back to article No, HMG, bulk data surveillance is NOT inevitable

It is the topic that they don’t want us to discuss. When it came up in the Joint Committee on the Investigatory Powers Bill there was a desperate attempt to shoot the messenger, William Binney, as an alternative to the debating his message. The Joint Committee on which I served heard compelling evidence that collecting …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Doesn’t that mean they’ve already won?"

    That is always the most potent argument against any proposed draconian measures. As in the past the British way when faced with indiscriminate terrorism is to "Just keep calm and carry on".

    1. James 51 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      That is hardily a justification for ever tighter control and therefore is to be ignored at every opportunity. Remember citizens, freedom is slavery.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To be honest it feels like they already have, well almost.

      Apart from a few MP's I don't see much opposition in the house so when it comes to a vote, it's going to get passed and you can guarantee the government will use every terrorist incident in recent times (which incidentally would not have been stopped by these powers) to cajole MP's into voting for it.

      I watched Theresa May's select committee hearing and to be honest she didn't look interested in the slightest. I would go as far as saying she didn't even prepare and maybe under some premise it's already going through.

      If it does go through then it will accelerate what is already happening (ANPR, CCTV etc...) with regards to civil liberties and I don't like what will come after that.

      If everyone in this country knew what this bill actually means they would oppose it but they hide in terminology that makes little sense, Data that isn't data (allowing paper documents into the mix), Internet Connection Record (Nicely worded so people will think it's about when you connection not your browsing history), Bulk Powers (Mass Surveillance), Equipment interference (Hacking)

      I've already said previously that my browsing history will flag me up because I like to research news and see both sides, I look at security websites for vulnerabilities to keep my machines safe, sometimes going to websites that are classed as hacker sites. Those are a couple of examples but there are plenty more though I do not break any laws.

    3. cakehoover

      It would only mean that the terrorists had already won if the terrorists cared about this and that the government were actually doing this in an attempt to defeat them.

      I suspect what it will really mean is that it is the government that has won.

    4. Christoph Silver badge

      terrorists want to destroy our way of life

      The people destroying our way of life are the current government. They have done far more damage to our civil liberties, and to huge numbers of people driven to desperation, starvation and suicide, than all the terrorists put together.

      1. Mr Flibble
        Big Brother

        As usual, that says to me that the real terrorists are the ones who we elected…

        1. veti Silver badge

          We didn't elect the Home Office. That's civil servants for you.

          They're the ones who are driving this - politicians are only there to explain/defend/rubber-stamp their demands for public consumption. From the Home Office's point of view, that's the Home Secretary's job and she's doing it handily.

          A government minister is like a manager: it's their job to regulate pressure between their underlings, who are supposed to be doing work on behalf of their employer, and their superiors, who set their budget and priorities and KPIs and whatnot. The underlings apply as much pressure as they possibly can, to (reduce their own workload and responsibilities/increase their take-home pay/iron-clad their own job security/insert other motivations as appropriate). The overlings - in this case, parliament, select committees, and eventually voters - need to apply even more pressure in the opposite direction. Without that counter-pressure, the Home Secretary - as we've seen - simply takes on the shape of those "below" her.

          The trouble is that civil servants are good at this. They've got a career's worth of practice, and they think about it 24/7. Most people on the other side - don't spend that much time thinking about/working on it, we've got too much else going on in our lives. So - we lose.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          there was always state sponsored terrorism - so you are more right than you know

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: As usual, that says to me that the real terrorists are the ones who we elected…

          No, its not the ones you elected.

          Its the ones that pick the candidates you get to choose from.

      2. Tom -1


        I somehow think that's bullshit; Blair's government did more damage than the current lot, with its RIP Act in 2000 and amendments in 2003, and its Terrorism Act in 2000, Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security act in 2001 and continuation order in 2003, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, and Terrorism Act 2006. Sections of at least two of those acts have been ruled by the courts to be contrary to the 1998 HRA (this has no direct little effect on the laws, since the 1998 HRA says when a minister certifies his legislation is HRA compatible that's the end of it - Blair and crew weren't going to pass an act that allowed the UK courts to enforce ECHR against them), but does sometimes embarrass the government into introducing changes). And Brown's introduction of secret inquests and the "guilty until proven innocent" law about photographs including constables (It is a defence for a person charged with this offence to PROVE that they had a reasonable excuse for their action is not exactly an enhancement to our civil liberties.

        1. Christoph Silver badge

          Re: @Christoph

          Blair's government did more damage than the current lot

          That they are both up to it is hardly an excuse. And about the only thing NuBluLab did not do was to be quite so enthusiastic about stealing the crutches from cripples, and leaving citizens to starve in the streets.

