back to article Das überdatabase: Inside Wacky Jacqui's motherbrain

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith isn't known in these pages for the clarity of her pronouncements on technology. And yesterday, as she confirmed the government's plan to proceed with the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), she limited herself to the spin of building a universal communications surveillance apparatus. The …


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  1. James

    If you have nothing to hide...

    ...that won't stop them looking, just in case.

    Bah, guess anyone posting at the end of an article like this (or writing one, tut tut) is likely to be analysed, so I'll see you all in Guantanamo.

    The only way a system like this can be put in place is if for its operation are determined before it is put in place. It should be proven that those rules can be enforced, and those rules must be enforced 100%. Those rules mustnever be bent regardless of circumstances.

    Experience shows us that this will not be the case, that new uses will be thought of for the technology and passed through, further eroding any rights we have. A system is only as trustworthy as those that run it, and I trust the government of this country about as much as I trust bloke in Spain offering me a watch from a coat pocket.

  2. James Green
    Paris Hilton

    Likely to work?

    Not being daft here (well I might be) but are they really going to log the source and destination of every packet out there? If not then surely someone using a custom written protocol is going to slip right through the system. Now for Joe Bloggs on the street this isn't likely, but these hugely well funded international terrorists (who've done so well out of the film piracy we're told) are just going to employ/recruit someone to make this.

    So basically, like all the other counter terrorism ideas, all this does is shaft the little guy (I don't mean by making their data available to law enforement, I mean by giving them the £12bn in extra taxes).

    Paris since.... well can't really think of a reason but do I need one (let's face it our dear home sec doesn't)

  3. Shagrat
    Thumb Up

    naughty girl

    Big sister wants to watch you. And not in a good way.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Non-UK providers

    So how is all of this going to work with out of country, or non-ISP, mail services? They aren't going to voluntarily send information to GCHQ out of the goodness of their hearts are they?

    So. Here I am, Jonny Terrorist, and I want to provide email for all of my naughty pals. I rent a server hosted in country X. Set up TLS for SMTP and IMAP and give all of my pals accounts on there. We make sure that all of our plotting is done via that email server. What do the authorities have? The best they are going to get is that I've been making connections to the server. Is this illegal? Not that I can see.

    The only thing it can be used for is to catch stupid criminals or for fishing operations or to sell to companies for profit. Well worth £12bn.

  5. Xander

    Oh god...

    I remember when this was *the* conspiracy theory. Echelon I believe was the common parlance. A massive system, built under Area 51 which harvested all communication within the US and looked for keywords.

    Of all the pieces of science fiction I wanted to come true, this one ranked pretty low. Just under nuclear holocaust.

    Anyone know if NO2ID or similar are staging a march against this?

    Any why post AC when they would be able to track it all anyway? *sigh*

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Consultation already took place

    Article 4 says she *has* to take no for an answer.

    The uberdatabase is not legal, and the police should recall that they should not be lobbying for things that are illegal.

    ISP and Telecom companies likewise. If you comply with her central database, her nonsense will be struck down as illegal, and you will be financially and legally liable for your actions.

    You will also have no sympathy, because she is trying to get this past by bypassing Parliament, so the ability to hide behind a 'democratic' law won't be there.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Big sister? No...

    Big brother?


    It's Ceiling Cat, I tell ye! Watching you.



  8. Paul

    I see one big problem with this....

    How exactly are they going to pull out the infomation of all those people who have diplomatic imunity. I cant imagin the Russian embbasy being to happy with this for a start.

  9. H2Nick

    I fully trust the gov to ...

    a) Get the costs subsidised in return for access to the data by Phorm-like peddlars

    b) Let the scope creep - after all, the prevention of terrorism has now been used to :

    - Keep the MP Walter Wolfganh out of the Labour conference

    - Freeze Icelandic bank assets in the UK

    - probably more....

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If she can't stay within the law....

    how can she be a fit and proper Home Secretary?

