back to article Big Brother is born. And we find out 15 years too late to stop him

The "Big Brother" comprehensive national database system feared by many MPs has been built behind their backs over the last decade, and even has a name for its most intrusive component: a central London national phone and internet tapping centre called PRESTON. PRESTON, which collects about four million intercepted phone calls …

Anonymous Coward

Big Brother, is that you?

I notice quite a few comments here which appear very reasonable to me have attracted a single downvote. Is an NTAC employee posting here?

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Re: Big Brother, is that you?

I was wondering the same and expecting a single comment in favour of these actions (and probably massively downvoted) to tell me who was downvotting every sensible comment. No such luck... yet?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

I don't know - does "Matt Bryant" work for NTAC (in the PR department)?

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Re: Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

Yeah, I was going to point at MB as well.

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Re: Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

Seems he doesn't want to come out and comment on this one. Could that be because its indefensible? Could it be because it shows actual harm to our sovreign state-hood?

Well, MB? What you got this time for us to downvote en masse?

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Happy

Re: Bleating Bernie Re: Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

"Seems he doesn't want to come out and comment on this one...." Oh I did, it's just they're letting Jezza Crobyn's Fan Club moderate this thread, so commonsense was immediately censored upon posting.

".....Well, MB? What you got this time for us to downvote en masse?" Sorry but shouldn't you lot get just one down-vote between you all seeing as you all only have one spoonfed "opinion"?

PS; - show me the harm!

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Re: Bleating Bernie Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

I doubt your posts were removed based on your political bias, as if that were the case they'd all be gone by now, but I take your point that you replied and that reply was not seen.

"PS; - show me the harm"

Ok, let's see if we can't progress this. Please give us your definition of "harm" in this context, so that we can ensure our answers are suitable. Various people have shown various forms of harm arising from the governments action (and inaction), but none of these seem to fit your rather singular definition.

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Re: Bleater Re: Bleating Bernie Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

"....Please give us your definition of "harm" in this context...." Since it is you and the rest of the herd that have been insisting we have all been "harmed" by "all-encompassing and random spying" I would say it is actually up to you to supply both a definition of said harm and proof that it has actually occurred. Personally, I have seen no "harm" of any definition.

"..... Various people have shown various forms of harm arising from the governments action (and inaction), but none of these seem to fit your rather singular definition." No they have not. The most recent I can think of that you and the rest of the herd were bleating about was the use of anti-terror powers by the Scottish Police when investigating the leaking of case material to a journalist (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/11/25/police_reckless_for_using_terror_powers_on_journo_says_iocco/). This was (a) a very specific case looking at a single target's metadata and not the all-encompassing "spying on all of us" blather you have been passing as fact, and (b) not actually shown to be illegal, and (c) not a random spying act on an ordinary Joe Blogs but an investigation of a possible criminal matter (leaking of criminal case material in breach of the public's trust) with the assumed participation of a serving public servant (the cops on the case). Please do try again.

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Re: Bleater Bleating Bernie Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

Ok, I'll bite.

Harm, as defined by me, can be represented as damage to the political and social infrastructure of our nation; subversion of the democratic process and flouting of law in order to achieve poltically motivated capital.

You know, like the harm described in this very article, wherein a successive cabinets committed actionable crime, implementing mass surveillance programs from 1999 onwards, without legal oversight or the consulting of parliament.

You have allowed me to both define harm and provide an example of such. Therefore, harm is proven,

Off you trot to logic classes.

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FAIL

Re; Blind Bernie Re: Bleater Bleating Bernie Big Brother, is that you?.....

"....Harm, as defined by me, can be represented as damage to the political and social infrastructure of our nation....' So, as expected, a completely airy-fairy definition with no real-World effects and no way of actually being measured, but simply based on whatever paranoid conspiracy you want to baaaaaahlieve in. Good luck in proving that "harm"!

"....subversion of the democratic process...." Just because the Tories got re-elected? You really have to accept that not everyone (indeed, not even a sizable minority) shares your socio-political viewpoint, mmmkay?

".....and flouting of law...." Evidence of, please, in the form of court judgements. Or is that "flouting" going to be as much insubstantial and based on opinion as your claimed "harm"?

".....in order to achieve poltically motivated capital...." Blah, blah, blah. Sorry to break it to you but the aim of all politics - right, left and center - is to gain political capital!

"....You know, like the harm described in this very article, wherein a successive cabinets committed actionable crime, implementing mass surveillance programs from 1999 onwards, without legal oversight or the consulting of parliament...." You really do have problems reading round that chip on your shoulder! Please read the article again, it makes clear that the powers were given to the spooks by the politicians and they were kept informed of it as the politicians changed. You also have failed to show any impact on any of us by the "spying" you claim we are all subject to - surely if there has been some great and dastardly conspiracy in motion for decades there should be some actual impact on the general population? But you cannot show any.