    5. Someone Else Silver badge

      Doesn’t that mean they’ve already won?


      Next question?

    6. 's water music Silver badge

      >>"Doesn’t that mean they’ve already won?"

      That is always the most potent argument

      In rhetorical terms it is just another think of the childrun emotive flourish. It is only superficially attractive if matches your own opinions or predjudices. This issue is too important not to deploy mostly logos and ethos in the argument

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The arguments and counterarguments are all false:

      The surveillance is for population control and nothing else.

      Terrorism is just the excuse to set things up this way.


      And besides, who do you think it is, that carries out 99% of the terrorist attacks for the last dozen centuries?

  2. TrevorH

    Why did I read "the draft Communications Data Bill" as "the daft Communications Data Bill" ...

  3. chris 17 Bronze badge

    They've won already

    I wonder what those advocating greater retention and monitoring of our data would feel if a paper had access to that data & was asked to sift through the data, find information that could be taken to incriminate someone and then publish accounts and stories using that data to rubbish them in public.

    I bet it wouldn't be hard to construct something to make any one look really bad in the eyes of the public.

    1. Graham Marsden

      Re: They've won already

      "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." - Cardinal Richlieu

    2. Velv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: They've won already

      And I dare say given the media interest in our politicians, they'd be the first against the proverbial wall!!!

      1. Graham Marsden

        @Velv - Re: They've won already

        > they'd be the first against the proverbial wall!!!

        The media or the politicians? Hmm, it's a big wall...

  4. Dan Wilkie

    It should be a pretty good indicator that this is a dark path if the Americans consider it a step too far.

    It seems to me that a lot of legislation these days seems to be very much a throw things at the wall and see what sticks. But I'm not a politician so I really don't understand it. I'm probably one of the few people who's glad that there ARE people paid to worry about all of that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, well said, if the Merkins think its a step to far you've got tot take that as a sanity check.

      Much like a friend of mine pointed out today of Nestle removing sponsorship from the IAAF - if a company as allegedly unethical as Nestle drops you for being unethical, well...

  5. TeaLeaf

    Former Ontario Privacy Commissioner...

    "People who say they have nothing to hide, nothing to fear about providing their personal information, have no idea how information can be misapplied out of context."

    Ann Cavoukian

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Re: Former Ontario Privacy Commissioner...

      If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged. :- Cardinal Richelieu (possibly)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Former Ontario Privacy Commissioner...

      they are also long dead

  6. scrubber

    "Doesn’t that mean they’ve already won?"

    No, but it does mean we have lost.

  7. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Big Brother

    The terrorists are far from victoryq

    But the cointrol freaks who use every security incident to gather yet more data on their countrymen, those guys are doing pretty well.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You're all missing the point

    The only thing new about this legislation is the legislation. They've been doing this for years; it's just that they got caught and now they're trying to make it legal.

    1. Velv Silver badge

      Re: You're all missing the point

      They got caught grabbing something, although its not clear exactly what and where. Nobody will be prosecuted.

      However having now been caught they're attempting a land grab to legalise grabbing everything just in case.

    2. Peter Fairbrother 1

      Re: You're all missing the point

      While they undoubtedly _have_ been doing it all along, it wasn't illegal - it was legal under RIPA etc. Of course RIPA was so obscure, few realised what it actually said.

      Apart from some new measures, this is largely just RIPA etc in a new form - but the new measures are worrying ..

      One new measure are ICRs - actually not entirely new, there was previous legislative provision for something similar, only it didn't get used in practice.

      Although actually actually, the words ICR or "Internet connection record" do not appear anywhere in the draft Bill ... only in an accompanying explanatory note of no legal significance.

      What the Bill really does here is give Treeza the power to say what traffic data is to be retained, and to order it to be retained. Note that she doesn't have to put this through Parliament as secondary legislation, she can just order it to be done.

      Another new measure is to redefine traffic data, in part so as to include anything that gets sucked up in a search for traffic data. After the data is captured then there is nothing in the Bill to stop any extra data being used in the same manner as traffic data may be used.

      A third new measure is to empower Treeza to to require "relevant operators" to retain a technical capacity to make data, including content, available. This would include requirements for modification of systems which provide end-to-end encryption, and/or data storage in eg smart phones.

      She would in theory have to introduce secondary legislation to do that, but I can't remember the last time a SI was rejected.

