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back to article Berners-Lee says snoop law could see spies blackmail soldiers

World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee has declared government collection of data on citizens web surfing and telephony activities “a very bad idea” after outlining a scenario in which he feels national security could be compromised by caches of armed forces' members online activities. Speaking in Sydney at the launch of …

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Joke

“it is your duty as a geek to innovate.”

I have an idea to help out those teenagers who need to look up "health advice" - I call my idea "PPP Hotspots" the PPP standing for "Public Porn Point" - its simply an open wireless hotspot for the public to do anon porn surfing away from their own connections! It's innovative because despite being old tech its got a new name!

Joking aside, fuck you governtards! Wanting to look at my web usage, bunch of sickos!

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Anonymous Coward

The obvious strategy to counter this is:

Citizens collection of data on Government activities.

We are already seeing massively parallel fault-tolerant neural networks of citizens research into activities and allegations being put online and then growing exponentially.

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Re: The obvious strategy to counter this is:

They'll try to make that illegal.

And then they'll use that illegality to hurt the job and election prospects of those who try to counter them.

As far as I can tell, any existing "neural network" of research into government is about black helicopters, who killed JFK and discussion of what is in the newspapers.

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Big Brother

Next they'll be wanting access to my webcam while I surf NSFW sites.

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Trollface

I don't think anyone wants to see that.

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Wise words

I'm inclined to agree with most of his observations except, perhaps the following :

he cannot imagine a perfect security regime for such a database as doing so will require one agency to curate the data and enact requests to access it, and another to oversee the first agency and ensure its curation and service of access requests are conducted properly

I'm sure the bods in Cheltenham are quite capable of setting up such a regime. The problem is that it would mean that access to the information would have to be strictly controlled and limited to a very select group of people.

And that would mean, in practise, that only spooks and anti-terrorism police would have access.

Sounds reasonable to me, actually. The trouble is it doesn't allow local councils access to this valuable resource - and I'm sure that will mean that this proper solution won't happen, and TB-L will be proven right.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wise words

I'm sure the bods in Cheltenham are quite capable of setting up such a regime.

we'll you'd hope so wouldn't you, except, time & time again 5-eyes allegedly fail to secure their jewels. The most recent (public) loss of all the hard-intel that they've stolen from users around the world, then hoarded in one place, is from 2007 to 2011 in Canada. Where, quoting CNBC, "Delisle found it simple to steal secrets. He copied files from a secure computer to a floppy disk, which he would take to an open computer to transfer files to a USB key. After work, he would take the USB key home, log on to a private email account on a server based in Egypt and leave the files there as a draft document. His Russian handlers shared the password for the account and could download the files...."

TimBL's quite on the mark as usual - when the prointel community makes a stash of our secrets somewhere - there'll always be an unexpected path to it, whether it's Manning with a Lady GaGa CD or Delisle unexpectedly using a floppy in 2011...multiple independent levels of defense in depth?

So back to the worldwide co-ordinated efforts to capture all private correspondence data:

★5-eyes , today, looks very much like it's becoming all nations;

★The tapping & recording-all-data technology is OEM COTS;

★The tapping & recording-all-data standards are mature, international and enforced;

★Proportionality is ignored;

★Shock articles like http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/11/russia-surveillance/all/ (which I suppose is to explain how naughty is The Register in EURASIA) just reminds us of the technology that all states are installing/have installed.

It's a shame that the civil sector debate only seems to exist courtesy of Sir Tim and The Register.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wise words

I'm sure the bods in Cheltenham are quite capable of setting up such a regime.

The problem with places like the Doughnut is not operatives who generally just want to go home watch telly or play XBox games. Neither is it agents, who don't tend to be there for more than a day or so for briefing before they go off and do different things.

The problem is analysts who tend to be solitary, obsessive and more interested in their actual work than in any security which surrounds it. Analysts take work home to do more at the weekend. Analysts carry data on laptops and USB keys. Analysts require VPN access and late-night pass cards and generally completely fuck the absolute routine that security depends on.

While agencies rely on analysts - as they must, in order to be effective - they will be inherently insecure.

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Re: Wise words

"I'm sure the bods in Cheltenham are quite capable of setting up such a regime. "

And I'm sure they're not. It is a fundamental of spying that you want to get agents inside each other's organizations. To assume that "the other side" can not possibly succeed in this is to instantly hit the "fail" button.

