back to article UK net super-snooping clashes with Euro privacy law - expert

New legislation that would enable a UK intelligence agency to monitor data from internet communications in real time without a warrant could be challenged at EU level unless other privacy safeguards limit the scope of that monitoring, an expert has said. The Government confirmed its intention to introduce new laws on the use …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Had been obvious from the start.

    Every government wants this powernd dresses it up to try and sell it to the electorate.

    "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide"..

    1. LarsG

      Re: this

      If the government stopped allowing half the world's terrorists and serious criminal claiming asylum here we would not need this legislation.

      Change the law at the level it should be changed.

      1. LinkOfHyrule
        Big Brother

        Re: this

        "If the government stopped allowing half the world's terrorists and serious criminal claiming asylum here we would not need this legislation."

        Damn, my browser must have just been hijacked or click-jacked or something. I swear I logged into but my browser seems to be displaying comments from the Daily Mail website for some reason?

        WTF! If only the police were monitoring me in real time, they could catch the bastards who did this!

    2. Ted Treen
      Big Brother

      Re: this

      Not just that, but these arseholes do need reminding that in this country, sovereignty remains with the people.

      The assorted denizens of Whitehall and the Palace of Westminster need to be reminded** that their position is that of public servant.

      **Reminded by something with a pointy end, if necessary!

    3. James Micallef Silver badge

      Why is it so difficult to understand?

      Targeted interceptions = OK, as long as there is a warrant. Warrants should only be issued for reasonable suspicion of a select few major criminal offences. Any evidence gathered can ONLY be used in a prosecution related to the original crime that the warrant was issued for. Any evidence gathered in this way that a suspect is not using the correct council wheelie bin for his rubbish or is late in filing a tax return is thrown out. Any evidence gathered in this way that a suspect is eating babies in his basement or re-creating the kama sutra with 10-year olds is admissable, and if it's a crime not covered in the original warrant, the warrant needs to be re-issued for the new crime. As long as there's a warrant, go ahead and get real-time access to data instead of just history, that's no different than a phone tap really.

      On the other hand, full access to everyone's data (aka fishing expeditions) is a no-no. Not only is it an invasion of privacy but it's a bloody stupid idea from an investigative point of view. I'm looking for a needle in a haystack, so yes, I know what will make my search more effective, I'LL ADD MORE HAY TO THE PILE! Dumb idea! Massive rooms full of supercomputers trawling through zillions of petabytes of data is not a good substitute for old-fashioned feet-on-the-street and ears-to-the-ground investigation. But hey, I guess that if GCHQ file a requisition order for a billion quid worth of supercomputer to monitor the interwebs it gets signed off pronto, while if the police want an extra few million a year to add detectives to the force and train them up they're told there isn't the budget, and why aren't they out issuing speeding tickets and busting pot users anyway?

  2. andreas koch

    There's bad news and good news:

    The bad news is that the GCHQ is reading all YOUR emails.

    The good news is that the GCHQ is reading ALL your emails.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have the tabloids calmed down yet?

    Probably not, but I would prefer some sanity in the debate rather than being raged at from soley one point of view.

    It is clear that there is much that is still unknown about the proposals.

    There should be substance, so that we can sensibly debate the issues rather than entrench ourselves in a predisposition because we don't have the full facts of what is proposed.

    In essence: Balanced debate, not anti-government rhetoric.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have the tabloids calmed down yet?

      Until you end up in the firing line.....

      Of course you may have nothing to hide.

      The bottom line is that if a fuss is not make the government assumes it can go ahead without debate.

      Tabloid fuss forces debate. That's why we have a free press.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Have the tabloids calmed down yet?

        Without detracting anything from the debate ........

        "Tabloid fuss forces debate. That's why we have a free press."

        No. Tabloid fuss sells newspapers. There is only one reason for a newspaper to exist: to make money. No other reason. Ask any newspaper owner or editor.

