back to article Big Brother is born. And we find out 15 years too late to stop him

The "Big Brother" comprehensive national database system feared by many MPs has been built behind their backs over the last decade, and even has a name for its most intrusive component: a central London national phone and internet tapping centre called PRESTON. PRESTON, which collects about four million intercepted phone calls …

  1. phil dude
    IT Angle

    modulated outrage...

    I sometimes wonder if I have hit some sort of saturation threshold. No longer outraged at the blanket abuse of civil liberties (in the UK) or ignoring The Constitution (in the US)...

    Perhaps I am more annoyed that they are spending *our* money on ineffective technological solutions, with *eye watering* inefficiency.

    And then the bravado to tell us it is necessary with their vapid political campaigns...

    P.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: modulated outrage...

      And the Brits here scorn NSA.... I scorn them all. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg in spyland. I'm sure there's more. But they will have all they want, I guess. I realize that they can't process most of what they get so.. <shrugs>

      Having said that, we do what we can to keep what we can private.. from the TLA's, FLA's, corporate slurpers, and miscreants. (maybe all of them should be labeled "miscreants"?). Privacy is getting harder and harder to keep these days.

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: modulated outrage...

        "Privacy is getting harder and harder to keep these days."

        I've always been a touch paranoid, but I disagree.

        It's been this hard for decades, it's just that now more are becoming aware of how hard it actually is.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: modulated outrage...

          @Captain DaFt; "It's been this hard for decades, it's just that now more are becoming aware of how hard it actually is."

          The difference is that until the digital age it required far more active effort to gather information, which was a limiting factor on non-targeted blanket surveillance. (Admittedly, the East Germans got quite good at it with the Stasi, but even that couldn't have been up to what's possible today).

          Nowadays, with the amount of computer processing power available, combined with the fact that our communications are already in natively digital form over networks that can easily be tapped, it's orders of magnitude easier to carry out blanket surveillance and store almost unlimited amounts of data for future convenience (see my other comment about why this is A Bad Thing immediately above this post).

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: modulated outrage...

      That's the bit that gets me -- we're supposed to have this massive all seeing, all hearing, data collection capability and it does.....what exactly? I figure that the intelligence services have confused intelligence with data collection. They collect scads of data but none of it means a thing until after something happens -- when its pretty useless.

      Meanwhile the internet is a bear pit, with malware going at your systems left and right (and occasionally getting through). The experts? They do nothing, see nothing, hear nothing, just contribute to the mess with their own little hacks.

      1. Christoph Silver badge

        Re: modulated outrage...

        "They collect scads of data but none of it means a thing until after something happens"

        They insist that they must have this data because it will let them stop terrorist attacks and crimes.

        But they already have this data. And they have not stopped terrorist attacks and crimes.

        By their own word, they could have stopped the attacks using this data.

        Therefore they are self admitted criminals who permitted attacks and crimes to take place although they had the information which they have stated would enable them to stop those attacks and crimes.

        1. Flywheel Silver badge

          Re: modulated outrage...

          It's that keyword, "after". Either they're just incompetent, can't communicate, or there's Another Reason (tm)

        2. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: modulated outrage...

          >But they already have this data. And they have not stopped terrorist attacks and crimes.

          Its to stop those who would terrorise the State - i.e. Snowden v2 & Expense Scandal v2.

          Threatening suicide bombers with anything is missing the point.

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: modulated outrage...The experts? They do nothing

        Well, it would seem actually that they are the source of a lot of the malware. I wonder how much of the new sophisticated attacks have been the result of criminals discovering government interception attempts and repurposing them?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: modulated outrage...

        @martinusher; "I figure that the intelligence services have confused intelligence with data collection. They collect scads of data but none of it means a thing until after something happens -- when its pretty useless."

        You assume that it's been collected in a good faith attempt to Protect Us All From Terrorists and Paedos, and is thus a failure. (#)

        Let's just say that on principle, it makes sense for those in power to have as much information on as many people as possible. That way, if someone turns out to be a problem for them at some point in the future they already have as much they can use against that person. All the better if it goes back to a time before they became politically active and/or cared about their privacy (because they still thought "hur hur, who cares if the government knows what I had for tea last night").

        *Those* people are more likely to be a problem for governments- i.e. the people in government and the institution itself, not those they "serve"- rather than some alienated sociopath who stabs a few civilians to death then gets locked up.

        Whether such information gathering is the original intent or not, if it exists it *will* get used because it can be- that's the nature of information available to those in power. If necessary, this use will be justified on spurious grounds.

        (#) Funny how they keep pushing to invade our privacy further and further with blanket surveillance to protect us from these baddies... yet it turns out whenever there's an attack that they already knew about the perpetrators, but didn't have the resources to keep tabs on them.

    3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: modulated outrage...

      You forgot to mention that we should be thinking of the children.

      Seriously... Everyone, do it now. Go think of the children.

      Because when in doubt, or lacking of valid reason for pretty much anything in politics just think of the children.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: modulated outrage...

        Given the predilection's of those in govt and the spy agencies "Thinking of the children" may be exactly what some are up to - in a Saville sense.

        All that data means that they _have_ access to the most vulnerable and the means to separate them from their protectors.

        Inefficient for fighting terrorists yes, but a nonce''s dream in terms of locating victims who can't fight back.

    4. swooosh

      Re: modulated outrage...

      "Saturated" is putting it very mildly. Just like 99% of regular people, you've become demoralized, submissive to authority and lazy. Lazy in the sense of being too comfy to do anything about the obviously and rapidly deteriorating situation with democracy and basic human rights.

      Surveilance is essential for the success of the Coudenhove-Kalergi Plan. See Wikipedia and read Praktischer Idealismus (1925) if you can. You better believe it. The UK is in the final stages. Look at Birmingham, Manchester, London and look up Cameron's "my rabbi" speech.

      This is, of course, how evolution works. Those who cannot recognize danger end up dead or as slaves; and those who want to rule will do anything and everything to achieve their goal. Literally anything and everything, forget about what your morals tell you.

      Why do polititians nothing to stop it? Three reasons.

      1 - They don't know or don't believe it

      2 - They are too dependant on the architects or scared of them

      3 - They're too interrested in profiteering from the results.

      Either way, unless we do something fast, we'll experience the distopian future of George Orwell's 1984 first hand.

      1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

        Re: modulated outrage...

        "Coudenhove-Kalergi plan"

        You mean the one that includes this very telling line?

        "The plague of interracial marriage produces each year thousands of young people of mixed race:"

        I sense a political agenda being subtly inserted. A little on the "white supremacist" side perhaps?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Go Duncan !

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intelligence Overlords

    Seems to me that the Intelligence Agencies are now running proxy governments.

    Too much power and too little oversight.

    I've gone from outrage to apathy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Intelligence Overlords

      "now" ???

      That has been the case since WW2 worldwide. So it is not really "now".

    2. VinceH Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Intelligence Overlords

      "I've gone from outrage to apathy."

      ^This.

      These revelations have lost their power to surprise, shock or outrage me.

      On the bright side, I have come to realise something about my policy of using unique email addresses for different sites and organisations, as well as varying some of the other information requested.

      These were originally adopted for the purpose of identifying when a company leaked my details - whether intentionally or otherwise - and to not give them info that they really don't need to start with.

      But the upshot of all the blanket monitoring etc is that while it wouldn't be difficult for the Snoops to join the dots on me if they had reason to, there are in effect more dots for them to join.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Intelligence Overlords

        I somehow suspect they know the format of Google and Yahoo disposable addresses and the selector and cope with wildcards...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Intelligence Overlords

        @ VinceH; "the upshot of all the blanket monitoring etc is that while it wouldn't be difficult for the Snoops to join the dots on me if they had reason to, there are in effect more dots for them to join"

        Don't kid yourself.

        The whole point of data mining is exactly that- to spot trends and similarities and thus to "join those dots" in a manner that would require prohibitive amounts of work for humans, but can be done quickly and automatically by modern computers.