    Article 4 is perfectly clear, and it forbids this silo she's building. But it's also quite shocking that she's so departed from basic freedoms that she thinks it's a good idea. This has no place in a free democratic society, and since she's Home Secretary and unable to realize that she's breaking the law and doing something that future UK dictators would love, she is not a fit and proper minister. She should just go quietly.

    Article 4

    Access to data

    Member States shall adopt measures to ensure that data retained in accordance with this Directive are provided only to the competent national authorities in specific cases and in accordance with national law. The procedures to be followed and the conditions to be fulfilled in order to gain access to retained data in accordance with necessity and proportionality requirements shall be defined by each Member State in its national law, subject to the relevant provisions of European Union law or public international law, and in particular the ECHR as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    The whole Iceland banking business...

    ...showed everyone their true colors I think.

    The idea that anti-terror laws can be expanded without warning to cover anything under the sun (certainly not fighting terrorism anyway...) that the government sees fit was very amply demonstrated with the Iceland asset seizure episode.

    No wonder our nordic friends are pissed off - we should be n'all.

    Bad times as they say.

  12. An nonymous Cowerd
    Black Helicopters

    as for skype

    this has reached urban IT myth status; the german security people recently complained about problematic skype monitoring (although they have the lawful intercept trojan) but at the same time the austrian security people expressed that they had no problem with monitoring skype type VOIP. Methinks there was a reason to pay the estonians a few billion dollars and get the servers moved to wherever eBays head office is, maryland?

  13. Goblin
    Thumb Down

    Given the government's track record

    with large-scale IT projects, we shouldn't have to worry about this one going live for a long time to come.

  14. Colin Millar
    Black Helicopters

    Your scenario......... actually a screenplay.

    For at least a dozen movies.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    For fearing of sounding like Donald Rumsfeld....

    ...... a system like this one needs to do be able to collect and correlate ALL of the following:-

    - the information we know that we know about a "target",

    - the information we don't know but should know, about a "target", and

    - the information we need to know to correctly authenticate a "target"

    so the system will not be effective unless it can correctly identify a "target" and provide all the referential information of where and when the "target" was at the time of communication, the referential information of the person(s) receiving the communiation at the time of the communication, and also the referential information of where the "target" and recipients were NOT at the time of communication (to invalidate any alibis). Piece of piss, really.

  16. Mark


    The only safeguards I would accept would be the summary execution of anyone using the data for anything other than a reactive search for terrorists.

    Summary execution for any MP or other official (Lord/Judge/Policeman/...) asking for the remit of this database to be extented.

    And the summary execution of any MP supporting such a move.

  17. Z

    IngSoc here we come

    Excellent article worthy of Private Eye. I quite like the semi-recent el-reg move to reporting UK politcal stories alongside it's IT coverage.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Soon we wont be allowed to make jokes or stories out of things without the explicit permission of the authorities.

    Hayho. I didn't like freedom anyway.

    Reminds me of the seen with the song bird at the start of appleseed, they all live in the perfect utopia yet she throws herself out of the window after setting the song bird free. A life without risk, failure, hate, pain, death, destruction, challenges, a life without the negative aspects is no life at all, it's a prison. Even if you arn't locked away, you have no power over your life, if you can't make the wrong choice why bother making choices at all?

  19. Steve
    Black Helicopters

    @ Xander

    "I remember when this was *the* conspiracy theory. Echelon I believe was the common parlance. A massive system, built under Area 51 which harvested all communication within the US and looked for keywords."

    The bit about Area 51 is just them trying to sound glamourous and it probably wasn't *all* communications. However, we do have an American listening base at RAF Menwith Hill in Yorkshire. So you're probably looking for an old airbase somewhere in the mid-west with very few actual planes and an unusually high proportion of Oxbridge educated Brits.

    We can't spy on our own people, but you can spy on ours and we can spy on yours and then swap data.

  20. FlatSpot

    Doesnt this breach the Human Rights Act?

    Article 8 - the right to respect for one's private and family life, correspondence and home

    Article 9 - the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

    Article 10 - the right to freedom of expression, freedom to hold opinions and freedom to receive and impart information

    Article 11 - the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association with others

    Or did I miss something??

