back to article Warrantless phone snooping HAPPENS ALL THE TIME in Blighty

It's perfectly legal for the police to slurp up the phone records of any entity they take a dislike to, without any external oversight whatsoever, for the purpose of punishing whistleblowers. If you didn't realise this was possible, you've not been paying attention for the last decade. Earlier this week the Metropolitan Police …

  1. hplasm Silver badge
    Big Brother

    s there no end to this?

    What can we do, apart to refuse to be part of it.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Is there no end to this?

      In short, No!

      If the ability to do what they like exists they will.

      Why will they? Because they have the ability to do so.

      Any government who has these powers even if they say they are addressing it as a problem will not actually do anything to remove their own powers of surveillance over us they will just disguise it as something else. What did Obarmy actually do when he said he would do something about the NSA slurping info about Americans in America? Effectively nothing.

      Any information that is held about you is accessible so don't give anyone any information but you'll soon get fed up living in a cave on a diet of nuts and berries (when they are in season).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: s there no end to this?

      What the rest of the world does.

      Require a court order for any surveilance.

      RIPA must go.

      1. MrXavia

        Re: s there no end to this?

        I agree, police should get a court order before any data slurping like this...

        Nothing wrong with the police being able to grab the metadata, and I think there must be a 24 hour coverage for judges to issue warrants.

  2. Dave Bell

    If anyone asks you if you intend to vote Conservative in the next General election, tell them Yes.

    And then vote to get a different set of bastards in. Maybe then we can get some of these legal work-arounds blocked.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      "If anyone asks you if you intend to vote Conservative in the next General election, tell them Yes. And then vote to get a different set of bastards in. Maybe then we can get some of these legal work-arounds blocked."

      Given our effectively two party system, you mean to vote for the party that actually wrote and passed RIPA into law last time it was in government, the same party committed to making you have an identity card to prove that you're entitled to breath?

      Have you been drinking again?

      1. nbc

        I had no idea

        That Tony Blair's government was Conservative when RIPA completed its passage through parliament in July 2000

        What was I drinking?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I had no idea

          "I had no idea that Tony Blair's government would be Conservative"

          Nor had most of the people that voted for it.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: NAAA!!!!

        Never let a good crisis go to waste + Bipartisan consensus to engineer permanent crisis = MUAHAHAHA

      2. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: NAAA!!!!

        "The people in the club will rant & rave when not in power but when they get their turn they continue the programs"

        How true. If ever a politician genuinely wants change, there will be a "Sir Humphrey" to explain to him exactly why that change is urgently needed, highly advisable, but, alas, cannot be implemented without certain tragic* consequences.

        'Yes (Prime) Minister' - Painfully True in all respects, even 30 years later

        *for the politician concerned

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "If anyone asks you if you intend to vote Conservative in the next General election, tell them Yes."

      If you get asked if you'll vote for xyz other party, say yes too.

      This is a fun way to screw with pollsters statstics.

    4. JaitcH

      Remember, RIPA was yet another bLIAR / Blunket law

      Every time I hear of the latest intrusions in to the lives of ordinary Brits, I thank the day I got Canadian citizenship, not that Canada is perfect.

      But it does have a Bill of Rights and a Constitution which is way more than what England has. And there is more transparency in some of the oversight of these privacy-intruding institutions.

      Britain, at least what's left of it, will never get a Constitution because of the entrenched 'them and us' attitude of politicians. Even the women who joined the Tories last election are quitting because nothing has changed.

      The judiciary is so inbred you need not expect much help from them. What has to happen is a groundswell from the citizens to topple all these entrenched interests so the elected people actually represent the interests of the citizens.

      And good luck with that.

  3. Mark 65 Silver badge

    "Press Gazette's editor, Dominic Ponsford, has done some sterling work trying to find someone, anyone, who will take responsibility for this terrifying abuse of power by the police."

    He's also likely now having all his metadata sifted.

  4. Green Nigel 42
    Big Brother

    Be afraid, be very afraid.

    With these deeply intrusive & abusive sweeping powers of RIPA, why was there the need for DRIP legislation to be brought in under emergency measures convienently just before the parlamentary summer recess? Was this not supported by manuipulating the fear and orchestrating excessive public knee jerk reaction to the actions of a few radical groups, plus the fear that the Telco's could now wipe the data? Reassurances were also given regarding that the content of messages & calls would not be available under DRIP (true), but the combination of DRIP & RIPA is truely worrying.

