back to article Missiles-on-rooftops Brit spy Farr: UK gov can slurp your Facebook, Twitter ... What of it?

A top UK spy reckons British intelligence can legally snoop on Brits' Facebook posts and tweets because they’re classed as “external communications” – though he wouldn't confirm outright that his g-men had done so. Charles Farr, director general of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, said that the UK government runs …

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  1. Joefish
    Meh

    I'd be more concerned

    About Facebook slurping Facebook data.

    If I gave them any, that is.

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: I'd be more concerned

      Facebook can't take you away to a black site without criminal charge for an indeterminate period of time based on 'intelligence gathering'.

      GHCQ can.

      HTH.

      1. CommanderGalaxian
        Black Helicopters

        Re: I'd be more concerned

        Indeed, if Facebook read inbetween the lines and get it wrong, you get spammed with yet more annoying irrelevant adverts. And if you get fed up with it, you can simply abandon Facebook. If the likes of GCHQ read between the lines and get it wrong, as a minimum - your life is turned upside down, if not ruined - and without any sort of remedy.

      2. Psyx

        Re: I'd be more concerned

        "Facebook can't take you away to a black site without criminal charge for an indeterminate period of time based on 'intelligence gathering'.

        GHCQ can."

        Can they? That's quite an assertion there. Any case studies?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'd be more concerned

          > Can they? That's quite an assertion there. Any case studies?

          R. Tomlinson (aka "Richatom")

          1. Psyx

            Re: I'd be more concerned

            Tomlinson was whisked to a black site by GCHQ, was he?

            That's odd, I don't recall him mentioning it.

            Seriously: Cases. Got any? I desire illumination, as I am eager to be convinced, should there be any credible history of GCHQ black-bagging people.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I'd be more concerned

              I can't quite escape the feeling that there are a few too many tinfoil hats around here tied a little too tightly around the neck...

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I'd be more concerned

              > Tomlinson was whisked to a black site by GCHQ, was he?

              Spent a year in prison courtesy of his former employer, yes.

              Awfully interesting bloke, btw. Met him by coincidence years ago.

              1. Psyx

                Re: I'd be more concerned

                A prison is not a black site.

                I see an awful lot of downvotes in the wake of asking for a SHRED of evidence, but the tinfoil hat squad appear to have diddly shit to back up their ramblings.

                GCHQ don't hit people over the head and pull people's teeth out anyway. Anyone who things they do has an inherent lack of knowledge about the basics of what our security services do and where their responsibilities start and end.

              2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: AC Re: I'd be more concerned

                ".....Spent a year in prison courtesy of his former employer, yes....." More complete male bovine manure. Tomlinson spent four months on remand in a public prison awaiting trial, was sentenced to twelve months of which he served a further four months, again in an ordinary prison with other criminals, and was then released (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Tomlinson). He was never sent to a 'black site'. You are talking complete rubbish.

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: I'd be more concerned

                but he wasn't whisked away. He was arrested for breaking the OSA

                Still never let the facts get in the way of paranoia

            3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: I'd be more concerned

              Abdel Hakim Belhaj, for one.

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: Potty Re: I'd be more concerned

                "Abdel Hakim Belhaj...." Was arrested by the CIA in Malaysia after a tip-off from informants in London, and sent to a prison in Libya. His lawyer has made some wild claims about the GCHQ intercepting his phone calls during Belhaj's recent failed attempt to sue the UK authorities but has been unable to provide a shred of proof to back up the claim. So - again - absolutely nothing to do with the GCHQ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdel_Hakim_Belhaj).

                What we do know is Belhaj has admitted he went to Afghanistan and joined the Taliban after his failed attempt at an Islamic coup in Libya, being friendly with Mullah Omar himself, making him a very valid target for CIA interest. He most definitely was not some Average Joe member of the public picked on because he was talking big in some anarchist chatroom, he was a committed Islamist terrorist that worked with and co-operated with other Islamist terrorists. Please try a LOT harder or admit you are just spouting paranoid drivel.

                1. Steven Raith

                  Re: Potty I'd be more concerned

                  I may have added some hyperbole there for effect, this is the internet after all. ;-)

                  Still, got some interesting arguments going, so I regret nothing.

                  Steven "I regret everything" Raith.

          2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: AC Re: I'd be more concerned

            ".....R. Tomlinson...." Richard Tomlinson? He was employed by MI6, fired, and then attempted to sell a manuscript of his claimed career to an Australian publisher, in breach of the OSA. He was never kidnapped taken to a black site, interrogated, he was simply arrested and charged, tried, and convicted. It had nothing to do with GCHQ.

        2. Schultz
          Stop

          Re: I'd be more concerned

          You want case studies; I lived in Canada and Germany, so here are the local case studies involving the US:

          Maher Arar: Canadian and Syrian citizenship, had the wrong name and made the mistake of traveling through the States on his way from Syria to Canada in 2002. Was 'deported' to Syria for some serious questioning (The US didn't like to torture at home). It took more than a year until he was released due to being completely innocent -- a little worse off for the wear and tear of enhanced interrogations.

          Murat Kurnaz: Turkish resident in Germany, was detained in Pakistan and spent 5 years in Guantanamo. Establishing his complete innocence took only a few years but getting him out of nowhere land took a few more. Living not so happily ever after.

