back to article We're losing the battle with a government seduced by surveillance

As Scott McNealy - always a man who deliberately gives good quote - famously said in 1999, "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." On Thursday night he tweeted "Wow! I was righter than I ever thought I would be as an American. You have no privacy but this is hard to get over." It really is, but it shouldn’t be. Anyone who …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    False positives

    The number of 'false positives' with surveillance on this scale must make it all but useless for preventive action, surely? And as the UK (and maybe the US?) is only too well aware, even when folks are on the 'anti-terrorist intelligence' radar, it's not necessarily going to stop bad (and mad) things happening.

    red green bush. echelon. da bomb.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: False positives

      But the trouble is they fear the false NEGATIVE over the false positive because they believe the false negative to be an EXISTENTIAL threat and therefore to be snuffed at all costs (when the price of failure is cessation of existence, no price is too high).

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: False positives

        Are you saying "it's all worth it so long as one person's life is saved?" I entirely disagree. Some things are worth dying for, liberty is one. That means not becoming the thing you hate. It means not negotiating with terrorists and it means that you live with a little more risk in the world because you refuse to have your ideals and beliefs compromised by extremists with a grudge.

        Your beliefs are either worth defending or they are not. In the end, the person who is most willing to stick to his beliefs - come what may - will win. So, which beliefs are you prepared to live under? Which are you willing to defend? Or will you simply choose apathy and let someone else dictate the shape of the society you will inhabit?

        1. Waspy
          Thumb Up

          Re: False positives

          @Trevor Pott Excellently put, I said something similar in a Reg forum post a while back, and got into an argument with another poster who claimed to have been a victim in some small capacity of terrorist attacks, but seemed too emotionally involved to not see the irony of his demand that the security services, police and government be given more powers to monitor citizens...when that is exactly the kind of society that extremists want.

          The thing is, I too have had a close brush with atrocities and like Iain said in the article, and whilst I was lucky I would not change anyone's right to privacy to change the outcome. I walk around thinking, talking and acting freely knowing full well that there is a minuscule chance that I or my loved ones could be injured or killed by those who do not wish me to have those freedoms. This is the price I and all of us pay to exist in our hard-won democracy, and it's high time everyone realised what living in such a society requires of them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: False positives

            I have to say that I am finding it more and more difficult in living in a passively-aggressive country. We will make a show of strength and then pull out on the vinegar stroke. We are a nation of wankers - we no longer have the social cohesion and Dunkirk spirit we were once famous for. We all want to live in our spastic bubbles and don't give a toss about anyone else. Merkinism has leeched in and displaced our national identity.

            This country is on the way down and I feel trapped. My age is against me getting out of this shit-hole. Maybe I'll be blessed by being a victim of a car crash before having to rely on any form of state help in my old age.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: False positives

          "Are you saying "it's all worth it so long as one person's life is saved?'" I entirely disagree. Some things are worth dying for, liberty is one."

          Many people would say that it depends on who's dying. If it were you, then I'd agree. But if it wasn't....

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            Re: False positives

            No. Most people - most people who aren't American - would say that liberty is something you can only purchase in lives and that the cost is worth it. The totality of human history demonstrates our willingness to pay the price with each new generation.

            My life, the lives of my family or friends...if they are required so that we can retain liberty then so be it. I promise you my wife and my friends feel the exact same way. Some things, you have to be prepared to defend, to the death if necessary. Liberty is one. It is more important than the individual. More important than many individuals. At a large enough scale, it is even more important than entire nations.

            Only the unbelievably selfish would put their own security above the liberty of their entire nation.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: False positives

              So let me take the question further. What if it was EVERYONE'S security you were trying to protect? What if one slipped secret basically meant game over: meant your home country and everyone in it was basically doomed. Would your decision stand? Would you (and everyone else) rather die than live under Big Brother?

              1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                @Charles 9

                Nice false equivalence. Very Bill O'Reilly. "The only two choices available to you are extremes."

                Well, let's deal with your straw man. Would I sacrifice my nation as a whole rather than live under totalitarianism? You're goddamned right I would. Some things you die for. It amy even mean that your entire culture evaporates while fighting the good fight. But those deaths - and that dead culture - will live on in the memories of those who survive elsewhere.

                If a single man can martyr himself and birth a revolution, what then the martyrdom of an entire nation? There are more nations than mine? There are more people in this world that are contained in my nation. There are billions - perhaps trillions or even more - of human being yet to be born. It is our duty to all those who remain to stand up to injustice, to fight for our essential liberty and to never - ever - give in to terrorism. Terrorism of the individual, the group or the state.

                To give in to terrorism is to signal your weakness to the world's predators. It is to open the floodgates to an infinite number of others who will spend the rest of eternity trying to gnaw on your bones. We can no more let a nation-state crush our will as a people than we can allow a group of religious terrorists to cow us into changing our beliefs with a bomb, a plane or even mean words.

                You will live and then you will die. We will all live and then we will all die. Neither you nor I nor any other human being has control over that; we are all mortal, we are all ephemeral and temporary. The one thing you do have control over is what you stand for. What legacy will you leave for your posterity? What will you fight for, what will you - if necessary - die for? That is the only thing you have any real control over in this world.

                I will not die cowering under Big Brother's skirts bleating in fear about some manufactured boogyman. If necessary I will tackle the sonofabitch on the plane. I will stand up to the corrupt cop and say "no." I will pick up a shovel and dig strangers out of the rubble. I will do what needs to be done to defend what I believe in and what I believe in is personal liberty and the foundations of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Perhaps you need to fear less and believe more. In something...anything! I don't care what you believe...just believe.

                "I must not fear.

                Fear is the mind-killer.

                Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

                I will face my fear.

                I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

                And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

                Where the fear has gone there will be nothing......Only I will remain."

                --The litany against fear, Frank Herbert, The Dune series.

              2. Ru

                Re: False positives

                Would you (and everyone else) rather die than live under Big Brother?

                History suggests that quite a lot of people are willing to die in order to oppose totalitarian regimes. I'm quite grateful that they were prepared to, letting me live a pretty reasonable life. I'm glad they didn't just roll over in the face of vague, ill-formed paranoid fantasies.

          2. Maharg

            Catch 22

            I’m reminded of the conversation a character (I forget which one) in Catch 22 has with an old Italian man around the phrase “It’s better to die on ones feet then live on ones knees”, with the Italian saying it is the other way around, pointing out he would rather be smart enough to know how to live on his knees, then be brave and dead.

        3. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: False positives

          I'm not saying that's what *I* believe. I'm saying it's what *THEY* (the US government) believe. And frankly, while I disagree with it, it's hard not to understand the perspective. What happens when you're down to a stark choice between privacy and security with no overlap?

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: False positives

          Are you saying "it's all worth it so long as one person's life is saved?" I entirely disagree

          Ditto here. Let me stretch this argument into absurdity (or Gitmo territory).

          If I sling every 10th person in jail who walks past me on Oxford Street on a busy Saturday afternoon, simple statistics guarantee that I have reduced shop theft, terrorism and domestic violence. THAT is what is being done, because intercept used to be a law enforcement privilege that could only be used with reasonable cause.

          Doing this "preventative" is raw BS, because they could leave the data where it is collected, and only request a focused extract if and when there was reasonable cause, which had to be proven to a judge, and which requests would be subject to scrutiny a year later. Instead, everyone is treated as a criminal (naturally except those who order this sort of mass surveillance) and transparency and oversight is fought tooth and nail by fanatically waving the "national security" banner.

          I fully and wholly disagree with the way Wikileaks works, but sometimes I have to agree that exposing those skunks would be a good idea (no, still disagree). The problem is that they get protected and pardoned so they can go on burying the great ideals the USA started with. To me, that is a much bigger crime, it's almost treason.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: False positives

          I take it that you're prepared therefore, to perform humint attacks on your local mosque then ?