    We elect these people every five years to run & lead the country based upon their manifesto's. Every time they fail to deliver, do the opposite of what was promised with the "we did'nt relise the true situation" excuse, or blatently run rampent over thier mandate to govern & put in place more powers to preserve the status quo.

    No wonder people have little faith.

    1. Hargrove

      Re: Be afraid, be very afraid.

      Daniel Webster put it well. . .

      “Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. . . . . There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

      The crux of the problem is that the societies that they govern have failed to hold them accountable. Modern IT provides unprecedented means to two diametrically opposed goals. . . Freedom at one end if the pitch, suppression by effective oligarchy at the other. Global society is in the middle of a life or death race to see whether the members of society at large will be able to exploit the power of information technology before those who rule contrive to deny them its use.

      My best guess is that it will take us at least three generations to begin to redress the excesses of those who now govern. However, I believe we have only a few years left to begin running in earnest to have any hope of winning this race.

      1. Green Nigel 42

        Re: Be afraid, be very afraid.

        God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it." -- Daniel Webster (1834)

        You are right, people now, as they have done in past, are unknowingly or even willingly trading their freedom for peace, comfort & security. These, of course will be the first thing to go.

        If we do not continually watch & challenge our elected representitives by talking to, writing to, signing petitions, going to meetings, raising awareness in others, protesting and ultimately principled civil disobedience, do we actually deserve to be free?

    2. vagabondo

      manifest promises

      In a real monetarist/neo-liberal political system a government ignoring its manifesto would be a breach of contract. That would mean that the deal that put them in power was void and be grounds for a elections in all the constituencies represented by the defaulting party. Any person or organisation that has lost out because of a failure in their reasonable expectation of an electoral pledge not being honoured should be able to sue the offending party for damages.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Green Nigel 42

        Re: manifest promises

        It is hard enough in the UK to ensure that Government policy stays within the bounds of the legislation it has passed! It can be done, Jeremy Hunt (the health secretary of state) has been taken to court a few times over deemed illegal actions he has sanctioned ( most notably the his attept to closing Lewisham A&E which he lost, but then he went back to parlament changed the law, so he could close other Nhs depts if he thought fit despite local & clinical opposition). To do anything in law costs an awful lot & Jeremy was brought to rights only after a local & national campaign groups fund raising performed, media support achieved & petitions delivered.

        To pass a bill to make manifesto's legally binding is not going to happen, a true and full appreciation of the situation & the need to rapidly adjust it to meet future conditions will probably be cited amongst many other reasons

        The thing is, voting every 5 years is not enough, we need to take part if we are not to be guilty of delegating our responsibility.

  5. Green Nigel 42

    Welcome to the Village

    Prisoner: Where am I?

    Number Two (not identified as yet): In the village.

    Prisoner: What do you want?

    Two: Information.

    Prisoner: Whose side are you on?

    Two: That would be telling.... We want information...information...information!

    Prisoner: You won't get it!

    Two: By hook or by crook, we will.

    Prisoner: Who are you?

    Two: The new Number Two.

    Prisoner: Who is Number One?

    Two: You are Number Six.

    Prisoner: I am not a number; I am a free man!

    Two: [Laughter]

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "So here we have a police force which is explicitly engaged in a hunt to seek out whistleblowers"

    Whistleblowers? What whistleblowers? Since one of the constables involved has been jailed and the reputation of some others has been seriously tarnished it seems to be entirely unlike whistleblowing and uncannily like Misconduct in a Public Office, a criminal offence.

    "The Met used its powers to harvest the telephone metadata of people who communicated with the suspects of an internal enquiry conveniently disguised as a criminal investigation, purely so vengeful senior employees, presumably fearful for their pensions, could punish individuals who embarrassed them."

    Given that there has been a conviction and a jail term handed down calling it "an internal enquiry" appears to be absurd journalistic misrepresentation. If it looks like a criminal conviction and smells like a ciminal conviction then a criminal investigation is what has taken place. Obtaining telephone records related to this case for "the prevention or detection of crime" would therefore seem to have been appropriate.