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Re: Wise words

Great post! I laughed heartily...

I am assuming, of course, that you meant it ironically. Pity most of the others who replied to your comment seem to have missed the satire.

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Re: Wise words

I don't do satire - I'm not clever enough for that. The trouble with discussions on security mechanisms is that it all collapses into pointlessness once you bring in the need to trust humans in the system, so I post from a point of view that treats that as a separate problem.

I'm sure that it is possible to securely get the data from the monitoring point to a secure database and to keep it safe from external threats, looking at it purely from the physical perspective.

Whether that is enough is the question - and I'm inclined to agree that it is not, as long as people are involved and trust is too lightly given.

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Re: Wise words

"The trouble with discussions on security mechanisms is that it all collapses into pointlessness once you bring in the need to trust humans in the system, so I post from a point of view that treats that as a separate problem"

But, by and large, keeping the data safe from the wrong people is the problem. Secure transfers from A to B are of no interest if B is in fact C, while interception by D is not important if D is machine with a 5TB log file somewhere that is never checked by a person.

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Re: Wise words

Sure, and then we define, say "liberalism" as the new terror threat and our loyal plods at Cheltenham carry out their bureaucratic duty of turning over data on those who favour liberalism to the regular police.

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Black Helicopters

the biters bit

Petraeus was hoist by his own petard.

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FAIL

At least ...

one acknowledged authoritative source recognises the dangers, pity ignorant politicians don't.

And they call them 'honourable'?

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Re: At least ...

"And they call them 'honourable'?"

That's a convention of calling things by their opposite. Just as, for instance, if you see a housing estate called "Palm Lake" you immediately know there are no palms and no lake.

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Re: At least ...

Politicians are the ones most likely to be blackmailed.

The data does not even have to get into unauthorized hands.

Politicians can be blackmailed by the authorized folks in the security establishments.

"Oh, you don't want to go to war? You don't want to triple our budget? You don't want to expand our powers to search and seize without warrants? Do you remember that party you went to 10 years ago on August 7th 2015? That girl Sally who said she was 18?"

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Thumb Up

It comes down to the fact they think it's *their* data, when it's *our* data.

We might also mention the idea of the presumption of innocence and how underlying all of these systems is 1 simple idea.

You (or we) are all guilty of something.

It's just a question of being able to find out what of.

Which is the attitude of the NKVD described in the Gulag Archipelago.

Spelt out like that does anyone not find their attitude offensive?

Thumbs up fro TBL for making the point that this on its own will be a mega-target, as would have been the UK identity card scheme, for pretty much the same reason.

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Anonymous Coward

Anonymous because....

....the gubbermint might be snooping already.

So...question...if "National security" forces have to follow due process and show probable cause to gain access to personal information from other areas of an individual's life, why be given sweeping powers to gain access, willy-nilly, to personal information from one of the most socially integrated networks yet devised by man (or woman)??

Or am I missing something?

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Anonymous Coward

It would mean a lot of blackmailing, MPs, celebs and people in positions of power.

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Anonymous Coward

doesn't this already happen?

of course the US FBI under Hoover did every form of illegal/blackmaily thing that they could get away with - but was/is it so different in the UK? just mentioning two names - Sir Cyril Smith - http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/mi5-may-have-helped-cover-up-abuse-claims-against-sir-cyril-1-2645700 (according to a Lancashire special branch officer who handed the dossiers over to the 5 in the 60's)

and more recently the probable suppression of stories, pictures about the incumbent ******* *********, Right Honourable ******* ***** MP, who knows the meaning of the word "guinnel" and might have met Mick Ronson when e' wuz a lad, drinking pints, then theres....

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Gimp

"It would mean a lot of blackmailing, MPs, celebs and people in positions of power."

I think the problem is more, people in a position of submission......tied up....masked...sort of thing.

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The people we elect, the political opposition, the celebrities people we listen to, will be saying and doing what the bureaucrats tell them.

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Pari passu

TBL "cannot imagine a perfect security regime" for the government snoopbase. Neither can anyone else. So the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) midata project is a no-no since it requires us all to store our personal data on a personal snoopbase or PDS (Personal Data Store).