In short, you have defined "harm" as whatever upsets your delicate political sensibilities and then shown no proof of even that! You fail again!

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Re: Re; Blind Bernie Bleater Bleating Bernie Big Brother, is that you?.....

" a completely airy-fairy definition"

You told me to define harm after I asked you to do so. Here is my definition, where's yours? Points lost for false dilemma argument.

"because the Tories got re-elected?"

No, because the cabinet is supposed to consult parliament on such things and didn't. I believe I made that clear. Points lost for straw man argument.

"".....and flouting of law...." "

It is illegal for a member of parliament to mislead the House or to withhold legislative process from members of either House. See the Parliament Act for details. Points lost for not doing some basic research into parliamentary law.

"powers were given to the spooks by the politicians"

Nope, its you who needs to do some reading of the article. The CABINET granted the powers using absolute authority they do not possess. They should've presented the issue before parliament, via a select committee, as given in the Parliament Act, and they did not. Instead, they created a statutory instrument without oversight. They're not supposed to do such things; they are not dictators but elected representatives with a responsibility to the electorate. Points lost for lack of comprehension.

"failed to show any impact on any of us by the "spying" you claim". We're not talking about spying on the public here, but instead about how intelligence agencies appear to be able, with the assistance of politicians, to sidestep the legal requirements under which government agencies, government and ministers are supposed to operate. Therefore, the law has been broken by those in whom we place our trust, and therefore that trust has been betrayed. This, by anyone's reasonable standard, is damaging to our democracy and our constitution. Points lost for your further non-correlative argument and bonus losses for further straw-man nonsense.

You have allowed me to define harm (Harm caused to our trust and relationship with government and this the undermining of democracy), and I have presented proof (this article). Points lost for still failing to grasp simple logic and rhetoric.

I suspect the only person who thinks this is a failure is you, whilst a very large number of people will see you as nothing but a failure (in argument).

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Not surprised, Governments and security services illegally gathering data while lying through their back teeth to everybody and breach ECHR and various other rules. Nobody will be held accountable and it will be business as usual for these faceless worms !

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For spooks, it's pretty much the job description.

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Big Brother

They've always done it

They've always lied about it, and they'll always keep on doing it and lying about it.

I kept telling people back in 1999 that this was happening, and they said 'you have no proof', and I admitted that I didn't. But I knew, it would be silly and naive to think otherwise. All your data are belong to them. It's just now they want you to know. Ask yourself why.

To be finally vindicated after all these years. I was right and you were wrong/told you so, kind of thing. They called me paranoid, they said there were strict privacy laws in place that made sure this sort of thing would never be able to happen, and if people broke those laws or lied, there would be stiff penalties and prison time. Pah.

At least now finally they have admitted: 'Ok, we are the bad guys'.

And the world will keep turning as the millenials continue thumbfucking their iphones for facebook likes.

It makes no sense to have this amount of information in the database without letting people know you have it. It's practically useless for the purposes for which it is claimed. It's just the TV license equivalent of 'We know where you live' (remember those ads?).

So be a good boy and be very afraid, coz let's face it, we are all criminals. I bet there isn't one amongst us that couldn't be sent down for doing something dodgy. Watched porn? What did you watch? You do realise that stuff is illegal don't you? (not talking kiddies/animals)

And if there isn't a law against it yet, there will be soon. And if it doesn't pass, they will just keep trying. And if it still doesn't get through, they will just move the goalposts and bring it to life anyway. Fuck you.

But please keep in mind, that us 'techies' are overwatched very closely - the average jo facefuck loser doesn't even want to know in case you hurt their 'feels'. We are the few that are even keeping a track on this, and still care, though we are a dying breed.

Dystopia is here (and to quote Orwell) 'Forever'.

[waiting for the phantom single downvoter to strike - he's like the phantom rasberry blower, but not as funny]

Toodle pip.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They've always done it

Not so long ago, you were "paranoid" if you believed the state were watching and recording your every word.

Now, you're "deluded" if you ever believed they don't.

Strange times.

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Safe to assume

"as with the practice of previous Governments, we do not comment on security matters."

I think that you can safely assume you're on the money with your statement when that comes back as the answer.

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Re: Safe to assume

Except, as many commentards have already pointed out, this stuff has observably had no effect on security. So, it's not a "security matter" and they're free to comment (unless they have something else to hide).

