back to article Five bods wrongly cuffed thanks to bungled comms snooping in UK

UK cops and spook agencies wrongly fingered five people as criminals after seizing data about their communications, according to a new report. The Interception of Communications Commissioner's latest dossier [PDF] gave examples of intelligence data used to seize drugs and firearms, stop illegal waste dumping and in one instance …

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Mushroom

Oh dear...

This will wind up the "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" brigade

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Black Helicopters

Re: Oh dear...

No, they'll say 5 wrong arrests are a tiny price to pay for fighting terrorism, thinking of the children, etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh dear...

Reminds me of a BOFH episode where a droid wants help but doesnt want them to look at his hard drive, so the PFY copies the drive while the BOFH chats with the droid.

If there should be no fear if you have done no wrong then why do the gov keep so much secret?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh dear...

"No, they'll say 5 wrong arrests are a tiny price to pay for fighting terrorism, thinking of the children, etc."

I'm always slightly concerned how much time certain groups appear to spend thinking about children.

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Holmes

Fishing expeditions

Prevention is NOT always better than cure - but to appreciate that you have to apply more sophisticated reasoning than an amoeba.

The same dilemma exists for screening healthy people for diseases in medicine.

'Screening' starts with the default assumption that the patient has heart disease, breast cancer whatever - and you then set out to prove the negative.

There is always a false positive error rate in whatever test you apply.

Therefore one should accept

1. normal people are going to be misdiagnosed

2. if the damage (and/or number) of misdiagnoses exceeds the benefits (and/or numbers) of correct diagnoses you abandon the screening program

Harvest (say) a million internet transactions to catch the one in a million by a p@edo/terrorist/tax dodger. Say your test has the unbelievably impressive false positive rate of 0.01 percent (1:10000) and 100 percent true positive rate.

You will 'detect' one terrorist whilst falsely accusing 100 innocent people.

Not looking so good for the snoopers - even with highly optimistic assumptions of prevalence of bad guys and performance of the screening instrument.

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Re: Oh dear...

"5 wrong arrests are a tiny price to pay for fighting terrorism"

Unless of course it was 5 MPs who were arrested, then it would be VERY different?

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Boffin

Re: Oh dear...

"No, they'll say 5 wrong arrests are a tiny price to pay for fighting terrorism, thinking of the children, etc."

Indeed they will

I forget who said it exactly, I think it was one of the USA's "Founding Fathers";

Better 100 guilty men go free than 1 innocent person unjustly deprived of their Liberty.

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Re: Oh dear...

"if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear - from whistleblowers"

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none of the mistakes

were "malicious or deliberate".

How can you 'accidently' request someones texts, voicemails or emails?

Sniff Sniff

"I can smell shite"

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Big Brother

Re: none of the mistakes

"were "malicious or deliberate".

How can you 'accidently' request someones texts, voicemails or emails?"

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

So that's all right then... Oh. Wait...

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Thumb Up

Re: none of the mistakes

> How can you 'accidently' request someones texts, voicemails or emails?

Easy, you put, as an example, 01234 567890 into the 'phone number' field on the online form instead of 01234 576890. You may not notice the cock-up until there's no sign of an incoming call matching an outgoing one to the number from another suspect.

I've talked to my own voicemail several times because someone at work has a mobile number that is the same as mine except that the last two digits are reversed.

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Re: none of the mistakes

>were "malicious or deliberate".

>How can you 'accidently' request someones texts, voicemails or emails?

>Sniff Sniff

>"I can smell shite"

You could request the details for your ex's new squeeze. Doing so is illegal, and is why the security services (and the police, etc) audit all requests, to check that the requester has a lawful reason to look up the information about the target.

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Joke

I had nothing to hide!

...but still ended up in jail.

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Childcatcher

Re: I had nothing to hide!

It was for your own good.

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Re: I had nothing to hide!

Yes, think of the terrorist's children!

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Coat

Re: I had nothing to hide!