        6. Dave 15

          Re: False positives

          Plenty of people died last century to protect freedom, the lazy have given it away without a whimper. Threaten someone with something - even if it just isn't true - and too many cave in immediately.

          Terrorism? My arse frankly... The Americans have funded just about every terrorist group in existence in their deluded fight against the plebs having a reasonable share of the rewards for the plebs hard work. What wasn't funded for that fight was funded because they were fighting the age old enemy - the British, look at the billions of pounds and tons of weapons sent to the IRA for just one example (not to mention everyone in the old empire who could be roused to fight the oppressive empire).

          No the Americans are plain dangerous - always have been - they are as religiously lunatic as any group (lived there for a while - 1 pub, 15 churches - says it all), prone to over exaggeration - especially of how great (awesome) everything they do is (even when it is demonstrably not).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      September 11, 2001, the day when Americans decided that freedom was not worth the risk.

      September 11, 2001, the day when Americans decided that freedom was not worth the risk.

      On September 11 2,977 innocent people died.

      In World War II, 55 million people died.

      It would have taken 50 years and 4 months of one 9-11 a day for World War II to kill all 55 million people.

      The free world decided that the deaths of 55 million people were a regrettable but acceptable price to pay for freedom.

      And other than the USA, most of the world still feels that the deaths of 55 million people are an acceptable price to pay for freedom. We would do it all again if necessary.

      But in the USA, they've decided 2,977 innocent deaths is too high a price -- so they don't get to be free any more.

      They don't get to be free any more, fine, that is their decision.

      My problem is that US voters are deciding for the rest of us, those of us who live in countries that would prefer to stay free, that would prefer to not have intelligence agency bosses telling our politicians what the laws should be and how the budgets should be spent.

      US voters through their government have installed two successive governments, GW Bush and Obama who removed freedom from the free world.

      How can David Cameron or a future Ed Milliband refuse to go along with a US demand when the NSA can reveal something embarrassing about him? They don't have to have done anything illegal, even publishing a private political they held years ago, a view that turned out wrong, could be enough to sink them.

      That is the thing, it isn't spying on regular people that is the danger, it is spying on people in power, allowing the CIA to become another FSB/KGB running the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the US government plus incorporated companies, and through MI5 and CSIS running the UK and Canada.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: September 11, 2001, the day when Americans decided that freedom was not worth the risk.

        Completely facile and flawed argument with absolutely no understanding of history.

        The 55 million deaths caused by WW2 happened in a six year period. They could have been avoided with an extra judicial murder of less than a 1000 people, all of whom, we knew undoubtably who they were.

        What you're basically saying is that for the sake of freedom, we should

        1. Let those thousand nazis live.

        2. Then stand up and be counted.

        The truth is that _no_ country wanted to stand up for freedom, Britain sacrificed Austria, and Czechoslovakia, before the inevitable response. Chamberlain is viewed by some as a man who bought us some time, but in reality he was a non interventionist chicken sh*t tw*t.

        Equally, the American people, didn't want to go to war in either World War, and the US government was secretly helping us, until Pearl Harbour.

        There hasn't been a single major conflict in history, where the damage caused was thousand times greater than would have been "simply identifying and killing the people likely to cause it."

        Britain has 2.5 million Muslims. 20% of these have openly admitted they would prefer to live under Sharia, and would happily support Jihad. If Britain falls, America will too.

        I would like a world where little girls play in parks, wearing pink ribbons, and dream of Santa Claus bringing them a load of kett at Christmas, but America has no choice in what they do. The sheer number of nutters out there, defies belief. Look on any website which logs murders on behalf of Islam.

        Less than a hundred years ago, Turkey marched 1.5 million Christian women and children, into the desert so they could starve them to death, and steal their homes, because it was cheaper than shooting them. Hitler actually used this as an argument for the final solution. "No-one will care," he said, "who remembers the Armenian Massacre?" (which had only just happened.)

        Your argument on bent powerful is also wrong, MI5 are tasked with preserving democracy. If they thought any politician was bent enough to be a risk, they'd leak the bad news themselves, I'm sure.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: September 11, 2001, the day when Americans decided that freedom was not worth the risk.

          If you want to trust big brother, that's your right. Me? I trust that two or three generations of exposure to a society that believes in intrinsic liberty of the individual will remove from anyone the desire to live under Sharia - or any other theocratic, totalitarian law.

          There are plenty of Muslims living in Alberta; they've been here for quite some time. I have never met a single one that thought Sharia was a good plan. I have met thousands who would fight against Sharia and be perfectly willing to die defending the freedoms we all hold dear.

          I don't fear Muslisms the way you seem to. Certainly I don't fear the ones in my nation. They aren't "Muslims". They are Canadians. That they believe in a religion is of no concern to me so long as they aren't dedicated to forcing others to believe...and the ones I've met here have no interest in doing so.

          As you your Nazi question...

          ...yes. You do allow the Nazis the right to run for office, become elected and form a government. You do not track them with Big Brother and murder them before they can do something bad. You presume people are innocent UNLESS they are proven to be guilty of something. It is the price we pay for liberty: eternal vigilance.

          For us to be truly free we must acknowledge the intrinsic rights to liberty and freedom of all others, including those who disagree with us. We can only act if others choose to violate the laws of our society. NOT BEFORE.

          You also present a false dichotomy: that the only alternatives are Big Brother and Genocide. That is utterly fallacious. The reality is that in a properly vigilant society there is a place in between where you catch those in charge violating laws, freedoms and fundamental liberties after they have done some damage but before they have committed crimes anywhere near that scale.

          Right now, today, that is what all the people in this thread are up in arms about. There are people in charge of the USA who have committed crimes, violated freedoms and ignored fundamental liberties. We are outraged and demanding action be taken before those corrupt individuals start committing genocide.

          Given some of the paranoid delusions I've seen here, it may well not be far off until some dumb shit decides that "the terrifying Muslims" need a "final solution" and we'll be right back at war again; this time against those who used to be our own leaders. That you cannot see this...that scares me.

          You pull up Nazis as an example of why we must violate the liberties of all to catch the very, very few without understanding the irony of your example. It is exactly that sort of thinking that allowed the Nazis to evolve as they did. They certainly didn't start out to destroy the Jews/Gypsies/etc. They set out to reshape a battered Germany into an economic superpower. The rest snowballed as the dude in charge went nuts and those around him either followed, were more nuts than him, or wiped out those that weren't nuts.

          You don't seem to understand that evil movements, organizations and governments don't start out with a subterranean lair and a bald guy petting a cat. They start out with a group of people doing what they think is right. They compromise one ideal then another and then another. Their morals and ethics fall like dominoes as they fixate on the end, justifying any means to achieve it.

          "The right thing" turns into something monstrous and those who have become obsessed with the often originally noble end become blind to the horrors they have wrought. Some wise up, but generally by the time they do they have surrounded themselves with fanatics. Fanaticism reinforces fanaticism and it gets pretty ugly from there.

          Mass surveillance of innocent people is not right. There is no moral or ethical justification for that activity. It is a means that is unacceptable towards any end.

        2. teebie

          Re: September 11, 2001, the day when Americans decided that freedom was not worth the risk.

          "Britain has 2.5 million Muslims. 20% of these have openly admitted they would prefer to live under Sharia, and would happily support Jihad"

          That's certainly the most fictional-sounding thing I have read all week.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Big Brother

      Re: False positives

      " 'false positives' with surveillance on this scale must make it all but useless for preventive action, surely? "

      Not at all.

      If your goal is to frighten the populace with both the threat of a terrorist attack and the threat of indefinite detention without trial (like the 100+ inmates of Guantanamo Bay who are "cleared" but have still not been released) this is not a problem.

      It's a feature, not a bug.

      1. mhenriday
        Pint

        Re: False positives

        Precisely. Talk about killing two birds with one stone...

        Henri

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: False positives

      Yes. You would think that, wouldn't you?