          1. Psyx

            Re: I'd be more concerned

            "You want case studies; I lived in Canada and Germany, so here are the local case studies involving the US:"

            Not applicable. I asked for case studies backing up the assertion than GCHQ (specifically) imprison people at black sites.

            So far I've been cited agencies of other nations doing stuff and an MI6 whistleblower doing a year in a perfectly normal jail. That's not even close.

            I'm interested to know how people came to conclusions despite having zero evidence.

          2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Schultz Re: I'd be more concerned

            "....Maher Arar....Murat Kurnaz....." Two more cases that have nothing to do with the GCHQ. If you're going to waste your time trawling through every CIA extraordinary rendition case on Wikipedia then have fun, but you will not find any listing the involvement of the GCHQ, let alone having conclusive evidence that the GCHQ had them whisked off to a 'black site'. Otherwise you're just adding to the failure.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'd be more concerned

        > Facebook can't take you away to a black site without criminal charge for an indeterminate period of time

        ...yet. :-)

      4. Steve Knox Silver badge

        Re: I'd be more concerned

        Facebook can't take you away to a black site without criminal charge for an indeterminate period of time based on 'intelligence gathering'

        Says who?

      5. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Steven Raith Re: I'd be more concerned

        ".....take you away to a black site...." And this has happened to someone you know? No, didn't think so.

      6. Fluffy Bunny
        Thumb Down

        Re: I'd be more concerned

        Actually GHCQ can't.

  2. The BigYin

    Why is this any surprise?

    Anything on Facebook, G+ etc should be considered public (regardless of what settings you put on it). The exceptions I can think of are for self-hosted services and I mean in your own home, not a VPS.

    1. flayman

      Re: Why is this any surprise?

      This is not only referring to publicly available communications, but also to what would within the platforms be considered private.

      1. The BigYin

        Re: Why is this any surprise?

        Anything sent via Facebook, G+ etc is public, regardless of any privacy setting.

        If people want private comms, then they need to start using PGP, OTR etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Facepalm

          Re: Why is this any surprise?

          "Anything sent via Facebook, G+ etc is public, regardless of any privacy setting. If people want private comms, then they need to start using PGP, OTR etc."

          Presumably they should write postal letters in cyphers and invisible ink too; and hold all conversations in code:

          "The long sobs of the violins of autumn wound my heart with a monotonous languor. (Fancy doing the pub quiz tonight?)"

          "All choked And pale when the hour chimes, I remember days of old and I cry. (Can't afford it till payday mate)."

          1. The BigYin

            Re: Why is this any surprise?

            "Presumably they should write postal letters in cyphers and invisible ink too; and hold all conversations in code:"

            If they wish to protect their communications from outside eyes, then yes. It is beholden upon then to ensure that the channel is secure. Posting on FB and checking the "Please no spy on this" box doesn't do a thing.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why is this any surprise?

            Are you suggesting that Verlaine was writing in code? La velksezon' per violon' ĝemosona vundas ĉe l' kor' min per langvor' monotona ... I used to think I could avoid the spies to some extent by writing thus, but Google Translate even does Esperanto nowadays.

            1. Oldfogey
              Pint

              Re: Why is this any surprise?

              Congratulations on your Esperanto - you speak it like a native!

              A pentras bonvolu.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Why is this any surprise?

              "Even" - I'm not surprised since Esperanto is more likely than not to be used by people wanting things translated.

              To begin with I thought you were writing Provencal - that would certainly cause recruitment problems at GCHQ as they advertised for scholars of medieval French to come back and help defeat terrorism.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Why is this any surprise?

              "Are you suggesting that Verlaine was writing in code? La velksezon' per violon' ĝemosona vundas ĉe l' kor' min per langvor' monotona ... "

              Now you're just showing off :-) I hadn't known about its use as the trigger code for Resistance activity in the hours before D-Day until I saw 'The Longest Day' the other week. I may well have seen it as a kid, but that detail would have been lost on me back then.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why is this any surprise?

          PysX and Mat Bell**d should pay attention to this too, in answer to "Why are we suprised...??"

          Well, I'm not suprised when criminals steal things, or break into cars, or commit acts of violence etc etc. No. Not suprised. but I DO expect the LAW to do something about it if and when those acts are against the law as it stands. So, in that light, please read this article from elsewhere in the wonderful Reg -

          http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/18/irish_court_refers_facebook_prism_case_to_ecj/

          See that? That's a supreme court lawlord denouncing the actions of NSA and their pals wholeheartedly. Because it breaks the law and leads to Bad Places.

          No, they might NOT be snooping on me personally, the same as those car thieves aren't actually personally targetting me when they wander down the street looking for a car to take, but they ARE breaking, and intending to break, the law itself.

          Under EU law, as it stands, the actions of the NSA and their covert partners are illegal and are subject to legal action.

          Your arguments that we should be suprised and they're not targeting me personally are not valid in the eyes of the Law of the European Union.

          I do hope the ECJ gives them a massive "Fuck off" so then we'll have further weight for telling you the same.

          You may now proceed to call me names, set up straw-man arguments, dig for ad hominem attacks against those named in the article, it's source or it's writer, or to denounce the validity of the ECJ.

          You know, all the same old bollocks and crap arguments you usually spout and we're all so very, very bored with. Try to argue above the level of a fifteen year old if you can.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re AC Re: Why is this any surprise?