    "One such unregulated method for the police to get their hands on your comms data is for them to politely ask your telco to hand them a data dump. Your telco can quite legally do this in response to a simple verbal question."

    Do you really, really think that after the revelations of the past year or so any company (never mind a telco) would risk it's entire public reputation (and hence its business) by just handing data over without sight of a proper warrant? I think the telcos have a bit more business acumen than that.

    "Accountability? Hahahahahahahaha..."

    Er, have you looked at this? If I'm not very much mistaken that is an account of how the system has operated. You can go read it if you wish. I recall there's been another one published more recently, also reported in El Reg.

    "Press Gazette's editor, Dominic Ponsford, has done some sterling work trying to find someone, anyone, who will take responsibility for this terrifying abuse of power by the police."

    If you know how British society is structured you don't have to look very far for someone who is responsible for the actions of public sector employees. The elected minister or councillor, etc. is that person, it's their job, it's why we vote them in. It's not so hard to work that out.

    Terrifying abuse of power? Well, most people don't seem to be running scared.

    What is scary is the relationships between some members of the journalistic trades and policemen willing to dish out news gems (NotW, Milly Dowler, Plebgate, etc). There's nasty rumours of cash exchanging hands. That sort of thing has to be clamped down on, it's not good for society or affected individuals.

    If preventing that means more interception of comms between bent coppers and journalists, then many would argue that it's a good thing.

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: Whistleblowers?

      Agreed absolutely!

      The whole article reads like a disgraceful piece of special pleading by a journalist, far more reprehensible than any ordinary act of politics.

      And in reply to a different previous comment, have you seen a political party reverse what the other lot did? Definitely. (1) I worked for an aerospace company that had been denationalised, and was subsequently renationalised and then unrenationalised. (2) Harold Wilson's 70s government reversed the trade union reforms of Edward Heath.

      Finally, this article is nothing new. Even in the days of snail mail, metadata - who was receiving what kind of letter - could be collected if the authorities wished. The fuss about Snowden is about metadata (unless you believe They are blatantly lying).

  7. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Hang on a sec

    These guys weren't whistleblowers they part of a conspiracy to smear a man by creating witness statements that were untrue. Regardless is the word plebs were used the second they stepped over the line to do that they were in the wrong doubly so because they were serving police officers. Its also unclear as to which mobiles they were using - if it was their police issue ones the Met was well within their rights to do anything they liked with the phone records.

    Frankly given News Corps shoddy record the Sun guy should have be more flipping careful.

    There are huge parts of RIPA that are troubling - but anyone who uses the Plebgate mess to moan about it should be picking their ground more carefully as the whole thing is a moral swamp of dubious stories and actions.

    In summary valid points but ludicrous example to make them with.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone who thinks the NSA are bad should really spend some time looking at what the GCHQ can and do get up to, all with the most minimal oversight possible. As per the article, those in power always want more power, more ways to use it with less accountability.

    Typical mindset of the UK elite though, they did it to the yanks, they did it to the Catholics, they did it to their own people.

  9. Phil Endecott Silver badge


    "Terrifying abuse of power"? Uh, no. The "abuse of power" was that these police officers, who the law normally considers to be "witnesses of the truth" if they appear in court, conspired to lie with the intention of bringing down (part of) the government, and very nearly succeeded. This was about an argument between the government, who wanted to impose cuts or other changes on the police, and the police demonstrating to the government that "you can't mess with us".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "witnesses of the truth"

      "these police officers, who the law normally considers to be "witnesses of the truth" if they appear in court"

      Any case with a sensible jury will, after the police's self-inflicted wounds which have emerged in the last few years, need extra extra police-independent proof before the jury accepts that guilt has been proven "beyond reasonable doubt".

      No wonder there's a move towards more judge-only trials.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I despair

    All this from a government that was elected to serve the people. Doesn't sit very well with me, I can tell you. The more dealings I have with politicians, the more inclined I am to the opinion that they are mostly (with a few notable exceptions) in it to feather their own nests and don't give a jot about the populace that elected them.

  11. i like crisps
    Big Brother


    ....could you also make a 'Citizens Data Slurp'?......sauce for the goose!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      And then post the pictures on 4chan?