      I'll just bet that someone came along with this idea on a train, and while discussing it, some IT bod from the security or intelligence services said something like "It will never work, it will just pick up travelling salesmen."

      And yet here we are, to quote Edna Modes.

  2. William Hinshaw
    Trollface

    Time to pack up and leave

    Time to pack up and leave the USA. Time to find some remote out of the way place outside the USA and its co conspirators and find some remote cabin in the woods. Maybe make take up a hobby like making little wood boxes ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Time to pack up and leave

      Good luck, sir.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Time to pack up and leave

      You will just be Ruby Ridged and that has nothing to do with Ruby on Rails.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      Re: Time to pack up and leave

      "Time to pack up and leave the USA"

      And go where? Every country is enthusiastically adopting technology to spy on and ultimately control their citizens. The dictatorships you can understand. But the "democracies" are more puzzling. I think the rationale is simply that in most mature democracies you have buggins turn between two major political parties (or two like minded blocs, if coalition governments are the norm). Add in an entrenched and unaccountable civil service and even less accountable intelligence agencies, and there's no option for the public to say "no", because there's nobody in power, or with the prospect of power who will stop this.

      So in the US, the masses still vote elephant or donkey, even though there's nothing to choose. In the UK the proles choose between Labour and Conservative parties, who likewise have the same policies, the same illiberal love of intelligence gathering. And it's interesting to note how similar these two sides are on almost all policies. Subtle differences exist, mostly in how they suggest they are different, but none run a balanced budget, none have any answers on the economic woes, all subscribe to more legilslation as a solution to problems caused by legislation, all are in the pocket of business lobbyists, and all think that it is essential that they have permanent access to what I read, do, or say.

      Will the public wake up and start voting for breakthrough parties, and force the entrenched incumbents to listen? I sadly doubt it. Not specifically privacy issues, but we can still learn a lot from protest parties like the Tea Party, who came, made a hugely important point, but were then subsumed into the Republicans, and the voice and the message lost; In the UK UKIP has made some noise, but will be overborne by the masses who still vote for the same party their grandad voted for, without thinking that these parties have left the British economy a smoking wreck. Even protest parties in broken democracies like Greece, Italy,or Spain stand little real chance of resetting the agenda, because too many people vote for parties that don't listen, and repeat the policies that have failed, have reduced freedom, and subvert democracy..

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Time to pack up and leave

      "Time to pack up and leave the USA. Time to find some remote out of the way place outside the USA and its co conspirators and find some remote cabin in the woods. Maybe make take up a hobby like making little wood boxes ;)"

      So you've just given in.

      The number of places that is a viable option for is falling.

      And those places will probably not give you the kind of lifestyle you are used to.

      Sooner or later there will be no place you can sit this one out.

      What will you do then?

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Time to pack up and leave

        those places will probably not give you the kind of lifestyle you are used to.

        Switzerland looks good for a decade or two longer, if you can hack the exchange rate. Unfortunately, it's surrounded.

        I find the omnipresent surveillance nightmare more troubling than any other SFnal visions of the near future. Soon enough, we will be living in a world where everything is networked, and everything has eyes and ears and a CPU, and no-one will be willing or even able to break the rules. I can't see a way past that trap. And then we'll be no more able to react to changing circumstances than insects, and the subsequent fall will be deeper than any previous fall in history. Especially if by the time it happens, there is no longer any place outside "the empire" to flee to or to be invaded by.

        When the Roman Empire fell, the people left in England lost the technology of throwing pots on a potter's wheel. This, even without nukes and surveillance.

    5. Quinch
      Alien

      Re: Time to pack up and leave

      Just make sure it's a woods and not a mountain. Otherwise, a few years down the line, you'll get a phone call about that book you were supposed to have written by now.

  3. Timothy Creswick

    It's the gagging order that's the problem

    It's funny, I was making this point in a post here back in Feb 2010:

    http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2010/02/11/europe_rejects_data_share/#c_692851

    The scary part of the US Patriot Act is that it has provisions for a gagging order. You can expect the really important providers to "legally" lie to the customers in the coming weeks and months because the Patriot Act requires them to do so.

    It's therefore actually very easy for them to come out and say that no such monitoring is in place; doing otherwise would have them in breach of the USPA.

    What's worse is that this is flagrantly in violation of the US-EU Safe Harbour regulations and the implication is that the EU was lied to about the extent of this as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's the gagging order that's the problem

      @Timothy Creswick

      Question: Do you have to post as a non-AC to get a complete URL to your past posts?

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: URL to your past posts

        Interesting question. I'll try an experiment...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: URL to your past posts

          Whoo hoo! Ken is a clueless tosser! ha ha ha ha ha...

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: URL to your past posts

            http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2013/06/07/hold_the_death_of_conspiracy_theory_for_conspiracy_science/#c_1853775

            Nope. It looks like you can click on the "Posted Saturday 8th June 2013 17:36 GMT" text and that creates (and goes to) a permalink to the particular reply.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: It's the gagging order that's the problem

      Makes me wonder what happens if they're caught BETWEEN two laws. What if a company is required to disclose by law but at the same time forced to NOT disclose by another law of equal priority: damned either way?

    3. g e

      Re: It's the gagging order that's the problem

      Though they could presumably say, legally...

      'We are not doing any tapping but please bear in mind that if we were it would be illegal for us to say that were were and would would have to say we were not'

      Y'know, just to keep it uppermost in voters' minds...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it's probably MUCH worse than this

    I sait with a couple of friends having a coffee few months back, and one of the guys was showing me one of those apps that is supposed to help you thwart phone theives.

    It basically allows you to remote control the thing silently, without any indication you are:

    - taking photos

    - listening in to conversations

    - checking GPS data

    - turning GPS and other features on and off remotely as required

    It does not seem a huge stretch of the imagination to conceive that a government that is reading your emails, listening to your phone calls and monitoring everything you do or say online, is also doing far more intrusive surveillance via your mobile phone, laptop web cam and microphone, etc.

    I mean... who produces the software used on virtually every smart phone? Apple, Google and Microsoft. All of them implicated in this PRISM scandal.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: it's probably MUCH worse than this

      What about a rooted phone with custom software compiled from source?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: it's probably MUCH worse than this

        what if it's living in the silicon

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: it's probably MUCH worse than this

          Chips made outside the US? Uncooperative gatekeeper OS (How will it know what to send? Without it, it'll just catch all the network overhead)? Kept out of the loop (airplane mode or simply out of range) too long, unable to retain everything? Sounds like a hardware eavesdropper would be too prone to discovery or other modes of failure.

      2. WatAWorld

        Re: it's probably MUCH worse than this

        Rooted phone and custom software?

        So first you need to get the software approved to work on your network.

        Packaged software compiled from source? Do you know how many obvious bugs can be in 10,000 lines of code? It would be easy to hide vulnerabilities in there. Many eyes do not catch all the accidental bugs, we know that from history, and they won't catch all the spying bugs either.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: it's probably MUCH worse than this

          The Android IS is open source, meaning many eyes get to look at it.. And it's based on Linux, which is based on UNIX, which at least has some history of security compartmentalization. If someone can sneak an exploit into Android, why not into the Linux kernel?

    2. Ken 16 Silver badge

      Re: it's probably MUCH worse than this

      It's not imagination - most mobile operators can send a service text to update firmware. It's possible to make that a 'silent' update not visible to the user and that can be used to intercept the on/off signal and allow auto pickup of correctly coded calls, turning the phone into a bug. That's old (pre-2001) technology for any phone smart enough to run java. That's why batteries come out for meetings (or did in the days before all management had iphones).

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: it's probably MUCH worse than this

        You will find that Java ME could not even properly send SMS and sometimes could not even address the screen without barfing all over itself and taking the phone with it, so don't tell me you could turn the phone into a bug with that kind of stuff. You would need to go lower level than that.

      2. JeffyPooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: it's probably MUCH worse than this

        "...It's possible to make that a 'silent' update not visible to the user..."