        Newspapers switch political allegiance at the mere whiff of being on the loosing side. They listen to voicemails and possibly sponsor the hacking of computers too. Newspapers, in general, are no different than the publicity department of a corp or govt. They will say what you want to hear....... because it make financial sense for them to to do so.

        Sensible debate: yes. Irrational, one-sided and, _for all of us right now_ ill-informed: no.

        Let's see some meat on the proposals. Until then my position is neutral.

        1. LarsG

          Re: Have the tabloids calmed down yet?

          Tabloids have to answer for their misdeeds, governments never do.

        2. auburnman

          Re: Have the tabloids calmed down yet?

          I normally let these go, but this is getting to be a repeat offence around here and it's starting to get to me like nails down a blackboard:

          LOOSE is a property an item can have, roughly meaning the opposite of tight. Clothing can be loose, your shoelaces can be loose. You cannot be on the 'loosing' side of an argument.

          I believe LOSE is the word you are looking for. As in 'Lost the match', 'on the losing side'; 'David Cameron is a useless loser' etc.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Have the tabloids calmed down yet?

          "Sensible debate: yes. Irrational, one-sided and, _for all of us right now_ ill-informed: no."

          You are Nick Clegg and I claim my $5

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Have the tabloids calmed down yet?

            "You are Nick Clegg and I claim my $5"

            No I'm not and I don't like the guy: but he does have a point.

            There have been just as good points made by others here, e.g. by Mike Richards re Theresa May and The Sun. However, my understanding is that this proposed legislation is to be mentioned in the Queen's speech, and then laid before parliament.

            The wrong thing that happens all to often is a release is made alerting the press to the fact that it will be in the Queen's speech, and then they wonder why it all goes of half cocked.

            To many people reacting to what they read in the press, rather than reacting to facts.....of which we know precious little at present.

            I'm tempted to us the "Calm down, dear!" phrase, but that would just end up with even more down votes when what I'm trying to say is that nobody really knows what this proposed legislation is really going to do - even though some people appear to have already made up their minds.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Have the tabloids calmed down yet?

              The things that May has said already are disturbing enough to raise legitimate concerns and speculating over possible abuses by government has proven accurate far too often for anyone to say it's overreacting.

              "To many people reacting to what they read in the press,"

              Are you saying that the Sun is lying and May didn't say what she is reported to have said?

              Or are you just attempting to stop people debating this issue until the government has had time to spin it over and over in a favourable light?

              Either way you seem hell bent on belittling people who disagree with ever increasing surveillance powers, this is why I compared you with Nick Clegg.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Have the tabloids calmed down yet?

                I'm not trying to belittle anyone. If anything, I'm the one who feels belittled for daring to ask if there is another viewpoint. I'm not saying that another viewpoint is valid or otherwise, but that until we know exactly what it is that is being proposed, few comments either way hold water.

                Theresa May fucked up by trying to communicate a highly sensitive and technically complex issue in a low-brow paper whose purpose is to sell copies and does so by using sensational headlines: what did she expect would happen. That is a very valid criticism and one that I support. May has fucked up too many times and her reputation is shot.

                However, I don't know if the proposed legislation is going to be any worse in terms of privacy. From what I have read, no additional details will be available than are already gathered by the ISP anyway. I understand that it is the delivery mechanism which will change - that the existence of communications could in future be established without a warrant, but the content would still require a warrant.

                Nonetheless, there are precious few details about the proposals and huge amounts of uninformed speculation.

                What I am trying to communicate, but that appears to be falling on fallow ground is that we should not simply assume the worse. To do so is to fall into crowd-lead groupthink. Be open minded and wait until we see the details. That's all.

    2. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: Have the tabloids calmed down yet?

      Balanced debate would be nice but it's somewhat undermined by government ministers announcing plans in the nakedly partisan 'Sun' rather than in Parliament.

    3. Ted Treen

      Re: Have the tabloids calmed down yet?


