back to article It's official: The Home Office is listening

The last week has seen the appearance of two carefully-modulated Yes Minister-style statements, defending the government’s approach to data and surveillance and explaining why we have nothing to worry about. The first comes in the form of a podcast by allegedly fictitious government blogging supremo and Technology Outreach Tsar …

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Anonymous Coward

you know

it makes you really wish that all those films with hackers sitting in basements hacking into nuclear arsenals, crashing government databases and raising chaos all in the name of anarchy had any truth to them.

The hacker of course should be in a dark basement, listening to either death metal or european techno whilst wearing shades, the glare of the monitors reflecting.

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Coat

Leave the Country

If I wasn't sitting on my arse reading the register whilst earning a shed-load of cash I'd leave this god-forsaken country.

I'm just wondering how much longer these politicians can keep going before disappearing up their own backsides and just how much damage they will do in the mean-time.

Time to start saving for that Caribbean island methinks.

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Stop

What is the point of commenting?

The entire government should be sectioned as soon as possible. They've even gone as far as to morph their maniacical laugh into soothing tones of reassurance.

Fuckwits the lot of them.

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Coat

All Your Database Are Belong To Us

Sorry thats all I've got

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Black Helicopters

Who stole Page 2?

Obviously there was some secret information on Page 2 that the Government don't want us to have.

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Silver badge

What spin?

>“government is committed to ensuring that information is gathered to meet a necessary and specific purpose and that it is shared only where required and justified”. Quite

And sold to everyone else. Quite indeed.

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Black Helicopters

Oh, good...

"Individual rights when it comes to DNA? Victims might not understand. Public concern about how personal communications are intercepted? The Home Office plans not to do less of it, but to “raise awareness” of the benefits such practices can bring."

So we can look forward to plenty more FUD about murdering paedophiles and the dangers of tourism [sic - in a GWB voice].

The more things change...

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Boffin

Not worrying at all...

Of course there will not be "one vast database". There will be many "vast databases" because every government ministry, every government quango and every county council will have their own version of the data, specifically designed for their use.

Then there will be the vast secret databases maintained by MI5/6 which contain all the kind of stuff that becomes public via various methods both legal and illegal but which not even the current bunch of unethical people in government could justify adding to the "public" databases.

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Anonymous Coward

I am prepared to repeat this until it becomes true...

There is most definately no elephant in the room.

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Paris Hilton

Jigsaw concept

Can you clarify that if I managed to find two pieces of independent information that proved that Paris Hilton was actually intelligent, but kept it a "secret", I would be in breach of the law?

Do two classified pieces of information combined make it un-illegal?

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Anonymous Coward

Mr Kafka, meet Mr Orwell. I think you both know Mr Dodgson.

'This makes it a criminal offence for an individual to take two or more unrelated (and unclassified) pieces of information and put them together to create a conclusion that is “secret”.'

OK, let me check that I am understanding this quite clearly. I learn two unclassified pieces of information - which, presumably, are freely available and may even be published. On learning the second piece of information, I quickly see that, between them, these two facts imply a third.

By seeing that implication, it seems, I am committing a serious criminal offence. I always knew intelligence was considered suspect by the English (sic) establishment, but I didn't know it had actually been outlawed. Or is it just logic that is illegal?

It's also interesting to reflect that seeing the logical conclusion of two public facts is illegal, if and only if that conclusion is "secret". How are we supposed to know that it is secret? If we knew that it was secret, we would presumably also know what it was - which is illegal. But if we don't know that it is secret, and we stumble upon it innocently - that is illegal too.

As far as I can see, if we are not to fall foul of this astonishing law, it is prudent to combine several courses of action.

1. As far as possible, avoid thinking.

2. If you must think, for Heaven's sake think illogically. That should be fairly safe.

3. Do everything in your power to avoid learning anything that is in any way related to the UK government. Otherwise you may unwittingly learn two public facts which, taken together, magically transform you into a criminal (and possibly a terrorist, or even an enemy combatant - and we all know what happens to them).

