back to article UK's web super-snoop powers could be extended to councils

The UK Border Agency (UKBA), local councils and other bodies have until the end of next week to justify their right to access citizens' communications records. Home Secretary Theresa May appeared to offer a minor concession to civil liberties campaigners by considering excluding various public organisations from her proposed …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Uh

    UKBA's McGregor agreed, adding that "serious criminals are making increasing use of a more sophisticated internet" adding that said crooks were also using "smartphone techniques".

    So they are requesting more power over the citizenry with the only reasons being utter bollocks. Shameful.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. John G Imrie Silver badge

    Dear Ms. May

    Please provide us with all communications between you and the rest of the world.

    Yours,

    The people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

    1. RocketBook
      Big Brother

      Re: Dear Ms. May

      Please give us a list of the submissions you received, the actaul names of the people signing the submissions and how many times they nagged to make you decide that "oh, maybe that last gubinment weren't wrong after all and we DO need to treat everyone like a child or a criminal, because the Sir Humphreys, the ACPOs the CEOPS and now the bloody HMRC all want to sniff at where you have been.

      Oh, and I know it will maybe only get the low hanging fruit, but think of this, they can expand the legislation (if I read it correctly) without further debate and how long will it be before they decide anyone using proxies or TOR etc really shouldhavetheir door knocked on at 5 in the morning because you are *obviously* hiding something that the above "agencies"want to see (their probable view not mine).

      1. g e

        Re: Dear Ms. May

        And while you're at it can we have all of Peter Mandelson's records for the last 12 years, too?

  4. s. pam
    Childcatcher

    Dear UK.Gov

    Please award the contract for this work to G4S as they've done such a good job with security for the London2012 SCAMlympics we're all very confident that they will do a fantastic job.

  5. Jop
    Stop

    Oh no...

    I should not have sent that e-mail to a friend saying that I put a plastic bottle in the non-recycle bin. Awaiting a fine form the bin-police now....

  6. toadwarrior

    Women shouldn't be in politics they like the mother the whole nation and fear imaginary threats like pedos. I hope she disappears from that position and they put someone else in there who isn't a completew moron.

    1. Miek
      Linux

      Women should be in Government, although, those who wish to smother the whole nation in cotton wool just to feel safe should not be allowed in. I feel there should be a form of pyschological analysis of a given candidate prior to acceptance into a party or on winning the voting-lottery.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Now now...

      .. it's not that she's a woman; it's that she's not particularly competent.

      Precedent : Jacqui Smith was an egregiously appalling Home Secretary, but (before he himself got discredited) waiting in the wings to take over from her was Tony McNulty, who, although being male, would have been even worse.

      What we don't want is not women running the country; what we don't want is Parent-Teacher Association types running the country. Virtually the whole Brown government fell into that category, regardless of gender. It only happens that in general, most Parent-Teacher Association types tend to be female. It's a logical fallacy like that one about Socrates being a man because all men are Greek, or something.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Women shouldn't be in politics

      No. Stupid women shouldn't be in politics. Neither should stupid men.

      Pro tip: The word you are looking for is "to" not "the" and "complete" is traditionally spelled without the letter w. Getting these things correct makes you seem less of a foaming-at-the-mouth nutcase. Although frankly your barely concealed misogyny rather makes that impossible.

  7. MyHeadIsSpinning
    Big Brother

    Big Brother fail

    I really don't see the point of this desire to know what people are doing all of the time.

    It's all very well to fear terrorists and to fear espionage, but this won't stop terrorists; they will not be caught out by these regulatory measures. What they will do is circumnavigate them.

    All this will mean is less privacy for the general populace, and it will cost the taxpayer money and cause the ISP's a headache.

    1. madick

      Re: Big Brother fail

      "It's all very well to fear terrorists and to fear espionage, but this won't stop terrorists; they will not be caught out by these regulatory measures. What they will do is circumnavigate them."

      Exactly. Probably by using a steganographic method with the resulting pictures containing the hidden text posted on Facebook, a porno site, or an innocent hobby site, thus avoiding detection by traffic analysis.

      1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Big Brother fail

        The 9/11 terrorists would not have been caught out by this sort of snooping technique, because they were using a webmail service effectively as a dead drop, saving messages to each other in a Drafts section and never actually sending any messages over email at all.

        A slightly more sophisticated method is to use public-private key encryption and put the messages out on public usenet groups; everyone gets to see that the sender has sent something, but only the holder of the correct private key can decrypt it. The technology to render this sort of ham-fisted surveillance attempt already exists, you see.