    On another note, think everyone in Labour should be forced to watch "Taking Liberties" - A documentary profiling the actions of New Labour and the impact this has had on civil liberties in the UK...

  21. Alan Fisher
    Black Helicopters

    The famous saying about conjurers

    This is out in the open well and good.....but you should spend less time watching the hand you CAN see and focus on the one you can't, or are being convinced (by the furore and fuss) not to.

    Question; why, for this thing to be effective and do it's job properly, would they warn - WARN! - potential terrorists or exisiting ones about it, give them details, time to research and develop countermeasures? Think about it....

    If's either something learned from another former shadowing surviellence government (they called it Mashkirovka, or a theatre-like illusion)...let your 'enemies' know what you're doing, or what you want them to think you're doing and...smoke 'em out before playing your real hand and mopping them up nicely....this may not be the case but I wonder...

    also, tell us plebs about this and inject us with the right level of uneasiness and fear and, well.....nice sheeps eat grass...mmmmm graaaaass *munch*....

    these two scenaria might seem a bit OTT but then, going back to Xander's comment, this very idea was a conspiracy theory in the highest strata of crackpottery going and it's close to becoming real (if it isn't so, things which seemed impossible and stupid and believed only by the tin-hat brigade........

  22. Daniel Garcia
    Thumb Down


    The whole idea is a non-techie wanking-time.

    The "experts" behind all this are looking to get some profit, i smell someone has friends that want to get nice high profit contrats.

    I start to belive that Nulabor are not demi-stalininsts workshiping themselves as the only rightful Big Brother( and Sister), but just a bunch by proxy tax-money scammers.

    No Megalomaniacs but mere thieves.

  23. Nigel Wright

    In agreement with Goblin

    This is yet another failed HMGov IT project in the making.

    Except it will be an expensive one. :-(

  24. Craig Roberts
    Black Helicopters


    As soon as this starts happening, I'm ditching my sexy new contract phone and buying a cheap disposable pre-pay. Then I'll dump the usual email addresses and sign up anonymously via some proxy out in South IranIraqistan for a new one...

    ... And then I'll buy a Guy Fawkes mask (with cash) and start causing mischief...

    Do these people not watch movies/read books?!?!

    Pointless being AC 'cos... Ya know... El Reg probably logs everything we do ready to hand over to our Orwellian overlords too... Not that I blame you guys... Just remember to be on the right side when the revolution comes!

    On that note... I think we really do need a revolution! Who's with me? I'm free on Tuesday! :)

  25. Gavin Masters

    How is this practical?

    How can it be more practical to collect every single piece of data which passes through the internet, mobile phones and other media as opposed to targetting people already under suspicion?

    The sheer volume of information, and the fantastic ability of our government to lose or "misplace" a lot of what it already has, means I'm not too concerned about our Jacqui listening in on my dirty phone calls, more that a terrorist (or worse, a marketing bod) on a train could suddenly pick up a hard-disk telling him how much KY-Jelly I bought last month, along with the rest of the country.

    Besides, I'm just going to start using yoghurt pots and string - far safer!

  26. Anonymous Coward


    There are some very bright people working at GCHQ. Surely they can see that this isn't going to work? I suppose they've got a vested interest in it being attempted anyway though.


  27. jayeola

    the good news

    - If this is based on MS SQL then the jihadi massive have nothing to fear as the system won't work

    - If the system(s) are reliant on using under-paid, poorly trained, over worked staff and agency staff then the jihadi massive ... won't work

    - If anything has to go in the post...won't work

    - call centers won't have to "record your call for training purposes" cos some one else will

    - the entire population of <insert large Muslim community here> will melt the system every time it's Muhammad's birthday

    But seriously I can see the future;

    - no doubt that the yanks will bully the gov't for the data and the UK yield to the yanks. special relationship, uk bends over <insert major crisis around the corner>

    - the yanks will probably demand that all eu nations have a silly system like this

    - the next step will be an integrated, international system

    - the next step will be a simple way to search for relevant information



  28. Anonymous Coward

    Look on the bright size

    The Database will be so big even HMG can't mananger to lose it in one go. It will take at least 2 or 3 goes before it's in the public domain completly..