Mind you, in adopting these three habits you will be following in the footsteps of the PM and the Cabinet. In days of yore, upstaging a ruler in any way (such as wearing purple, or hunting more successfully) could easily get you killed. Today, showing more intelligence or knowledge than our rulers may fall into the same category of offence.

But I can't help reflecting that a nation of people who don't think and are scared to learn any facts might be exactly what our rulers would like, right now.

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Silver badge

Inference..

This is illegal wrt official secrets? Well one learns something everyday. What one has to remember is that we are very much victims of a do as we say not do as we do style of governance here in the UK. Double standards have always existed from way before the days of doffing our cap as a sign of respect to our "superiors". The defenders of our morality have been doing whatever they desire behind closed doors from time immemorial. These days the actions are more blatant, with the catch phrase "it's for you own good" as a defence. Double standards will continue whilst one class of society puts itself above others and those others sheepishly allow it.

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Silver badge

Over to you, Rupert. Can you make a Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear?*

They are just "getting on with the job", don't you know ....... although with them presently on their hols, it appears that their jobs are sinecure quangos, and of no vital importance at all.

So ....... is Media Governing on its Own with IT Support ......... which is actually a much better Virtual Governance.

Tune that Facility with AI Beta ProgramMIng Schedule and we could turn the Palace of Westminster into a Ghetto of Apartments/Historic Relic and dispense with the outrageous expense of carrying the wasters who are presently squatting there, dragging the City and the nation down into their gutters.

* Of course you can't. Thanks for the Sow's ears, but is that all that you have to Offer?

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Flame

The labour government is...

deafer than a deaf person without a head when it comes to listening

<quote attrib=ElReg>In between, there are large disingenuous stretches that can only be designed to mislead, as otherwise they would suggest such a poor grasp of technology that none of us could have any continuing confidence in the Government’s abilities to manage our data.</quote>

Really? I wonder whether this paragraph was really worth including El Reg. Everyone knows that my gold fish is more skilled in I.T. than any person in the Labour government, and Goldie’s dead.

<quote>As the Home Office quite rightly says, it will have no time for “fishing trips” or attempts to use information in new ways to deal with a new issue. Oh no. Data would only be used in this way where an “objective” need is identified.</quote>

Except they have already said they intend to do fishing trips (unless of course undiscovered links aren't fishing) -

<quote attrib=gvmnt>and creates new information only in the sense that undiscovered links will be revealed</quote>

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Flame

Only the guilty...

...need fear. The law abiding citizen (like me) is quite safe.

If the system stops one crime (say, one rape or one murder) then it is totally justified. Those bleating on about the "liberties" or whatever clearly have something they are trying to hide.

Your time is drawing short.

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Thumb Up

UK run by civil servants

If you vote for one of the major parties its a waste of time.

Any minister arriving in Whitehall is like a lamb on an all expenses paid day trip to the abatoir. These guys have 300 years experience in flattery, coercion and deceit, the only weapon available to an elected polititian is budget cuts which is a akin to penis reduction for most of our elected representatives.

If you doubt this ask yourself, does Gordon Brown actually really want 90 days detention or ID cards? If so why? He doesnt seem to be able to explain it himself, but, he put his political carrer on the line over the issue.

So if you care about the political future vote for the Monster Raving Looney party. Its probably the only vote that would make a difference.

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Joke

For a government committed to listening, this is a pretty poor show.

Ah but they are listening... into your conversations! What more do you want?

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Thumb Down

"everyone gets exactly what they are entitled to"

... So be grateful you miserable peasants or we might take it away...

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Looking for backers

I'm thinking about starting up a company that makes it easy to change your name etc, then say every six months you can change you name, sexual orientation, tatoos, piercings, place of residence, energy suppliers. See how the goverements BD's manage to keep up to date then. As i'm sure any techie worth his weight in CPU's will tell you, keeping the information up to date is a very hard job.

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Silver badge

Google brother

If there was any money to be had in a surveillance society, why isn't it on youtube? Let an army of curtain twitchers hunt for the interesting clips in thousands of hours of camera footage, and give them a percentage of the ad-revenue for identifying the humorous bits.

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Stop

substantive criticism ... will all just fade away

Not while http://no2id.net exists it wont - don't sit there moaning - join your local group and get the government stopped.