        Moving on, VPNs and out-of-country webmail is also a good way to go; especially if the webmail is located in a non-EU country that isn't keen on helping incompetent pseudo-Stasi states spy on their citizenry.

        Effectively what this bill will do is provide police and councils with a way of spying on the unwary, the stupid and the innocent whilst the guilty, the dodgy and the merely prudent use technological means to protect themselves from our dozy spies. On the plus side, repealing this mess gives the next government something to promise the proles so that they can get elected.

        1. Tom Chiverton 1
          Mushroom

          Re: Big Brother fail

          Remember yesterday they promised to close all remaining loop holes by 2018... fear....

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Big Brother fail

      "I really don't see the point of this desire to know what people are doing all of the time."

      There is no *rational* point in doing this as it will not meet the *stated* objectives

      It will meet the *unstated* (and possibly unconscious) desire to collect more data on everyone they can and keep it as long as possible.

  8. Mark 65
    FAIL

    Disgusting

    "On the issue of a warrant system being used when public bodies wanted access to comms data, both McGregor and Thornton said it would prove a hindrance to their investigations both for reasons of cost and potential delay."

    What the fuck do they think gives them the right to make an end-run around the judicial system? The one law that should be in place and totally enforced is that any evidence gained without a judicial warrant is utterly useless for a prosecution or further legal action. The other is that is a public body like some poxy tinpot council thinks the law has been broken then the police investigate and they can get a warrant. I'm sick of all this "if we have to abide by the law and convince a judge then it costs too much and takes too long" bullshit. Laws for pursuit of terrorists being used for dog shit - it amazes me just how far this country has fallen.

    I'm sure I can remember a day in my childhood where I believe UK citizens may have actually had rights.

    1. Miek
      Linux

      Re: Disgusting

      What sort of investigations would the Council need to do that require access to your Internet Communications?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Disgusting

        > What sort of investigations would the Council need to do that require access to your Internet Communications?

        Note that Capita seem to provide a lot of payment services for the council. How long do you think it will be before they are getting access to help with debt collection?

      2. Alan Firminger

        Answers Re: Disgusting

        Councils have two problems that generate steam from their residents.

        1 Has a tenants sublet the property, at usually double the rent ?

        2 Does an applicant to a popular school live at the address given ?

        There are lesser problems such as as checking that conditions in planning permissions are obeyed, checking that other tenancy agreement clauses are obeyed and investigating doubtful recipients of housing benefit.

        After that they simply have the normal commercial and legal problems of any other large organization. Indeed the problems with council tenants have no distinction from any other landlord because council housing is not subsidized.

        I assume that if given the powers local authorities would use them. Whether use would be right is a matter of personal opinion. I suggest that the only justification for such snooping is issues that threaten life, and they should be referred to the police.

    2. John H Woods
      Unhappy

      Re: Disgusting

      "I'm sure I can remember a day in my childhood where I believe UK citizens may have actually had rights"

      I can remember a day in my childhood, at JHQ Rheindahlen, when I realised why we were prepared to risk nuclear war with the Soviets rather than allow them to roll their sick authoritarian society over Europe. A few decades before, millions of people had given their lives to prevent a different sick authoritarian regime doing the same.

      Why are all our governments obsessed with deploying the machinery of totalitarianism?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Disgusting

        ""Why are all our governments obsessed with deploying the machinery of totalitarianism?"

        1) Because they can, and no matter which lying inept bunch win, they all have identical policies to line their pockets and those of mates and lobbyists, whilst s**ting on the wider population.

        And

        2) Because the alternative of doing real useful work is too hard. So things they could fix, need fixing, but won't could include: Our rubbish tax system; Our rubbish "benefits" system; Our rubbish education system; Our dysfunctional energy policy; Our dysfunctional defence policy; the vastly wasteful and incompetent public sector; Untrammeled immigration when the infrastructure can't cope with the existing population; the broken pension system; the unaffordable health care system, etc etc.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Disgusting

        "Why are all our governments obsessed with deploying the machinery of totalitarianism?"

        Convenience.

        Or as Joseph Wambaugh put it "Police work is *only* easy in a police state"

        ANd of course the fat profits for Dettica and the service contracts to any more-or-less UK owned service companies who get a contract (Logica?)

  9. Schultz

    Stupid questions!

