back to article MPs wake up to 21st century and internet

A good caning for Google and calls for an internet Bill of Rights were just two of the topics exercising MPs' minds last week in the course of a milestone debate on the issue of internet privacy yesterday. The debate was called by Robert Halfon, MP, who opened by expressing concerns about the emergence of a "privatised …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward


    The term "privatised surveillance society" perfectly captures the most worrying aspects of what is going on and it is a surprise and a pleasure to read of MPs actually realising it and taking the govt to task about it.

    But one debate isn't enough and they have got to have the guts to keep on badgering them (hence the icon) about the issues until there are substantial changes.

    An 'Internet Bill of Rights" seems a good idea, but without the existence of an enforcement regime for those rights it will be meaningless. Replace ICO for a start - they've failed abysmally to understand the importance of their role.

    1. JaitcH

      "Internet Bill of Rights" ... UK doesn't even have a regular "Bill of Rights" (unlike Canada)

      You would be better off working for get a "Bill of Rights" to protect yourself from government.

      They are really handy against wayward civil servants, etc.

    2. Adam Foxton

      NO NO NO NO NO!

      They're saying a "PRIVATISED" Surveillance Society is the problem. Not "surveillance society", "privatised surveillance society". Suggesting that they're fine with State surveillance, but not when it's someone doing it without giving the data in its entirety at 0 cost to the government. If the same thing had been done- even including breaking encryption- by the government, they'd have said "yeah.. we're fighting terrorists." and there would be no debate.

      Google was reading freely broadcast, unencrypted data in a public space. Things like online banking were still secure as they were encrypted. Google did nothing wrong by collecting this data.

      And an Internet Bill of Rights is a good soundbite rather than a good idea. There should be just the one Bill of Rights and it should be drafted to cover the real world, the Internet and whatever comes in the future. Your Rights and Responsibilities should be the same in the real and virtual worlds.

      Limiting it to the Internet means that when something else that ISN'T technically the internet but is just as pervasive (say a widespread but physically and logically disconnected private wireless network) comes along, companies and governments will say it doesn't apply because it's the INTERNET bill of rights and that doesn't apply.

  2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Oh goody!

    I take it that this means they'll all vote against any proposals to implement the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) then - massive intrusion into our privacy which is totally unnecessary. If the government had said that every time we wrote a letter or spoke to someone then we had to officially record the fact at the local police station there would be riots in the streets. What is so different about speaking to someone electronically?

    No-one would object to the law-enforcement authorities (including GCHQ) having the power to request a court to order the interception of the communications (electronic, postal or via cleft-stick and runner) of an individual or organisation that is under investigation for serious offences, and that would mean that ISPs, phone companies, the Royal Mail etc must have procedures in place to start intercepting specific communications when ordered to do so by a court - it does NOT mean that they have to record every single communication just on the off-chance!

    Somehow I suspect that these privacy-conscious MPs are just speaking with the usual politicians forked tongue, and will somehow find a reason to vote for IMP when the time comes!

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "No-one would object to the law-enforcement authorities (including GCHQ) having the power to request a court to order the interception of the communications (electronic, postal or via cleft-stick and runner) of an individual or organisation that is under investigation for serious offences, and that would mean that ISPs, phone companies, the Royal Mail etc must have procedures in place to start intercepting specific communications when ordered to do so by a court - it does NOT mean that they have to record every single communication just on the off-chance!"

      In the UK they *already* have this capability.

      The justification for the IMP was to "maintain" capability. I would suggest the description of the capabilities of the Dettica snoop boxes is *substantially* above that and what ministers have been briefed with is *substantially* disingenuous..

  3. semprance


    So it's ok for the government to watch our every move on CCTV, but not Google? Indeed...

    It seems rich of a government member to accuse ACS Law of ignoring 'innocence 'til proven guilty', when it's ok for the government to sift through our browsing history on the off-chance that one of us downloaded a copyrighted movie.

    I smell fish all over... Not that I don't agree with some points, I just think the government should practice what they preach if they're so concerned about our privacy.

  4. David 45


    Oh yes? (Switch to cynicism mode). They can discuss this till the cows come home, trying to make out as if they actually know what they're talking about but just who was responsible for letting the digital economy bill be steam-rollered through without due process or a full analysis? Our good ole' boys in parliament - that's who!

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      That would be Labour

      They decided to force it through during wash-up, and exert the whip on their MPs.

      It does appear that the only way a Labour MP could avoid voting for that Bill was not to turn up.

      It is a shame that no other parties thought it important enough to exert their whips to turn up and vote against it, but that's apathy and a failure of understanding, rather than malice.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    They could start here

  6. Smooth Newt
    Thumb Down

    And in another story

    "I don't know of a Westminster hall debate that has ever changed anything."

    says former minister Chris Mullin at a hearing a few days ago of the Commons public accounts committee. ( e.g. )

  7. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Good reporting

    I have been waiting for somebody to publish a report on this parliamentary debate. The MSM seem to have ignored it, so thank you, Reg.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Look closer to home

    It's all very well complaining about Google stealing private data when there's hardly anything they can do about them.

