today that said that although we have 1% of the worlds population, the UK has 30% of the worlds CCTV cameras. Has this led to a reduction of crime, killings, even arrest rates? No. Do we feel safer because of this? No. Joe Hoodie just pulls his hat down a bit lower as the knife goes in.

So why will having a massive database of communications make us safer? Did the NSA and Echelon stop any terrorists? Didn't seem to help New York.

Can you imagine the fun that hackers will have with this? Or the more sensational of the Sunday Papers? This will make the Child Benefit fiasco look like a mere comment overheard in the pub.

The only bit that makes this laughable is that the probability of the Government IT being able to deliver this is just not credible. The sheer size of the data store alone is going to be huge. This will make the Passport system, the NHS system pale in to insignificance. Managing this will be a nightmare. So, it will be outsourced. Then the data doesn't even belong to UK Gov Ltd anymore, it belongs to some vendor. With the management being done from the US and the coding done in India.

The Telco's will, of course, suggest that this is a "good idea", and for them it is: it puts the problem of storing all those call records, emails, SMS, MMS messages on to the Government. At a stoke it makes their problem move back to simply one of billing records - and billing, tricky and hard as it is, is a much simpler problem to also keeping the content.

I can see a few vendors wanting to get in on this act: Hello? EDS? Sorry HP? Are you out there? Seems I need to buy in to data storage firms and/or integrated delivery companies. They are the only ones who will benefit from this.

Paris - obviously, because even she wouldn't take on something this big

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Pirate

only the densest of criminals

It is quite obvious that criminals and terrorists will not be caught by this. In normal internet usage anyone who is concerned about their privacy (not only criminals and terrorists that is) will be perfectly able to use anonymizing servers and vpn. Ofcourse only the dense of criminals will miss out on this fact. This also means that unless the authorities intend to store content (and not only addresses) then their database will only be useful for surveillance of the unaware (and not criminal) population. Unless the government is run by people who are completely ignorant of even the most basic aspects of the impact of this kind of technology (seems unlikely that everyone is a complete fool) this would give conspiracy theorist some more fuel. In any case there is not need for a conspiracy when misplaced zeal can do a better job in a chaotic world. As Stalin is reported to have said once - you do not need to actually catch any criminals to run a country - ten millions of ordinary citizens will do just fine...

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Black Helicopters

Duh...

"Unregistered mobile phones and VoIP services like Skype mean that the proposed law will catch only the densest of criminals."

Of course. Because this is yet another surveillance system put in place to spy on the general public under the guise of thwarting 'terrorism' or 'crime'.

Call me a cynic, but CHRIST - is it not obvious?

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Internet Usage Stats?

So what’s the betting they use this information to prosecute illegal downloaders by applying the same principles as the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. I guess it will go something like this:-

They will specify an amount of ‘unidentified income’ in this case bandwidth, then issue of confiscation order based on a value per megabyte. You will of course get the chance to offset this at a hearing as long as you can prove the bandwidth was not used for illegal file transfers.

Or more likely, they will just create a new internet tax.

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Paris Hilton

Stupid Criminals?

***"the proposed law will catch only the densest of criminals"***

Which is problem with all of the "Big Brother" technology this idiotic government is so keen on.

ID cards, CCTV, ANPR, Internet and phone recording, DNA databases, etc, etc.

All well known, all easy to avoid by any criminal or terrorist with an IQ greater than that of a hamster.

Paris, 'cos there isn't a hamster icon.

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Stop

Oh goodie, more info for the goverment to lose in the post...

Do they never learn?

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Anonymous Coward

Surveillance of the innocent

Dear ECJ,

You are to consider whether the Data Retention directive is legal.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/10/data_retention_directive_challenge/

This directive broke new ground, specifically it caused data to be logged for innocent people, creating the basis for monitoring the private transactions of people not suspected of any crime. Extra data was logged, including location data, and the requirement to anonymize or discard data as soon as it had served its purpose was effectively bypassed by this directive.

Now UK wants to move this into a big fat database under it's own control, and the German Interior minister is seeking to make such a database continuous searchable to see who can be arrested.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Sch%C3%A4uble

This is the same minister who defended indefinite detention without trial and argued for extra-judicial killings of suspects. The Nazi's are back and the EU gave them the tool they needed with this directive, and we must keep our comments anonymous, lest they go on fishing expeditions against us.

I politely ask that you restore individual privacy rights and protect us from the Nazis.

Yours faithfully,

Anonymous Coward.

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Dead Vulture

Time to Encrypt?