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Joke

Re: Only the guilty

@AC:

<golf clap>

Well played, sir.

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They seem to be trying the old adage...

If you can't blind them with science (coz they actually know more than you!)

Baffle them with bullshit!

Lots of Bullshit.

About the only thing this Govt. is any good at now.

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Go

Why keep all these databases?

Biyi Bandele said that a lie is simply a truth that has not yet come to pass and quantum theory seems to support that view.

So instead of spending shed-loads of money collecting random bits of information so lawyers, statisticians and various 'expert' witnesses can prove whatever the Govt want proved at any given time why don't they just have a single form O(fficial)F(act)1 that they could write down whatever they needed to present as reality at any given time - it would certainly have saved Ian Blairs red-face over that Brazilian fella.

No who was it that said that the defining characteristic of a psychotic is an ability to change reality so that it matched their perception?

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Anonymous Coward

In time, it will all just fade away, about 2 years

I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.

And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror."

I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Tony Blair. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.

.... I'd quote the rest of this V for vendetta memorable quote, but the rest talks about blowing up parliament and it would technically be a crime for me to quote it. Something very very sad about that. Something very very sad about AC claiming they have nothing to fear and others saying that somehow locking up millions of people can be justified if it prevents one crime. Something very sad when innocent people hide as AC, and HM.gov is so incoherent it loses all balance. Still Davis won and the fookers will get voted out soon enough. About 2 years if they don't fix their leaders.

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Pirate

Everyday...

... I become more and more convinced that the people that run the government are the same partners and consultants that run Accidenture and the other related "Management" factories that we have.

Shovelling and spinning bollocks to cover over the lies is endemic.

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Paris Hilton

@Only the guilty...

If so then perhaps, Mr Coward, you'd like to reveal your username?

Paris, as she's nothing to be ashamed of

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Anonymous Coward

...bland reassurance...

It's worked on a number of occasions before. Governments tend to have more stamina than outrage. Look at the extension of detention without charge: what changed? Nothing substantive. But this time it squeaked through having been soundly defeated the first time.

They just sneak things through again and again til they catch whoever's opposing it off guard.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Only the guilty...

I'm sure you are trolling for flames, so here goes.

Yes, I have many things to hide, and none of them should be of any concern to the Government. I don't want them to know everything about me and then say "Oh well, you've not commited a crime yet, but we know where you are now if we need to blame someone in future."

You Sir, are a donkey.

Hee Haw.

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Black Helicopters

@ Tow Walsh

2. If you must think, for Heaven's sake think illogically. That should be fairly safe.

With the present Gov, thinking logically would be the safest bet surely......leave the illogical, screwed up ideas to them, especially Mr Brown!

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Paris Hilton

Jigsaws are fun..

For those of us who grew up in the '70's, the jigsaw puzzle contention grew out of the infamous ABC trial. There's a good write-up of it here:

http://socialistregister.com/socialistregister.com/files/SR_1979_Campbell.pdf

If you search out jigsaw within that article, you will find the following explanation.

"It was sufficient to possess information, of itself neither illegal, improperly obtained, official or even secret, if it constituted a 'collection' or 'jigsaw' from which an incomplete picture of 'secret' activities could be assembled. Since agents of a hostile power can safely do this exercise at their leisure, the offence here resides in the political idea which motivates such research."

As I understand it, the prosecution got soundly spanked in this trial - but the concept, once introduced, has remained within the grasp of government lawyers.

Paris - cause I mentioned spanking!

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Unhappy

Moron alert

'Only the guilty need fear. The law abiding citizen (like me) is quite safe. If the system stops one crime (say, one rape or one murder) then it is totally justified. Those bleating on about the "liberties" or whatever clearly have something they are trying to hide. Your time is drawing short.'

I wondered how long it would take for the morons to come out of the closet. I hope for your sake that's intended to be sarcasm.

If, on the other hand, you're actually being serious - and incredible as it is, there are people who really do think like this - then I would take the opportunity to point you to countless examples of regimes that, entirely legally, instituted repressive and downright brutal 'security' measures and then proceeded to persecute and kill lots of their own citizens. Your touching faith in The System is reflective of that of someone who's never experienced, or conceived of, The System being turned against you.