        It'd be nice if the moronic PC programmers of the world (MS and Linuxtards too) would try out this technology. Updates not being a complete frickin' Dog and Pony show each and every time, combined with beeping and bopping and rebooting and deleting the MBR by accident. Idiots!

        1. M Gale

          Re: it's probably MUCH worse than this

          You'd rather the MBR get trashed silently I suppose?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: it's probably MUCH worse than this

      I noticed that Microsoft was the first company to get on board with the NSA. I also noticed that Microsoft's new XBox One has a compulsory always on Kinect device that can listen and see in both visible and infra red wavelengths. No wonder the NSA are building a huge new data centre.

    4. WatAWorld

      Re: it's probably MUCH worse than this

      Much worse yes.

      It is not just going to be the headline companies that are subverted. There's probably hundreds of companies subverted into allowing the NSA to copy private documents and create logs of private transactions.

      And I personally have little doubt that shareware, resources such as SourceForge and Linux, have been subverted to aid in data collection.

      Confirming that might be a nice project for someone.

    5. JeffyPooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: it's probably MUCH worse than this

      Many (i)Phones will drain their battery in a couple of hours if you run the GPS much *. A battery that normally last all day will mysteriously be flat by mid-afternoon if someone is remotely tracking you - such as your government or spouse.

      (* Your Battery Life May Vary.)

      Perhaps the Government spooks can send power through the air to compensate. LOL.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Well said.

    Worth a read for this bit alone :

    And to those of you who say I'm naive in expecting government to act for the people, I say screw you for your cynicism. "You should have expected this," is no excuse. We should demand better of our governments and be willing to pay the price.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Well said.

      I don't want to go as far as Robespierre but the price should be boots in the arse of many, many politicians and their sycophants.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Well said.

        Historic note.

        The term "terrorist" originally comes from the French revolution and the time "The Terror."

        So Robespierre would probably count as the first "Terrorist."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well said.

      Err no.

      Not based on the evidence of the way governments are becoming more authoritarian in the West, Africa, the middle East and the Far East. Governments are purely implementing surveillance to protect themselves and for control. It's nothing to do with terrorism - that's just the cover story.

      If the measures happen to benefit the people they are supposed to serve, that's by coinicdence, not by design.

      Unfortunately, democracy is becoming the tyranny of the majority. In fact, the UK is becoming a Totalitarian Democracy.

      Bottom line: The future is Borg. Resistance is futile (courtesy of the surveillance).

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Getting right down to ITs Nitty Gritty. No one is immune and able to act as if with impunity.

    Get used to it.

    If GCHQ do not have teams actively monitoring all communications by those feeding at the Palace of Westminster trough, and there be no Cabinet Office or Ministerial exceptions to be made in that blanket trawl of dodgy persons of interest, are they in dire straits need of new leadership[s] with persons of greater intelligence than of late, in charge.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Getting right down to ITs Nitty Gritty. No one is immune and able to act as if with impunity.

      Or are MI5 and MI6 and GCHQ and CESG and etc etc in a bit of a bun fight to see who has what it takes to be top gun/dog of war in the battle of and for hearts and minds and your virtual souls? It would be pathetic par for the course of humans if it be so, methinks, and not at all a surprise.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Getting right down to ITs Nitty Gritty. No one is immune and able to act as if with impunity.

        Short answer - yes.

    2. WatAWorld

      Re: Getting right down to ITs Nitty Gritty. No one is immune and able to act as if with impunity.

      Politicians, including those in Westminster and on Capitol Hill will be key targets of surveillance.

      You need to get those politicians under your thumbs or the rest of the operation is doomed.

      Judges too, same reason.

      If you think about it, it would be virtually impossible to not monitor them, since their computers and phones are using the same internet and same cellphone services as everyone else.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Of novel ploys and disgraceful strategies ...... strange bedfellows, but in reality, poles apart

        Quite so, WatAWorld, Well said, Sir/Madam. And that does present the secrets and security systems with a problem of their own making, does it not?

        And if the targets of surveillance act badly or would seek an immunity to act as with impunity, would both secret public and private security services be failing to preserve and advance their powers of control, with that failure delivering anarchy and chaos, madness and mayhem instead of peace and prosperity, unless and until a new service and/or services appears to save the day and provide dodgy failed systems with their needs and feeds to seed with lead with ..... well, in this Coming of Age in the Sublime and the Surreal and in this Novel Era with IT Arenas of Virtualisation, Sweet SpotD Stealth and Sticky InterNetworking Source Provision*

        And with regard to politicians in Westminster, is the following question a perk they expect to be available and freely provided at tax-payers expense? ......... "The BBC understands Mr Yeo has referred himself to the Parliamentary standards commissioner." ….. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22830707

        Is that a particular and peculiarly exclusive executive action, which many might very easily consider quite cynical, primarily designed to ensure that there be no immediate investigative police and public and/or private prosecution services action taken ….. or it be at least delayed and forestalled whilst favours are called in and/or palms cross with silver?

        It is something relatively new to mainstream readerships/viewers being tried by those hanging out in Westminster, and quite popular of late amongst them, but never whenever there is no easy money involved in the shenanigans, which must make the presence of easy money, the primary key factor, surely?

        * And in SMARTR AI Systems Singularity ... Both Noble and Nobel in Extremis. And if you don't know what D is, Google it with a search engine of your choice.

  7. Busby
    Big Brother

    Some good reporting from the Guardian on this and it's currently getting a lot of attention. However nothing will change and the acceleration to total surveillance will continue. There may be some lip service paid to reforming this type of data collection, maybe some independent hearings but I would be amazed if things changed.

    Even if legally forbidden can you be sure that the NSA, GCHQ and the likes wouldn't continue anyway in secrecy?

    1. William Boyle
      Thumb Down

      Whack-a-mole

      Pretty soon, if anyone has something to communicate with others that they don't want the government to know about, they will leave their phones at home, disable their vehicle GPS and anti-theft devices, and meet with their compatriots in the mountains (dark country) where cell signals are not functional. Of course, they will still be visible on satellite... Doh! Guess we are all just so screwed!

      1. WatAWorld

        Re: Whack-a-mole

        In other words they'll have to act incredibly suspiciously, which will draw attention and increase monitoring.

        I expect in 5 or 10 years (once the uptake of cellphones nears 99%) governments will be monitoring which vehicles do not have active cellphones inside and tracking those vehicles in other ways. Maybe even doing random traffic stops on them.

      2. YARR
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Whack-a-mole

        Not necessarily. There are still ways in which the Internet could be used to communicate secretly and anonymously, despite the NSA / GCHQ / whoever monitoring everything, assuming they don't have quantum computers. If they keep clamping down surveillance on everyone it is inevitable that such a system will arise in response.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Whack-a-mole

          Wired posted an article about the US supposedly building a facility where they intend to house EVERYTHING that passes through American wires. IOW, even an encrypted comm gets captured and stowed away somewhere for the day they can break it. And IIRC, neither terrorism nor treason have statutes of limitations.

      3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Whack-a-mole

        Er, if they've left their phone at home, there's no need to go to "dark country". If they walk, there's no need to disable the car's GPS. In fact, just going to the pub would appear to suffice.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Whack-a-mole

          Excuse me. What about the cameras and satellites? Not to mention the eyes on the ground. And I would think at least one pair of eyes will be trained on every pub around: if at the least to be there in case things get rowdy.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Just MORE of the crap Bush II was pulling.

    From Bloomberg.com:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-07/obama-surveillence-defies-campaign-civil-liberty-pledge.html

    And Obama ran as"...a president who campaigned as a champion of civil liberties and greater transparency."

    So how's that working out? Hmmm?

    “It’s remarkable that the man who rode his way to the presidency by suggesting George Bush’s anti-terrorism policies violated the Constitution is emulating those policies himself,” said Ari Fleischer, the former president’s press secretary. “It’s as if George Bush had gotten a fourth term.”