    ".... didn't want to publicly reveal [which data is currently unavailable to the cops] because it could fall into the hands of criminals."

    translation: Ooh, bugger off, do you expect me to actually know the details? No, can't say that. None of your business! No, can't say that either. That information would help the criminals! Aha, dodged it!

  10. Miek
    Big Brother

    There is absolutely no justification for the Councils to have access to anyone's Internet Communication details.

    I can understand that the Police may want to track criminal activity or the counter terror folks may want to keep tabs on our rabid rantings, but, what useful information would the Councils gain by prying through the details of our communications? Can anyone think of one?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge
      Devil

      The problem is not with the councils having access

      The problem is with the councils _ALLOWED_ to investigate in the first place.

      It is _NONE_ of their f***ing business to investigate. It should be the police (or the taxman) doing it with them being allowed only to provide technical assistance when and where needed. Councils should be allowed to request a matter to be investigated and that is where their powers should end.

      Unfortunately this is not the case - councils are allowed by UK law and precedent to pry into what is:

      1. Various cases of fraud by misrepresentation - all the "who lives where and is entitled to what" cases.

      2. Environmental issues of various sizes starting from minor misdemeanors like fly tipping to things that are criminal and have well defined crimes on the statute book.

      3. Fraud of various shapes, colors and sizes related to the building trade and city planning.

      4. Tax offenses of various shapes and sizes related to local taxation.

      The pretext is that it will be "cheaper" than the police doing this. This pretext is false - each council uses hundreds of people across multiple departments where the police (and HMRC) would have used the part-time of less than 5-10 people to cover the same region. On top of that the councils _FAIL_ to bring most of the cases that should to be prosecuted to prosecution.

      One you have fixed the underlying cause there will be no need for the council to look into anything. Until then, they will continue to ask.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The problem is not with the councils having access

        > The pretext is that it will be "cheaper" than the police doing this.

        Surely there isn't a recorded instance in the history of local government of anything ever becoming cheaper by the council doing it

      2. Miek
        Linux

        Re: The problem is not with the councils having access

        @Voland's right hand

        Okay, so there is a legitimate area where the Councils can investigate something ... but

        How useful would logs of a user's access to certain websites or who and when they sent an email be useful without the actual content data associated with it. I mean who writes a subject line of "Just off to do some more fly tipping" or "Re: Avoiding my taxes". ?

  11. wowfood

    So

    If this bill goes through, how many people are going to start paying that little bit extra for an encypted tunneling service?

  12. Magister
    Big Brother

    "On the issue of a warrant system being used when public bodies wanted access to comms data, both McGregor and Thornton said it would prove a hindrance to their investigations both for reasons of cost and potential delay."

    And there you have it; their sole justification for all of this. I'm sure that they will offer the re-assurance "Trust us, we know what we are doing". Anytime any public person or body makes that claim, the rest of us should start getting very concerned - because you can guarantee that it is utter horsefeathers and they really haven't a clue.

    1. Burkhard Kloss
      FAIL

      +1

      I'm sure there are lots of things that are hindrances to their investigations, both for reasons of cost and potential delay. Habeas corpus, a judicial system, PACE, people being allowed to move around, not having CCTV in everyone's bedrooms (although that could be a potentially profitable public service. I digress).

      McGregor and Thornton are clearly unfit for public office.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      ""On the issue of a warrant system being used when public bodies wanted access to comms data, both McGregor and Thornton said it would prove a hindrance to their investigations both for reasons of cost and potential delay.""

      Exactly.

      Convenience.

      Otherwise they might have to IDK build a case and collect *evidence*.

  13. LinkOfHyrule
    Joke

    All your datas are belong to us - kind regards, the council tax depatment!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    When this goes live

    I am immediately switching to a secure vpn to access the net. I already offshore my email server.

    Oh wait, that's exactly what so called "terrorists" would do as well making this law solely for snooping on UK citizens.

    1. Arrrggghh-otron

      Re: When this goes live

      Me too...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Public trust

    It is precisely because of this institutional inability of the Home Office to distinguish between matters of national security at one extreme, and minor infringements of local council regulations at the other, that the public does not trust what is being proposed.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Haha! All this farce will do is move a great deal of people over to Tor. ROFL!

  17. yosemite
    Unhappy

    Police State

    Sometimes it feels like I fell asleep and woke up back in 1950s GDR. We should rename the MET to the Stasi...