I'd fully recommend starting to encrypt your emails and stuff you don't want prying eyes to see. Perfectly legal. http://tinyurl.com/45k5wm

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Coat

How are they going to store this data?

As one /. user commented: "Now is the time to buy shares in storage media manufacturers"

Still, the sheer volume of information that would need to be stored precludes some Civil Service numpty losing it "in the post".

I'm on my way...

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Anonymous Coward

Another brilliant idea not thought through.....

I'm sure EMC, IBM, & Hitachi will be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of selling yet more big storage.

But worry ye not, as for every idea like this there are:

several other acts of parliament that will

contradict it

require loads of improbable safeguards.

a failed procurement exercise (Incomplete requirements).

a failed procurement exercise (Costs too much)

a failed procurement because the wrong department had the lead.

a failed delivery (requirements changed)

a failed delivery (politically motivated timescales)

a general election.

a failed delivery ( Data providers not ready )

a failed delivery because the Authority thinks the program should be run like the St.Pancras HSL.

And I can think of so many other reasons why this won't work, just ask yourselves who will own this, and if you think why the Home Office, think again, because there are several competing agencies within the Home Office who'll want it, the DTI or whatever it is this week, OfCOM and several others I can think of.

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Stop

Sleep Walking?

> We have warned before that we are sleepwalking into a surveillance society

Warned? Wake up! We're there!

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Unhappy

Feature Creep...

"It applies only to information around communication - the time and duration of your chat, ***not its actual content***."

"Yet" is the word to add there... it's obvious that there will be:

"a requirement, under certain circumstances, to examine the content detail of certain communications in order to validate those communications as valid and legal, for instance, the difference between phoning an Auntie in Pakistan for a recipe and phoning a cousin in Pakistan at the same telephone number in order to have a terrorist communication. We need to know what you're saying in order to keep you safe. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

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Driving us back to the stone age

What with voice, internet, text, mail logging plus roadpricing/tracking and the other reg article today - mobile tracking in shopping centres it's getting silly.

More and more people will abandon technology just so they can have some privacy - driving the UK into an (technology) economic slump, the knock on effect of which is that fewer and fewer people will be required to run the technology industry, and therefore fewer people will wish to study it, putting us even further behind the rest of the world.

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Pink Doughnut

One wonders what is so compelling about *electronic* communications.

Shurlley even the densest of terrorist cells could simply pop it in the post, send it via courier, pop round on a pushbike, etc.

Of course, even the densest of governmentalist would know that.

Which, knowing a little of how things work in heirarchial bureaocracies, leaves the justification of allegedly £1.200,000,000.00 expenditure on the donut in the west of Cheltenham as a likely motive.

Shurly better to let it out as flats cut price to illegal immigrants, and scoop a few quid back!

Nah.. too sensible for government.

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Gates Horns

It'll never work!

It will only take one person to work out how to send mal-formed junk to the database and we'll all do it. As it will be contracted out to the highest bidder, they will settle on an M$ solution, so it should be quite easy to blow up!

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Roll your own

Phone (mobile+landline) records aside, how do they expect to monitor everyone's emails? I'm no terrorist, but I still roll my own SMTP server. My ISP's get blocked far too often by RBLs. If the ISP is made to inspect my SMTP traffic and record it all the same, them this will require the DPI stuff that the Candian ISPs are getting in trouble for right now.... this really would be an invasion of privacy then! Even if they have a transparent proxy if they insist on delivering my mail for me, I would soon notice this due to the headers on mails I send (and the increased bouncebacks due to RBLs). If this happened I'd simply route all SMTP traffic on my home/office networks to servers I control outside of the UK. It's hardy rocket science.

This is yet another useless proposition that will serve not to catch those that are doing wrong, but to spy on those of us doing nothing untoward... I don't like it.

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Dan
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Flame

More policy laundering

"The government is blaming Europe for the changes."

...

"The directive was issued in response to the terrorist attacks in London in 2005."

So (once again) the UK government pushed for this directive in Europe and then said "oh, we can't do anything about it, Europe's forcing us". Bunch of dishonest cretins.

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Kev
Coat

Can the last person

Leaving this police state turn out the lights...

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Coat

Well, that's ok then

Since I'm not a citizen of the UK I can happily keep plotting ...

Of course, does the UK have citizens at all? I thought you were all mere subjects.

/ Mine's the one with the foreign passport

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Black Helicopters

Blame who?

"The government is blaming Europe for the changes. The European Data Retention Directive seeks to ensure that investigators have access to this information, as they do under existing UK law, but does not call for centralised, government-run databases."

In this case, as in many others, blaming the EU is seriously disingenuous. Which UK Home Secretary was it who pushed this proposal through the Council of Ministers? Charles Clarke? "Nothing to do with us, guv", slips too easily off their tongue.