    Being serious doesn't the bredth of the potential content and the "unhackable" status it will surely recieve, just present one big flashing neon sign to every hacker and his dog to break into, either to say they can, or to siphen off all the useful ID Fraud data in one easy go.

    ...m ines the one with the yottabyte UB stick in the pocket thats about to fall out on the train as I go home.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    And so the reluctance to prosecute Phorm slowly becomes apparent, as the ability to trial an 'innocuous' positioning of intercepting technology is too good to pass up...

  30. The Other Steve
    Black Helicopters

    Mmmm, doughnuts!

    Given that it's already possible, and even routine according to Wacky Jacqui, to use comms data to determine a persons network of interest, and given that it's also already possible, with the requisite warrants to intercept the communications of those networks in real time, what's her (presumably not actually her, but some cadre of techno fetishist spooks) hard on for all this ?

    OK, I get that the explosion of IP traffic has put a bit of a crimp in Cheltenham's style, hence the desire for all the new black boxes (I don't know how much the existing ones are able to look at IP traffic, I'd guess they were designed for other types of comms), but OTOH if TPTB go to an ISP, with a warrant, they can already get access to the IP traffic, and I'd be willing to bet it can be done in near real time.

    There's just no reason to have all of this shit centralised unless you intend to mine the data. Mining the data will produce gibberish, leading to (even more) massive injustice.

    Certainly, any such system will produce a crop of likely looking terrorist wannabes, it would probably have caught the idiot who thought that you can make bombs by dumping nails in plastic bottles full of "kerosene". But guess the fuck what ? He was already on the watch list. So just where are all the atrocities we could have stopped with such a tool ? Conspicuous by their absence. I for one would rather spend the 12Bn on something that might actually have a purpose other than traipsing an increasingly unlikely chorus line of fantasists, social inadequates, the mentally ill and the merely disenfranchised through the courts on trumped up "terror" charges.

    Because the ones who really terrify the spooks, and the ones who actually frighten me a little, are the ones with proper funding, proper training, and proper opsec. Who know how to use payphones and old fashioned codes, all the arcana of tradecraft.

    And you won't be able to stop them by building a fucking database.

    In fact, since the HO and it's spooky masters seem to have been spending rather a lot of time watching catch up episodes of "Spooks" in preparation for the new series, let me respond in kind by outlining a threat drawn directly from the plot :

    Bad Men With Guns (BMWG) wish to infiltrate UK and do Bad Stuff (BS), In the episode to which I'm referring, BMWG find out who MI5 are watching by nicking the watch list and send some of them on a sham suicide mission so that MI5 are looking the other way and fail to spot BMWG doing BS until it's (almost!) to late.

    Now that's fairly contrived, involving, as it did, not only a Mossad mole in MI6, but a massive false flag recruitment of potential jihadis by said agency, etc, etc.

    With an uberdatabase it would be oh so much easier to set up a shit load of false positives that absorb sufficient spooky resources to allow BMWG to waltz in under the radar and commit the One True Atrocity that (presumably) keeps the scenario fluffers up at night.

    12 billion quid is a shit load of money to spend to bang up a few wankers who are probably already "on the radar", and it won't stop "real" terrorists, or even intelligent dilettantes, if they sit down and think their opsec through properly.

    12Bn quid spent on road safety ? Public transport ? Health ? Education ? Or even, (ZOMGWTF!!!!) basic fucking scienctific research, or a space program to call our own ?

    BIG difference.

  31. Spider
    Thumb Down

    what happened?

    to this green and pleasant land?

    I'll see you all for the two minute hate.

  32. SkippyBing Silver badge
    Black Helicopters


    'with the aim of achieving consensus with "interested parties".' Means everyone. I mean if they're intercepting my communications I'm pretty interested.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    She bypassed parliament and went to the police?

    Notice another pattern emerging.