      A fourth measure is to extend the scope of what a single full interception warrant can cover - previously it was limited to a single person or premises, in the Bill it can cover a group - eg Muslims? Humans? - there does not seem to be any limit.

      Of course, what the draft Bill does not do is what it is primarily supposed to do, ie bring UK legislation into compliance with the EU (digital rights ireland) and UK ([2015] EWHC 2092) Court decisions. There are some nods in that direction, but nothing really concrete.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "treats innocent people going about their daily lives as suspects"

    That doesn't look like a side effect to me.

    That look like a goal.

    If the rational course is to do less bulk collection and the person in front of you still wants bulk collection what does that say to their world view?

    The people behind May areobsessed with bulk data collection. This is not a rational policy. It's an illness.

    1. Alistair Silver badge

      Re: "treats innocent people going about their daily lives as suspects"

      @ JS19:

      That look like a IS the goal.


    2. gv

      Re: "treats innocent people going about their daily lives as suspects"

      As an innocent (cough, cough) person going about my daily life, I'm doing my utmost to expand their haystack with as much spurious data as I can.

  10. Graham Marsden

    "if you are looking for a needle in a haystack...

    "... and you make that haystack massively bigger, it will mean that sometimes you won’t find that needle."

    Something I've commented many a time in here.

    Of course that doesn't mean that you won't *find* a needle (or, at least, someone^H^H^thing that *looks* like a needle) and you'll spend lots of resources dealing with that False Positive and probably ruining someone's life in the process until it turns out you made a mistake...

  11. Roo

    "I watched Theresa May's select committee hearing and to be honest she didn't look interested in the slightest. I would go as far as saying she didn't even prepare and maybe under some premise it's already going through."

    I drew the same conclusion.

    Treeza has shown no evidence of understanding the issues or being remotely interested in them at any stage, she behaves like a functionary following pointless orders... Such orders would be pointless, as other folks have pointed out this legislation is simply legalising stuff that's already been done (illegally and with no mandate) for many years anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hilk Surveillance

      If it was unlawful how come no one was prosecuted, or are the Government & Police just ignoring the Law when it suits them?

      1. Esme

        Re: Hilk Surveillance

        @Lostyearsago - yes, that's exactly what they;re doing, and that's exactly why as many of us as possible need to make it clear that we've had quite enough of that kind of totalitarian malarkey.

  12. Dan 55 Silver badge

    The UK appears to be the only Western liberal democracy that is moving in this direction

    Well France has also just enshrined the three-month limited state-of-emergency powers as law. This esteemed organ missed that story.

    I believe I called that one, but I wish I had been wrong.

    "The laws allow police to place anyone deemed to be a security risk under house arrest, dissolve groups thought to be a threat to public order, carry out searches without warrants and copy data, and block any websites that “encourage” terrorism.

    Curfews can be imposed, large gatherings or protests forbidden and movement limited."

  13. Tony S
    Big Brother

    "There needs to be a debate as to whether bulk works and whether it really is worth it.

    I'd say that there has been a debate; unfortunately, the PTB have not been the ones involved. I'd go further and say that the arguments have been very clear; it doesn't work, is not worth it and would actually have the opposite effect to what the proponents suggest.

    But we seem to live in an age rather nicely described by Isaac Asimov; "Democracy; where the belief is that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge'"

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The IP Bill will pass

    So the ISC say the IPBill is an ill defined pile of crap, so committees say there will be too much data to analyse effectively, so the haystack will be so large it will collapse under it's own weight.

    None of this will stop the bill becoming law.

    The fact that it's a pile of crap is secondary to getting it passed into law, once it's law it will be interpreted by the authorities in whichever way benefits them most, the vagueness & lack of definition will be seen as an asset which benefits them greatly as they can literally demand anything on pain of imprisonment or fine and get it.

    Theresa May isn't the driving force behind this bill, this is coming from the security services, I suspect it's coming from Charles Farr.

    Theresa May hasn't got one clue what is actually in the bill & doesn't understand the arguments against it, she's just been told it's necessary, she has her orders, she's been told if this bill doesn't pass there will be a Paris style atrocity on UK soil and the blame will land at her door. Despite the minor detail that blanket surveillance doesn't prevent these things, the French already blanket surveil all communications within their eborder & quite a few outside it, Paris still happened.

    So don't expect any great debates where the undefined details are hammered out, don't expect major revisions refining the undefined areas of the bill.

    Expect the party whip and the Conservative majority in the house simply steamrollering this bill into the statute books.