Those who 'bleat' about liberty do so because they recognise that you can't trust those in power to not abuse that power, no matter who they are, no matter how 'democratic' the country, and no matter what party or ideological background they come from. Power corrupts, and the only solution is to keep a weather eye on those who have it. Checks and balances. That's what is supposed to differentiate us from the likes of Zimbabwe. The current bunch of crooks are trying to take off the shackles of accountability and give themselves a free hand, and they've largely succeeded, helped in no small part by people like you who go out and vote for them repeatedly, then stick your head in the sand and repeat the mantra 'won't somebody please think of the children!'.

I look forward to meeting you in the Gulag in due course. After all, if it stops one crime then it's totally justified, right?

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Alert

Sooooo....what counts as an "official secret"...

and how do you "get" one?

i.e. - If I get a letter through the door from some dark government place accusing me of doing something, and I can prove the only way they could know that is to have taken "two or more unrelated (and unclassified) pieces of information and put them together" could I not just claim that it was a "secret"? Preferably with the help of the *fact* that no new "operational databases" had been created.

Surely, if IIRC, one of the definitive reasons for a database to exist in the first place is to link all relative information and so an "undiscovered link" could only have been revealed if there was a second, unlinked, database involved.

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@only the guilty...

have something to hide? Then why post as anonymous? You're undermining your own (fallacious) argument...

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if something is secret then how do we know that!!

lol. Tom Welsh has it exactly right.

My question is this:

if we combine 2 'common knowlege' (unclassified) pieces of information or concepts together, and the result is already a 'classified secret', how in the name of sane reason are we supposed to know that this 'secret' even exists, and that we have therefore broken the law??

is it just me, or is that just plain ridiculous and completely unreasonable?

so this means that any good inventor who invents anything that the government don't like or want, (like a simple free-energy generator for example), who decides to publish this information, will be arrested by the govt (and no doubt tortured to teach him/her a lesson), who will claim that what he/she has published is 'classified information'.

even if that was a lie on the part of government, due to that 'being a secret', how would anyone know or prove the government lied in the first place?

simple answer: they can't.

what implications does this have to us, the general public?.. work that one out for yourself.

to our governments we are just lowly salves/resources who they get their money from, and who need to be occasionally appeased or diciplined as gvt feel fit. and we have NO RIGHTS if that is what they decide, regardless of what they say to the contrary (if they even bother doing this any more).

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@Tom

I think the 'jigsaw effect' asserts only that it is not legal for facts/conclusions derived from public knowledge to be classified as secret, not that Joe Bloggs should be criminalised for drawing such a conclusion and then not immediately telling everyone else.

Or was your comment more subtly sarcastic than it is normally feasible to convey in print?

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Anonymous Coward

@ Rob Farnell & Tom Welsh

You appear to have trouble with reading comprehension.

The criminal act is taking 2 (or several) pieces of public information and deriving a new piece of information which is then "classified" as secret.

Unless you have the power to "classify" information as secret, then you are in no danger of prosecution. You don't just stamp the folder with "Top Secret " you know.

Only the authorities have the power to classify information. The jigsaw act was made criminal precisely to avoid authorities from taking public information and locking up obvious derivations. It is an offence (for uncleared persons) to read secret government documents. Making something obvious secret, would put the general population in danger of prosecution, that's why they (the authorities) aren't allowed to do it (under pain of criminal prosecution).

Can you classify documents under the Official Secrets Act ?

I thought not.

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@amanfromMars

> we could turn the Palace of Westminster into a Ghetto of Apartments/Historic Relic and dispense with the outrageous expense of carrying the wasters who are presently squatting there, dragging the City and the nation down into their gutters.

Oh your poor bleeding Martian heart! Oranges and lemons (big juicy ones aka CDOs) say the belles of St Clements. When you will pay me, say the belles of the BoE, and it's not a question. Then I grow rich, say the belles of Shoreditch. As it should be, say the belles of Stepney. Not long to go, says the great beldam of Woe. Here comes a candle to light y'all to bed - as you cannot afford the electricity any more. And here comes a black chopper with no ID markings to chop off your head! So it was prognosticated, and it has been, and it will be. For ever and ever. Amun (sic).