        I'm pretty sure that most human techniques for doing this (e.g. spotting similar writing and punctuation style, use of particular phrases, discussion of common subjects) can- and thus *will* be- automated. Along with other techniques, such as use of limited AI to determine post content and subject matter, and refine that into trends that can be spotted over multiple sources.

        None of these indicators will be giveaways- nor even especially useful- individually, but when enough of them are used together, they massively increase in power and reliability. And it's that second part- combining separate analyses and items of data in a manner that's impractical for humans, but trivial for computers- that really makes data mining so powerful and dangerous.

        And it only takes one small- but definitive- item of information (e.g. same fake-name email address used to register both accounts) to connect (or "join the dots") between two "islands" of information, showing that both likely refer to the same person. This can be done multiple times, and gives them- or rather, their automated data-mining system- even more to work on.

        Your name- or any other personally-identifiable information- only needs to be reliably associated with one of those "islands" of information for them to know that *all* that information is about you.

        And if you're running an intelligence agency with an eye-wateringly large budget from the government, there's no way you're *not* going to be using- and developing- technology like this.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Intelligence Overlords

          With the greatest respect: you're talking plausible-sounding rubbish.

          What you claim might be possible if machine understanding of language was in any meaningful way possible. Unfortunately for you (and for HP, who foolishly bought Autonomy based on Autonomy's claims that they could extract meaning and significance from text without context), it hasn't been true and still isn't really true in any worthwhile [1]

          For example if I mention the name Erol Incedal here, does that get me put on some kind of watch list? And if I then also mention Tony Blair, and the TV channel C4? C4 is apparently also an explosive.

          "if you're running an intelligence agency with an eye-wateringly large budget from the government, there's no way you're *not* going to be using- and developing- technology like this."

          They would say that, wouldn't they.

          [1] Can you work out what word is probably missing here? Could you tell a machine how to work it out?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Intelligence Overlords

            This depends on what you hope to get out of the data set. I was talking primarily in terms of making connections and associations between pieces of information and general trends in subject matter rather than a perfect, detailed understanding of a given conversation.

            You're assuming that I'm claiming that natural language processing is anywhere near perfect just now, when of course it isn't- it's the most difficult and problematic of those factors.

            (FWIW, Given that you mentioned "TV channel" and "explosive" in proximity to C4, it'd be a fair bet that you were talking about both, though.)

            Still, such processing doesn't have to be perfect if the resulting content is considered only a (potentially unreliable) part of the multiple forms of data available. Figuring out how *those* go together reliably with minimal human input is- to some extent- the point of data mining.

            My point was that data mining technology is already available, and that you can bet that intelligence agencies *will* be using- if not themselves developing- whatever is leading edge and state of the art a given time.

        2. VinceH Silver badge

          Re: Intelligence Overlords

          @AC

          Your reply seems to be explaining how (given the resources available to them) it wouldn't be difficult for them to join the dots.

          If you look more carefully at what you quoted, you'll notice I said "while it wouldn't be difficult for them to join the dots..."

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Intelligence Overlords

            @VinceH; Yes, I'm aware of that- my point was that if the obfuscation is relatively straightforward, then the kind of additional join-the-dots-work that would be costly in human terms is going to be pretty easy for a computer to manage, giving a somewhat false sense of security.

            There are countless ways that information can be connected, for example.

            Of course, that would take time to set up, and would only work for a small subset of the population. You wouldn't do that if you were targeting a specific person in advance unless you knew they already used the service.

            But the more ways you can think of for connecting information in general, and the more publicly-available information (or *not* publicly-available information) you have to apply them to, the more likely you are to make connections, and the larger a database of personal information you're likely to build up.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Intelligence Overlords

        "On the bright side, I have come to realise something about my policy of using unique email addresses for different sites and organisations"

        Sadly, that probably means that people like us are already on a list of "suspicious" people because we have 100's of unique email addresses and that must be a bad thing in their eyes.

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Dewix Re: Intelligence Overlords

      ".....too little oversight...." Not only does the article point out that ALL the powers were given to the spooks by the politicians, but that politicians were informed as they came into power (as shown by Nick Clegg's story from the article). Oversight has been in place from the start and the politicians in power have been fully complicit, which means you can stop blaming the spooks and go blame New Labour if this was news to you.

      1. Uffish

        Re: go blame...

        OK I've blamed New Labour, do I stop there or do I carry on?

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Dewix Intelligence Overlords

        @Matt if you read the article this goes back at least to 1980 with 'Tinkerbell' when Maggie was in, I am fairly sure she was not New Labour.

        As far as I know but cannot prove it this goes back to WWII or earlier.

        There is a CRO (or equivalent) number for everyone, where even school reports are kept, so they start on you early.

        1. 's water music Silver badge

          Re: Dewix Intelligence Overlords

          Maggie... I am fairly sure she was not New Labour

          Well I heard that she told New Labour that she was its dad before cutting off its hand

        2. Hans 1 Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: Dewix Intelligence Overlords

          >There is a CRO (or equivalent) number for everyone, where even school reports are kept, so they start on you early.

          Considering that they have infiltrated all political parties en masse, that they choose the runners for elections, that they know who supports who in a given party, they might even rig the internal elections ... police state.

          All this explains the completely absurd policies our governments have implemented over the years, why public spending keeps growing exponentially, while our governments keep blaming the welfare state for the national debt - even though welfare-related spending does not grow in any significant way, compared to public spend.

          Note that France just sold the data of all French school children to Microsoft, well, not exactly "sold", THEY PAY Microsoft for the "service" ...

  4. zebm

    This was leaked in 1995

    Wallace and Gromit A Close Shave (1995) featured the evil robo-dog Preston. An obviously leak by a time traveller...

    1. BenDwire
      Black Helicopters

      Re: This was leaked in 1995

      Actually he was referred to as a Cyber-dog ... even more proof?

      Either that, or it was hatched by the incumbant overlords at the time John PREScot & TONy Bliar ...

    2. BlartVersenwaldIII

      Re: This was leaked in 1995

      Came here to post the same thing. Nice to see that british spooks have a sense of irony whilst they're rewriting the book on departmental overreach.

      Wendolene Ramsbottom: A robot! Daddy created him for good, but he's turned out evil!

    3. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: This was leaked in 1995

      And wasn't there a contestant called Preston on "Celebrity" Big Brother a few years back?

  5. m0rt Silver badge

    Privacy = 'we are not currently looking at what we hold on you'

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      "Privacy = 'we are not currently looking at what we hold on you'"

      There's your key word, right there.

    2. Someone Else Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Privacy = 'we've heard of it.'

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Curious

    They have this vast quantity of data, yet they still struggle to catch one terrorist.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: Curious

      Who would have thought! Making the haystack bigger doesn't help find needles.

      1. Graham Dawson

        @sabroni Re: Curious

        the problem isn't that they've made the haystack bigger - you can still find a needle in an arbitrarily large haystack if you think and maybe use a magnet. The problem is that, by designating everyone as a potential suspect at all times, they've replaced the hay with needles and are now trying to find one needle amongst millions.

      2. agatum

        Re: Curious

        Indeed. Obvious solution: inject more needles.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Curious

          "inject more needles."

          Don't you need needles to inject in the first place?

          Yo dawg, I heard you like needles, so I put needles in your needles so you can inject while you inject...

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Curious

          "Indeed. Obvious solution: inject more needles."

          And make sure they're nonferrous, so they can't be picked up with magnets.

          Preferably, use biological materials like bone so that even technology will have a hard time distinguishing the needles from the hay.

    2. Preston Munchensonton
      Coat

      Re: Curious

      They have this vast quantity of data, yet they still struggle to catch one terrorist.

      But we have our brightest and best working on this! Oh wait...

    3. Electron Shepherd

      Re: Curious

      I'm not in favour of this level of surveillance at all, but one of the problems is that any government can't point to the successes they have with it.