      Is this a phishing email?

  4. JohnMurray


    I remain under-impressed.

    The "EU protects us from our government" theme.

    Please, this all starts with:

    And continues with:

    And carries-on with:

    So the EU is actually saying we need protecting from themselves ?

    1. FoolD
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Please...

      It's a case of good cop / bad cop. It's just that who is playing good cop and who is playing bad cop changes quite often.

      This happens because both Government and the EU want the same thing ; power. Unfortunately this is unpopular with the proles so in order to look 'good' one side always has to play the bad cop and do the dirty whilst the other side is the good cop and 'defends' our interests. Of course the good cop never actually wins out fully, else they wouldn't ever get anywhere.

      If one side gets too bad a name then the roles are reversed for a bit until the proles forget / forgive. This process is somewhat helped by the Government being booted out if they overstep the mark and a new lot with a clean(er) slate take their place.

      Ultimately it's a game where the EU and Government are largely on the same side but play off each other to get unpopular legislation through whilst keeping a semblance of accountability to the people they 'serve'.

      Or I might be getting jaded :roll eyes:

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Look on the bright side

    Without the need for the authorisation of the Home Secretary there is no need for such an office. Imagine a world without the likes of Jacqui Smith

    1. JohnMurray

      Re: Look on the bright side

      Who, unless you forgot, binned the last lot of "everyone is a cybercrook unless they prove otherwise" laws in 2009.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        How nice of her. I suppose it had nothing to do with the leak of the estimated cost nor an attempt to gain popularity before she was thrown out in a cabinet reshuffle and a nearing election.

  7. Eponymous Cowherd
    Big Brother

    I Believe in........

    ### Under the Human Rights Act individuals are guaranteed the right to privacy surrounding their communications other than if a public authority, such as the police, believe it necessary to interfere with that right "in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others". ###

    This seems to imply that the "public authorities" can snoop to their hearts content on the basis of mere belief.

    Some people believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and in honest politicians. Just "believing" isn't sufficient to justify this rape of civil liberties

  8. Rupert Fiennes Bronze badge

    The EU *proposed* these plans...

    Dream on if you think the ECHR is going to circle wagons for your privacy. It is legally required to support EU integration, and hasn't yet said boo to the Euro arrest warrant specifying "xenophobia" as a valid reason for extradition

    1. David L Webb

      Re: The EU *proposed* these plans...

      The ECHR is setup under the Council of Europe which is a totally separate institution from the European Union and certainly isn't legally obliged to support anything that the EU does.

      The ECHR will not have said anything on the European arrest warrant until a case has been brought before it and it has ruled on the matter. Unfortunately that can take a long time since the Council of Europe has 47 members a few of which although signatures to the European Convention on Human Rights don't exactly have spotless records and hence keep the court rather busy.

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: The EU *proposed* these plans...

      But it was the UK govt who pushed for the directive in the first place. It's standard UK govt policy: get the EU to approve an unpopular directive, then blame the EU when the UK citizenry don't like it.

  9. Iain Leadley

    Catch 22

    I disagree with the snooping but then I disgree with Europe telling us what we can and can't do even if they are right.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Catch 22

      Hmm, I hate snooping....but I also hate Europe.. but which is worse?

      There's only one way to find out! Fight!

  10. Usually Right or Wrong

    Why not give GCHQ a Facebook account

    We all know that we are viewed as criminals unless we prove otherwise, and all our communications will do is confirm this, so why waste money on this, just assume guilt and arrest us when the police have a quiet moment.

    Of course the real criminals will email 'let's rob Joe's place tonight' in the subject line and may even include the address, or maybe they wont, if they are not dumb. Terrorists the same.

    So only dumb people are going to give it all away, which is exactly what Facebook is for, so GCHQ could save millions by just having a Facebook account and 55 million friends.