There is space dust on your windows and it's not magic. Of course it would be fun to watch the Media Governing on ITs own. The race to the bottom would short-circuit the summer's Big Games circuit circus of circuits. (And cause more crying than from a recursively peeled glass onion, or from a deep oh well). Sometimes there is more to be seen thru the wrong end of the telescope. Who is to say it has not already started - the obscene grooming by the sleepy fawns of the next Goat King for the future seduction of the innocents of the nation by way of the panopticon prepared.

For the next ritual slaughter. (Which is ritual in that it repeats, not in not having an actual victim, as you will know from your obs of this obdurate sphere. Or plane.)

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Anonymous Coward

@ Alan

1. Thanks for (I think) clarifying what John Ozimek did not quite manage to put in plain English in his article. You are asserting that the jigsaw act can only be carried out by the authorities, and it is they who are forbidden to classify certain information. That does make more sense.

2. I am less happy about the aspersions you cast on my reading ability. John's exact words were 'This makes it a criminal offence for an individual to take two or more unrelated (and unclassified) pieces of information and put them together to create a conclusion that is “secret”.' He spoke of "an individual", which to my mind suggests a private individual rather than the authorities. He also wrote "to create a conclusion that is 'secret'" - not, for instance "to declare the conclusion classified". John's words are comprehensible to anyone who already knew what the jigsaw act is (as you, Alan, seem to). I believe that they are quite misleading to anyone who did not know that (like myself).

I must admit to having leaped to an unjustified conclusion. It is a great shame, though. Such a marvellous piece of official imbecility seemed sure to be genuine. Is nothing sacred?

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Anonymous Coward

the flip side

so Joe likes his hardcore pronz, and my drawn pronz. But the politicos and moral extremists are making his fapping a crime.

So, he may aswell just go the whole hog and rape and murder some people then top himself, becouse in for a penny in for a pound right?

Better to be dead then on the sex offenders register.

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@Alan

So if your reading is right (and you're not guilty of what you charge others with), only a minister/senior civil servant can break that law.

Do you think that could *possibly* be right?

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Flame

@Only the guilty - @ac

Something to hide? Nope. Usernames are worthless here as they can be changed on a whim and are thus no guarantee of my (or anyone else's) identify.

When I walk down a street, I am anonymous to you and to everyone else. I remain anonymous to you unless I choose to identify myself to you (and you are left with the problem of testing the veracity of that identification).

If it came to it, I could easily be identified on here by those who have the authority to do so (IP numbers etc), and I have no problem with that. The DNA database is a simple extension of a similar process. The biometric hysteria is equally amusing. As I don't break the law, why should I be concerned if a police camera operator knows who I am? I shouldn't be, I am a law-abiding citizen.

In order to prevent crime and terrorism, it is necessary to identify people and separate the law-abiding from the non-law-abiding. Only people with something to hide (i.e. as yet unidentified law-breakers) have something to fear from such a process.

So, put simply, stop breaking the law.

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Alien

Secrets ...what Secrets

Hmmmm. This is an interesting sentence from Mr Campbell in http://socialistregister.com/socialistregister.com/files/SR_1979_Campbell.pdf given the current, still declining, capitalist crisis/crunch.

"After the Irish experience-interpreted as classic colonial counter-insurgency brought back home--more attention was paid to military and other defensive preparations being made within Britain for a 'strong state-required to enforce a reduction of democracy in a time of capitalist crisis."

With forces and resources stretched abroad, the UK is wide open to a sneak attack from an Intellectual Challenged Bullying Ally into Friendly Fires and Immunity and Impunity.

And here is a spooky trailer, which was prepared earlier? :-) ... http://worldcriminal.com/lta/?p=261

But it's only a film of imagination and nothing to worry about.

"Only the guilty need fear." .... By Joe Bloggs Posted Wednesday 30th July 2008 12:46 GMT

Joe, what are we to make of those who push the War on Terror threat, for it creates fear and a War of Terror? Is the cure, in reality, the self-serving, ultimately self destroying disease.