            ".....Because it breaks the law and leads to Bad Places...." Before you start proclaiming victory, you might actually want to go read the article again, it plainly states in the second paragraph "The European Court of Justice is to assess whether EU law needs to be updated in light of the PRISM revelations" - kinda implies the current law does not make it illegal and that the EU would have to pass a new law or amend existing ones to make it illegal. See how actually reading and comprehending really changes things? You should try it some time. If you read a bit further on, it also says nothing about Judge Hogan saying it is illegal, just that Schrems can make a complaint - that's not the same as Hogan making a judgement. Oh dear, nil point for you! But do hurry back and try again as you did make for excellent if unintended humour.

            ".....I do hope the ECJ gives them a massive "Fuck off" so then we'll have further weight for telling you the same....." I think you're going to be disappointed. Meanwhile, I did enjoy laughing at your frothing rage. Now, seeing as we don't have a 'good effort, lots of passion, but needs to try a lot harder' icon, I'm going to have to use the 'fail' one, because you're talking male genetalia out of your rectum, mmmkay? Enjoy!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Re AC Why is this any surprise? @Mr Bellend

              I'll be sure to come back to you once the judgement has been made then. At which point you can eat some crow.

              Oh. And not raging, but laughing at you. Not with you. At you.

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                Happy

                Re: AC Re: Re AC Why is this any surprise? @Mr Bellend

                ".....once the judgement has been made then....." At the snail's pace that the EU works at, either you or I or both of us could have died by then. Myself from old age, yourself probably from licking battery terminals.

                "....At which point you can eat some crow...." LOL, you're so quick to declare victory again? You should consider two points. Firstly, there is no guarantee that the Safe Harbor agreement will be redefined in any way that impedes Feacesbook, or any other global social media company, from stashing your data (which you lot stupidly gave them in the first place). Secondly, even if they change the law, at worst all that will happen is the servers will be moved to an area outside EU law. Thirdly, even if they don't move the servers, the access will still happen on copies of the data replicated to the States (where EU law doesn't apply). End result - no change.

                "... And not raging...." ROFL, whatever you want to claim.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: AC Re AC Why is this any surprise? @Mr Bellend

                  ".....once the judgement has been made then....." At the snail's pace that the EU works at, either you or I or both of us could have died by then. "

                  This is, unfortunately, probably true. It's why its a safe bet ;)

          2. Psyx

            Re: Why is this any surprise?

            "PysX and Mat Bell**d should pay attention to this too, in answer to "Why are we suprised...??"

            Well, I'm not suprised when criminals steal things, or break into cars, or commit acts of violence etc etc. No. Not suprised. but I DO expect the LAW to do something about it if and when those acts are against the law as it stands."

            So do I. However, according to the court's interpretation of it, GCHQ are working within the law by not intercepting UK-'internal' comms, NSA aren't breaking it by not intercepting US'-'internal' comms, and as long as neither one reveals the source of intelligence [which ois NEVER done, so as to protect sources], they can swap information and it's all perfectly legal.

            I don't like it just as much as you don't but the problem isn't that our intelligence agencies are BREAKING the law - they're not - the problem is that the sidestepping is perfectly legally legitimate.

            In fact, I'd say that it's more of an issue that what has gone on is perfectly legal than if they were breaking the law.

            "Under EU law, as it stands, the actions of the NSA and their covert partners are illegal and are subject to legal action."

            Stop press: Nations say that other nations spying on them is illegal. So it has always been, so it always will be. No amount of whining by ANY court in ANY nation will stop other nations spying on it. Legal prevention must come from within and will never be dictated by what anyone else says.

            "Your arguments that we should be suprised and they're not targeting me personally are not valid in the eyes of the Law of the European Union."

            Yes, and we ignore it routinely on a swathe of matters (unfortunately, on the whole). And good old UKIP want us to vote for them so they can ignore the 'stupid' dictates of the European Court of Human Rights, to boot. (laughably retarded statement, because opting out of EU doesn't opt out of the rulings of that organisation)

            "You may now proceed to call me names, set up straw-man arguments, dig for ad hominem attacks against those named in the article"

            I think you may be confusing me with someone else.

            "You know, all the same old bollocks and crap arguments you usually spout and we're all so very, very bored with. Try to argue above the level of a fifteen year old if you can."

            Wow... so seriously, your request for civil debate is to play victim and then deliver some name-callign at the end? Putting that aside, I'm not 'arguing' with 'crap arguments', it's a simple fact. I'm not defending mass data trawling and I dislike the idea greatly. But the *fact* is that what GCHQ and NSA are doing is legal *in their own nations*, and THAT is the problem: Not 'they're breaking the law'. That it is illegal in target nations is moot, because so is every other form of spying that we've done. That's not opinion: They're the facts that we have to try to work with.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Why is this any surprise?

              "I think you may be confusing me with someone else."

              Yes, on reflection, I agree that I was. My less reasonable comments were aimed at a specific individual commentator on this forum and cannot be fairly levelled at you. I withdraw them entirely in your case, and without reservation, as it was never intended to include you.

    2. adnim Silver badge

      Re: Why is this any surprise?

      I was gonna say public is public. If ya don't want anyone to know what you are saying.... put it in a sealed envelope and use snail mail or encrypt with 2048bit PGP and sten it into a picture of a kitten.