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Black Helicopters

We're all crims

It's about crime *and* terrorism, but the sheeple are led to concentrate on the terrorism thing. To me it's about crime. Drug barons sure, but they already have the powers and infrastructure in place to go after "big" criminals. This must be something with a much wider net, aimed at the general population. Tax maybe? Slightly overstuffed bins, disability badges the wrong way round or other high crimes?

They say it won’t hold the comms content – but that’s like saying a big company’s online telephone book doesn’t hold content. Of course, having the name, location etc make wonderful keys for an index….

So, they decide I might be an environmental criminal, like leaving the metal lid on a glass jar in the glass recycling bin . They crack open my comms as they think they’re onto Mr Big.

They will discover from my email I must be a massive consumer of "hot chick pr0n, v1agra and fake Rolex" – fair cop there.

What I'm worried about is they'll genuinely believe I'm the sole heir to a fortune (ONE MILLION NINE HUNDRED and THIRTY TWO DOLLARS!!); and assign spies to follow me around, waiting for me to meet with that kind gentleman from Nigeria with slightly dodgy English to finalise the transaction, and grab the inheritance tax I’m obviously avoiding.

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Thumb Up

Now is the time

to start sending large amounts of random data disguised as encrypted emails.

Just tune your radio onto static and feed that into your sound card input. lots of lovely random data. This is also good for creating 'one time pads' for truly encrypting data. Remember to transfer these by hand though.

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Alert

Of course...

As someone who was a child of the armed forces (the MOD lost my details) and now a child benefit claimer (good old HMRC) I have had all my details put in the public domain already so I find it hard to get upset about the idea of them creating a database of who I call and email. The fact that this whole thing is totally unfit for purpose shows how little technological savvy there is in government and how a child of 13 (yes, I have one they could ask) could easily point out the flaws in this and many other plans. Add to this the fact that some grossly incompetent group of technology antichrists such as EDS will no doubt get this rather large pork barrel and you have a recipe for a govenment sponsored version of Phorm.

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Stop

Dont worry

This type of monumental project will never succeed. Just for a second think about the size of the task here; let alone the size of the data.

The data:

Take the number of mobile phones, multiply by the mean number of calls made per users = mobile phone records. Same for landlines. Then add text message stats to the phones.

For emails, take the number of broadband users and multiply by the mean number of outgoing messages per user. I guess incoming will have to be excluded just because of all the spam - however, for evidence it'll be needed.

I can't estimate the numbers here, I would think they are colossal if you're going to keep the records for, say, 10 years.

The task:

UK ISP's could be forced to comply. Email servers held in the states (e.g. hotmail) and other countries may not provide the necessary information - with SSL the task of eavesdropping web based mail may be too onerous.

People will object, in the UK through the courts and then at European level.

Then there is the coordination effort, project management and governance.

Perhaps by 2025 something will be in place, by then the IT landscape will hopefully have changed somewhat and many of us will be on our way to retiring.

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WTF.

Before this government gets it's hands on any more of our data it should have to prove that it (and any successor) can be trusted with it.

To date their record is abysmal.

Not only do they not seem to have any clue about how to implement large-scale IT projects but they also have an appauling record of carelessness with the personal data of private citizens, an addiction to surveillance, an aversion to telling the truth, a tendency for knee-jerk politics driven by the media and a bad habit of drafting laws with fuzzy boundaries that they can consequently subvert for purposes other than those that were given as the reason for creating such laws in the first place (the abuse of anti-terror laws being an egregious case in point).

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Guess who gets to pay for this

So we are heading towards a recession, the treasury says it doesn't have have any more money, we are already breaking our governmental borrowing rules, so who gets to pay for this pink elephant?

One guess, you and me.

I'm totally fed up with these ill thought out, grandiose, schemes, that we have to pay for.

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Stop

No no.... Tuttle..

not Buttle.

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b

Seriously?

I actually don't believe you.

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Black Helicopters

Somebody set up us the bomb

All your data belong to US.

righto, that's trucrypt installed with a hidden partition, my offshore servers are up and running and my tinfoil hat is set to 'exclude all'.

Sod brown and his neo-fascist state.

time to include those CIA trapping keywords as a plain text footer in my already encrypted emails again.

taliban, bush, assasinate, bin-laden. god is great.

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Pirate

Idiots

For fucks sake, how will you tie URL's to a person - Mr A goes to cybercafe A and goes to A.com then he goes to cybercafe B and goes to B.com - how the fuck do you tie them together. I have said it once and I will keep on saying it, keep parasitical politicians away from computer technology, they dont understand it and never will. Wankers!