    "Former Vice President Al Gore took to Twitter to say: “Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?”"

    And this isn't the only Bush-era policy Obama has continued. There are dozens of them.

    I voted for the idiot in 2008, thinking there really would be "change" in Washington. Looks like I was wrong...REALLY wrong.

    So thanks for the lies there Ace...you have managed to turn me off to ALL participation in the electoral process in the US.

    You're just one more lousy, lying, stinking politician, who is merely a whore for a vote, and nothing else.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Person Of Interest

    Are we sure this is not some huge viral campaign for season 3 of Person Of Interest? There was a great line in an episode from Michael Emersons character that the government had initially failed to create a surveillance system, but they just funded the growth of Facebook instead! Then of course Harold invented the machine and so it began...and all the backdoors into everyones phone was very easy.

    I'm curious now though, is it possible to overload this new monitoring system? If we were all to post messages saying the b0mb word and leader of the free world etc etc, are we going to have various security agencies knocking on our doors at all times of the day?

    If I die, can someone delete my browsing history please...thanks.

    1. Ken 16 Silver badge

      Re: Person Of Interest

      Funny show, it's a lot of analytics software to produce one social security number a week though.

      1. AOD
        FAIL

        Re: Person Of Interest

        A lot of software for one number?

        I don't know if you've followed the show since the start but the point of the one number a week (and it's not always just one number either) is that this is all the machine is supposed to be able to communicate to the main characters without detection or arousing suspicion.

        So far as it's government overloads are concerned, it's happily detecting acts of terrorism and passing them the details although the show wisely stays away from going into much detail about such acts.

    2. teebie

      Re: Person Of Interest

      If we were all to post messages saying the b0mb word it would amount to a twitter joke trial ddos of the justice system

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    British Have a Culture of Spying on Everyone

    Ironically as I write this the item on Sky News is about the US & China having a summit about cyber-security. Basically the US wants to stop China spying & stealing their secrets. China accuses them of the same thing. It seems everyone is spying on everyone else. While I don't approve of mass surveillance of whole populations I don't understand why the media is making such a fuss about it now. This stuff has been fairly common knowledge for decades. Haven't people ever heard of Menwith Hill or Echelon? It is particularly ingrained in Britain.

    MI5 spied on King Edward VIII: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/national-archives-reveal-mi5-bugged-edward-viiis-phone-calls-8628030.html

    But also on Tony Blair & Bertie Ahern in the run up to the Good Friday Agreement: http://saoirse32.wordpress.com/2008/11/17/ahern-and-blair-developed-system-to-avoid-mi5-bugging/

    1. WatAWorld

      Re: British Have a Culture of Spying on Everyone

      You have to remember that the security services and police had a duty to keep King safe and so this targeted spying was justified on that basis.

      The only shame I see in it is that they never told Edward VIII that Wallis Simpson was cheating on him with that car salesman, even after they had conclusive proof. Churchill had the information withheld from him since Churchill's main objective was to get rid of an outspoken king and Wallis Simpson was such a useful excuse.

      China might spy on you sometimes.

      Russia might spy on your sometimes.

      But the USA spies on you 100% of the time.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    #1 is good but #2 is even better :-

    #1. "I'm a conspiracy scientist. I posit a hypothesis then design experiments to prove it. Only after confirmation is it a theory," as El Reg's own Trevor Pott put it elegantly put it on Thursday."

    #2. "Guess what America, the terrorists won. In the haste to stop them your government became the monsters they believed you to be. Well played."... Aaron Milne ‏@wigginsix 14h Retweeted by Trevor Pott"

  12. Naughtyhorse

    pedant

    "I'm a conspiracy scientist. I posit a hypothesis then design experiments to prove it.

    "I'm a conspiracy nut. I posit a hypothesis then design experiments to prove it.

    fixed it for you

    or

    "I'm a conspiracy scientist. I posit a hypothesis then design experiments to TEST it.

    fixed it for you

    can't have it both ways.

    and!

    non-partisan oversight.

    errr good luck with that!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TWAT!

    "....The US needs to get a handle on just how far its government is willing to go in The War Against Terror (TWAT)."

    I thought this issue was too serious to laugh at until I read that. A brilliant and unfortunate acronym and a reference that most of us Americans probably don't get.... Lets just say sarcasm or self-deprecation was never an American forte....

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: #1 is good but #2 is even better :-

      Well, the first was highly tongue in cheek. I was mocking myself for all the flak I got for a previous article about how much of yiur data US.gov could access if you stored it there...a few days before shit hit fan. Aaron's tweet was raw frustration, and all the more poingant because of it.

    2. Demosthenese
      Headmaster

      Re: pedant

      Prove, v. i.

      1. To make trial; to essay.

      [1913 Webster]

    3. Should b Working
      Thumb Up

      Re: TWAT!

      It's definitely my acronym of the year candidate

    4. Turtle

      Drama Queens Of The World, Unite! Pt II.

      "Guess what America, the terrorists won. In the haste to stop them your government became the monsters they believed you to be. Well played."... Aaron Milne ‏@wigginsix 14h Retweeted by Trevor Pott"

      Oh so THAT'S what it's all about! Islamic fundamentalists attempting to get the United States to have mobile users' "number, location, handset signifier, and possibly IP address" recorded in various "repositories".

      It's good to know this stuff... I guess.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        First, they came for the Jews...

        And targeting political ideologies with the taxation gestapo. And initiating a war on journalism. And PRISM. And...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Editor down the pub?

    "London is covered by more CCTV cameras per city than anywhere else on the planet. This doesn't stop much crime, but expedites the finding of the suspects more easily."

    BS. CCTV images are so grainy rarely are they acceptable in court. They're also easily defeated by hoodies and scarves. Or, in the case of Selfridges, burkas. CCTV is nothing more than a sop to disguise the fact that the nation's police forces are now so emasculated they can no longer prevent crime, only pick up the pieces afterwards. Much like the NSA's use of this phone data, in all probability.

    And "more cameras per city than anywhere else on the planet"? The entire article would've benefited from the services of an editor before publication. Definitely written on a Friday afternoon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Editor down the pub?

      Thank you for your insightful comment.

    2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: police forces are now so emasculated

      That'll be the use of smartphones.

    3. Rukario
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Editor down the pub?

      "More cameras per city than anywhere else on the planet"? I can believe it. London has a lot of camera-intensive systems. Does any other city even come close to this level of surveillance?

      Cameras inside every London bus (how many), and on the outside for bus lane infractions - and London has a LOT of buses. Cameras inside every tube/overground/DLR/Tramlink train and station. Cameras above every lane on (nearly) every gantry on the M25 (or have they covered the M4-M40 gap?). Cameras at the perimeter of the congestion charge zone. This all in addition to the town centre cameras, and all the private CCTV cameras, including the one in the pub where the editor (supposedly) is.

      1. Rukario

        Re: Editor down the pub?

        I should have also added above, particularly with the London buses, that cameras have replaced the driver's periscope to the upper floor of the bus. Also in Dublin on the Luas trams, instead of having huge wing mirrors to see down the length of the tram, they're using wide-angle cameras instead, with a screen in the driver's cab placed about where the view from the mirrors would be. Reduces land acquisition costs by about 1.5-2 metres of width. And it's recordable, unlike the bus driver's periscope or the tram driver's wing mirrors.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Editor down the pub?

        I think part of the reason why a lot of people don't appreciate the level of CCTV coverage is that they don't actually know what modern CCTV cameras look like.

        In film and television we still see the stereotypical small video camera conveniently positioned and accessible for the villain to disconnect, plug into or hook something over to fool those who are supposedly watching the output from a remote facility.

        In reality, modern CCTV cameras are much more discreet and tamper proof!

    4. Dramoth
      FAIL

      Re: Editor down the pub?

      What I love is the signs advertising the fact that CCTV is in use.

      "For your safety and security, CCTV is in use".