  11. Crisp Silver badge

    "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide"

    This phrase is driving me up the wall. You have everything to fear if you have nothing to hide, because you can bet that the authorities will carry on looking until they find something.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up

      Re: "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide"

      That phrase annoys me because it is completely and utterly untrue, and I'm not talking about the "nothing to fear" bit, either.

      Everybody, but everybody has something to hide. Whether its something above board like bank account details or other personal information that could be used by criminals, or some misdemeanour or embarrassment from their past.

      The enquiries into phone "hacking" shows that members of organisations that will have access to this snoop data aren't above making money out of personal details, either.

      It would serve Theresa May right if the first embarrassing info to be lifted from the database by some bent Met officer and published by the News of the World Sunday Sun was about her.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide"

      Drives me up the wall too. I have loads of things to hide, mostly perfectly legal. I hide my bank details and some personal details because if criminals knew them they would fleece me. I hide the amount of drinks I've had on a night out with my buddies from my wife because telling the truth isn't worth the hassle. I hide my average motorway speed from the police because it's about 10km/h over the limit, no big deal. I wear clothes to spare other males around me the shame of comparison.

      I am not, in any way "afraid" of any of these things that I am hiding becoming public, but it would be a damn sight more inconvenient for me, and the world would not be a better place for it, if they did

      1. John G Imrie Silver badge

        Re: "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide"

        I told them I had nothing to hide. but I still got done for indecent Exposure

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide"

      Unless you are familiar with Cardinal Richelieu, as the man behind the French throne sure the archetypal "representative of the state"

      "Give me 6 lines from an honest man and I will find *something* to hang him." (my emphasis).

      It's not about *justice*.

      It's about the naked application of *power*.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide"

        So, what is that that the government has to fear when it wishes to hide information about the activities of MPs, diplomats, ministers ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide"

          You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.

          When a government representative uses that logic it is nothing more than a veiled threat.

          When a pleb says it, it's like they are saying "What? Oh these rights? I wasn't using them anyway, just take them".

  12. frank ly Silver badge

    ".. for the protection of health or morals, "

    Who's morals are those? I'm happy to obey the law, as has been laid down in writing by Parliament. I'm not sure if I can live and behave according to the moral standards of the senior officers of some police force or government commissar. Where are these moral standards written down and who decides them?

    On the other side of the coin, are there any punishments specified for officials who misuse these powers? I doubt it ('official words of advice' does not count).

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: ".. for the protection of health or morals, "

      That was the word I picked up on too. 'Morals' can mean very different things depending on who you are. For example, consider what the term includes for the following groups:

      - Religious fundamentalists (e.g. Taliban / Westboro baptists)

      - Senior Police officers / politicians

      - Hippies / flower children / swingers

      - Josef Vissarionovich

      - Transgendered individuals

      - Yourself

      I'm sure you'll agree that one or more of these groups have an idea of what 'moral' means that is in complete opposition to one or more of the others. In other words, it is such a broad term, that they may as well have used the wording "any other reason that any individual can think of at any point in the future". In general, broadly-worded non-specific legislation is not a good thing. The purpose of a piece of legislation should be clear, obvious and concise, particularly one that curtails civil liberties or personal privacy.

      1. Keep Refrigerated

        Re: ".. for the protection of health or morals, "

        Surely the problem with the word 'moral' is one of sentiment. It stems from the fact that the word 'immoral' is felt to be such a strong label, that people are only left with defining themselves as 'moral'. It's the same with the word 'good'.

        How many times have you heard a person say "I'm a good person, but..." then offer an opinion or tell you something you did that you personally would not consider good? As with "I'm not a racist, but...".

        I had the pleasure of listening to a colleague explain that he had a girlfriend, but that he wasn't a bad person because he's not going to leave his wife. I consider that immoral, but for him he doesn't because he cannot entertain the thought that he might be an immoral person for cheating on his wife.