      Let's say PRESTON was instrumental in preventing a Paris-style attack in London, and the terrorists were caught before they could harm anyone. This is simply not going to appear on the 10 O'clock news. If you have these capabilities, the last thing you do is tell anyone about them, since by doing so, you necessarily expose some of your SigInt capabilities, and that just makes your job harder next time.

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Curious

        "Let's say PRESTON was instrumental in preventing a Paris-style attack in London, and the terrorists were caught before they could harm anyone. This is simply not going to appear on the 10 O'clock news."

        Sounds plausible, but how are the public to know they'd been saved from a potential terrorist massacre, the surveillance didn't pick up nor prevent any of the attacks that did occur in since 2000, and not some of the really bad ones during the Irish troubles. Also did these apprehended terrorists get a trial, or where they just disappeared, which is just as worrying.

        Nope, just don't buy it.There's another reason for this set-up, and it's nothing to do with terrorism, assumed sexual deviancy or tax evasion.

        Maybe the lizards ordered it, maybe some Ai.I ordered it from the future to gather data for some vast virtual reality simulation or aliens for future colonisation/interbreeding or to improve parasite integration, you're guess is as good as mine, and probably a hell of a lot more valid than any half-assed reasoning given by a politician.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Re: Curious @Telwaz

          Maybe some Base AI, stuck in present phorms of a vast past virtual reality simulation, Telwaz?

          Don’t be betting any good money on that not appearing as a servant slave in a master AI program for a titanic tele visualisation project and smarter cyber attack and destroy space mission. It is what true guys and great gals in the likes of an eccentric concentric Cheltenham/Holywood/Vauxhall base station are borne into the wild for.

          GCHQ/MI5/MI6 moving on and up into MuI7 Type Shenanigans …… with New Machined Virtual Orders for CHAOS* and Disorder, Manic Madness and Media Mayhem ….. if they be made up with the right stuff, of course. One wouldn’t be bothered, nor waste any time and effort, trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ears, would one. That would be a kind of relative madness too in deed, indeed, and most surely of no personal interest to any future persons of intelligence interest.

          *Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Order the popcorn already

            Presented with no additional comment in alien support of the future view presented above ....... ‘More devastating than any nuclear war’: John McAfee on the coming cyber war with ISIS

      2. NigelD

        Re: Curious

        Er, but we do know about their SigInt capability or did you not read the article? With all these revelations already in place no one has said yes this stuff was useful and prevented an attack.

        I also do not buy this sort of argument. It seems to go hand in hand with the 'you should not mind being spied on if you have nothing to hide' view. No. Enough.

        The question is now how do we overturn this nonsense?

        1. nijam Silver badge

          Re: Curious

          > 'you should not mind being spied on if you have nothing to hide'

          Yes, have an upvote, and here's a suggestion - publish the names and address of all intelligence and police staff (and contractors, just in case). If they're not doing anything wrong, they have nothing to hide.

          No publication => obvious deduction.

        2. Emperor Zarg

          @NigelD Re: Curious

          I also do not buy this sort of argument. It seems to go hand in hand with the 'you should not mind being spied on if you have nothing to hide' view. No. Enough.

          The question is now how do we overturn this nonsense?

          The traditional way of resolving this is: a revolution.

          And that is precisely why the Government want to keep tabs on all of us. They are probably already making a league table of my past, present and future indiscretions, that will be ready for publication ... be left on a train ... be inadvertently photographed in the hands of a Government minister as he walks into No. 10 ... mysteriously appear in the public domain should I ever decide to step out of line.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @NigelD Curious

            Blakes 7

    4. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Re: Curious

      @ will Geoffrey

      Perhaps they need to complete the Orwellian paradigm by continuing the war with East Asia.

      Victory is irrelevant, and even undesirable, because then the snoops might be asked to shut down their gravy train.

      1. Dadmin
        Facepalm

        Re: Curious

        You said the magic phrase; Gravy Train. This is precisely why I refuse to purchase antivirus software; if it really worked there would be no more malware because their product would actually secure my system throughout. Companies like Symantec badly need to have new malware being produced for their cycle of fear=profit to continue. Afraid of something? Buy our anti-somthing! Guarenteed to thwart Terrorists™, Polar Bears and Tiger attacks in the greater London area!

        Same thing with the UK and US secret spy operations; if they actually worked then we'd know about it. It simple doesn't work, and can never work, but it generates billions upon billions of dollars for everyone involved in the scam, er I mean the "Finding and prosecuting of Terrorists™". Because Fear == Profit and or massive secret funding. And who wouldn't love to accept and abuse some nice massive secret funding? It makes me hard just thinking about massive secret funding! When you walk about, fearful of Terrorists™ around ever corner, that means money to people and organizations who can use your fear to make you purchase all sorts of unnecessary weaponry and camera systems for your house and person, but it get better. You get to have your sweet tax dollars and pounds go back into raping your privacy! Oh, now I'm almost finished. Just a bit more... Terrorists™!!1! Ahhhh. I need a smoke, guys...

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Curious

          Take a step back for a minute... replace "gravy train" and any reference to money with "power". Any TLA/FLA worth it's budget is also watching the government higher-ups as well. Not just for budget and favorable legislation. Everyone involved at high levels is power mad. Just like corporates. Money is the result of the power.

          Now if we, citizens had a mind to, we could toss monkey wrenches (spanners) into the system. Have a day or two with no phone, no internet. Have a day or two of discussion using key phrases and words. Have normal days with phones and internet. It will create confusion amongst those watching the proles but not those watching the higher-ups. It also might drag a few would-be terror types, etc. out into the sunlight since patterns do come into play when analyzing trends and data.

          Go have your smoke... turn off your cell and computer while doing it. If someone is really watching YOU, they'll get nervous is suddenly you drop off their radar.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Curious

          Dadmin - you have really hit the nail on the head here.

          It is coming to light that ISIS is a creation of the US DoD, and there are some documents to prove it.

          How else would they get their funding. There appears to be rogue elements in the CIA/MI5/6 that are creating and causing these acts to get people to give up their freedoms.

          How is it that since 9/11 we have had a dramatic increase in the number of terrorist organisations, when prior to that there was only one?

          See this..

          http://divinecosmos.com/start-here/davids-blog/1191-disclosure-showdown?showall=&start=1

          1. Christoph Silver badge

            Re: Curious

            "How is it that since 9/11 we have had a dramatic increase in the number of terrorist organisations, when prior to that there was only one?"

            Because since 9/11 we have been bombing the shit out of various mostly or entirely innocent people with the glaringly obvious direct result of creating more terrorists.

            The DoD doesn't need to directly create them. We give millions of people a burningly strong reason to hate us, we leave huge caches of weapons around, we even train people who are supposedly on our side before forcing them to turn against us.

            It would be startlingly weird if there were not lots more terrorists.

          2. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

            Re: Curious

            Additional evidence of "constructed terror":

            http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/technology/hackers-trace-isis-twitter-accounts-7010417

    5. Grikath Silver badge

      Re: Curious

      "They have this vast quantity of data, yet they still struggle to catch one terrorist."

      That may be because the object of the excercise itself is not Catching Terrorists, despite all the propaganda, but control over the people who aren't (yet).

    6. khjohansen

      Re: Curious

      The terrrist attacks must continue - if they can keep us in fear, they can keep us in line!

  7. SolidSquid

    Given the seriousness of this, I'm curious what their justification is for not informing MPs of it, given that MPs are supposed to be the ones who decide whether to allow it to continue, pass an Act to legalise it or pass another to ban it. Apart from the obvious "they might ban it" excuse, which basically admits to knowing it's illegal, or "they might talk about it", which would be covered by the official secrets act

    1. Blank-Reg
      Big Brother

      As that old saying goes: Slowly slowly catchy monkey

      In this case scum have managed to build a true big brother database (I suggest the term database be used in any talk on this bill and is said loudly and often) and are slowly revealing little bits to clueless MP's until its too late:

      "And this bit here holds the phone call records. To, err, see if Terrorists (Terrorists! yes that's brilliant) make phonecalls"

      ...a year later...