    How about BT and the Phorm illegal intrusion? At least they can get on and prosecute in that case (as the EU have been arguing they should).

  9. Robert Lazzurs

    Trust the internet more than your neighbours? WI-FI security is for you ;)

    I am amazed at this debate. The information that Google collected was being broadcasted without encryption to public spaces. Not only that but they are connected to a public and open network. The information Google collected was already available to every party along the way.

    The only way to protect yourself from this is end-to-end encryption, not WPA/WPA2/the next local network encryption system. I believe it says something about our society that people don't want their neighbours to see their WI-FI traffic but are happy for hundreds or maybe thousands of network administrators and faceless service providers along the way to have access to that data.

  10. Lonesome Twin
    Black Helicopters

    Not chinless wonders

    More people should take the time to read at least some of the debate in Hansard. These people are not the supine retards of the previous govt, they sound like they don't intend their time in parliament to be spent entirely on arse-licking and drinks parties.

    I hear the comments above about the surveillance society and agree with most of them. ALL surveillance, at whatever level, fundamentally presupposes guilt of all the .. er .. surveilled until they prove themselves innocent by inaction. It's an overwhelmingly depressing of the state of Britain today and the dark paranoia within.

    At least this is OUR surveillance. Google is America's plaything and is doubtless used as a very handy tool by the Men In Black. America, of course, takes paranoia to previously unimagined depths and must surely be kept at bay by any means possible. We can live without street view after all. Especially as it's completely impossible to use sensibly!

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Impetus for change?

    I can't imagine that our MPs have thought this through to agenda without some form of outside stimulus, maybe even from US of A government?

    And there are bigger issues to face, for example:

    (a) precedent at setting a ceiling on public funds to the workshy

    Consequence: what should a maximal salary paid for through public funds be?

    Same as the PMs? (MP acting in capacity as First Lord of the Treasury)

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Too much trust

    Younger and other naive people trust corporations (state privileged Psychopaths) far too much, so release too much information and often don't obfuscate their internet presence, they are then surprised when this data is abused, misused, or used in ways they didn't expect; idiots!

    If people want corporations to behave, they have to make them behave nice, in part by making all of their corporate privileges conditional on good behaviour (by direct and government action), just like those of spoilt brats, and by making trust of them conditional! This includes are corporations, including, ironically, the government and The Crown!

  13. Neil Lewis

    Oh yes, "innocent until proven guilty". I remember that.

    "The idea that someone is innocent until proven guilty does not seem to apply for that law firm." - very rich from any MP supporting the current laws on so many things. Not just the IT related stuff, but also the more mundane such as 'moving vehicle violations'. Hypocritical or what?

  14. bmuckknock

    britain MPs discussing privacy

    that's like the mafia discussing human rights

    no offense

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be fair...

    ...most of the offenses by government listed above (CCTV, internet monitoring, digital economy bill, etc.) was mostly the fault of Labour - who (whom?), as the article stated, barely attended this debate.

  16. thecakeis(not)alie

    A lot of generalisation going on here.

    "Politicians" aren't a single unit. It sounds to me like - as opposed to what have been the majority of politicians for the past few decades - there is a particular group of them on this committee that are fairly plugged in. This subset of politicians seem to know 1 from 0 and are putting that knowledge to use in the appropriate place by being part of this committee.

    There are legitimate “why is my government spying on me” questions to be had…but are we sure these politicians on this particular committee had anything to do with that? Has anyone asked them what their views on IMP and the like are? IF they support ou government Big Brotherisms but not the same from private industry…why?

    Maybe they’ll even have a good answer! There’s just not enough information to blindly condemn this group of politicians because – lo and behold – they actually did something useful. This whole thing seems a good first step. Maybe you Brits should consider e-mailing/writing these chaps with pledges of SUPPORT for their efforts rather then denigrating them. After all, they might be the only actually close to useful MPs you’ve had in a very long time…

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Let's not forget

    Let us not forget the travesty, that is BT and Phorm!

  18. JaitcH

    Remember War Driving - Google just automated it

    Before some people climb on their high horses REMEMBER The Register has international readership and different laws throughout the world:

    (1) WiFi is limited to a common shared frequency band, and generally most countries waive licencing. registration, etc.;

    (2) Type approved equipment has to be used;

    (3) No one has exclusive use, right to elimination of interference, etc.;

    (4) WiFi is, generally, broadcasting so any one with equipment can receive it;

    (5) Privacy is NOT assured although encryption and user/password techniques are provided to provide low level security.