    And even if that fails, which is unlikely, we can expect one of the securocrats in the Lords stapling the entire unaltered bill to the back of something else, probably at around 4am just before a vote when there are a handful of peers debating level crossing patrols near schools or some other innocuous bill and the entire thing will rise like Dracula, again and again, until it's passed.

    I'll be very happy to be proven wrong on this, I suspect I'm going to be disappointed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The IP Bill will pass

      I have to agree.

      The utter cluelessness she has displayed to select committees on this issue indicates that she is merely a sock puppet. She is not the one driving this debate.

      When asked to give concrete examples as to how this legislation would help the security services, she couldn't give the basic answer and had to defer to her masters. It's really quite unbelievable.

      She's supposed to be one of the most powerful figures of the British government next to the Prime Minister and she's acting like a junior civil servant.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: The IP Bill will pass

        She knows that with hundreds of paid-for votes she doesn't have to worry what the backbenchers or committees think.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The IP Bill will pass

        She's supposed to be one of the most powerful figures of the British government next to the Prime Minister and she's acting like a junior civil servant.

        Unfortunately the entire parliamentary Conservative party are nothing but a bunch of lickspittles for that shallow, inept toff that we have as a prime minister. Cameron is so dim, that he actually thinks that he can make policies up for every government department on the hoof and without thought, knowledge or even consulting the minister nominally responsible. And every time he does this, just as with his various ill advised pre-election promises, he ends up in a further bind, entirely of his own making. And now he's pushing for the sort of powers the Stasi could only dream of.

        I'm one of Maggie's children, but I've never voted for the Tories under Cameron, and even faced with the prospect of Chairman Corbyn, I won't vote Tory on the basis that it is "the least unacceptable alternative". I know that Cameron has promised he'll step down for 2020, but since he's never kept a promise before, I'll be surprised if he keeps that one (and in any event we'll get another Etonian, Bullingdon-boy tosser put forward instead).

        I invite all commentards, both left and right wing, to join me in sending condolences to constituency party chairman of the Conservative party, mourning the sad death of the parliamentary Conservative party, suffocated by an overdose of rich, thick twats like David Cameron, George Osborne, and Baron Feldman. What a bunch of cunts.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The Home Secretary will argue that terrorists want to destroy our way of life and so we must hunt them down and stop them. I fully agree with that, but should we give up the very same hard won freedoms and liberties that we’re fighting to protect in order to do that?

    Any chance of someone putting those words on a poster and sticking copies up all over the Commons?

    1. John Crisp

      Re: Fly-posting

      "Any chance of someone putting those words on a poster and sticking copies up all over the Commons?"

      You mean someone in parliament can read ?

      Gosh. I am surprised...


  16. R Soles

    This is not just a UK problem

    They are all trying to do it, under one guise or another.

    Check the European Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EG

    Or if you speak German google "Vorratsdatenspeicherung" to see what Merkel's lot are trying to do.

    1. Pseu Donyme

      Re: This is not just a UK problem

      Fortunately the ECJ has found this invalid (

  17. The Islander

    Other point of view

    I'm no apologist for this lady, and am fearful of where such legislation could bring society, I hate the whole concept of tracking and monitoring people with insidious intent.

    However, as I get older, I realise that many people can be seduced by misplaced loyalty, or ego, or greed or any of a dozen venal reasons. They may become ensnared and obligated to behave in particular ways, yet want to break out of the conflicting mind set.

    What would I do if caught like that? Well, maybe I'd go through the motions of what is expected of me but lack any real conviction, do the minimum expected of me but no more. Some people in positions of authority might hang in there, but this can only end badly and usually without plaudits.

    So, maybe a veiled drama is occurring in front of us ...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I propose that if Theresa May goes before the select committee again that they ask her who actually requested and wrote this bill because it is clear she hasn't even got a basic understanding of what she is asking for, furthermore the committee should be briefed to ask the questions that have been raised so many times on here. I presume this article is written by the Lib Dem Lord who presides on the draft investigatory powers bill joint committee, so if that is true and he reads the comments it would be greatly appreciated if this information and that on other comments be taken into account.

    Some questions I would like answered,

    Does the home secretary understand how the internet works in relation to VPN's as that is an encrypted tunnel to elsewhere on the internet that an ISP would not be able to decrypt rendering the information collected useless? These are available in any country for next to nothing, there is also the problem of free shared VPN's where users use each others connections to browse the internet thereby rendering the "Internet Connection Record" useless.

    Does the home secretary understand that NAT (Network Address Translation) renders the collection of data impossible to identify an individual because multiple users are using one single "Internet Connection Record"? An example could be given of a young muslim boy who out of curiosity wants to research ISIS on his shared wifi connection at home, this would flag his whole family up possibly leading to a raid on their house, there would be no way of knowing who looked at these terrorist websites. This is also true of anyone visiting someone else's house and using their connection.