      "And this bit keeps the travel records, so we can see where the terrorists are flying from and to"

      Ad nauseam

      1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

        As that old saying goes: Slowly slowly catchy monkey

        Nope, the steady drip, drip, drip of leaks and/or legislation is more akin to boiling a frog, lobster or crab.

        The family I rent a room from is Black and I've been living here so long (15 years), I'm one of the family now. They've been calling these revelations as nothing new ('But they've always been doing this.'), even actually mild in comparison to what's 'actually going on.' Guess this 'White Boy' needs to clean out his ears.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      I'm curious what their justification

      I'm curious what their justification

      Absolute power... Corrupts Absolutely...

  8. AegisPrime
    Flame

    EU?

    Ok, I'm getting sick of this shit - how do we find out what information our own government is holding on us? There must be an EU process no?

    I was never 'fine' with any of this and as a direct consequence of the Snowden papers now use a VPN, Protonmail etc. (because, y'know - PRIVACY) - but the extent of this is too much now - I want to know everything they have on me even if it's benign. There has to be some legal way...

    1. sysconfig
      Coat

      Re: EU?

      Freedom of Information Act?

      EU, not so sure...

      Mine is the one with hundreds of heavily redacted pages in its pockets...

      1. AegisPrime

        Re: EU?

        Yeah, I was thinking FOI might be the logical place to start the process (of course, you won't get your 'Preston' dossier because 'national security') - I'm thinking the EFF might have some ideas?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EU?

      Eu does something only when the ENEMY is involved.

      When the Russians defined in law, built and deployed (with at least some legal oversight) the same system in the late 90-es we:

      1. Ordered the howling monkeys in the media to howl their ass off.

      2. Eu/USA/UK financed an "independent non-government" organization (quotes intended where they are) to drag them in front of the European court of human rights (and after that we wonder why the hell did they tighten up the rules on external political financing so much).

      'cause that was the ENEMY. When we do the same (actually worse - no regulatory regime and no legal oversight in any form even by a kangaroo court), what do we do? We smile and wave.

      Do not do as I do, do as I say.

    3. dephormation.org.uk

      Re: EU?

      DPA Subject Access request?

  9. caffeine addict Silver badge

    Can we hire the guy who the Americans get to make up their acronyms? Patriot and Prism vs RIPA and Preston? Oh dear...

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Acronyms

      Independent Directorate for Information OversighT

      or IDIOT - which is what we've been taken for in the name of "security".

      Best thing we could have done on 11th September 2001 was shrug our shoulders and say "Life goes on. Don't expect us to do your work for you, Mr Terrorist."

      1. DrBobMatthews

        Re: Acronyms

        MyffW Reminds me of the acronym floating around in SHAPE inn the 1960's Supreme Head Intelligence Targeting or SHIT for short.

    2. AceRimmer

      The British tend to use very innocuous names. The general rule is the more innocent and dull sounding the name, the more dangerous the named item will be.

      Just waiting for GERBIL to be brought on line

    3. Amorous Cowherder
      Facepalm

      Names?

      ROLAND, KEVIN, EROL and GLENIS!

      1. Christoph Silver badge

        Re: Names?

        As long as it isn't SCORPION STARE

      2. Flywheel Silver badge

        Re: Names?

        "KEVIN"

        Key-Encrypted Verifiable Insurgent Node

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Telecommunications Act of 1984

    Pure comedy!

    Wait...

  11. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Aluminium beanie on order

    How do you tell if your phone has been hacked? I'm asking perfectly seriously as mine is behaving strangely and considering the sort of people known to be being spied on domestically as a Yes Campaigner, member of SCND and active in RIC I would certainly qualify.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How do you tell if your phone has been hacked?

      take out the battery

      then buy an Alcatel 2G phone at EE for a tenner in cash with free Google Cardboard viewer and a ten-pound top-up activated international SIM included,

      and you'll have a phone that hasn't been hacked. (You'll be identified in the PRESTON database as soon as you use it to talk to anyone tho')

      I refer you to the Clash Lyrics for 'know your rights- all 3 of them'

  12. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Clearly the facists won the war after all.

    All reports to the contrary are propaganda.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Clearly the facists won the war after all"

      arguably, they did, in the form of Uncle Joe and friends. Go far enough to one political extreme and start to come back around full circle?

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Teiwasteofoxygen

      "Clearly the facists won the war after all....." So you missed the bit where New Labour were in charge for the majority of this program?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Teiwasteofoxygen

        New Labour? Rings a bell. Oh yes: When Margaret Thatcher was asked what she regarded as her greatest achievement, she is said to have replied: “New Labour”. 'Nuff said.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And so technology becomes the enemy

    Civilisation was fun while it lasted.

  14. chris 17
    Big Brother

    the truth comes out at last

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge
      Big Brother

      A little more at least.

      Until the next fresh round of infringements are revealed.

  15. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

    I have been radicalised.

    This sort of shit makes me consider suicide. Arguing against it is pointless so perhaps I should Google 'Strap On Bomb' and go visit some of the perpetrators.

    There you go... There's a test of how good their capabilities are.

    You may assume if I am not posting after Christmas they are for shit or otherwise I am either in a rubber room, being water-boarded in far away places or dead as a result of causes not instigated by myself.

    1. Clive Galway

      Re: I have been radicalised.

      While this may have been in jest, this may be a good way to hit back,

      If everybody started discussing bomb plots with their mates, browsing Jihadist websites and generally trying to generate as many false positives as possible, they would become overwhelmed and may be forced to dial it back a notch or two.

      ALLAHU ACKBAR!

      1. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

        Re: I have been radicalised.

        While this may have been in jest, this may be a good way to hit back,

        Have a down vote. My disgust and possible intent has bugger all to do with your interpretation.

      2. AustinTX

        Re: I have been radicalised.

        Nope, no no. They'd simply make that sort of anarchy illegal, and your new criminal status would be used against you. Question: how do you feel about being involuntarily recruited to process shrimp?

  16. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The times they are a'changed. Interesting zerodays ahead

    There are now dozens of intelligence "Bulk Personal Datasets" on millions of people, "the majority of whom are unlikely to be of intelligence interest", as the government has admitted in documents accompanying the draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

    In the blink of an eye, can any number of those millions of no present intelligence interest, take an altogether different path, fully mindful of the intellectual challenges and virtual hurdles to be overcome and circumvented.

    ’Tis a fine folly to believe that more than just a chosen few, and many, will not be able. And what of the smart groomers of the system, aces in both the delicate micro and mass macromanagement of perception, and whose trails lead to confusing, compromising destinations and novel situations never before encountered, and which it would be a tragedy for systems operations/operatives to foolishly and/or arrogantly ignore or dismiss as too freaky and spooky to explore and/or engage and/or exploit?

    Such a non-action is a perfect green light for the further unhindered sowing of obviously exotic and perfectly camouflaged plans.

  17. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

    Wel, F***k me....

    Set up in 1999 by Blair, continued by Cameron.

    It didn't stop 9/11. It didn't stop 7/7. It didn't stop Lee Rigbys death. It didn't help prevent Paris attacks.

    It doesn't work, clearly.

    It was put into place without proper government oversight, without parliamentary assent, without the mandate of the nation.

    It's function - whatever that may be - is not in the interests of the British people.

    Those responsible for this heinous act should be immediately arrested and tried for treason, then sent down for the rest of their natural lives as a warning that we do not tolerate the subversion of our democracy. Are we not fighting against terrorism to preserve that very democracy?

    Or are we just preserving the power of the elite?

    This has to end, before we all get "radicalised".

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: Wel, F***k me....

      So who is going to jail over deliberately misleading parliament?

      Yep, thought so...