      Anything that is posted on line is accessible to the sys admin or law enforcement with or perhaps without a warrant.

      1. The BigYin

        Re: Why is this any surprise?

        "Anything that is posted on line is accessible to the sys admin or law enforcement with or perhaps without a warrant."

        And this is what people (like Andrew Fernie it seems) completely fail to understand.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why is this any surprise?

          ""Anything that is posted on line is accessible to the sys admin or law enforcement with or perhaps without a warrant."

          And this is what people (like Andrew Fernie it seems) completely fail to understand."

          What 'people like me' understand with clarity and a degree of practicality is this; if you wish to protect confidential personal and business data against the rank and file of civilian global ne'er-do-wells the need for strong encryption is a given. What people 'like you' fail to appreciate is that if your intent is to defend against a state actor with such methods, feel free, but you are of course pissing in the wind.

  3. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    It really say's it all

    Continuous and comprehensive surveillance is right - because we can do it within notionally closely defined legal framework that enables ambiguity between different jurisdictions (US, UK, GE ect ect ect) but where does the information go and how will be used.

    A Disgusted taxpayer and voter (not anon because I know it will no be)

    1. graham_

      5 years later..

      "We really got the deficit down selling all that NHS and schools data, what else is available?"

  4. Swiss Anton

    Where are the Register's servers located?

    Are our posts to El Reg safe from being spied on? I demand to know the location of their servers!

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

      From a ping and traceroute, they're hosted in London by rackspace, so you're good :)

      And the response times showed not enough time to be in the US, unless lightspeed was violated

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

        BUT Rackspace is a US Company, so it doesn't matter where your data lives, it can be slurped by US 'Inteligence'!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

          BUT Rackspace is a US Company, so it doesn't matter where your data lives, it WILL be slurped by US 'Inteligence'!

          There fixed it for you.

          Also Rackspace will be subject to ALL US Laws regardless of where they operate so any smallville Judge can order them to handover everything you have ever posted on El Reg and they can't get out of it.

          This post originates from somehere east of Mumbai as I'm sure GCHQ and the NSC will be able to verify.

          1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
            Black Helicopters

            Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

            Can GCHQ spy on Register posts? Well, I can see them, so at a wild guess, they can.

            I therefore do not see any reason for them not to have a look see

            Corollary: Do not mention "plans for the revolution" on the Register

            Oops

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

              Don't worry, you should be safe mentioning "plans for the revolution" as long as there's no related mention of Al-Qaeda, The Terrorists Cookbook or other subversive material such as "The Little Book of Common Sense", 1984, or indeed any mention of Brazil.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

                Referring to Brazil is ok, but don't refer to Brasil.

                1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                  Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

                  I was thinking this Brazil :)

                  1. Don Jefe

                    Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

                    Even if your message never left the UK, all bets are off for the privacy of any Commentards since this comment was made by a foreign national from inside a foreign land. As of now, your records have been updated to reflect your voluntary affiliation with a known destabilizing influence with strong commercial and political ties to the governments of various, friendly, nations.

                    The costs of the comprehensive security assessment regime you are presently undergoing will not be debited against your savings should your security assessment result in a threat status rating of Insignificant or Benign. Should you have questions about this process, or wish to appeal your threat status rating, you may request assistance by typing: 'ALLAH HATES CAPITALISM - THE SLAVES OF THE GREAT SATAN WEEP SILENTLY FOR THE ETERNAL PEACE FOUND IN THE EMBRACE OF ALLAH'. That sentence signals the Home Office which will quickly dispatch a personalized support team to assist you in familiarizing yourse

            2. Psyx

              Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

              I don't think that looking at anything publicly posted could be considered 'spying' can it?

              1. TheOtherHobbes

                Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

                I wasn't aware everyone's Google search history was considered public.

      2. SamCrawford

        Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

        Actually they appear to have hosting at Rackspace in both the UK and US (one of their US IPs is 50.57.15.204), and it's reasonable to assume that they have the database replicated between those regions for redundancy too.

      3. Tom_

        Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

        "And the response times showed not enough time to be in the US, unless lightspeed was violated"

        You can't rule out the possibility that they go via the US embassy, though.

    2. JaitcH
      Pint

      Re: Where are the Register's servers located?

      They seem to be all over the place - I see from my screen they are in the UK, USA and even Japan depending on the time of day.

      These various server locations were all serving pages to users in either Kampuchea/Cambodia and VietNam. Kampuchea/Cambodia and Laos take their national InterNet feeds from VietNam.

  5. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Internet cf. postcards

    Personally, I've always taken the view that any data transmitted through any public network should be viewed in the same light as a postcard, where the transmitted data *and* addressing data are in plain view. Although (ironically) the younger generations are probably unaware of how postcards worked. Like rotary phones ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Internet cf. postcards

      Not seen "spooks" and the use of postcards with a peel back postcard within it?

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Internet cf. postcards

      I assure you that the encryption involved in some postcards would be enough to baffle most government agencies.

      At least that's the impression I get whenever I get a postcard from my parents. So far I've managed to decrypt 50% of the one I received last week.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Internet cf. postcards

      Quote JP: any data transmitted through any public network should be viewed in the same light as a postcard, where the transmitted data *and* addressing data are in plain view.