      1. i like crisps


        A bit tame that, AC. I was thinking more along the lines of..........i better not say, just in case.

    2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge


      Perhaps. But not on mere suspicion, you would have to already have proof of whatever you are trying to prove.

      You can be sued if you make a citizen's arrest of an innocent man, but the police cannot be sued if They believe there was genuine reason to suspect the arrestee.

  12. yossarianuk

    Anyone know the greens stance on this?

    Does anyone know the Green party's stance on this?

    I ask as they are perhaps the only party with any residue of morals left and are perhaps more left wing than Labour/Lib Deads.

    I can imagine they (as least in practice) would be against this sort of thing?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anyone know the greens stance on this?

      The "Greens" are still politicians. Look at the clueless mess they have made of Brighton as a council. Once they get in power they play with the tools available to run their own agenda. They are good as a minority voice, but in power they would still have the same "advisers" steering them.

      Politicians are rarely experts in IT subjects. El'Reg should be standard reading for them.

  13. C. P. Cosgrove


    To take a quote from the referenced 'Press Gazette' article -

    "The Crown Prosecution Service ruled in November 2013 that it was not in the public interest to prosecute the three officers because “a jury is likely to decide that it was in the public interest for the events at the gate to be made public”."

    Does this not suggest that the three constables were unfairly dismissed ?

    Chris Cosgrove

    1. teebie

      Re: Question

      No, the standard of proof, and degree of misconduct, is much higher for the CPS.

      A court/tribunal would back you if, on balance of probabilities, you were justified in dismissing someone (i.e. if there is at least a 50% chance they committed gross misconduct, or other fireable offence)

      The CPS shouldn't take action unless there is a 50% chance they can convince a jury beyound reasonable doubt that a crime was committed (i.e. if there's a 50% chance you can conince a jury there is a 98%(*) chance they committed a crime)

      (*) ish

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legal powers

    I can think of many public organisations who have more powers than the Police and are only tempered by the public interest and human rights. They do not routinely abuse their powers and I can only think the reason behind that is these organisations are actually trying to do good (their purpose!) not pursue personal agendas.

    The crimes that could have been committed by inappropriate use of powers are misconduct in public office (this crime is not limited to civil/public servants but anyone who is a public office holder). I am not fully familiar with it but would not the human rights act also be a route of complaint?

  15. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    I knew this would happen...

    When Rupert Murdoch was named Home Secretary!!

  16. Adam Inistrator

    Pol beats off police abuse.

    Just goes to show that the rich and powerful are not subject to police abuse. The gall of police to try it on pols shows their arrogance.

  17. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Big Brother


    I'm on the side of the met and the government minister here (time to vomit)

    Because the cops in question lied about the said events, or got sent to jail for lying about the said event.

    And since they were into criminal conduct the met had every right to investigate who they were contacting.

    If it was a bank robbery the met were investigating, you would'nt even blink for a second that the met had slurped data records on who called who after the robbery took place.

    The article is more of a line that the press are upset because the scarers have been put on the police to stop them leaking so much paid information to the press.....

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Strangely

      > And since they were into criminal conduct the met had every right to investigate who they were contacting.

      Yes, but the article doesn't suggest otherwise. What the article is pointing out is that the police (in this sort of situation) can effectively do what they want with no checks and balances. If they wanted to (for example) search your house looking for evidence, then they'd need to apply for a warrant - and part of that is showing that you have reasonable grounds for needing to search. They can't just decide "he's a likely perp" and search his house looking for evidence to justify the search (ie find something and then decide what offence it can be used to support.)

      With comms data, the Police can effectively just go ahead with a fishing trip - there's no oversight to restrain that. *THAT* is the point that's being made.

      I can see no valid reason that a warrant shouldn't be needed in the digital domain - so an independent person (judge) can tell them to sod off if their reason is "we want to see if he's been up to no good".

      And in this case, it would seem that there would be no reason to withhold a warrant. But this case happens to come with a report that lays out what the police can do and do do - that's the interesting bit.

  18. PassiveSmoking

    Do you know who else kept pushing for more "emergency powers" and entangling us in wars with people who don't want to be part of the dominant culture? EMPEROR PALPATINE!

    You may laugh, but the Census data contains a complete record of all the Jedi in the country...

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