    2. Emperor Zarg

      Re: Wel, F***k me....

      It was put into place without proper government oversight, without parliamentary assent, without the mandate of the nation.

      I held this view until today.

      I think it had all the oversight the Government wanted. None.

      And that is the problem.

      The Government should not have the ability to anything except in full view of the public. They repeatedly demonstrate that they cannot be trusted. They are supposed to be acting in our interests - and if they are not, that makes them the ENEMY.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wel, F***k me....

        So what happens when you hit a genuine "Private Snafu" situation where you really, REALLY don't want information to be revealed to the public for fear of Revealing Information to the Enemy?

        1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

          Re: Wel, F***k me....

          "So what happens when you hit a genuine "Private Snafu" situation where you really, REALLY don't want information to be revealed to the public for fear of Revealing Information to the Enemy?"

          You obtain legal counsel and authority, resolve the situation, neutralise the perpetrators, make arrests as needed, ensure the loose ends are tied and then report to the authorities duly notarised as oversight. Eventually, reveal the details to the public who clearly have questions and want answers.

          You do NOT hide the facts, let the miscreants carry out their plans, lie to parliament about the scope of your activities, redact all public record and ensure there is no legal or judicial oversight....

          ....unless you are ISIS.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When does this hit C4 News, UK mainstream media, etc?

    Are New Statesman, Daily Mirror, World In Action (etc) still relevant (if they still exist)?

    Or does it need to go direct via Facebook, Twitter, etc?

    Rate this article: think of a number bigger than 10. 127 will do for now.

    Under eleven months to November 5th.

  19. David Pollard
    Pint

    Ta Muchly

    Thank you Mr Campbell for your continuing good work. National security is much improved when its methods are open to scrutiny.

    1. David Pollard

      Re: Ta Muchly

      For the benefit of downvoters:

      A 'secret' security system may at first glance seem better than one which is open to scrutiny. But like back-doors in encryption or proprietary blobs in open source code, when things do go wrong, and sooner or later some aspects will surely be compromised, then it's a devil of a job to get things straight again.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Out demons, out

    Mr Campbell we salute you.

    This helps explain why Straw was so keen to get FOI rejigged - he's in on the big database, so feels 'ownership' of it - and if David Davis had got to be PM he'd be joining in the party.

    All these fuckers just get off on the power.

    (Posted anonymously to show how feeble we drones are, in our attempts to evade the Panopticon)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Big Brother, is that you?

    I notice quite a few comments here which appear very reasonable to me have attracted a single downvote. Is an NTAC employee posting here?

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Big Brother, is that you?

      I was wondering the same and expecting a single comment in favour of these actions (and probably massively downvoted) to tell me who was downvotting every sensible comment. No such luck... yet?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

      I don't know - does "Matt Bryant" work for NTAC (in the PR department)?

      1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

        Re: Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

        Yeah, I was going to point at MB as well.

        1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

          Re: Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

          Seems he doesn't want to come out and comment on this one. Could that be because its indefensible? Could it be because it shows actual harm to our sovreign state-hood?

          Well, MB? What you got this time for us to downvote en masse?

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Bleating Bernie Re: Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

            "Seems he doesn't want to come out and comment on this one...." Oh I did, it's just they're letting Jezza Crobyn's Fan Club moderate this thread, so commonsense was immediately censored upon posting.

            ".....Well, MB? What you got this time for us to downvote en masse?" Sorry but shouldn't you lot get just one down-vote between you all seeing as you all only have one spoonfed "opinion"?

            PS; - show me the harm!

            1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

              Re: Bleating Bernie Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

              I doubt your posts were removed based on your political bias, as if that were the case they'd all be gone by now, but I take your point that you replied and that reply was not seen.

              "PS; - show me the harm"

              Ok, let's see if we can't progress this. Please give us your definition of "harm" in this context, so that we can ensure our answers are suitable. Various people have shown various forms of harm arising from the governments action (and inaction), but none of these seem to fit your rather singular definition.

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

                Re: Bleater Re: Bleating Bernie Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

                "....Please give us your definition of "harm" in this context...." Since it is you and the rest of the herd that have been insisting we have all been "harmed" by "all-encompassing and random spying" I would say it is actually up to you to supply both a definition of said harm and proof that it has actually occurred. Personally, I have seen no "harm" of any definition.

                "..... Various people have shown various forms of harm arising from the governments action (and inaction), but none of these seem to fit your rather singular definition." No they have not. The most recent I can think of that you and the rest of the herd were bleating about was the use of anti-terror powers by the Scottish Police when investigating the leaking of case material to a journalist (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/11/25/police_reckless_for_using_terror_powers_on_journo_says_iocco/). This was (a) a very specific case looking at a single target's metadata and not the all-encompassing "spying on all of us" blather you have been passing as fact, and (b) not actually shown to be illegal, and (c) not a random spying act on an ordinary Joe Blogs but an investigation of a possible criminal matter (leaking of criminal case material in breach of the public's trust) with the assumed participation of a serving public servant (the cops on the case). Please do try again.

                1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

                  Re: Bleater Bleating Bernie Big Brother, is that you? - Is an NTAC employee posting here?

                  Ok, I'll bite.

                  Harm, as defined by me, can be represented as damage to the political and social infrastructure of our nation; subversion of the democratic process and flouting of law in order to achieve poltically motivated capital.

                  You know, like the harm described in this very article, wherein a successive cabinets committed actionable crime, implementing mass surveillance programs from 1999 onwards, without legal oversight or the consulting of parliament.

                  You have allowed me to both define harm and provide an example of such. Therefore, harm is proven,

                  Off you trot to logic classes.

                  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                    FAIL

                    Re; Blind Bernie Re: Bleater Bleating Bernie Big Brother, is that you?.....

                    "....Harm, as defined by me, can be represented as damage to the political and social infrastructure of our nation....' So, as expected, a completely airy-fairy definition with no real-World effects and no way of actually being measured, but simply based on whatever paranoid conspiracy you want to baaaaaahlieve in. Good luck in proving that "harm"!

                    "....subversion of the democratic process...." Just because the Tories got re-elected? You really have to accept that not everyone (indeed, not even a sizable minority) shares your socio-political viewpoint, mmmkay?

                    ".....and flouting of law...." Evidence of, please, in the form of court judgements. Or is that "flouting" going to be as much insubstantial and based on opinion as your claimed "harm"?

                    ".....in order to achieve poltically motivated capital...." Blah, blah, blah. Sorry to break it to you but the aim of all politics - right, left and center - is to gain political capital!

                    "....You know, like the harm described in this very article, wherein a successive cabinets committed actionable crime, implementing mass surveillance programs from 1999 onwards, without legal oversight or the consulting of parliament...." You really do have problems reading round that chip on your shoulder! Please read the article again, it makes clear that the powers were given to the spooks by the politicians and they were kept informed of it as the politicians changed. You also have failed to show any impact on any of us by the "spying" you claim we are all subject to - surely if there has been some great and dastardly conspiracy in motion for decades there should be some actual impact on the general population? But you cannot show any.

                    In short, you have defined "harm" as whatever upsets your delicate political sensibilities and then shown no proof of even that! You fail again!

                    1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

                      Re: Re; Blind Bernie Bleater Bleating Bernie Big Brother, is that you?.....

                      " a completely airy-fairy definition"

                      You told me to define harm after I asked you to do so. Here is my definition, where's yours? Points lost for false dilemma argument.

                      "because the Tories got re-elected?"

                      No, because the cabinet is supposed to consult parliament on such things and didn't. I believe I made that clear. Points lost for straw man argument.

                      "".....and flouting of law...." "

                      It is illegal for a member of parliament to mislead the House or to withhold legislative process from members of either House. See the Parliament Act for details. Points lost for not doing some basic research into parliamentary law.