    (a) Google is simply 'War Driving' - see: < > - the only difference is they automated it and added data collection;

    (b) Google associates the WiFi data with GPS and pictures of surrounding scenery that can be seen from public thoroughfares - all of which can be done by members of the public;

    (c) Some of the traffic it accessed was only due to the fact the WiFi base owner was either technically incompetent or too stupid not to activate the available security in their WiFi equipment;

    (d) In many countries what Google has done is perfectly legal;

    (e) Almost every one of the tens of millions of smart-phones in use PRESENTLY record WiFi signal data, including MAC addresses, and TRANSMIT THIS DATA along with GPS data TO UNKNOWN RECIPIENTS EVERY MINUTE THEY ARE SWITCHED ON.

    So if all those people with their knickers in a twist want some cause to champion, go complain about what smart-phones are DOING not what Google has DONE. Make it unlawful to transmit GPS and WiFi data without explicit, per time, authorisation of the telephone owner. (Best tackled from unauthorised transmission time.)

    Then go figure out how to tighten up WiFi security.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    oh please

    Are people still complaining about StreetView? I care more about privacy than anyone I know and even I don't care about StreetView. I think it's great, and I am not in the slightest inclined to remove my house from it. Okay so they also stole your wifi data if you didn't encrypt it. Well tough shit sucks to be you sunshine.

    Why is no one worried about the ways in which they use the data that we actually GIVE them? Because if we give them data it doesn't matter what they do with it? Give me a break. Same question regarding Facebook.

    The government needs to give that bunch of pricks a slap in the face and say "right, henceforth you will now publish a list of your clients - those to whom you sell data, and those with whom you share data" And likewise people who buy data in this manner must consent to have their activities made public. It's about FUCKING time.

    That would have Zuckerberg and Schmidt and all the rest of those clowns bricking themselves so hard that they'll be shitting into a fucking wheelbarrow. Youngest billionaire ever, seen on a construction site with his arse hanging into a cement mixer. Now that's a headline with some fucking sophistication.

    "By contrast, the low attendance by Labour MPs and their almost complete lack of participation in the debate was noted by others present."

    I suspect that the Labour MPs were all at home cleaning their gramophones or whatever the fuck they get up to when the rest of us are working.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Give it ten years

    The current crop of MPs have managed to bring the majority of the house in to the 1980s so some experience with computing might be in there, but as the game industry tax break demonstrated, our MPs wouldn't have spent much recreational time getting a VDU tan.

    A similar shift in opinion on drugs and live music licensing might emerge when acid house aficionados manage to reach high office.

  21. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    MP questions:

    How do we control it?

    How do we tax it?

  22. Harry
    Thumb Up

    "Innocent until proven guilty" ...

    ... is a good concept for MPs to get a grip on.

    However, they need to look not just at abuse of that principle from all directions not just those emanating from the internet.

    A good place to start would be to bring in legislation preventing the TV Licence Office from persistent harassment of people who don't have TVs. The legislation should stipulate, loud and clear, that until they have *detected* a TV on the premises, they have no right whatsoever to write to or call at the premises. Because the person at that address is, by law, *innocent* and should not be harassed without prior reasonable proof.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You're absolutely right. Unfortunately, the BBC sees it a public duty to protect TV licence fee payers' interests by ensuring that others don't evade the payment, and it's acutely aware that if people were inclined to evade the fee wholesale then its entire funding system would be unworkable. This, they think, justifies their harassing the few people who actually don't need a TV licence.

      Send a letter to TV Licensing by recorded delivery telling them that ...

      a) you don't watch or record live TV broadcasts,

      b) their persistence is harassment,

      c) you've withdrawn their implied right of access to your property, and

      d) they've not to contact you again by any means in any attempt to solicit your acquisition of a TV licence.

      It works. It's just a pity that it's necessary.

      TV Licensing will then check residential information on the credit reference agency files from time to time to see that you're still the householder, and until they find that you're not, they have neither the reason nor the right to make any demands from anyone at your address again.

  23. Atonnis

    I have an idea...

    All of these companies like Google, Facebook, etc and the people they sell their information to just need one thing to control them...the one thing I would voluntarily sign up to...

    A centralised database of marketing information - legally enforced, and causes instant closedown, internet blocking and communications lockdown if companies fail to adhere to it. An opt-in database which can hold all the information I choose to put up there - after all, I'm not against targeted advertising, I want information on stuff I'm interested in, I'm just against being contacted constantly by people I never showed any interest in whatsoever. So make this database available (and funded by the marketing companies) and then have a specific and legally binding set of checkboxes that are OPT-IN ONLY. Any company that wants to send me information also has to put a request on that site asking me if they may contact me with marketing materials, and they have to fill in a standard form with specific information about what they want to send me...thus I can refuse to be contacted by them, and control my list of approved suppliers.

    After all, what good is all the data that these companies collect if they can't use it? At the moment it makes no difference to my life whatsoever and they've been doing it for years...what is the point and where is it all going?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020