    Can the home secretary confirm in light of the Edward Snowden documents if we are already collecting this information and if this bill is just a way to legalise what is already being done? (Yes I know, wishful thinking)

    That's just a couple, there are many more that need answering but the main point is that this bill if it is to be made into law needs judicial oversight and that a judge must authorise all use of the data, if all they seek are terrorists and peadofiles then this should not be an issue as the judge will be on the government's side. Leaving it to all branches of the government and the police is not acceptable as the data will be misused.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Interesting you mention about the shared wi-fi, I wonder if the natural extension of that will be to make all wi-fi spots require registration. Or make (rare) open hotspots illegal.

  19. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Big Brother

    There needs to be a debate

    No there does not.

    Not when there is a Constitution that guarantees individual privacy and freedom from unwarranted search, and bulk surveillance is - by definition - unwarranted search.

    I find it curious to the extreme that nobody challenges the whole house of cards on those grounds - but then I remember that the media is controlled by those who are in charge, and they don't like questions like that.

    1. BenR

      Re: There needs to be a debate

      "Not when there is a Constitution that guarantees individual privacy and freedom from unwarranted search, and bulk surveillance is - by definition - unwarranted search."

      That's the problem.

      There isn't a UK constitution. We have a hodge-podge collection of statutes and other legal, political and sovereign documents and ides, all interacting and interfering with the other. We don't have a 4th Amendment - - and more's the pity.

      Note in that link - HMGov have been pretty lax about behaving with the rights of citizens/subjects for quite some time:

      1. Someone_Somewhere

        Re: There isn't a UK constitution.

        Yes, there is - that 'hodge-podge collection of statutes and other legal, political and sovereign documents and ides, all interacting and interfering with the other' /is/ our constitution.

        What we /don't/ have is a /fully codified/ constitution - See for more detail.

        That doesn't mean that an uncodified constitution is necessarily any better or worse than a codified one, just that an uncodified constitution (chaotic though it may be) /is/ nevertheless (for better or worse) a constitution in its own right.

  20. nijam

    > The Home Secretary will argue that terrorists want to destroy our way of life and so we must hunt them down and stop them.

    Some superfluous words seem to have got in to that sentence. Surely it should just read: "The Home Secretary wants to destroy our way of life."

  21. storner

    "the Danes – well, they introduced something very similar to the Home Office’s proposed ICRs only to ditch it a few years later because it proved to be useless, and just meant their police force was drowning in data."

    Unfortunately our dear politicians have learned nothing from their previous failure, so they are at it again: (in danish, I'm afraid).

  22. Aging Hippy
    Thumb Up

    Paul, Baron Strasburger

    It seems to have passed people by that this article is written by Paul Strasburger who is on the Joint Committee on the Investigatory Powers Bill. Thank you to him and The Register for bringing us a first hand article.

    Paul Strasburger's Wikipedia entry isn't particularly flattering (and we all believe Wikipedia don't we?) but anyone who was/is a successful entrepreneur without a history in politics can't be all bad, especially as he is willing to talk and listen to the techies of this world.

  23. gyaku_zuki

    Wilson Doctrine

    The best part of it for me is when they say "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" and then also turn around and say they are codifying in law the Wilson Doctrine, which means that parliamentarians cannot be spied on, snooped, or their data collected.

  24. Asterix the Gaul

    It's ALL about 'Control Freakery' by politicians.

    Remember WW2,obviously, 'our' politicians haven't got a clue as to why so many people lost their lives in WW2, or indeed, what they were fighting for.

    Worse than that though, our younger generation are equally as thoughtless as the cynical politicians on such matters,for they think that such things are 'normal'.

    As in 'other' matters,they have been brainwashed by the current generation of politicians to believe everything that is being fed to them.

    In my opinion,Theresa MAY is an ignorant oxymoron,unfit for office,like the majority of politicians in Westminster.

    Why would they want blanket retention of IP address-ISP activity,when they have already,under New Labour, destroyed 'free speech' on the internet?

    The time was when anyone could say anything on forums,no matter what you said,whoever you offended,they had the 'freedom' to respond,creating 'trolls',but, 'trolls' are preferable to thin-skinned cosseted diapered idiots & politicians using the 'offended' to chill free speech online.

    Once lost, those freedoms will never be reclaimed by any citizen, control has been ceded to the 'State',that is the ideal for those in power.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019