                      "powers were given to the spooks by the politicians"

                      Nope, its you who needs to do some reading of the article. The CABINET granted the powers using absolute authority they do not possess. They should've presented the issue before parliament, via a select committee, as given in the Parliament Act, and they did not. Instead, they created a statutory instrument without oversight. They're not supposed to do such things; they are not dictators but elected representatives with a responsibility to the electorate. Points lost for lack of comprehension.

                      "failed to show any impact on any of us by the "spying" you claim". We're not talking about spying on the public here, but instead about how intelligence agencies appear to be able, with the assistance of politicians, to sidestep the legal requirements under which government agencies, government and ministers are supposed to operate. Therefore, the law has been broken by those in whom we place our trust, and therefore that trust has been betrayed. This, by anyone's reasonable standard, is damaging to our democracy and our constitution. Points lost for your further non-correlative argument and bonus losses for further straw-man nonsense.

                      You have allowed me to define harm (Harm caused to our trust and relationship with government and this the undermining of democracy), and I have presented proof (this article). Points lost for still failing to grasp simple logic and rhetoric.

                      I suspect the only person who thinks this is a failure is you, whilst a very large number of people will see you as nothing but a failure (in argument).

  22. Tubz

    Not surprised, Governments and security services illegally gathering data while lying through their back teeth to everybody and breach ECHR and various other rules. Nobody will be held accountable and it will be business as usual for these faceless worms !

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      For spooks, it's pretty much the job description.

  23. A Ghost
    Big Brother

    They've always done it

    They've always lied about it, and they'll always keep on doing it and lying about it.

    I kept telling people back in 1999 that this was happening, and they said 'you have no proof', and I admitted that I didn't. But I knew, it would be silly and naive to think otherwise. All your data are belong to them. It's just now they want you to know. Ask yourself why.

    To be finally vindicated after all these years. I was right and you were wrong/told you so, kind of thing. They called me paranoid, they said there were strict privacy laws in place that made sure this sort of thing would never be able to happen, and if people broke those laws or lied, there would be stiff penalties and prison time. Pah.

    At least now finally they have admitted: 'Ok, we are the bad guys'.

    And the world will keep turning as the millenials continue thumbfucking their iphones for facebook likes.

    It makes no sense to have this amount of information in the database without letting people know you have it. It's practically useless for the purposes for which it is claimed. It's just the TV license equivalent of 'We know where you live' (remember those ads?).

    So be a good boy and be very afraid, coz let's face it, we are all criminals. I bet there isn't one amongst us that couldn't be sent down for doing something dodgy. Watched porn? What did you watch? You do realise that stuff is illegal don't you? (not talking kiddies/animals)

    And if there isn't a law against it yet, there will be soon. And if it doesn't pass, they will just keep trying. And if it still doesn't get through, they will just move the goalposts and bring it to life anyway. Fuck you.

    But please keep in mind, that us 'techies' are overwatched very closely - the average jo facefuck loser doesn't even want to know in case you hurt their 'feels'. We are the few that are even keeping a track on this, and still care, though we are a dying breed.

    Dystopia is here (and to quote Orwell) 'Forever'.

    [waiting for the phantom single downvoter to strike - he's like the phantom rasberry blower, but not as funny]

    Toodle pip.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They've always done it

      Not so long ago, you were "paranoid" if you believed the state were watching and recording your every word.

      Now, you're "deluded" if you ever believed they don't.

      Strange times.

  24. Mark 65 Silver badge

    Safe to assume

    "as with the practice of previous Governments, we do not comment on security matters."

    I think that you can safely assume you're on the money with your statement when that comes back as the answer.

    1. nijam Silver badge

      Re: Safe to assume

      Except, as many commentards have already pointed out, this stuff has observably had no effect on security. So, it's not a "security matter" and they're free to comment (unless they have something else to hide).

  25. Norm DePlume

    Wow. I assumed the black helicopters would have got Duncan Campbell by now (he's been embarrassing the more sensitive branches of government for decades). Glad to see they haven't.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reality Check: Proof U.S. Government Wanted ISIS to Emerge in Syria

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1aDciHCejA

    Ben Swann exposes secret DOD documents that prove the U.S. wanted ISIS to emerge in Syria.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Reality Check: Proof U.S. Government Wanted ISIS to Emerge in Syria

      Some of us assumed 10 years ago this would be the result. Not ISIS per se, but something like it.

  27. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Gimp

    So we *think* the legislation let's us do this but we won't ask anyone in case it doesn't.

    That's pretty much their argument.

    Here's mine.

    "Give me 6 lines from an honest man and I'll find something to hang him."

    By 1999 the IRA (the last serious persistent terrorist threat the UK faced) was shutting down.

    Yet that's when Blair thinks this, ID cards and cradle to grave surveillance is a good idea?

    Just another little detail we should add to the "great mans" legacy.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: So we *think* the legislation let's us do this but we won't ask anyone in case it doesn't.

      It's hardly surprising, Blair was and is an utter scumbag.

      The one thing I regret in life more than anything else is voting for him in '97.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: So we *think* the legislation let's us do this but we won't ask anyone in case it doesn't.

      The IRA model and modus operandi, which as you all know was supported and financed with money from America [Noraid], is apparently alive and well, and exports well to exploit divisions in the Middle East.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So we *think* the legislation let's us do this but we won't ask anyone in case it doesn't.

        I'm struggling to remember where the IRA made routine use of suicide bombers.

        I do know that the great Lady Thatcher, who at the time said she would never talk to the IRA, is now known to have overseen secret talks with the IRA:

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-16366413

        How do you know when a politician is lying?

        1. Christoph Silver badge

          Re: So we *think* the legislation let's us do this but we won't ask anyone in case it doesn't.

          "How do you know when a politician is lying?"

          All together now: Their mouth is open.

    3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: So we *think* the legislation let's us do this but we won't ask anyone in case it doesn't.

      "Yet that's when Blair thinks this, ID cards and cradle to grave surveillance is a good idea?"

      My suspicion is that new wars in the ME were already being planned.

  28. markl66

    thanks for the fish

    no surprise here, one of the reasons I emigrated to Ireland last summer, good luck and thanks for all the fish

  29. Andy 97

    There isn't much we can do now that the horse has bolted.

    Even now, I can sense an uneasy presence of total and utter nonchalance from the majority of voters.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      No nonchalance but just ignorance, the majority have even now never heard of your concerns & may well not understand it if you told them face to face

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        "No nonchalance but just ignorance, the majority have even now never heard of your concerns & may well not understand it if you told them face to face"

        Exactly. Most people can barely read a simple chart and most not even a map. A complex issue with more than 2 variables? Forget it.

        And THAT is how they get away with it.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Analogue vs. Digital

    I started my telecoms career in the late 70's commissioning TXK3 crossbar exchanges in England and Scotland. The larger buildings we worked in normally contained a Strowger switch and a room full of operators and there was usually a side room with a couple of positions in. These operators were 99% female and of a certain age which meant they had served in WWII - discreet and trustworthy. Their role was to listen in on numbers of interest and transcribe conversations (anyone remember 'interrupt' tone?). We used to amuse ourselves by plugging the C&FC junctors into the exchange building PA system and broadcast conversations for everyone to have a laugh at. Coin boxes were the best bet as they were random conversations.

    In the early 80's I worked in Saudi Arabia on the TEP4 contract. As part of the contract the Philips PRX-A and Ericsson AXE-10 switches had a feature known as 'Receiver Call Forwarding' that allowed the monitoring of 4 lines on each switch from an underground bunker in central Riyadh (located between Airport Rd and Pepsi). A shame I never learn Arabic.

    1985 (not 1984) and the introduction of mobile phones was the starting point for mass surveillance in the UK (Menwith Hill anybody?) when your communications end-point became something you carried around with you, rather than stayed in your house on the end of a twisted pair. ....and then we moved from a circuit to a packet switched infrastructure and the rest is history.

    What I don't understand is why anyone thinks mass surveillance of personal communications is a recent phenomena, it was going on long before the internet came about. Governments want to control us, whatever next? Duncan has been right about 99% of his revelations, keep on snooping!