  18. King Jack
    Mushroom

    If this comes into law, I give it a year before the people of the UK revolt. They cannot put everyone in jail. The Berlin wall fell. So will this.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Joke

      "They cannot put everyone in jail. "

      Well, not with the UK having the highest percentage of its population per 1000 in jail across all 27 EU states.

      They'll need a *much* larger prison building programme (and that's exactly how the members of the CCDP unit will see this).

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure someone tried to sell this crap somewhere by saying explictly that access wouldn't be given to local councils, it'd be the police and the inland revenue?

    Sure I remember that somewhere?

    1. Code Monkey

      You may also remember the Tories attacking it when Labour tried to bring it in. And during the election.

      They're all fearful, greedy, self-serving shitebags and none of them deserve our support.

  20. JaitcH
    WTF?

    A better reason to ....

    subscribe to Phil Zimmerman's new encryption software doesn't exist.

    These governmental fools should understand it is easier to circumvent their unfettered access in to the citizenry's most private communications.

    If councils need to invade communications, let them go get the police and they should get a warrant. Bloody garbage collectors don't need all these powers.

  21. Valerion

    Councils

    This is what I want my council to do:

    1 - Pick up my rubbish and any rubbish on the streets, and maintain a municipal tip.

    2 - Keep the schools open.

    3 - Stay the hell out of my business.

  22. CraigW

    Another nutter

    And we thought 'Whacky' Jacqui Smith was bad.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Another nutter

      "And we thought 'Whacky' Jacqui Smith was bad."

      Nah. Just a more willing sock puppet for the group of senior (current and past) intelligence and security Sir Humphrey's who were (and still are) behind this "plan".

  23. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  24. C. P. Cosgrove
    Thumb Down

    UK Border Agency ?

    Forgive me for being a hick from the sticks with straw in my hair, but I understood that the function of the Border Agency was to control the flow of live bodies across the Uk's frontier.

    How does intercepting the flow of information equal intercepting the flow of bodies ?

    Chris Cosgrove

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: UK Border Agency ?

      Regrettably I can suggest a scenario.

      Discovering that a certain lawyer in say Manchester has a very high volume of traffic with people in Pakistan all of whom then proceed to turn up claiming political asylum as they are on the run from the Taliban and fear for their lives. Bringing nothing with them but their wife, their children their luggage and a copy of the police report and traveling by direct flight so they cannot be returned to another country.

      I would suggest that might cross the line when it comes to giving your client their best advice.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe it's just me,

    but the name "Cressida Dick" conjures up images of the lead villainess in a porno-parody of a Disney cartoon.

    PS - No offense to the lady in question, as all I know of her is what's in this article.

    PPS - Why yes, I *would* pay to see such a film...

    1. Steen Hive
      Big Brother

      Re: Maybe it's just me,

      Lucky you. For me, that incompetent slimeball's name conjures up images of electricians with 7 bullets in their face.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Maybe it's just me,

      "but the name "Cressida Dick" conjures up images of the lead villainess in a porno-parody of a Disney cartoon."

      Nice

      "PS - No offense to the lady in question, "

      Just make sure you're not walking round London with a heavy baggy jacket on a hot day with a sun tan and you should be alright.

      You might like to look up her history.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Undemocratic

    The usual crap is trotted out by the authorities to justify a mass spying project worthy of the Stazi. It is disgraceful if the Communications Data Bill (if passed into law) gets altered through secondary legislation (often nodded through Parliament with no debate). It is about what "might happen in the future"- basically a blank slate for the state to do what it wants. While (if the comments sections of media websites can be used to gauge public opinion) I think the public are against these proposals, they will pass in some form.

  27. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    So they want *universal* surveillance because it makes things *convenient*

    And if it's not flexible enough there's always the "statutory instrument" for a bit of law by the "back door," a favorite of the Dark Lord himself.

    No matter how low you think a senior civil servant manager (and while some of these people wear a uniform that's what they *all* were on the 1st day) they will *always* perform below your expectations.

    I listen to the civil servant testimony and think "Do you ever actually *listen* to the paranoid BS you're spouting?"

    According to them everyone is a potential pedophile/terrorist/drug trafficker/tax avoider and must be watched forever just-in-case they actually *do* anything.

    Britards. Write to the the committee members. Blow away their lies. They claim universal surveillance will cost the UK£120m a year and *save* c£500m a year. Where the f**K did that number come from? They are going to save the UK from another 7/7 even *every* year? Are they f**king kidding?

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