      Last night on a train with CCTV and security guards, we were held up for about 20 minutes waiting for the cops to show up to remove some bottle throwing twats off the train. The CCTV for your safety and security thing is utter bullshite. It's there in the hope that the cops will be able to identify someone after they finish scraping you up off the ground so that they can charge them with your <assault or murder>.

      If it was for your safety and security, it would be something like the security systems in The 5th Element where a bunch of guns pop up to take out the bad guys.

      Honestly, CCTV is a massive fail.

      1. MrMcginty

        CCTV

        For your safety and security

        Bulls&hit. Your chance to end up on Britain's Most Murdered.

  15. BlueGreen

    The problem isn't the government

    It's people. When echelon was revealed, and some idea of its scope, I tried to get people to take note. I got funny looks and that was all, ever. So I eventually gave up. People are dumb, dumb, dumb (and are now freely using remotely hosted email servers for business mail. Freely and willingly! Dumb^9).

    That's not all. I was warning from 2004/2005 that something bad was going to happen in the market, only one guy listened, an accountant btw. It happened in 2008. Everyone looked so surprised...

    I've been warning people now that there's more market shit going to happen and that it's likely to be worse than 2008 by a fair bit. I still just get funny looks. Climate change? Look at the deniers here. Pandemic? Indiference. There's plenty more to be concerned about too, all of it very manageable if people would face it. They won't so we'll just blunder on till we reach something blundering won't overcome, then the real pain starts.

    1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: The problem isn't the government

      I think you are correct. My understanding is that the financiers have issued more IOUs than there is cash on the planet. When they get called in we will all be living in caves, with the exception of the mega-rich on their fortified islands.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The problem isn't the government

        It's a little more nuanced than that.

        Most of the ramping of financial risk in recent times is down to derivatives. These are new, often frighteningly complex, financial products whereby a deal is struck on an asset that may not actually exist. Instead, the two parties agree to act as if it did, and one side pays the other based on whether the hypothetical asset goes up or down.

        To determine the size of the trade, there needs to be agreement on how big the imaginary asset is - this is the trade's notional, and can run into billions per trade. The sum of all notionals easily exceeds the total amount of liquid currency on the planet.

        What caused a lot of the pain in 2008 was a particular class of derivative called a credit default swap. This was intended to reduce systemic risk (hah!), by acting as a kind of insurance policy. If I were worried about a company going under, I could buy a CDS from someone. I would pay a premium, and if the company went under, that person would pay an agreed sum of money. The trouble was, everyone was buying CDSs from everyone else, but nobody knew who would win and who would lose from the massive numbers of CDSs being triggered.

        This is a simplification, and I'm sure people can find errors in it, but I believe it to be reasonably close.

  16. tentimes
    Thumb Down

    Angry that the UK piggybacked on this

    What gets me, being a UK citizen, is that the UK has piggybacked on this and has been surveilling people by US proxy.

    I live in Northern Ireland and grew up with terrorism and this mass snooping offends me deeply.

    1. WatAWorld

      Re: Angry that the UK piggybacked on this

      In the American view those people you call terrorists were Christians and so could not be terrorists.

      1. ChrisM

        Re: Angry that the UK piggybacked on this

        pIRA were Marxists until the mid eighties. After being under attack for 30 years on and off it was interesting to watch the plastic Irish of Boston justify NORAID

  17. William Boyle
    Flame

    Re. McNealy

    Yeah Scott, how do you like them apples? How does it make you feel that the NSA is monitoring everything YOU do?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Re. McNealy

      Paraphrasing Scott:

      "You live in an open prison. You have only the rights the state gives you. And those can be withdrawn at any time they decide. Get over it."

      Land of the free? Unfortunately not. It's just an illusion.

      Long live the Emperor: http://preview.tinyurl.com/ay8xlgj (Washington Post)

  18. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Politicians happy with surveillance?

    or did they do something naughty in the same room as a mobile phone?

  19. Jim O'Reilly
    Holmes

    What war on terrorism?

    It's a bit like the war on drugs...A massive boondoggle with few arrests, a few drone killings and a lot of spend. This isn't a war. It's a police sideshow. There aren't enough terrorists to make the risk of terrorism tangible. In fact, you are 1000 times likelier to win at Powerball than see domestic terrorism. Most of it is local to the Middle East, where everyone hates everyone else.

    We need to get real. This whole thing is a colossal waste of money. But worse, it is a breeding ground for ambitious politicos and bureaucrats to exercise their power and really hurt us. Just look at the IRS fiasco. Imagine if Nixon were organizing that instead, or Joe McCarthy or J. Edgar.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: What war on terrorism?

      Waste of Money? Have you seen Lessig's TED talk on american elections? First you have to win the "friends with masses of cash" election, then you get to play for public vote.

      If you don't engineer a situation where those with masses of cash get more, they won't let you play in the next stage of the electoral process. There are few things which bring easy profits as government contracts and tax handouts.

      The system does precisely what it has been molded to do.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What war on terrorism?

        "Waste of Money? Have you seen Lessig's TED talk on american elections? First you have to win the "friends with masses of cash" election, then you get to play for public vote."

        Would that be the Lessig that's funded by Google? I guess he was peeved that his masters have not been able to get the government to sufficiently weaken IP laws. Really he was only bitching about his masters having not been able to bend the system to their will.

  20. NukEvil
    Mushroom

    How to end up on a watch list:

    Bomb president white house tower Boston pressure cooker airplane guns terror Allah jihad alqeda blackbriar Osama Kim jung un nuclear civilian pentagon Israel Hezbollah

    Enjoy.

    1. Steven Roper
      Thumb Up

      Re: How to end up on a watch list:

      Haha, I salt my websites and emails with a similar list, except that my personal list of spook-catching keywords currently consists of:

      "ANFO, avoid detection, blast, bomb, brisance, contact cell, destroy, Detcord, detonation velocity, diesel, disaster, explode, FBI, Federal Reserve Bank, fertilizer, fuel, hexamine, infiltrate, Interpol, kill, Nitropril, Obama, police, RDX, truck, unmarked, Wall Street, White House"

      I do change some of the words from time to time, just to keep the spook-bots hopping. Chucking in a few explosive brand names like "Nitropril" and "Detcord" seems to elicit more interest than simply having loaded keywords like "bomb" and "explode", judging by the rate at which various crawlers return to my sites as I update the keyword lists.

      I'm still waiting for my 5 AM door-kicking, however!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can intelligence agencies correctly decipher who are the US citizens?

    Regarding PRISM and surveillance targeting. With so many services already hosted in the USA. I can't see intelligence staff correctly deciphering whether or not you are a US citizen. Its just not possible. For instance how many users of said services set their country of origin correctly instead of letting it default to the United States? Using IP is no reliable indicator because of proxies and people travelling. So some will frequently fall into the net and be mis-flagged. You'd need substantial logs to backtrack. Equally expect data quality to be awful leading to wrong hits, false positives and ample cases of mistaken identify.

    For instance there is no enforcement of usernames in Yahoo, Hotmail / Outlook or Google mail, never mind Google+ or Facebook. Regarding the later I've never used my real name and never been asked by the system for proof, no matter what their policy says. People better hope their real name and online aliases don't ever overlap with someone on a watch list though, or things could get messy!

    1. Don Jefe
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Can intelligence agencies correctly decipher who are the US citizens?

      I was talking to The Wife about that this afternoon. How would they know who is a U.S. citizen and who isn't. Furthermore if they did know, does that mean 'my' portion of a conversation with someone overseas is parsed out or is it still visible and 'ignored'? If they can make the determination, how are they doing it? Who else is passing along that much info and why is it so fucking hard to replace my lost drivers license if they already have that much information about me collated, filed and ready to query?

      Is some 'specially trained' operative at Fort Meade ignoring this post but reading all the others on this thread. Have I been relegated to a 'special place' because I communicate with people in the Oppresive Monarchy from Whence We Freed Ourselves? Probably not, but Hi! if you're there. Sorry you're stuck at work on Friday evening.