    She discussed it with the police NOT Parliament, the police. She then went to the press to lobby for it. Again a contempt for Parliament even though Labour hold the majority, she's not convinced her OWN party would support her on this. Not surprising since Blair also knew he could not get this through parliament, which is why he drafted the request, waited for a terrorist incident, then went to the EU to insist on it, bypassing parliament via policy washing.

    Consider the biometric gates at the airport, she rolled them out already claiming it was a trial. No discussion first, straight to a live trial, even though we know the problems with that system.

    Finally consider the vehicle tracking thing. Everyone was opposed to vehicle tracking, so the Home Secretary and the police agreed to store ANPR camera readings in a central database. A defacto vehicle tracking system bypassing the democratic process that had already rejected it.

    She really isn't a fit person to hold a position of power. Brown should put the country above his political allegiances and sack her.

  34. Humph

    Guess this explains ...

    ... why HM Gov are so keen to avoid prosecuting BT and Phorm for doing the same thing. After all, if it's found to be illegal for business, surely it couldn't possibly, even remotely be illegal for our beloved government to do the same, now, could it?

  35. W

    About that umlaut...

    Either you're invoking evil *Nazi Germany* connotations (if so, Godwin is duly invoked)...

    Or you've got something against *modern Germany* and/or it's data protection laws etc (er, this is a UK issue)...

    Or, third option, you've added a heavy metal umlaut to signify "Gothic horror" (as per I'll take this option gladly.

    Яøĉķ ön, Hërr Ẅïllïämş.

  36. bertie bassett

    Dimensions are ridiculous..

    ok based on historic data that I am aware of (no names no pack drill) we saw mobile customers averaging around 250 call records per month (phone call, text, mms, GPRS session etc). So extrapolating that to 60M mobiles in the country would require a dbase to hold and process 15bn record just for one months data.

    Landlines seemed to genarate more call events (2x mobile as per my figures) but I think there are less (say 30M) which is another 15bn call records. So ignoring web sessions, voip calls etc, you're looking at 30bn call records a month, or 350bn records per annum.

    Having not developed dbases on that scale can anyone shed any light on how big a USB key I'll need to be able to put the data on so I can lose it, before the gov does..

    Hmm does anyone else think "M15 watching great terror plot unfold" reminds you a little of the day the sent the tanks to thierfrow.."get them scared and they'll sign away their rights'

  37. Doug Southworth
    Thumb Up

    Your brother from accross the pond

    ...feels your pain

    BIG brother from across the pond, however thinks this is one more neato tool with which to ensure that the average person has no privacy at all. I'm sure we are building this thing, V2.0, over here as we speak...after all, people can't be trusted when they aren't constantly being watched...sigh...

    Looks like the terrorists win again.

    Thumbs up for weaving in a LOTR reference...

  38. Jimmy


    Once we had the Thatcherite imperative: "There is no alternative". And now we have another conviction politician, utterly indifferent to the consequences of her actions, telling us she "wont take no for an answer".

    Exactly as in the case of 42 days detention, not one shred of coherent evidence is offered, and no other democratic nation in the world has, or proposes to have, this level of database consolidation for the purpose of spying on the lives of private citizens. Conviction, belief and faith simply don't cut it any more. Nor does the spreading of fear, uncertainty, and doubt persuade people that there is no alternative but to submit to the paranoid fantasies of this woman.

    The alternative is integrated intelligence gathering within the communities that have been identified as having radicalised elements in their midst, followed by targeted surveillance of suspects. Doh!

    We always get a spoonful of sugar with the medicine when Nulabour and Nanny Smith are going about their business of keeping us secure, so we are going to have "consultations" with "interested parties", subject, of course, to the opening proviso that there is no alternative.

    Here's a news flash for you, Jaqui baby: there are 60 million of us and having just witnessed the results of your faith-based conviction economics, we are in no mood for your equally flawed uberdatabase.

    Just tell us the date of the referendum, and 60 million "interested parties" will spell it out for you.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Anybody watch "True Lies" yet?

