Tag: snoopers charter

Cameron presses ahead with internet spying

cameron_pigGateThe UK government of David “bacon sandwich” Cameron is pushing ahead with plans to update internet surveillance laws, despite criticism from privacy activists, communications firms and three parliamentary committees.

The  Home Office published the latest version of its Investigatory Powers Bill which had been released in draft form last November.

Home secretary Theresa May claims the draft is clearer clarifies that a company will only be forced to remove “electronic protections”, such as encryption, that it has applied to users’ messages when it is “technically feasible” to do so.

The earlier version suggested firms could be required to decrypt messages for which they do not have a key, which is impossible.

The government has also not stepped back from its heavily criticised plans requiring communications firms to hold “internet connection records”, detailing users’ web history, for a year , for use by police and security services in investigations. In fact the scope of these powers has actually been expanded to give police access to all web records, not just illegal websites or communications services.

Security services will also still be permitted to hack phones and computers en masse to gather surveillance data in the new bill. This is the same thing that Edward Snowden exposed and has been found to be illegal and abandoned in the US.

Critics say the government has ignored them and is attempting to rush through the legislation without proper scrutiny.



After Woolwich attack, 'snooper's charter' back on the agenda

The UK thought it was rid of the reviled ‘snooper’s charter’ communications bill, which would make storing data on all Britains legal, but now political figures are suggested it be resurrected in light of the axe attack in Woolwich yesterday.

Lord Carlisle, formerly the independent reviewer of terror laws, said on BBC’s Newsnight that it should offer a “pause for thought” about dropping the bill, the Metro reports.

“We must ensure that the police and the security services have for the future the tools they need which will enable them to prevent this kind of attack taking place,” Carlisle said. 

“I hope that this will give the government pause for thought about their abandonment for example of the communications data bill and possibly pause for thought about converting control orders into what are now called Tpims, with a diluted set of powers”.

Lord Reid weighed in saying that mobile data stopped a 2006 airline attack. “2,500 people would probably have been blown out of the sky over the United Kingdom,” he said.

The unpopular bill was thought to be blocked by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, and it was not mentioned in the Queen’s speech.

Nick Pickles, at Big Brother Watch, told TechWeekEurope that Lord Reid’s track record speaks for itself. Reid was, Pickles said, “one of those responsible for the knee-jerk decision to try and introduce powers for people to be detained for up to 90 days without trial by the last government, after the 7/7 attack”.

“We face down terrorists by defending our values and traditions and acting proportionately, which is a balance current policy recognises,” Pickles said.

In a blog post, Big Brother Watch offered agreement to former head of MI5 Lady Neville-Jones, who said efforts need to be made in tackling hateful rhetoric online and elsewhere.
Critics of the Snooper’s Charter would argue that there is little evidence to support it as a preventative measure, and would also paint every citizen in the UK as a potential violent criminal. 

Privacy groups wade into UK gov, it's a telco conspiracy

The government and communications providers are conspiring to keep the effects of the Communications Data Bill under wraps, according to a damning letter from privacy advocates.

The Bill was always going to be controversial.  It enables police and security services to monitor internet activity and email communications subject to a warrant being issued, though stopping shot of gaining access to email content.  A draft version of the Bill was published in October, and it is thought that a finalised version could be ready for the Queen’s Speech in May.

According to a challenging letter sent by major privacy activist groups, communications providers could be ordered to store all customers’ comms data for a year, and give police access to the records via a “filter” which would operate like a search engine for a vast database.

Privacy watchdogs are concerned that the data does not just include the content of communications but all the details connected to it.  It wants ISPs to withdraw their support for the Bill.

Big Brother Watch, Privacy International and the Open Rights Group have penned a strongly-worded letter accusing major UK telcos, including BT, Virgin, O2, Sky and TalkTalk, of complying with a government attack on privacy.