      Well, that was fair and reasonable "when the internet routers efficiently & simply delivered packets like a slightly drunk postal worker" {Lessig} but now the internet routers have developed {Moore} to have an overwhelming technical analysis capability - with an hard-wired API forwarding everything - to be analysed & stored forever by agencies. That's applied advanced machine learning on our meta-data, and is a very powerful attack. Society has never seen this amount of power in the hands of secret beaureaucrats before.

      Much as the DVLA/Police have spent the last decade criminalising owners of motor vehicles - motorists persist in driving round in an object of value and have an address where to post the bills {Clarkson} - the future internet police might retrospectively attack us for what we posted last year, in ten years time!?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Internet cf. postcards

        This is why I have already collected all of my reg posts and sent them off to the Internet police, just to avoid any misunderstandings later

  6. batfastad

    Morally repugnant

    Legal? Sure, just make the laws to fit.

    Morally repugnant? Most definitely!

    I notice the self-appointed guardians of citizens' morality aren't blurting about the morality of this one. It's quite astounding that any politician could ever consider themselves morally superior or even morally equal to a normal human being. Scumbags.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Morally repugnant - sorry, no

      Politicians are no better and no worse than other people morally.

      It's Plato who wanted a superior class of politicians who were philosophers (i.e. like him). But in his Republic most of us who post on El Reg would be metics, not even citizens. Plato's concept of aristocracy has bedevilled civilisation in the West ever since, with those in charge thinking that they were some kind of philosopher king. Don't they, Tony?

      The Athenian idea of selecting politicians at random by lot has something to commend it, in that the first criterion for getting the job is no longer that you think you would be better at it than 99.998% of the population.

  7. wolfetone Silver badge

    My view

    As I'm sure the NSA, GCHQ, et al can read what I'm about to say (and I hope they do), I would like to call Mr.Charles Farr an absolute scum bag full of twattery. There is no need for this snooping, if there was Germany wouldn't be so bloody pissed off at America and the UK for snooping on their Chancellor.

    To quote Mr.Cleese: "I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper! I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!"

    Politicians and their home boys make me sick.

  8. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Why don't they just...

    Why don't they just classify everything outside of GCHQ headquarters as 'external'

    and be done with it...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why don't they just...

      They do :(

  9. RoninRodent
    Big Brother

    > If the intelligence services happened to hoover up some internal communications accidentally, they could just not look at them without a warrant.

    As they have no oversight and nobody would know they looked at it and as they can't be prosecuted it wouldn't matter anyway. With no deterrent the above statement is worthless. He may as well say "we promise not to look, honest!"

    > He also said that even when analysts did happen to violate people’s privacy by accessing their internal communications in error, people shouldn’t worry because they’d probably forget what they saw anyway.

    See.

    I once saw leaked pics of a certain female celeb I wasn't supposed to see. I haven't forgotten and neither would the analysts if they "accidentally" saw something interesting.

    > “British residents are being deprived of the essential safeguards that would otherwise be applied to their communications - simply because they are using services that are based outside the UK,” Privacy International said in a statement.

    Incorrect as shown above. We are being deprived of the essential safeguards that should be applied to our communications because the spooks are above the law, above reproach and not held to any form of oversight or accountability.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: MoaninRodent

      "....I once saw leaked pics of a certain female celeb I wasn't supposed to see. I haven't forgotten and neither would the analysts if they "accidentally" saw something interesting....." I can comfortably bet two things - firstly, that you are in no way as memorable as a celeb, either dressed or naked; secondly, the drivel you consider interesting is highly unlikely to be what they consider interesting, either professionally or for kicks. If you wish to claim otherwise, please do provide some details on these super interesting secrets that you regularly send over the Internet. Oh, and BTW, emails to your fellow basement dwellers telling them your Mom is letting you have a friend stay over now you're forty is not a secret nor interesting.

      1. Psyx

        Re: MoaninRodent

        Again with the personal insults, Matt.

        It's kinda pathetic and makes it slightly embarrassing to hold a similar opinion to you on any matter.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Psyx Re: MoaninRodent

          "Again with the personal insults....." Er, kettle, meet pot? You did post the following deeply eloquent and most adult comment at about the same time - ".....tinfoil hat squad appear to have diddly shit....". Petard moment?

          I would suggest you may have an higher tolerance of mindless stupidity masquerading as intelligent comment than I do, but then I'm old and cranky, and have long-since learned that some people will not change their views regardless of the evidence you pile up in front of them, nor the complete lack of evidence they have to support their views. I do salute your optimism, though.

          1. Psyx

            Re: Psyx MoaninRodent

            "Er, kettle, meet pot? "

            My own comment was clearly intended in humour and not directed personally. People can decide if 'the tinpot brigade' applies to them or not. Telling people 'your fellow basement dwellers' and insulting their mother is highly personal. There is a gulf between the two approaches.

            "I would suggest you may have an higher tolerance of mindless stupidity masquerading as intelligent comment than I do."

            No, I don't. I just have some manners and don't want to devalue my points with name-calling. Discussion is about learning, understanding other opinions, influencing and enlightening. Even if you believe you have nothing to learn, if you want someone to come around to your point of view, telling them their mother made a grave mistake is not a constructive tack. Of course, if people are debating purely in order to give themselves a hard-on and slag people off then personal insults is totally the way to fly.

            Even stopped clocks are right twice a day, and points can often be learned from fallible sources.