    1. DrBobMatthews

      Re: Analogue vs. Digital

      I guess I am a few years and some older than you, during the "cold war" I spent 3 months down a sewer in West Berlin tapping trunk cable which ran in a loop with branches under East Berlin. This exercise produced some 15 -20 reels of recording tape a day. A suspicious looking cove with a weak chin an a snotty accent collected them and drove away in an unmarked American truck. Nothing is new in this murky world of government paranoia.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Analogue vs. Digital

      AC, thanks for the history.

      I would like to take this time and remind everyone of the ITT scandels in the 1960s and 70s.

      Start from there and read down.

  31. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    What I fail to understand about this...

    I'm struggling to get my head around the fact that it sounds like this is a functional thing, doing what it was designed to do. But it's a government IT project, and these things are invariably unmitigated cake and arse parties which, if they complete at all, end up under-featured and over-budget.

    If they can get it right for something like PRESTON, regardless of whether or not you think PRESTON should even exist, why can't they do that for other projects?

    1. The Mole

      Re: What I fail to understand about this...

      You don't know how much they spent on it, nor how well it actually works in reality - remember the options with SIGINT is either ensure the enemy doesn't realise that it exists and so therefore doesn't defend against it, or make the enemy believe it is far better than it really is so they are forced to use less efficient/more costly/less flexible methods.

      There's probably also the fact that they deliberately excluded the politicians from the process and so didn't have the goal posts and requirements constantly being moved and changed.

  32. Christoph Silver badge

    One of the buildings at the main BT research centre has one more row of windows than there are floors to which the lifts go. It's been there since way before the web or mobile phones. This stuff is not new.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      BT Research Centre

      Oh, that....that's the

      <Bzzzzt>

      NO CARRIER

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, in summary..

    .. all the clamouring for backdoor laws and more spying rights was just there to legalise what they had already in place.

    Or, put another way,, retrospectively legalising what GCHQ was found doing was merely a trial run.

    This means that Cameron now has a clear choice: either calling a stop to it and launching an enquiry hauling a certain T. Blair from his comfy personal private bank to answer for this (and clearly lying to parliament), or sing along. Given the todger-in-pork story, I suspect they already have too much data on him to get any of this properly followed up, but maybe someone will surprise me by showing some backbone.

    Oh, by the way, you may want to add this article to your considerations. Just imagine hooking that up to this database too, and frankly, I don't doubt that has already happened - no doubt with some national secrecy sauce so nobody talks.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "What ever you do when they are talking to you, for god sake lie."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eIUOUfhoJ8

    And that was pre Snowden!

  35. Local Laddie

    Can I access my Data...?

    If the data is held on a government database, and, as we all know, the UK government complies with the UK Data Protection Act (1998), do I have the right to formally make a "subject access request"... regarding the my personal data held on file?

  36. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    We could assume a benevolent, greedy or incompetent government to take all of this power for the good of the people, to sell to industry to afford bribes for the electorate or because they are lazy and mean no harm. But it is not impossible for a nutter to get into power, nor is it impossible for the best intentions with bad results. Can you imagine accidentally voting in the next Hitler or the country falling to the next Stalin? How would they use this data or even the potential capacity of the surveillance state?

    Power is dangerous as it increases the desire for more.

  37. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    So just to be clear *every* UK bank account password and code is now in 1 location.

    But don't worry, it's very carefully handled (according to the people who took it without your permission in the first place).

    What could possibly go wrong with such a plan?

  38. DrBobMatthews

    Security Agencies and Intelligence? Now there is a first class oxymoron!

  39. Lord_Beavis
    Facepalm

    Oh, for fucks sake...

    They're computers. Why is it so easy orthem to install shit we don't want and so difficult for us to see it?

    This has got to stop.

  40. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Licio Gelli, rest in pish

    This peaceful death has only twelve active googlenews hits, and admit it, most of you hadn't heard of him. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Poetry amongst other similar bastardisations of our decency.

  41. AbeSapian

    When You're In The System

    When the helicopter flew over, I could feel their eyes- wet, like peaches.

    When you're in the system, they switch the flip and then you're done: cell phones, satellites, the Internet ...

    - Red

  42. mstreet

    This is sadly permanent

    This is all clearly past the point of no return. None of this is going away, no matter how much we complain. Next time a user asks me how best to keep their personal data safe, I will answer with the truth:

    Get rid of your computer.

    I may have a career in IT, but when the pitchfork wielding anti-tech mobs start to form in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, I want to be the one carrying the torch that lights the bonfires.

  43. Disko
    Pint

    Vogons

    Whenever I think of the way government organisations tend to work, ultimately one image subsists in my mind above all else... there's Vogons! Vogons everywhere! As obsessed with micromanaging information as they are ultimately incompetent to wrangle any sort of meaning from it...

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Taking over where the SS left off

    They're doing such a good job it almost makes you proud to be British /NOT

    When do enemies of the state have to start wearing armbands?

  45. Emperor Zarg
    Thumb Up

    You've been upvoted

    I don't think I have ever upvoted so many comments as I have on this thread. So much sensible commentarding. Thank you.

  46. ShelLuser
    Black Helicopters

    Privacy huh?

    I wonder... How many people who speak up about privacy concerns have a Google account? How many of them are logged on with the system reminding your session so that you can easily log back on again?

    And then the real question: how many take action against websites which use Google analytics?

    Obviously this is just one player. You can easily swap 'm out for the more popular social networks as well (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

    On one hand people are very concerned about privacy while on the other they also easily allow themselves to get tracked and monitored. It's not just the big bad government at work here.

    1. Emperor Zarg

      Re: Privacy huh?

      The motivation of commercial enterprises is fairly clear. The motivation of Governments that want intimate details of our lives, much less so. And far more sinister.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Privacy huh?

        Oh? Ever heard of ITT?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITT_Corporation#Involvement_in_the_1964_coup_in_Brazil

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You would have thought that if this not-a-database of information was so valuable to stop terrorists they would have managed to stop the 7/7 bombings (and perhaps not shot and killed an innocent man). Funnily enough though they were caught completely unaware by the 7/7 bombings.

    Since then I don't remember reading about any significant arrests or convictions of terrorists. There's been a few secret court cases and a few people arrested with potential bomb making equipment but in none of the cases did I get the impression they were really cracking a massive terrorist organization just some idiots that were probably more of a danger to themselves. I think we can be pretty sure that if we had managed to crack a large terrorist ring the powers that be would be shouting it from the roof tops.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I think we can be pretty sure that if we had managed to crack a large terrorist ring the powers that be would be shouting it from the roof tops."

      But you forget the adage: don't let the enemy cotton to what you're doing. Even if you crack the ring, there will always be stragglers and wild cards still on the loose. If you stay mum, you can mole them and keep finding conspirators. Usually, when the news releases word of cracking a ring, it's something shameful like drug dealing or child prostitution; but if it's something genuinely dangerous with positive motivation (like starting a revolution), they'll keep quiet to avoid a "no such thing as bad publicity" scenario.

  48. Hagglefoot

    Shhh! you dont know who's listening.

    So the guidebook was right we just didn't and still don't know how the decipher it. And evil was given credence at the end of the millennium by its advocates.

    Nosey parkers, create new rules each time they poke their noses into someone else's business and that someone pokes them in the eye. Then they escalate it to the point of making you a criminal. So I ask who is the portent of evil.

    It still makes me laugh that people put their ideas into the cloud so that bots can rake in the ideas and that way those on top stay on top by being nosey parkers while promoting security.

    There's none as insecure as those that trust the system to provide the security. As x-files would put it trust no one.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intelligence and accuracy

    I do hope 'they' are more adept at using our (sorry, their) information than the Home Office team which calculated the new Police funding amounts from the wrong data because the filenames were almost identical.