    If anyone has seen the movie True Lies yet, they will understand that all it will take to completely undermine any mass surveillance system system is for the "Terrorists" to go off the "grid" so to speak.

    Though slower, passing intelligence by hand from unknown contact to the next cannot be spied upon. The addition of a simple code makes it all the more secure. No PC, no email, no websites, no cell phone...NO Problemo!

    In my opinion, this kind of low tech can beat government high tech anytime; all while bankrupting the government and then the populace which will help recruit new terrorists.

    Sign me up for the Guy Fawkes mask. Seeing V for Vendetta a couple of years back, made me want to run out and buy a case of red spraypaint. Looks like all we'll need is a simple note pad and one time codebook.

    Guess we need a Guy Fawkes mask Icon now!

  40. DaAngel
    Thumb Up

    How long

    How long before they, start to reliase, in the future, that this is pinching their pennies. That they need to somehow market this information out so that this program for common good can be self supporting.

    How long before they ask someone with Phorm like privacy ideas to sit in the middle of all this data transfere, and send out adds on peoples telephone lines, email address and real home address. The goverment can recieve money from the ad revenue, and in return the customers ( sorry voters) get a great service that spys on them and helps keep them secure for free.

    How you trust this goverment with such data, when they will not prosecute BT for what they know to be illegal trials. How can you trust such people to show common sense when they currently show and demostrate no concern for peoples privacy.

  41. Pat


    This is a government plan, right? So surely we should be a bit more precise, and be asking about Jacqui Smith's need for a GIMP (Government's Interception Modernisation Programme)?

    Does she really need a gimp, or is it just some incredibly strong and perverse desire? We already know that Hollywood films influenced other parts of government thinking about IT.

    Quote = Smith was clear that she won't take "no" for an answer.

    (Cue the rhohypnol.)

    So, Jacqui's determined push it through and fully implement the gimp; that's got to be expensive.

    I eagerly look forward to finding out more about this; for instance, is she interested in only criminal activity or is it more a dominance/discipline thing? And I think we need to know more about Jacqui's "restrictions" and "naked propaganda".

    Keep it up, El Reg!

  42. scott
    Black Helicopters

    They don't like it up em!

    How do they plan to filter out MPs comms?

    Remember that not too long ago one of them went apeshit and it was headline news as he was accidentally recorded in jail speaking to a convicted terrorist (sorry, "constituent").

    Questions in Parliament, outrage, Wilson doctrine blah blah.

    The plods involved most certainly felt the wrath of Kahn (member for Tooting), as did the rest of the country in listening to the vertigo inducing hypocrisy of modern politicians.

    They - and only they - have the *right* to private communications. They rest of us, well - if we have nothing to hide etc.

    Well, fuck them - and the EU too. I have a web spider script which I'll leave on 24/7. It won't take me long to find IRC and Usenet equivalents. I'll set up a few skype accounts and route them through anonymous proxies. Let them try and find out my *real* comms in that lot. And I'd like to see them drop trojans on linux live boxes.

    Lets face facts here. If Al Terrrist wants to communicate, he will. He can send 1000 snailmail adverts for his camel cleaning service, and for one of them - the text means something a bit different.

    Or, the old steganography and web picture service.

    Or, stegged spam via bots.

    Or bounced via various anonymous proxies


    Lets face it. Your average 14 yr old can hack his neighbours wifi (if it's even secured).

    Drive-by connections are the perfect "one hit" input channel.

    There are literally millions of blogs, chatrooms, usenet groups where another drive-by recipient can pick messages up. Add the concept of one-time pads to this. Voila, perfectly anonymous *technical* comms. The slip-up will always be the human tho.

    BTW, I wonder how many functioning helicopters, hercules, IED-proof vehicles 12bn would buy?? Or how about basic things like body armour and housing that wasn't condemned as unfit for human habitation for those *really* out there fighting??

  43. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    Fire up the deed-polls...

    I should change my name to "DROP TABLE;" and watch the fun begin?

  44. Joe

    Nice article Chris

    Balanced and fair, nice. Exposing The Times' (barely) hidden agenda too!