      1. Don Jefe
        Thumb Up

        Re: Can intelligence agencies correctly decipher who are the US citizens?

        Part of my post above was tongue in cheek, but I've been thinking about it. Now that the cat is out of the bag and we know blanket surveillance is happening and it is highly unlikely it is going to stop I have developed a cunning plan to make lemonade from my shit encrusted lemons and create a single sign-in system to sell to 'them'.

        If The War Against Terror System for Terrorist and Asian Infiltration Negation (TWAT STAIN) can actually authenticate my US citizenship in order to keep my communications from being monitored, then in order to facilitate the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act I believe we should take it further. Logging in through Google+, Facebook, et al, should allow me to access and complete any government paperwork and/or processes with no physical proof of identity or physical agency interaction (mail forms, office visit, etc...) necessary. I see no reason why I shouldn't be able to vote in the next election using my iPhone or renew my passport with a few clicks and a selfie.

        Either I should be able to do those things or 'they' are full of shit and they are monitoring absolutely everything regardless of citizenship. Probably (b) but if not i have identified an opportunity.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Key sentence

    "Targeting suspect individuals under the rule of a court is the way this should be done. "

    Any surveillance that does not have this as a key plank will spin out of control very rapidly, driven by stupidity, greed, flawed presumption, and often the need to 'do something, anything, now' - think Birmingham six etc. Judicial oversight relies on the judiciary itself being trustworthy; it isn't always so, but often seems to be more resilient to being utterly morally bankrupt than most state organs. Even in places as utterly fucked as Pakistan and Zimbabwe, bits of the judiciary seem driven to uphold the rule of law against the odds. Anything else is letting the nutters run the asylum.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A lot of nonsense over nothing

    Those who have been negatively impacted by governments tracking phone calls, raise your hand? Yeah just as I thought, no one.

    Get over it people. ANY communication 30 years ago could have been easily monitored - but the public just didn't know it. Your neighbors can monitor your phone conversations for less than the price of a bag of groceries. If you're online, you're able to be monitored. If you go to most public places you're monitored. Unless you have something to hide there ain't any need for concern, IMO. The only news is that now you know more than you knew a couple days ago. Nothing changed. The world didn't come to an end. Life goes on. Get over it.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: A lot of nonsense over nothing

      Things are lookin up for you my friend. There's a job in Washington DC for you with your very own name on your very own door with your own unmonitored phone!

      1. mhenriday
        Boffin

        Unmonitored phone ?

        No, Don Jefe - while there may well be a job in DC for our anonymous interlocutor with his (?) name on the door, one thing that he (?) definitely won't get is an unmonitored phone. What we are beginning to understand is that there are no unmonitored phones....

        Henri

    2. OpenIndiana
      FAIL

      Re: A lot of nonsense over nothing

      You have no privacy says the Anonymous coward.

    3. WatAWorld

      you forget that the law prohibits anyone reporting that they've been negatively impacted

      The nonsense is asking a question that it is illegal to answer in the affirmative.

      All 3 governments have laws stating that, at the government's discretion, without appeal, it can prohibit their residents reporting to anyone (other than their own lawyer) that they've been negatively impacted by the US government's 100% spying policy.

      All three countries have provisions in the law for secret court orders and secret trials with penalties exceeding 5 years in prison.

  24. WatAWorld

    If the surveillance has worked, the politicians have no choice but to support it

    If the surveillance has worked, the politicians have no choice but to support it.

    And by worked, I don't mean caught terrorists.

    I mean has gotten embarrassing information with which to coerce politicians.

  25. WatAWorld

    I cannot help but wonder if Hotmail, Gmail and iCloud have their free storage subsidized by the NSA.

    I cannot help but wonder if Hotmail, Gmail and iCloud have their free storage subsidized by the NSA.

    I'm in Canada and I went looking for a Canadian email service, and they're gone, other than using my ISP's own service.

    The sad fact is, Canada's internet is so tightly bound to the USA (because almost all Canadians live in a very long thin strip within 100 miles of the USA) that if you were to send an email from one person in Toronto to another person in Toronto, email servers at two different companies in Toronto, the email will normally be routed through the USA.

    And of course the partial restriction on not intentionally spying on US residents does not protect people living in Canada.

    And it does not protect businesses in Canada.

  26. 404 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Awesomeness

    You do realize we actually subsidized the Feds by buying all these electronic leashes, they don't have to pay for tagging it's citizens - we do it voluntarily. Sucks, doesn't it?

    <thinking about my phone inventory, would have to go way back for something to make it inconvenient for the spymasters>

  27. Turtle

    Drama Queens Of The World, Unite!

    "If you use a mobile in the US, expect the number, location, handset signifier, and possibly IP address to get fed into the NSA's Maryland and Utah repositories."

    And...?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You should expect this from a "liberal" government more than any other

    There's a reason why the Obama administration prefers to blow up it's enemies rather than capture them for their intelligence value: they declared Gitmo was a yuman rites abomination, so there is nowhere to keep them.

    The TSA searches everyone, and the NSA monitors all traffic, because profiling is "racist".

    Reconciling reality with the liberal worldview is hard, isn't it?

    1. Don Jefe
      FAIL

      Re: You should expect this from a "liberal" government more than any other

      No. No it isn't difficult at all.

      Because things are not perfect I should abandon my worldview and join the other side? That is the height of foolishness.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You should expect this from a "liberal" government more than any other

        If your worldview doesn't appear to be trusted even by it's self professed adherents to deliver the level of safety that they promise, it's time to reconsider your worldview. Duh!

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: You should expect this from a "liberal" government more than any other

          ...or time to consider whether those "self-professed adherents" actually adhere to what they profess. *I* don't doubt my worldview, and watching the US flush itself down the toilet is merely another data point to show that the Founding Fathers got it right. There really isn't anything special about Americans. The special thing was the set of rules they lived under. Once that was gone, they went down the same plughole as every other former Top Nation.

        2. Don Jefe
          FAIL

          Re: You should expect this from a "liberal" government more than any other

          The answer is to correct the issue. Only the coward and the fool abandon their ideals due to adversity.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Meh

      Re: You should expect this from a "liberal" government more than any other

      "Reconciling reality with the liberal worldview is hard, isn't it?"

      You appear to believe this was instigated by the Obama administration?

      You're either very ignorant of recent American history or just stupid.

      I only have 1 entry on my "ignore" filter currently but this topic has already unearthed 2 more candidates.

      Care to share a few more pearls of wisdom?

  29. lambda_beta
    Linux

    Feb 17, 1775

    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    Franklin's Contributions to the Conference on February 17 (III) Fri, Feb 17, 1775

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Well said.

    That's a nice idea; however unless the government(s) can be brought to heel, drastically shrunk, and the dependent public faced down, this will keep occurring, possibly get worse, and probably eventually require violence to fix i.e. Civil War.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Well said.

      I don't believe violence will ever solve this. The people could not possibly hope to win a war against the US government. I'm sorry, but the FBI alone has the firepower to counter the entire US civilian population, that's before you bring in any other branches of the government.

      No, any revolution or change must be done peacefully and within the rules of the system as it stands. But it will require the people to start working together for a common goal. Keeping the people divided; that's the greatest threat to change that exists.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Well said.

        So enlighten us. How would the FBI alone take down the entire US population (which BTW outnumbers them by a factor somewhere into the triple digits at least). And while you're at it, go into how the armed forces would be forced to act against their own citizens: potentially against even friends and family?

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Well said.

          The FBI have a pretty full arsenal of weaponry. Everything from small arms to APCs and armed choppers. They have more than enough to put up quite a show...frankly all that is really required. "The people" don't have much more than small arms. There are a few out there breaking the laws against heavy arms, but those can be taken care of by the military-class hardware the FBI has on hand for just such emergencies.