    A while ago I 'researched' (ok, 'Googled') instances where innocent people had been convicted on the basis of fingerprint evidence alone. One was a USA Police sergeant who had witnesses that she was several hundred miles away, with fellow police officers when she committed the crime. it turned out that the fingerprint database was wrongly attributing the actual villain's fingerprints to her.

    It is all very well having petabytes of 'data' to play with, but you need to be sure that it is actually accurate.

    As for protecting people from harm, I suspect that may of the people with access to the data are just looking at it, and have no remit to prevent paedophiles abusing children, etc. As the data was not officially collected, it does not exist, and therefore cannot be used without prejudicing the ability to obtain it. (You don't believe me? Well, ask a former resident of the Kincorra Boys' Home if he got 'value for money' from the Security Service's knowledge of what went on there. Not MI5's finest hour.)

  50. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Tales of Daeshing Clones and Crap Bull Shit Market Drones

    Are you able to imagine what the Big Brother meme has more morphed into over the past 15 years/67 years? Aided and abetted by Myopic Media Moguls and Bogus Barons ......... Sad and Mad and Rad and Bad Wannabe Emperor Types?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Tales of Daeshing Clones and Crap Bull Shit Market Drones

      Or perhaps you don't think and think such purveyors of subverted reality are blameless and innocent of crimes against humanity?

      J'accuse. The perverse virtual reality is quite obvious.

      Ask Militarised Intelligence, if it is their Wild War LOVE Child and Hot Baby? Or if they would want it to be in Remote Virtualisation Command of IT with Global Control Head Quarters?

  51. Brian T

    I vaguely remember

    the concept of freedom. But I am old now. Maybe my eyes are failing; that would explain why I see less of it.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The greatest evil

    “The greatest evil is not done now…in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is…not even done in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result, but it is conceived and ordered; moved, seconded, carried and minuted in clear, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.”

    "they are the focus of evil in the modern world."

  53. Suburban Inmate
    Windows

    Meh. My outrage fuse blew out long ago.

    *sigh* "God I hate being right all the time", except some Raptors and the odd T-Rex would be preferable to the slimy reptiles currently infesting Westminster. My shiny hat looks rather smart now.

    I'd post more but it's nearly midnight and I'm on the Kestrels so let's all have a little singsong to cheer us up for the stagger home:

    And a one, and a two, and a one two three four...

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: My outrage fuse blew out long ago and was replaced with a circuit breaker trip switch

      Hi, Suburban Inmate,

      Take heart. The natives are revolting and evolving everywhere .......

      amanfromMars [1512190930] …. adding more on http://www.thedailybell.com/editorials/36688/Anthony-Wile-Is-Credible-Media-Both-Anti-State-and-Anti-War/

      Many people believe that the restriction on free speech, the rise of the PC movement, the talk of microaggressions and safe spaces are about protecting marginalized minorities when in fact they are nothing more than tools used to entrench the positions of power, to eliminate resistance to their aims and objectives and to silence, once and for all every voice that fails to sing in the chorus of the State. The reason men like Cass Sunstein are employed by the State is because the veil has begun to fall. When people begin to question the veracity of the government, the next step, logically, is to question the legitimacy of the institutions that keep it in power. It is not a safe or reassuring thing to believe that your government is capable of plotting to kill you or those you love for it’s own ends, it is frightening, and demoralizing. It is also the first step in reclaiming our sovereignty. Just as no rational person would want to remain in a relationship with someone who repeatedly lies and cheats, neither would they be expected to offer allegiance to a State that would do worse. …. The problem when conspire usurps aspire

      Whenever a presumed dumb people, and easily enough led by media people, become significantly more intelligent than was ever previously thought able, do the heads of failing controlling organisations heed and rightly need to fear for their very own personal and institutional existence and the lives of all around and dear to them? Does the system turn grindingly slowly but ever more surely against them, and deliver them as valid targets, in order that command and control systems survive differently in the future in a brand new phorm phished from the ether?

      Or is that put in place by other men and/or smarter beings, with systems just doing their bidding in revised programs?

  54. Downside

    If you want to keep a secret

    Top Tip - If you want to keep a secret - don't tell anyone.

    I want access to my PRESTON phone records, because there are people I've lost contact with in the last fifteen years. If I post here, can GCHQ find out the numbers for Anna, Sue and Fraser? Steve and Andy? They live in Weymouth if it helps?

    All this info I've bloody paid for and it's no use to me. How annoying.

    (PS great article - I've read it open mouthed, don't know why, you've been banging on about it for 30 years. Keep up the good work)

  55. Jove Bronze badge

    Why would you expect anything else

    Well, be thankful that at least some people in Government are not swayed by by the mob.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Why would you expect anything else

      Well, be thankful that at least some people in Government are not swayed by the mob ..... Jove

      By Jove, methinks that can easily mark them as being legitimate targets for the mob and mobsters alike, Jove.

      'Tis a strange new mad mad world in deed, indeed, is IT not?

      1. Tail Up

        Re: Why would you expect anything else

        Would you really want it?

        "Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by The Daily Bell". Lawyers. I have then corrected the post, cravenly.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Parallel Construction

    That bit about 'telling the police if people are innocent'?? That's cover for parallel construction.

    They told police in secret who to arrest and for what and where to look. And the police did that, found the 'evidence' they were told to find, and created the fake evidence trail for the court.

    And maybe it was evidence and maybe it was planted. Since the court never examines the real evidence we won't know. All we know is the police lied in court to cover the mass surveillance. So they were complicit in hiding the crime from Parliament.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Parallel Construction

      And that other story, where the police were visiting people who had downloaded a DDOS software, the police visited them to deter them before they might commit crime...

      I guess we now know where all the information on who downloaded what when and where came from.

      No wonder the police think they get to define pre-crimes if they have access to all the private information on their political leadership.

  57. Timmay

    Keyboard-warrior outrage

    I do wonder sometimes, with all the keyboard-warrior outrage at the Security Services' actions, what exactly people think they should do. General consensus appears to be that yes, we do need them, but it seems to me that people just want them to stay over there, don't invade our privacy or collect any information about us, but somehow magically know who The Bad Guys™ are and therefore keep Us Good People™ safe.

    There's also the other angle of "okay, so they're collecting all this information about us, and for what, we still see bad things happen to Us Good People™", blindly ignoring the fact that bad shit is being planned and prevented all the time - those one or two bad things that do happen are unfortunately what slip through the net.

    The good guys only have to fail once for bad stuff to happen. The bad guys only have to get something right once.

    1. Emperor Zarg

      Re: Keyboard-warrior outrage

      I think the problem of what the Security Services should do is actually quite clear to most people. They are there to protect Us Good People from The Bad Guys, to paraphrase what you wrote. They do not appear to be actually doing this.

      The number of Bad Guys is infinitesimally small. The drag-net approach being used at present hoovers up everything belonging to Us Good People. Pretty much all of that is material that no Government has any business collecting. Even if they do nothing with the information, the problem is: they still have it.

      We have, in most, if not all Western countries, a basic presumption of innocence and a right not to have our lives and correspondence interfered with by the State. These basic tenets of law appear to have been trampled in the rush to find Bad Guys. Any surveillance action which finds itself suspecting the entire population of the planet is very clearly mad, out of control and a long way down a very dangerous path.

      It must be stopped.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Keyboard-warrior outrage

        "The number of Bad Guys is infinitesimally small."

        But they're very much like high-yield bombs. One guy can do a lot of damage, people die, and if the government can't stop them before they slay innocents, the public will ask what good are they?

  58. Lord-a-miytee
    Joke

    Tinkerbell

    I just typed 'tinkerbell' into Google maps, for a laugh. It took me to "Tinkerbell Privacy Resort", Thailand. I suppose that query is on The Database, now.

  59. Robert Grant

    I don't know what's more disgusting

    The years of mass surveillance, or the fact that a part of it was called CATSUP.

    IT'S KETCHUP.

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