According to the Telegraph, the letter said that the telcos have appeared willing to be co-opted as an arm of the state to monitor every single one of their customers. It says that this is a dangerous step, exacerbated by their silence.

The telco’s customers have not had the opportunity to comment on these proposals and most have no idea such a policy was being considered.

The letter said that this is a critical failure not only of government, but a betrayal of the telco customers’ interests.

“You appear to be engaged in a conspiracy of silence with the Home Office, the only concern being whether or not you will be able to recover your costs,” the letter told the telcos.

Computerworld has reported that the privacy groups also attacked the lack of transparency with which negotiations have been conducted, with much of the policy discussions taking place “behind closed doors”. It implied that that the ISPs were bending to the will of the Home Office over privacy concerns.

Snooper's Charter blasted by MPs, Nick Clegg

Plans to introduce a “Snooper’s Charter” have received a wave of criticism, with MPs, public bodies and even the deputy Prime Minister attacking the Draft Communications Data Bill. 

A Joint Select Committee rejected initial plans to allow law enforcement agencies to access currently obtainable data such as in email communications, with proposed powers to monitor online data scaled back.

The scope of plans to monitor data should be significantly decreased, committee chair Lord Blencathra said, with major changes required to the Bill.

“There needs to be some substantial re-writing of the Bill before it is brought before Parliament as we feel that there is a case for legislation, but only if it strikes a better balance between the needs of law enforcement and other agencies and the right to privacy,”  Blencathra said.

The Lord added that there is “a fine but crucial line” between giving law enforcement and security agencies access to the information necessary for national security, and allowing UK citizens to go about their daily business “without a fear, however unjustified, that the state is monitoring their every move”.

Home Secretary Theresa May previously put forward plans which she claimed would protect against terrorism, for example, handing police and other agencies improved powers to monitor electronic communications.  However, the committee argued that May should not be given “carte blanche” to order the retention of all types of data.   The committee also rejected claims that it is necessary to put in stricter measures to ensure that plans are ‘future proofed’.

According to the committee recommendations, the types of data that are accessible should be reduced, with MPs able to vote on whether service providers should have to collect IP address data from subscribers for example.  The number of public bodies able to access the data should lowered, the committee recommended.

In addition, MPs said that there should be more consultation with privacy groups to avoid the gung-ho approach that has drawn widespread criticism from external bodies.

However, the committee indicated that it would be happy to pass proposals if they are changed to meet the recommendations.

The plans also received criticism from deputy PM Nick Clegg, who said that plans to increase powers to monitor online communications need to go “back to the drawing board”.

“It is for those reasons that I believe the coalition Government needs to have a fundamental rethink about this legislation,” Clegg said.  “We cannot proceed with this bill and we have to go back to the drawing board.”

The Information Commissioner Christopher Graham also took aim at the recommendations, highlighting the problems it would cause in regulating the strict rules initially proposed by the government.   Withholding more data, and for longer periods of time would also be a drain on public finances, Graham said.

“My concern is around the adequacy of the proposed safeguards that the ICO would be responsible for regulating,” Graham said. 

“Ensuring the security of retained personal information and its destruction after 12 months would require increased powers and resources, and as it stands today we’ve not been given clear advice on where that will come from,” he said.

The Home Secretary defended the bill in a newspaper column today, stating that she is “determined” to see through the web monitoring plans.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, told TechEye:

“The committee has exposed weak evidence, misleading statements and fanciful figures and unanimously rejected this draft Bill’s proposal to monitor everyone’s emails, web visits and social media messages.

“The complexity and sensitivity of the subject required a radically different process and a totally different bill. There are challenges, but they can be solved in a proportionate way that protects privacy, is based on what is technically possible and focuses on maximising the effectiveness of data already held.

“After such a damming report, Parliament cannot support the draft Bill and it is now essential that if proposals are brought forward, they are comprehensively re-written and based upon the clear evidence and proper consultation that this draft Bill fundamentally lacked.”