    As pointed out in the last paragraph, encryption is easy to set up and difficult to crack. Surely that renders the black box capabilities useless for all but the dumbest criminals?

  45. Pid

    "The data won't be intercepted..." Huh?

    "This data won't be intercepted, but ISPs and telcos will provide it in real time from their own back end systems."

    Won't this mean that each ISP will be able see what GCHQ is searching for?

    Not a minor security issue that, I would think?

    Who the hell are the imbeciles advising the Home Office? My Mum could do a better job...

  46. Mark

    re: Dimensions are ridiculous..

    You've all got it wrong.

    They aren't doing this to be "tough on terrorists" but because they'll lock in billions in commercial companies to make and fail the production. They'll put a poison pill in so that if the contract is shot by another government, the penalties mean they still get the dosh.

    Meanwhile some REALLY lovely directorship and non-voting board jobs become available.

    Think: Where is Tony Blair working at the moment? At least two banks/investment companies.

    AND the penny circuit in the USA that brings in so much money "for our greatest leader of our friends the english, Tony Blair".

  47. Chris G Silver badge

    Easy way round this

    For terrorists who wish to avoid detection through using telecoms, they merely need to revert to 1950s methods for spies. A cell system that says nothing over wire and uses either discreet personal contact when necessary but mostly dead letter boxes. Microdots are, whatever technology is used for detection in general, still an efficient way to move information. All this may be slower than mobies, land lines, email or VoIP but never the less , workable.

    Maybe it would be better to use 12billion to recruit and train better cops and spooks. It would even be worth giving half a billion to Jaqui Smiff and telling her to fuck off.

    One other thing about this technology , if it ever works, is the potential for misuse. It is not only what can be done with an individual's private information but the potential for industrial espionage and for the gov ' to spy on any one individual or organisation that may not be in total accord with the current gov' thinking. Being a shade on the paranoiac side I am inclined to think one of the reasons for the US attitude to lap tops is in order to do a bit of trawling to see if anything interesting or profitable comes up.

    Of course once it is in place no government worth it's salt will ever dismantle it whatever they may say now and if it is started now, I bet if a conservative gov should win the next election they won't repeal it, or anything else that removes liberties, taxes us or generally makes the population more controllable.

  48. Richard

    How to catch a terrorist in Britain

    (With apologies to "How to catch a lion in the Sahara Desert")

    The Jacqui Smith method:

    1) Construct a huge database containing as much information about Britons as you can get.

    2) Observe that the set of terrorists in Britain is not empty

    3) You therefore have as much information on terrorists in Britain as you can get. Finding that information is left as an exercise for the reader.

  49. Paul Taylor
    Black Helicopters

    not the content of our email

    The most chilling part of this story is the vehement denial that they intend to store the contents of our phone calls and emails. We all know what it means when a politician denies something.

    I once thought that the quantity of data involved would be our safeguard, but Moore's law is against us. I'm sorry to day that every El Reg reader who has contributed to the spectacular improvements in hardware over the last 30 years has been an accessory to this new tyrrany.

    What kind of tyrrany is it? I have been trying to work this out. Plainly completely different from anything else in history. The nearest analogy I can think of is the Spanish Inquistion - a society in which conformity in minute detail is ruthlessly enforced. Whilst obviously there aren't going to be any burnings at the stake, Big Brother will think nothing of handing over the details of our lives and our opinions to our (potential) employers, insurers, etc, so that Heretics will be unable to get jobs or healthcare.

  50. Ishkandar
    Paris Hilton

    Interested parties ??

    I will bet anything you like that there will be a lot of "interested parties" - just the very people that the security services want to keep track of !!

    Then again, they may not, since all they have to do is to wait for someone to post a CD with all that data in it or leave it in the hard disk of a laptop conveniently left behind !!

    Does that silly female with the rabbit-in-the-headlights-look think all this will be secure and that it cannot be circumvented ?? What she knows about security can be written on a postage stamp using an elephant's backside !!

    All this will make even Miss Hilton weep !!


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