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Wow. I assumed the black helicopters would have got Duncan Campbell by now (he's been embarrassing the more sensitive branches of government for decades). Glad to see they haven't.

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Anonymous Coward

Reality Check: Proof U.S. Government Wanted ISIS to Emerge in Syria

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1aDciHCejA

Ben Swann exposes secret DOD documents that prove the U.S. wanted ISIS to emerge in Syria.

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Re: Reality Check: Proof U.S. Government Wanted ISIS to Emerge in Syria

Some of us assumed 10 years ago this would be the result. Not ISIS per se, but something like it.

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Gimp

So we *think* the legislation let's us do this but we won't ask anyone in case it doesn't.

That's pretty much their argument.

Here's mine.

"Give me 6 lines from an honest man and I'll find something to hang him."

By 1999 the IRA (the last serious persistent terrorist threat the UK faced) was shutting down.

Yet that's when Blair thinks this, ID cards and cradle to grave surveillance is a good idea?

Just another little detail we should add to the "great mans" legacy.

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Re: So we *think* the legislation let's us do this but we won't ask anyone in case it doesn't.

It's hardly surprising, Blair was and is an utter scumbag.

The one thing I regret in life more than anything else is voting for him in '97.

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Re: So we *think* the legislation let's us do this but we won't ask anyone in case it doesn't.

The IRA model and modus operandi, which as you all know was supported and financed with money from America [Noraid], is apparently alive and well, and exports well to exploit divisions in the Middle East.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So we *think* the legislation let's us do this but we won't ask anyone in case it doesn't.

I'm struggling to remember where the IRA made routine use of suicide bombers.

I do know that the great Lady Thatcher, who at the time said she would never talk to the IRA, is now known to have overseen secret talks with the IRA:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-16366413

How do you know when a politician is lying?

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Re: So we *think* the legislation let's us do this but we won't ask anyone in case it doesn't.

"How do you know when a politician is lying?"

All together now: Their mouth is open.

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Re: So we *think* the legislation let's us do this but we won't ask anyone in case it doesn't.

"Yet that's when Blair thinks this, ID cards and cradle to grave surveillance is a good idea?"

My suspicion is that new wars in the ME were already being planned.

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thanks for the fish

no surprise here, one of the reasons I emigrated to Ireland last summer, good luck and thanks for all the fish

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There isn't much we can do now that the horse has bolted.

Even now, I can sense an uneasy presence of total and utter nonchalance from the majority of voters.

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Happy

No nonchalance but just ignorance, the majority have even now never heard of your concerns & may well not understand it if you told them face to face

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"No nonchalance but just ignorance, the majority have even now never heard of your concerns & may well not understand it if you told them face to face"

Exactly. Most people can barely read a simple chart and most not even a map. A complex issue with more than 2 variables? Forget it.

And THAT is how they get away with it.

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Anonymous Coward

Analogue vs. Digital

I started my telecoms career in the late 70's commissioning TXK3 crossbar exchanges in England and Scotland. The larger buildings we worked in normally contained a Strowger switch and a room full of operators and there was usually a side room with a couple of positions in. These operators were 99% female and of a certain age which meant they had served in WWII - discreet and trustworthy. Their role was to listen in on numbers of interest and transcribe conversations (anyone remember 'interrupt' tone?). We used to amuse ourselves by plugging the C&FC junctors into the exchange building PA system and broadcast conversations for everyone to have a laugh at. Coin boxes were the best bet as they were random conversations.

In the early 80's I worked in Saudi Arabia on the TEP4 contract. As part of the contract the Philips PRX-A and Ericsson AXE-10 switches had a feature known as 'Receiver Call Forwarding' that allowed the monitoring of 4 lines on each switch from an underground bunker in central Riyadh (located between Airport Rd and Pepsi). A shame I never learn Arabic.

1985 (not 1984) and the introduction of mobile phones was the starting point for mass surveillance in the UK (Menwith Hill anybody?) when your communications end-point became something you carried around with you, rather than stayed in your house on the end of a twisted pair. ....and then we moved from a circuit to a packet switched infrastructure and the rest is history.

What I don't understand is why anyone thinks mass surveillance of personal communications is a recent phenomena, it was going on long before the internet came about. Governments want to control us, whatever next? Duncan has been right about 99% of his revelations, keep on snooping!

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Re: Analogue vs. Digital

I guess I am a few years and some older than you, during the "cold war" I spent 3 months down a sewer in West Berlin tapping trunk cable which ran in a loop with branches under East Berlin. This exercise produced some 15 -20 reels of recording tape a day. A suspicious looking cove with a weak chin an a snotty accent collected them and drove away in an unmarked American truck. Nothing is new in this murky world of government paranoia.