The refrain of flashers everywhere!

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Anonymous Coward

It's not about the truth

It's about being seen to be seeking the truth.

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Unhappy

Re: It's not about the truth

Most western law enforcement tossed 'seeking the truth' out the window a long time ago. What they seek now is the easiest conviction they can get. Therefore they need access to as much information as possible to string together any case they can conjure up.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's not about the truth

Look hard enough and everyone is guilty of something. Guilt comes in many forms, only some break the law.

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Re: It's not about the truth

> everyone is guilty of something.

Even if it's only being Irish.

Although presumably the police's job is easier now you just have to prove they have sufficiently good enough tans that they might be muslim

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Big Brother

Re: It's not about the truth

Ay there's the rub, for if we are all behaving ourselves then they are out of a job. To quote JB DiGriz "a little crime is good for the economy "

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Black Helicopters

It's the numbers that amaze

570,135 requests to snoop. Over a 12-month period, that's over 1,550 each and every day. Assuming that each request is properly qualified, prepared, reviewed and approved, then the amount of effort required to process them is enormous. But that's a big assumption.

Note also that it's not just cops and spooks who have the powers to request communications data. Other public bodies including local authorties can do it.

Intercept warrants - 3,372 is over 9 a day. They have to be signed off by a Secretary of State. Properly reviewed and questioned before Secretarial sign-off? Yeah, right.

BTW, there really is a helicopter above me as I type this. They surely couldn't react so quic

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Big Brother

Re: It's the numbers that amaze

The new adaptive badthink prediction algorithm analyses all your previous communication to extrapolate what you're abo

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's the numbers that amaze

I'm sure this was just a slip of a finger. Oh, here's the finger, told ya! Anyone for a spare f

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's the numbers that amaze

"Assuming that each request is properly qualified, prepared, reviewed and approved [....]"

An assumption of the same order of magnitude as hearing hoof beats and assuming unicorns.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's the numbers that amaze

As the old crazy said, I will not be filed, stamped, briefed, debriefed or numbered!

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Happy

Re: It's the numbers that amaze

Why so many interrupted posts in this thread?. It's as if someone was about to write some big eye opener on the subject and then something hap

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Facepalm

Re: It's the numbers that amaze

It is an extremely concerning figure. It's a pretty massive proportion of the country (more than are ever in their lives likely to be accused much less convicted of any sort of crime - the current prison population for the entire country is less than 100k).

At best it's a disproportionate response to whatever issue we're trying to solve, and it appears we're trying to solve issues that shouldn't be solved with communications data.

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Black Helicopters

Re: It's the numbers that amaze

Or, if you prefer, that's about 1 search for every 14/15 UK citizens in a single year....

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Fishing Again

Looks like we are been fished for crimes, on come back 1984 when we have to phone and text to snoop with.

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Anonymous Coward

Any state action that deprives a citizen of their liberty without cause should be investigated with swift and ruthless efficiency.

When it is proven the actions were unwarranted, or evidence is willingly tampered with, the police, lawyers and judge involved should be bunged up in jail for the same period of time.

Only when their own butts are on the line, and responsibility for their actions is enforced, will things will get better.

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Anonymous Coward

Any state action that deprives a citizen of their liberty without cause should be investigated with swift and ruthless efficiency.

By whom?

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Anonymous Coward

Who rules?

"Any state action that deprives a citizen of their liberty without cause should be investigated with swift and ruthless efficiency.

"By whom?"

Ideally, by the citizens. In a well-run society, they ought to have all the information they need to do so - and the powers as well. "Democracy" means that the people have the ultimate power - and that should not mean imaginary symbolic power, as represented by the right to choose, every four or five years, between two bunches of crooks to run their country.

"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty". - Thomas Jefferson

Which do you think is the case in the nation where *you* live?

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Black Helicopters

Is there no-one writing the legislation for these things

that understands the difference between 'here is the suspect's numberplate - can we see it on ANPRS?' and 'let's store every ANPRS event in the case that we might want to look later' or 'is this suspect sending emails to other suspects' and 'let's store every email just in case'?