TBL says that "the surprisingly-accurate advertisements served to users of social media websites ... represent a privacy threat to many internet users". Too right. So the BIS midata project is a no-no since the whole point is make the economy grow by targeting adverts more accurately.

What do BIS have to say about TBL's comments? http://search.theregister.co.uk/?q=midata

And what does TBL think about the UK's eight "identity providers", our official snoop facilitators? http://search.theregister.co.uk/?q=identity+assurance

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Stop

Security for this type of project is easy. Lets keep all the data safely locked up in the heads of the people who own it. That way, no-one can gain access to it apart from the rightful owner.

In other words please F.O. UK Gov.

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"The only way to win is not to play." -Joshua

The real thing for the stupid politicians to remember is that THEY will be subject to these trackers, either while in office or after, and it's their data that will be used against them too. Also, what kind of guarantee does anyone have that none or all of it has just been make up and thrown into someones log to make them look guilty? None, there can never be any, it can only get more unlikely by using three agencies and then comparing them, but now there is 3 more places for the data to leak from, and three times more people looking at it.

It is every bit the same as allowing cameras in your home recording you at all times just in case you might accidentally get pinned under the refrigerator.

Maybe they'll come to their senses, but if they're old men, then were all screwed. We should really learn to stop electing feeble minded old men that wouldn't know UDP from TCP and then let them make laws governing it. At the minimum before anyone in government is allowed to vote on anything technical they should become certified or at least tested to how much of an understanding they have, and then weight their vote against that score. That idiot Akin was on a Science committee but clearly only had a sixth-grade science education.

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Meh

Re: "The only way to win is not to play." -Joshua

"The real thing for the stupid politicians to remember is that THEY will be subject to these trackers, either while in office or after, and it's their data that will be used against them too."

Nah mate, they'll just put a clause in the regulations that means their personal data will be excluded from tracking for "reasons of national security" - obviously, MPs and other state officials are beyond suspicion and do not need to be tracked after all! After all, this is approach they were planning to take with the National Pupil Database (excluding the children of state officials)....

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Childcatcher

1984 All Over Again

I find it hardly credible that no-one has brought up Big Brother until this point. I appreciate that Berners-Lee made an appeal to the governments based on their self-interest, but I cannot think of any citizens who would think it to be in theirs to live under a regime that collects that level of information on everybody. Why not just go for the throat and pass a law requiring all residences to install, at personal expense, a web cam in every room? While this is extreme compared to the laws being discussed, it is on the same continuum and in the same direction.

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Silver badge

"share more personal data" ??

Are you out of your mind, Sir Berners-Lee ?

Seriously, I think we have just begun to see the misuse of personal data. Never before has there been so much private data available online, and it's already progressing at a rising pace with all the new "social experiments" that declare their existence every other year or so.

Employers are already watching Twitter and Facebook to catch employees cheating on sick days (and stupid enough to post pics of what they did during that time). The way things are going, there will be a lot more abuse before it gets any better - if that is even possible.

So no, I do not agree that we need MORE private data online. We need a LOT LESS of it if we are to once again have a private life that is truly private. But people will have to be bitten en masse before that happens. Like on the day where your insurance calls you and tells you that, since you've posted drunken pics of yourself twelve months in a row, your premium is going up.

Then people might start thinking about it all.

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Politicians will probably be the biggest loosers from snoop laws

Politicians will probably be the biggest loosers from snoop laws.

Think about who was most affected by J. Edgar Hoover's manually done snooping and his files.

It was politically active people -- politicians, elected or otherwise, journalists, cabinet members.

With more snooping the police and intelligence agencies and whichever political party is in power will be able to neutralize politicians.

Just as J. Edgar Hoover kept himself in power long after he should have retired, just as he suppressed law enforcement attacks on the USA's Italian mafia, emails from teenage years, facebook posts, letters to editors, from years and decades earlier can be used by bureaucratic snoops to force politicians to conform to the bureaucracy's wishes.

My feeling is that snooping regulations, even "merely" allowing police to obtain information from ISPs without wire taps, will effectively eliminate the power of the entire political class.

Our nations will be run by bureaucrats.

So why are politicians in governments around the democratic world allowing this to happen? Good question. Maybe it is too late alreaady.

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