From the above quoted pdf, we can read .... "Two students who had worked during a period of national service in British naval Sigint revealed in a magazine how many of the frequent cross-border disputes and incidents during the Cold War were the result of Western provocation deliberately engineered. Prosecuted under Section 2, both received short prison sentences." .... and it is well known where a lot of fund raising money came from for the Chaos of the "Troubles" in Ireland.

Nice prose, Luther, ... Posted Wednesday 30th July 2008 13:49 GMT ... and in it I suppose lies one possible and most simple answer for anyone who is Sensitised to Information ...... Pay them with as much money as they can spend. After all, it just goes straight back to where it came AND it generates a corresponding value in new industry to replace that which has been purchased from stock .... which is just "(like a simple free-energy generator for example)" ... By Sillyfellow Posted Wednesday 30th July 2008 13:17 GMT ... which is not at all Silly but very Astute.

And IT may also be NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActivity too, which would be Priceless in the Right Hands/Frame of Mind?

There's nowhere to hide anything in Space .... get used to IT showing you what IT has in Store for you.

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Black Helicopters

@AC only the guilty....

Sorry, feeding the trolls but...

The problem, sir, is the amount of abuse and the ease of abuse the extension of surveillance systems allow.

The problem is how they make us *less* secure by encouraging laziness in the law enforcement communities... "it isn't on CCTV, let's dump the enquiry"

The problem is in the trust these systems get (very high) compared to what their reliability is (fairly poor)

Single example : ID cards. The ID card works very well as long as it is (relatively) easy to fake : people know fake cards exists, if someone fakes yours and do Bad Things with it, you can argue that it might not been you after all. But if everyone and their dog is told that ID are infalsifiable, the day someone does do something with a fake card or *pretends* you've done Bad Things and it's attested it's you "by the system" it breaks down.

To give you an extend of how all this technology doesn't work, google for facial recognition fooled by photographs, biometric hash collisions, oyster crack, dna hash collision, etc... (don't google for "etc...")

The problem is that faith in technology that is marketed as being perfect inverses the duty of proof and that we can all be flagged as guilty unless we prove we're innocent.

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Coat

@Only the guilty - @ac

"In order to prevent crime and terrorism, it is necessary to identify people and separate the law-abiding from the non-law-abiding. Only people with something to hide (i.e. as yet unidentified law-breakers) have something to fear from such a process."

Tell that to Jean Charles de Menezes...

Mine's not the imaginary "suspiciously thick padded jacket" being "worn on a warm day".

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Coat

And all this is going on here, now

and all of us intelligent folks are sitting round making comments on the Reg instead of organising mass protests and taking to the streets.

Whom the gods would destroy .... <sigh> ... Mine's the one which makes me invisible to all surveillance.

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Anonymous Coward

@Only the guilty - @ac

I think the victims of operation awe may have something to say about that.

Besides that - you're just a retard.

All the western governments are doing is fueling the fans of terror so retards like you can feel all warm and cozy up until the moment some pissed off guy murders you and your family. Then they'll just make more futile bullshit laws that fan the fires hire and more dumb retards will die.

The only sad thing is that reasonable, intelligent human beings shall also die becouse of all the ducking retards.

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Jon
Coat

@ 15:44 AC

Are you sure you're not breaking a law ? and if a law is passed that you are (even unwittingly) breaking, you would be brought to 'justice' before you know it.

My coat please, the one with the emigration papers.

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Anonymous Coward

A priceless national asset.

Just think what all this information will be worth when they flog it off to the advertising agencies?

They can't do that? Well they have not done badly with the electoral roll etc, have they? Ignoring the law over Phorm?

Anyway, it will save 0.1p on income tax, so it's got to be worth it.

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Joke

Just desserts...

I know! Let's all rape Jacqui Smith, and then when we're had up in court, explain that it wasn't rape, it was just that we were being "very careful about relying on consent, as the requirement can be complex to apply and it is often difficult to be sure than an individual has genuinely consented”. Sorted!

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