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Re: Analogue vs. Digital

AC, thanks for the history.

I would like to take this time and remind everyone of the ITT scandels in the 1960s and 70s.

Start from there and read down.

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What I fail to understand about this...

I'm struggling to get my head around the fact that it sounds like this is a functional thing, doing what it was designed to do. But it's a government IT project, and these things are invariably unmitigated cake and arse parties which, if they complete at all, end up under-featured and over-budget.

If they can get it right for something like PRESTON, regardless of whether or not you think PRESTON should even exist, why can't they do that for other projects?

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Re: What I fail to understand about this...

You don't know how much they spent on it, nor how well it actually works in reality - remember the options with SIGINT is either ensure the enemy doesn't realise that it exists and so therefore doesn't defend against it, or make the enemy believe it is far better than it really is so they are forced to use less efficient/more costly/less flexible methods.

There's probably also the fact that they deliberately excluded the politicians from the process and so didn't have the goal posts and requirements constantly being moved and changed.

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One of the buildings at the main BT research centre has one more row of windows than there are floors to which the lifts go. It's been there since way before the web or mobile phones. This stuff is not new.

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Anonymous Coward

BT Research Centre

Oh, that....that's the

<Bzzzzt>

NO CARRIER

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Anonymous Coward

So, in summary..

.. all the clamouring for backdoor laws and more spying rights was just there to legalise what they had already in place.

Or, put another way,, retrospectively legalising what GCHQ was found doing was merely a trial run.

This means that Cameron now has a clear choice: either calling a stop to it and launching an enquiry hauling a certain T. Blair from his comfy personal private bank to answer for this (and clearly lying to parliament), or sing along. Given the todger-in-pork story, I suspect they already have too much data on him to get any of this properly followed up, but maybe someone will surprise me by showing some backbone.

Oh, by the way, you may want to add this article to your considerations. Just imagine hooking that up to this database too, and frankly, I don't doubt that has already happened - no doubt with some national secrecy sauce so nobody talks.

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Anonymous Coward

"What ever you do when they are talking to you, for god sake lie."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eIUOUfhoJ8

And that was pre Snowden!

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Can I access my Data...?

If the data is held on a government database, and, as we all know, the UK government complies with the UK Data Protection Act (1998), do I have the right to formally make a "subject access request"... regarding the my personal data held on file?

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Hmm

We could assume a benevolent, greedy or incompetent government to take all of this power for the good of the people, to sell to industry to afford bribes for the electorate or because they are lazy and mean no harm. But it is not impossible for a nutter to get into power, nor is it impossible for the best intentions with bad results. Can you imagine accidentally voting in the next Hitler or the country falling to the next Stalin? How would they use this data or even the potential capacity of the surveillance state?

Power is dangerous as it increases the desire for more.

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Unhappy

So just to be clear *every* UK bank account password and code is now in 1 location.

But don't worry, it's very carefully handled (according to the people who took it without your permission in the first place).

What could possibly go wrong with such a plan?

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Security Agencies and Intelligence? Now there is a first class oxymoron!

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Facepalm

Oh, for fucks sake...

They're computers. Why is it so easy orthem to install shit we don't want and so difficult for us to see it?

This has got to stop.

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Licio Gelli, rest in pish

This peaceful death has only twelve active googlenews hits, and admit it, most of you hadn't heard of him. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Poetry amongst other similar bastardisations of our decency.

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When You're In The System

When the helicopter flew over, I could feel their eyes- wet, like peaches.

When you're in the system, they switch the flip and then you're done: cell phones, satellites, the Internet ...

- Red

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This is sadly permanent

This is all clearly past the point of no return. None of this is going away, no matter how much we complain. Next time a user asks me how best to keep their personal data safe, I will answer with the truth:

Get rid of your computer.

I may have a career in IT, but when the pitchfork wielding anti-tech mobs start to form in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, I want to be the one carrying the torch that lights the bonfires.

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Pint

Vogons

Whenever I think of the way government organisations tend to work, ultimately one image subsists in my mind above all else... there's Vogons! Vogons everywhere! As obsessed with micromanaging information as they are ultimately incompetent to wrangle any sort of meaning from it...

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Anonymous Coward

Taking over where the SS left off

They're doing such a good job it almost makes you proud to be British /NOT

When do enemies of the state have to start wearing armbands?

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Thumb Up

You've been upvoted

I don't think I have ever upvoted so many comments as I have on this thread. So much sensible commentarding. Thank you.

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