          For the rest, well...a missile detonating 100m in front of a crowd has a remarkable dispersal effect. You don't have to mow the populace down, just cow them enough to return to their homes. The FBI cheerfully have enough firepower to do exactly that. The majority of the outraged civilian populace will go right back into their hidey holes whole a few strike forces mop up the true crazies. There's no need to bring the military in at all.

          Protecting the nation against domestic issues is the FBI's remit. They would be the natural first responders. I seriously doubt that anything could make the apathetic American populace as feisty as the Egyptians, but even if so I suspect that the FBI have more than a few tools to hand to deal with large crowds that the Egyptians didn't.

          Hell, we now have Hum-Vee mounted crowd-disperal masers. Flash bangs by the bucket and even sonic weaponry. Do I believe the FBI would use these against the citizenry? In a heartbeat. An "us against them" mentality has been cultivated amongst US law enforcement. Would the military? Probably not; but they really aren't required to deal with American civilians.

          This fantasy that some in your nation have of one day rising up against the government is just that: a fantasy. It has no basis in reality. The country isn't that unified, it isn't that brave and it doesn't stand a snowball's chance in a neutron star against real-world military hardware. Hardware that not only the FBI have, but so do most American police forces, the DHS and even the ATF.

          Armed rebellion will net nothing but blood and further oppression.

  31. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Gimp

    Meet the "Coalition of the willing."

    Unelected Intelligence bureaucrats. More data -> more budgets -> more power.

    Authoritarian politicians. More data -> few leaks to pesky journalists + more dirt leverage against opponents. BTW their party is irrelevant Authoritarianism is a state of mind not party.

    Political staffers. New laws -> Recognition by their bosses. How many laws do you think are actually written by actual members of the Legislature? 363 pages of legalese in 6 weeks. Who are you kidding?

    Suppliers Surveillance software and hardware and support systems. More data -> more licenses to collect it + more hardware installed to collect it + more storage to store it.

    The stockholders of the above companies (probably including some of those politicians, bureaucrats and staffers). Because what's good for business is probably good for America.

  32. Flip
    Coffee/keyboard

    T.W.A.T.

    The War Against Terror. Thanks for that!

  33. MigMig

    Old news.

    Seems like the reality choo-choo train has smashed the sheeple awake once again. Joe Rogan brought this up in his podcast over a year ago after one of the older programmers leaked this information. I guess nothing is true until it's acknowledged by the mainstream media.

  34. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    People were quoting Franklin in their signatures post 9/7, but how about Edmund Burke

    "For evil to triumph it is only necessary that good men do nothing"

    Anyone remember that?

    I've found that once you've convinced people they are powerless, and any effort they make is pointless and they should not even try, that you can make them do anything you like.

    So when someone tells you "Nothings going to change, give up, this is the way it is" take a close look at why they say this and what their agenda is.

    Because they damm sure have one.

  35. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
    Big Brother

    The profit motive

    I'm willing to discuss trade-offs between my rights to privacy and the duty of my duly elected officials to keep me secure. But Booz Allen Hamilton? Really? I don't recall voting for them. And I'm fairly certain that honest career civil servants take their responsibilities to my rights more seriously than subcontractors. Not that Snowden was playing fast and loose with citizens' data. Just the opposite, he appears to be a highly ethical person shocked by the lack of respect that this system has given our civil rights.

    I suspect that much of the NSA/CIA/FBI's motivation to collect oodles of data on us is the profit motive of the contractors providing the infrastructure. And the lobbying they do to secure such services. Or worse yet, the hope to get a peek at it for their own profit motive. So lets end the subcontracts. Give only NSA direct employees the ability to view intelligence processes and their products. I'll bet that, given such a restriction, the NSA will spend their resource budget more carefully and cease hoovering up all available data.

  36. foobaron

    modest proposal: scary certificate alert

    Maybe Firefox should update its alert dialogs so every time you hit a site "secured" by one of these companies, it displays a scary certificate alert:

    This Connection is Untrusted:

    You have asked Firefox to connect securely to USTele.com, but we can't confirm that your private data are secure.

    The certificate is not trusted because it is signed by a corporation that is subject to US law.

    (Error code: sec_error_nsa_issuer)

    What Should I Do?

    If you usually connect to this site without immediately being killed by terrorists, then why worry about piffling little things like privacy or the US Constitution? But if you don't want all your data to be slurped, you shouldn't continue.

    Get me out of here!

    I've taken the following actions, which are working great for me, and I urge you all, take immediate action both as a moral stand and for the practical effect:

    * make your calls using redphone rather than through the cellular or POTS network, MS-Skype or Google "hangouts" etc. When you dial a friend who's not on, redphone just sends them a message to get the free app. Nothing short of a mass exodus to end-to-end encryption will have any effect on anything. Redphone (from Moxie Marlinspike, open source all the way) seems as good a way to do that as any, and this is a space that dearly needs a champion people can rally round.

    * use their secure text app (or GPG if you prefer) instead of cleartext email. Again, a mass exodus to end-to-end encryption is the only way to return to a world where advertisers, government and other spies DON'T monitor your every utterance.

    * a few weeks ago I thought the Firefox phone an amusing sideshow. Now I can't see any alternative to going that direction because I want to OWN my device in terms of both control and security. (yes, I've rooted my android phones but what does that achieve when the whole ecosystem is spyware?) Do you use gmail? Google maps? Run your web searches on Google? Get all your voice mails automatically transcribed to text for you (and the NSA) by Google Voice? God forbid, do you upload your documents to "the cloud"? The basic problem is that these corporations are storing our entire lives, none of them can say no to the NSA, and now they don't even have to: NSA is permanently plugged in to their databases, and just runs "queries" (instead of applying to a judge for a search warrant with evidence sufficient for "reasonable suspicion" that a specific person is committing a crime).

    * (on a side note I also switched to the excellent Qubes OS "security by isolation" distribution on my main laptop. I highly recommend this to anyone who's security conscious. It is a truly better way. You can run any mix of OS VMs you want in there (e.g. Windows if you have to) but you isolate work (especially connections to the outside world) in "disposable VMs" that are single-use (created to run an application once, then immediately destroyed). Got rid of Mac OS X and all my Ubuntu VMs, and loving every minute of the new system (I hadn't used Fedora much before, but it seems fine as the default VM in Qubes). Check it out: http://qubes-os.org)

    <rant>Seriously people, the battle lines are being made uncomfortably clear: if you are using any elements of the mainstream system, you are now an officially plugged-in citizen of the Matrix. Of course, as any fule kno, the data are safe from misuse (you have nothing to hide, right?) ... until they're not. Because there ARE no protections, there IS no transparency. The first rule is, revealing the existence of this rule is a crime. It'll be dumb stuff like the cop who used surveillance data to see if his wife was cheating. It'll be obvious stuff like digging up dirt to destroy political enemies or whistleblowers. And certainly it will be shutting down leaks of embarrassing or criminal government actions, by nailing the sources and the reporters. (Or for that matter providing that same service for their true customer, corporations that are big enough to get a thumb in the pie). It'll be everything, over and over in dizzying array, too much too fast for anybody even to (futilely) react to. (sort of like the last few weeks... or for that matter, the last decade). It'll be the new normal. (oh wait, it already is). It won't be long before computers are as locked down and spied on as your phone already is. (oh wait, that's Office 365, android laptop etc. etc. etc.) This is where we are going; the only thing you need to think about is what you personally are going to do. Note that none of what I said even requires us to postulate a Putin. But once you KGBize how government and politics operate, won't you eventually get a Putin? And you can bet that now every right thinking apparatchik in every country is looking at this and asking "why don't WE have this yet?" (unless they do). So soon they will. Meanwhile the 99% are gawping at celebrities and Facebook.</rant>

    So that pretty much leaves just us Reg readers to do something constructive and proactive, doesn't it? Get started moving yourself and all your friends back to a world where people get to make their decisions themselves, rather than just being ruled.

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