            And there's really no point going into a conversation with the preconception that the other person is an idiot and you're there to tell them so, as it really achieves nothing bar bad karma.

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              Angel

              Re: Psyx MoaninRodent

              "....My own comment was clearly intended in humour...." Well, be careful, there are some awful touchie types on here that whine at the first sign of 'humour', and gaz doesn't seem to have been getting any lately either... (gaz, that's humour, BTW, just in case you were confused)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    external?

    "external comms based on platforms in the US."

    the US is external for bend-over Britain?

    Our Masters will not be pleased to hear...

    1. Grikath Silver badge

      Re: external?

      Well yes, technically it is, since the packets have left British Jurisdiction, and can, in a really narrowminded view, be seen as "foreign communication" , which *is* within the purview of any intelligence agency.

      The fact that there's a sheaf of (inter)national laws and agreements that country of origin of both sender and recipient is, in fact, the determining factor whether or not internet communication is "national" or not, means bugger all to them, of course.

  11. bigtimehustler

    Isn't he flat out technically wrong here? I mean if I send a message from gmail to hotmail there is no guarantee that data is not effective sent from a US server to another US server once it has left my browser. So in his reasoning is also external communication. Plus, most of these services operating data centres all over the world, can he be sure that on facebook or twitter the message ever in fact left the UK data centres when posted? Particularly when it comes to facebook private messages, which could be from one UK person to another. Seems to me he does not fully understand what he is talking about, but he's management so that doesnt really surprise me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Isn't he flat out technically wrong here?

      Technically, yes, absolutely.

      Legally... there is no such thing as "flat out wrong/right" in law (just how much wrong/right depends on how expensive a lawyer you have). Confusing technical with legal truths can get very hurtful, so be careful out there.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And the news here is?

    Remember when, ~18 months ago:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/library-of-congress-is-archiving-all-of-americas-tweets-2013-1

    Don't need a search warrant to search a library....

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    external communications

    brilliant. This makes it 100% of comms, as they are, by default, directed "externally". Arguably, not what I'm thinking now (fucking spooks!), but then, I'm sure that as soon as they invent a machine to be able to, detect, read, record and interpret that electric field associated with a thought process... oh, have they already?! Shit :(((

  14. Blacklight
    WTF?

    Hang on a minute....

    So, I'm in the UK and I place a call (on a landline) to someone in the US (or anywhere outside the UK and it's associated territories).

    That call is routed over UK based equipment. Intercepting it (and "interception" is the word used in the article" requires a warrant. Why is the same not true of anything in transit to an internet site?

    Granted once it's arrived at said destination, if said destination is outside the UK, and/or set to be public, then fine, look at it all you want....but snarfing it "in flight" still counts as interception within the UK.....doesn't it?

    1. dontforgetyourtowel

      Re: Hang on a minute....

      ahhh haa in theory, yes, it requires a warrant, but in practice http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UKUSA_Agreement anything but. So UK intel can't grab the phone call, but the yanks can, and pass on what the contents were. Its been going on since 1954.

  15. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    M'kaaay...

    So, they're looking for Al Qaeda terrirists on Facebook and Tw@tter... Found many?

    I'd say the real reason they do that is because they can and it's easier to sit in an air conditioned office reading some teenager's personal messages for laughs than to do the actual, old-fashioned, put-on-your-dish-dash-and-go-to-the-desert-and-speak-to-some-arabs kind of actual intelligence...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: M'kaaay...

      No, it's not because they're looking for an easy life, though they'd love you to think that.

      It's because this was never about terrorists, it's about surveilling the general public, as they're the people who pose the biggest threat to the rich and the powerful who're running things.

      Terrorists don't create FB groups to discuss their plans, but plenty of anti-government political groups, environmentalists, occupy wall street, etc. - they do. That is the target. People who are not breaking the law, and so don't think they have any reason not to post their views and actions on social media.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: M'kaaay... @cap'n

        Well, yes, that too.

    2. Psyx

      Re: M'kaaay...

      "So, they're looking for Al Qaeda terrirists on Facebook and Tw@tter... Found many?"

      They've probably nicked a shit-load of people talking trash and inciting violence. Probably not so many actual bomb plotters.

      "I'd say the real reason they do that is because they can and it's easier to sit in an air conditioned office reading some teenager's personal messages for laughs than to do the actual, old-fashioned, put-on-your-dish-dash-and-go-to-the-desert-and-speak-to-some-arabs kind of actual intelligence..."

      Because GCHQ do that, don't they?

      SIGINT is what GCHQ do. MI6 go and talk to other people overseas and MI5 bug people in Bromley. You might as well complain that the NHS isn't re-airing enough episodes of Bottom in the wake of Rik Mayall's death.

      And do you honestly believe that Facebook is analysed by actually reading teenager's posts one at a time?

      And talking to people in deserts is a pretty poor way of getting information in comparison to trawling data. And much more expensive. It still goes on, but it doesn't do much to decrease *domestic* terrorism, does it? Or do you think that some bloke in a village in 'Stan knows more about credible UK bomb threats than the people in the UK potentially organising it?

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: M'kaaay... @Psyx

        "SIGINT is what GCHQ do."