And understands that while the public might accept the first of each case they may well have a reasonable and reasoned objection to the second in each case?

Nothing to fear, nothing to hide, my arse. It's nothing to do with that and any implication that it is is smoke and mirrors. When the powers that be put every email, every web page they access, and 24-hour video of their lives online, I *might* believe that they actually think that motto...

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Go

Re: Is there no-one writing the legislation for these things

Whilst I can understand the police's desire to be able to back track a suspects movement (i.e. we only be came aware that X was planning to bomb that church today, where did he get the bombs from, lets check the data and see where he was previously), I dont agree with it, and I dont believe that Joe Public would actually accept their every movement being tracked, catalogued and assesed, if they were honestly aware of the level of intrusion going on.

Then again I might be giving too much credit to Joe Public, having seen the level of education in some areas of the UK, I doubt they can even spell Surveillance State let alone think about how it affects them...

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Mushroom

Re: Is there no-one writing the legislation for these things

I have one really good reason why I don't want everything I do to be tracked, and it isn't because I have something to hide, neither is it that I have something to fear.

I simply don't TRUST the fuckers.

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Big Brother

Re: @lglethal

I doubt they can spell 'Brazil', which is ironic really.

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Gimp

Re: Is there no-one writing the legislation for these things

"that understands the difference between 'here is the suspect's numberplate - can we see it on ANPRS?' and 'let's store every ANPRS event in the case that we might want to look later' or 'is this suspect sending emails to other suspects' and 'let's store every email just in case'?"

Apparently not.

In fact I'm not clear what "law" the UK ANPRS system operates under beyond the true motivation of all data fetishts "Because we can."

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FAIL

Re: Is there no-one writing the legislation for these things

It's called RIPA section 1 and it's pretty explicit.

The issue is the relevant law is not being enforced or overseen as it's supposed to be. The government of the day and the last government seem and seemed to be happy with GCHQ et al telling them what a fantastic job they are doing. Read the report - it's a pretty shocking indictment of the current ICC regime.

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500,000 plus demands for info

Which could easily expand to millions of contacts. Hmmm. Fishing, not investigation.

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Facepalm

Not malicious, just incompetent.

So that's alright then.

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PJI

It used to be the principal that ...

Better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent be punished.

Those were the days.

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Anti-Terrorism?

"Anti-terrorist" actions by the government have done far more to deprive us of our freedoms than any enemy has ever achieved.

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Unhappy

Re: Anti-Terrorism?

Yes. Everytime a freedom is removed in the interest of safety 'the terrorists' probably throw a party as their low budget war is proving to be highly effective. Having the populace cowering in fear never accomplished anything positive.

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Re: Anti-Terrorism?

Why don't the Gov jus' say that they want to outlaw feelings and artistic expression like in Equilibrium?.

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Anonymous Coward

what about me?!

Would it be possible to see if any requests have been made about me?

....

Why, dear sir, since you ask such a pointed question, while we can't tell you nuthin, we can say one thing, and make of it what you will: You will have been the subject of such a request, by the time you get back home!

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Headmaster

RE:"UK cops and spook agencies wrongly fingered five people.........."

Security authorities have been making this kind of fuck-up since Walsingham* was Elizabeth the First's "M". Are we really surprised? They do it again and again and use the same excuses each time. "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs". In other words we are told that we have to except this particularly nasty example of "friendly fire" and if we do not accept this then their reply is "what is your problem, something to hide have we?"

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Walsingham

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Big Brother

Well, at least those 5 bods didn't get shot in the face like Charles de Menezes.

Big Brother is watching you, or at least it thinks it's you they are watching!

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Anonymous Coward

Of course he was shot in the face. He might have been holding a detonator.

We must act swiftly and decisively to protect you from the terrorist and paedophile onslaught.

If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.

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