        I haven't committed adultery or murdered anybody, but I'm not going to stand up and say I'm a good or moral person; I will go as far as correcting people who call me such. As I know myself and I know that I can and do, do bad things sometimes for purely selfish reasons.

        What's really required is for people to accept there's such standards and be honest when they don't meet them. Instead of defining ourselves as 'moral' or 'good', let's be truthful and say we don't always make moral or good choices or hold such opinions, in fact we are capable of being very selfish and conceited creatures.

  13. That Steve Guy

    if your angry, best contact your MP

    Make your objections heard, its your right to do so after all.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: if your angry, best contact your MP

      Your angry *what*? You're either missing a noun or an apostrophe and an "e"...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where the Stasi went wrong

    "In essence: Balanced debate, not anti-government rhetoric."

    The Stasi's big mistake was not getting the message over. Clear presentation of the message is key. They should have fully exploited the evil capitalists line, adding a bit about terrorism and the 'think of the children' gambit - works every time.

  15. s. pam

    There's really NO NEWS HERE!

    Folks if you had any modicum of a Clue Bag, you would know far more is already in practice.

    Part 11 of the UK Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Telephone operators and Internet Service Providers retain some data already and have been for quite some time.

    Add in The EU Data Retention Directive, more formally "Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks.

    To steal unashamedly from The Matrix:

    Morpheus:" If you take the Red Pill, you open up the wormhole to what it truly is."

    Morpheus:" If you take the Blue Pill, you wake up like nothing has happened this was just a dream."

    Protesting to your MP might help, but to be really effective we as a society need out MP's to hammer the UK representatives to the EU.

    Sadly, the following are now what happens:

    Work for a Gov't department -- your email and web are logged.

    Work for a public company -- ditto

    Use the Internet in a number of EU countries, your email and web are logged

  16. SJRulez

    Yep whats the betting the Gov will now complain the EU has two much power over law making and they will force it through anyway, yet when it comes to a terrorists wanted in his home country the moan and gripe but dont actually do sod all about it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Genuine question from a n00b

    If I'm browsing my hotmail, the address starts HTTPS. Same with facebook, everything is done over HTTPS. Does this not render any attempts to read or intercept the communication (for gentle probing) impossible? Sure, if they were desperate they could work on breaking that encryption but for a casual observer, would they not just see gibberish and wouldn't even know that I was on facebook? Like I say, genuine question that.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Genuine question from a n00b

      The HTTPS mneans that the content of the packets between your computer and facebook is encrypted via a public/private key mechanism, meaning that only facebook can understand what you send, and only you can understand what facebook sends.

      However, the transport layer still has to deliver the packets to the correct address, so anyone intercepting those by, e.g. snooping at the ISP can see that a conversation between you and facebook is taking place.

      It is possible, although unlikeley, that SSL has unspecified weaknesses / backdoors or that the spooks have access to facebook's private keys, so the content of those packets may not be as secret as you think either.

    2. David L Webb

      Re: Genuine question from a n00b

      https encrypts the data being transmitted it doesn't stop anyone seeing your ip address or what sites you are visiting.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Genuine question from a n00b

        Very good answers. Next level of obfuscation would be for you to use:

        ssh -D 1080 <somewhere non UK> and configure Firefox to use localhost:1080 as a SOCKS proxy.

        From then onwards all they will see is a port 22 encrypted connection to your <somewhere non UK> and nothing else.

        Still not perfect I know but at least they'd have to work a lot harder.

        If you're very paranoid then you should investigate TOR.

  18. Colin Brett
    Big Brother

    It was this bit that got me ...

    "Earlier this year the Commission reported that its concerns had been addressed after RIPA was amended to state that it is now generally only legal to intrude on private communications if you have a warrant or both the sender and recipient of information have given consent, even if it is done unintentionally."

    Unintentional consent? Like when a user clicks OK on a pop-up window but doesn't read the small print first? Or, even if they do read the small print, they still have to click OK to visit the site.

    Now that's worrying.



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