        Yes, but the overwhelming reliance on SIGINT is there in the first place because it is easy. Here or in the US, doesn't matter. I'm sure, if they hear that there is a awful terrorist cell operating from a building next to theirs they will still be sitting in their office, shuffling their "assets", tapping phone lines, realigning satellites, reading FB and watching YouTube instead of physically going across the street and checking it out.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Vlad Re: M'kaaay... @Psyx

          "....instead of physically going across the street and checking it out." The GCHQ are analysts/techies, not SWAT. If there was a distinct and immediate threat then the Police onsite might go and investigate, otherwise the 'checking it out' would be handed over to the local Special Branch team and/or MI5.

        2. Psyx

          Re: M'kaaay... @Psyx

          "Yes, but the overwhelming reliance on SIGINT is there in the first place because it is easy."

          It's really not. You don't need a degree in computer sciences and a deep understanding of radio propagation to take photos of an ambassador snorting coke of a hermaphrodite hooker's backside.

          "Here or in the US, doesn't matter. I'm sure, if they hear that there is a awful terrorist cell operating from a building next to theirs they will still be sitting in their office, shuffling their "assets", tapping phone lines, realigning satellites, reading FB and watching YouTube instead of physically going across the street and checking it out."

          Err...no. That gets done as well, but *by different people*. Kicking in doors is not NSA remit, in the same way that the DEA don't guard courtrooms. NSA/GCHQ are under the spotlight at present because Snowdon leaked stuff about SIGINT/COMINT and because everyone has data to worry about. There are plenty of people still doing fieldwork. It's just they haven't had anyone showing the world their Powerpoint presentations.

          Citation: How did you nail Osama? Wasn't just the NSA, was it? No over-reliance on snooping technology was responsible.

  16. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    exceptional circumstances

    >“I am not aware of any exceptional circumstances which would justify a departure from the neither >confirm nor deny principle in relation to the alleged Tempora

    What about when foreign companies stop basing themselves in London because of the assumption that all their data will immediately be copied to the USA? What about when Airbus stops allowing Brits anywhere near their designs because GCHQ will copy them to the NSA who will hand them to Boeing?

    I'm not sure that being seen as merely a US eavesdropping operation is exactly in line with Boris and Cameron's new digital tentacles London - or perhaps it is!

  17. ciaran

    Hey, is he putting Ireland into "internal communications" ?

    I'm Irish. I learned in school that "British Isles" is a geographical term that includes the island of Ireland. So he's NOT spying on the Irish? Ridiculous, the nearest source of seasoned ex-terrorists being ignored !

  18. M7S

    Does using HMG online services count?

    Will any of these (other examples may abound) be counted as external communications as they involve (directly or indirectly) sending our data to servers based overseas?

    Paying the congestion charge http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/03/20/dvla_outsource/

    Completing the UK National Census http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/23/lockheed_census_select_committee/

    It's just that a cynic might think this sort of thing gave these services carte blanche to be able to access stuff based on a technicality, rather than the spirit of the law. I couldn't possibly comment.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excellent News

    Given that RIPA has so many holes that even your local council can slurp your comms, your data is probably safer by not being subject to RIPA.

    Small consolation, I know. :-(

  20. Robert E A Harvey

    I don't care

    I've never twatted nor facebukked anything that I didn't want people to know.

    And I do support certain political viewpoints on there, and if MI* are collating my remarks about IDS and Blair and Gove and Microband, then there is some chance they may get to hear my views, if only as part of a bell curve. Good. 'cos they ain't listening any other way.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, extending this scum's line of reasoning, a hidden microphone recording conversations in a public street would be fine to record indiscriminately as this, again, is externalised communications?

    1. Steve Knox Silver badge
      Facepalm

      No, "internal" and "external" in this context refer to final storage or transmission of the communications either within or without the political boundaries of the UK.

      However, in the US, a hidden microphone recording conversations in a public street is fine for anyone because US law applies the reasonable expectation of privacy standard. In this case, a reasonable person chatting on a public street would expect that their conversation might be overheard (because they're in public.)

      Not sure about UK law, but regardless of whether you're being recorded or not, talking about private matters in public is probably not a good idea.

  22. flangeorificial

    Um....

    So do terrorists actually post public comments or tweets containing their evil plans? That would be a little reckless of them.

    1. Chozo
      Trollface

      Re: Um....

      It's a matter of perspective but yes. Everything from grandmother chaining herself to the of a gates of a puppy farm to the invasion of small countries, activists irrespective of motivation or ideology often publically anounce their intent to cause disruption in advance to raise awareness and sympathy for a cause.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Um....

      > So do terrorists actually post public comments or tweets containing their evil plans? That would be a little reckless of them

      Well, Hezbollah learned of the Lebanon invasion (the one from 2005-ish) through Facebook, having "befriended" (Facebookically speaking) soldiers in the IDF.

      Also, it appears to be pretty much de rigueur these days to organise protests and demonstrations via Twatter and the like, so if by "terrorists" you mean those inconvenient people that we used to call "citizens", then I guess yes, you're correct.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Um....

      Anonymous have a fb page to discuss their planned "attack" on gchq Cheltenham over the bank holiday weekend and people are posting on there with one person advocating gbh as an acceptable form of protest....

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    well i hope you choke to death slurping up all those ads. so now we learned that al qaida likes spam meat (counter espionage right there), barclays bank, pictures of cats, and always clicks links that says "...and then you'll never guess what happened next"

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The EU

    Is this not the REAL reason the UK Gov wants out of Europe (yes, I know, most claim 'reform' or 'referendom').