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Coat

RE: Only the densest of Criminals

" ... seems unlikely that everyone [in government] is a complete fool..."

I think that observational evidence does not support this statement.

Mines the one with the cryptographic label.

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Unhappy

not just "Emails" - "Communications"

So presumably all those nice friendly XXXvideO questions posed to Gob-on Brownshirt will need to be incLUDEd, along with all those megabytes of stupID puppy pictures, paperfolding exercises, "trunkmonkey" vids, Perelli calendars and powerpoint soundbytes too. I think perhaps now is a good time to switch to manufacturing online data storage servers. Looks like there's gonna be a massive increase in demand.

OM(f)G... I am the regular recipient of seXist, lewd and (distinctly anti-)religious jokes - I'm gonna get 20 years to life.

@ Tim Spence: "1984... 24 years behind schedule. And probably over-budget" - PMSL - if it wasn't so very true.

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YAY

As a DBA this is good news for me :))

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Mirrors Edge...

For some reason, this game just keeps sounding more and more real...

http://www.on-mirrors-edge.com/

So, how do I becmoe a runner? :)

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Paris Hilton

Disinformation

I think that this political manouvering is a disingenious activity. They could have focused on important things like:

NHS for example:

a) Our leaders like IT? - well the NHS is still waiting for a useful system....

b) Superbug? - The hospital where I live has proudly elaborated upon that they now only have approx 400 patients suffering (down from over 600 in previous years). Oh dear me, I remember when recently visiting a town in Holland that the local hospital encountered their one (!) patient with a superbug for years - what a scandal that became! This was nothing they were proud of!

... yes I know - focusing governmental resources on something beneficiary to the 'subject' - in my dreams. Paris - well it is rather obvious...

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easy peasy

If Mr A visits his email while visiting site a.com, and Mr B also visits his email while visiting b.com then any data collation routine worth it's salt would tie them together pretty easily.

And it doesnt need to be email either ... anything that has you log in would give you away.

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Dead Vulture

What the bet gov is exempt

How can the same people who feel it is appropriate to hide expenses think its ok to collect all our data. No wonder uk gov wouldn't speak out against Phorm they want to do the same thing.

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Coat

Simple - set up a political party!

Vacuuming up all communications, cameras on every corner, profit motivated private companies with Police powers, peon local bureaucrats with gold plated pensions and the power to surveil and fine at will. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear though!

Ooh – unless you’re one of our beloved masters (I mean elected leaders) who go absolutely ballistic if there is even the faintest whiff of their communications being intercepted or used against them. “Shall we do some more shredding of Mr Blair’s expenses dear??”

So, set up a political party then get that special dispensation those weasels will obviously have put in place for themselves.

Mark my words – when things finally snap in Europe, it’s not going to be pretty. The Italians are already burning gypsies/Roma out of their ghettos. I don’t think it’ll be long before people in the UK start lynching council/govt spies. Noticed how lampposts are all curvy these days? More difficult to hoist someone up that way…forward thinking on the Councils’ part.

Mines is the one that’s bullet/tazerproof, doubles as a sleeping bag, and has a survival kit sewn into the lining…

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Missing the point?

The government are playing to the Daily Mail crowd, and they don't care how much the idea (such as it is) costs or how impractical it is (completely) they only care about getting votes and looking tough on crime and terrorism.

Your average voter doesn't really grasp any of issues which is why ministers can talk such arrant nonsense about 100% secure databases and get away with it.

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with our lack of cash

if it did happen it would proably end up on a SQL 7 box that's been sat on a shelf for 5 years waiting to be thrown out! "we havent got the cash just wang it on there and hook it up to a telephone, no one will ever know"

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Sounds like the Major government all over again

When the Conservatives realised they were going to lose the next election they started ramming through ever more objectional legislation in the knowledge that the next government would never get round to repealing it. Labour realise the game is up for them this time round, so they'll get this on the books and wait to return to power to continue the Blunkettisation of Britain.

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Anonymous Coward

number

number one, hoard all data.

number two, make using encryption a crime. As only criminals have something to hide.

number three, make polluting a connection a crime (no running bots to make so much chaff) also ignorance is no excuse so you best not get a spy bot. Remember in this modern era the law doesn't need to prove you guilty, you must prove yourself innocent.

number four, use data to remove unwanted elements of society (sexual deviants, social deviants, commercial deviants.)

number five, ????

number six, PROFIT

As an aside, just becouse they'll find it hard to make such a system work doesn't mean I want them to have the legal framework to do it at a later date.

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