    Not for the costs in contributions, or immigration, but for the half-truth propogated to the over-proud and grumpy 'my house is my castle' types who eagerly lap up the sentiments of 'uneeded interference from Europe'. All with the aim of avoiding having to accept any inconvenient legislation on 'privacy' or 'human rights' that they could'nt tamper with.

    All for the future supremacy of ENGlish SOCialism...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The EU

      Learn to spell and proofread, please. If nothing else out of respect to those attempting to comprehend your drivel.

  25. Uffish
    Big Brother

    Big Brother is slurping you

    Someone has to mention 1984.

    Now that we have confirmation that most of the kit for universal surveillance is in place, is being used and will not go away, our right to privacy can no longer be assumed, and in any case has already been permanently removed in many areas of life.

    Where are the safeguards? Where is the audit that believably shows that anything and everything is not being prepared for use against you (just in case). The UK is policed by consent (so they say) where is the consent to this, where is the reason to allow it? Fear of terrorism only goes so far; clear law and believable oversight would go a lot further.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting Premise

    Well, it appear that the argument for our acceptance of the mass surveillance on data we generate, whether private or public, goes like this..

    "Because you post it, and it is unencrypted and, despite it being legally grey, if not entirely forbidden under UK Law, we have the means to collect, collate and analyse freely for our own purposes. You do not need to be aware of, or concerned about, this operation, its methods or purpose."

    So, if I then encrypt my data does that now make it illegal to decrypt before analysis without my direct permission? I believe thats an offence under the computer misuse act. How about the installation of interception methods without my knowledge and without court supervision? Is that legal too? Even if it isn't legal, do we assume that the acting party has no capability to beat any measures we make take against them? Is it even legal for us to take such measures?

    If so, then the "Encrypt, you fools" argument doesn't hold any water.

    if not, then surely the answer must be something like...

    "Because you deny doing this, and will not reveal your methods or purposes. Because you are not held accountable to public scrutiny and open data protocols installed in much else of public service, I withhold the right to assume that your activities are illegal, immoral and not in my best interest. I further reserve the right to take measures to prevent your activity and to counter it using similar methods and activity."

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Dangerous terrorist plots..

    I don't understand how the terrorists don't ever attack officials of state and only ever go after ordinary members of the public.

    "Turning to international terrorist, lets start with plain facts: from 11 September 2001 to the end of March this year 330 people were convicted of terrorism-related offenses in Britain. In the first few months of this year there were four major trials related to terrorist plots. These included plans for a 7/7-style attack with rucksack bombs, two plots to kill soldiers, and a failed attempt to attack an EDL march using an array of lethal weapons. There were guilty pleas in each case. 24 terrorists were convicted and sentenced to more than 260 years in jail."

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: pakkuman Re: Dangerous terrorist plots..

      "I don't understand how the terrorists don't ever attack officials of state and only ever go after ordinary members of the public....." Because officials usually are more security-aware nowadays and usually work in buildings with some form of security, whereas the public are usually wandering around without a clue in areas that may have no security whatsoever. It's just like the mugger that picks on the grannies rather than the bodybuilder, they think they are more likely to succeed with an easy target.

    2. arrbee

      Re: Dangerous terrorist plots..

      "I don't understand how the terrorists don't ever attack officials of state and only ever go after ordinary members of the public."

      Professional courtesy.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    er, Mr Spook....

    can I like, opt out, like?

  29. Graham Marsden

    "only practical thing for the government to do was to slurp as much online info as possible"

    But, but.. I've been assured by a reliable source (well, he thinks he's reliable, anyway) that they don't want to do this!!!

  30. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Coat

    Summary

    "Please use cloud services, it makes both the technical and legal aspects easy for us" - spies everywhere

  31. Fluffy Bunny
    Facepalm

    Why get your knickers in a knot?

    Why are you getting your knickers in such a knot? If you don't want GCHQ to know your secrets, don't shout them out to the whole world.

  32. nsld
    Black Helicopters

    Well that's O2 subscribers fucked then

    Given that O2 is owned by telefonica which is also a foreign company then if Charles "gone to" Farr is correct they can slurp all of that as well.

  33. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    Listening posts.

    What do people expect a listening post to do if not listen?

  34. JaitcH
    WTF?

    ... because everything people ... posted on these sites were external comms based on US platforms

    If this is the criteria GCHQ uses, this means anyone using HSBC.CO.UK is being monitored.

    In fact most every HSBC InterNet link terminates on AT&T longlines in Newark, New Jersey. After that the whole damn server group is subject to the PATRIOT ACT.

    You would have thought an allegedly British Bank would have had their world server farm in the UK. E-mails are handled similarly.

    So this HSBC arrangement means that GCHQ reads the comms as they pass through and then the US has a go.

    So much for HSBC privacy!

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why "missiles on roofs"?

    I've met the guy who looked after the missiles on roofs during the Olympics, and quite honestly I'd trust him an awful lot further than anybody working for an "intelligence agency". (He reports that during the Olympics the chief hazard was nice old ladies coming up to the roof to ask if anyone wanted a cup of tea, or someone to go out for fish and chips. A bit of a change from Afghanistan.)

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