Snoopers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page Links

Cressida Dick

Mass surveillance

‘Right to be forgotten’

Online Safety Act

Where's the evidence

Sham legal gloss

Local Authority Snoopers

Citizen Snoopers

Cyberwar - the new panic

Prism and colourful ignorance

Watching the snoopers

Investigatory Powers Act

Digital Economy Bill


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consider this....

We have all become familiar with news stories about data breaches like 500 million Yahoo accounts were breached or that Talk Talk were being fined £400,000 for their inability to protect over 150,000 customers information. 

We rarely here about government departments being hacked. The National Audit Office reported that 9000 data breaches occurred across government departments between 2014 and 2015, only 14 of which were reported.

 

Apparently, we are at war, with terrorists, criminals and drug barons and in order to protect us the government needs to listen to all our conversations, read all our emails and track our web use. You know it makes sense or does it? 

Well, Call Me Dave thinks it does, Theresa May thinks it does and so does that well known security expert Nick Clegg (he's now having second thoughts or rather he thought he needed a campaign to make himself look interesting).

Well, in truth, these people do not know if it makes sense or not - that's what they pay the spooks for and the spooks have told them it's all necessary - so it must be. 

And silly ex-Tory ministers will add fuel to their fire by saying silly things: "A majority of people will accept that an ideological battle means that the authorities will need greater powers to intercept the communications of extremists." That came from discredited defence secretary, Liam Fox responding to the alarm caused by returning ISIS fighters from the Iraq conflict. 

And we know that you will feel the warm glow of contentedness washing over you when you learn that the Met has 'shoot to kill' Cressida Dick on the case of the returning Jihadists. We can only advise returners to walk rather than run - Jean Charles de Menezes made that mistake because he was late for work. 

Note: Dec. 2014, Cressida Dick is standing down from tracking returning Jihadists. She has been headhunted by the Home Office to do, well we don’t know what her role will be, the Home Office is not saying? Also, for the record, Dick has always denied giving the 'shoot to kill' order in the case of Jean Charles.

Mass surveillance

However, the plan is to install a mass surveillance system, which will put Britain on a par with China, Vietnam, Iran and Syria, and yes, the USA. And Britain is well placed to set up such a system since it is British companies that supply most of the technologies to all the nasty regimes around the world, who care nothing for their citizens civil liberties.


Internet service providers (ISPs) will be forced to install hardware that would give law enforcement real time, on-demand access to every internet user's IP address, email address books, when and to whom emails are sent and how frequently - as well as the same type of data for phone calls and text messages.

Right to be forgotten’

Also, not a few MPs and peers have urged the government to consider introducing censorship legislation that would force search engines to censor search results to block material that a court has found to be in breach of someone's privacy. They have in mind protecting wealthy individuals and companies who take out “super-injunctions". Several hundred requests have been received by Google to take down search results, under new ‘right to be forgotten’ legislation. Wikipedia has also been hit, a number articles, although still there, cannot be accessed via search engines.


The government is also keen to introduce the Online Safety Act, which would force ISPs to block access to pornography by default. Users would have to contact ISPs for access, having established some kind of age verification. Dave also wants websites playing music videos to install age verification systems, to stop children seeing grandmother Madonna prancing around with next to nothing on. They also considering how they can use ISPs to combat copyright infringement by blocking access to offending websites.

Recap: the ConDems proposed legislation to protect children from porn and music videos, to protect footballers caught with their trousers down and to protect us all from nasty people.

Where's the evidence


What evidence is there that these new surveillance measures are necessary? How do independent experts assess the reliability of this evidence? Will the spooks provide any evidence or will they claim it's all too secret to be shared? How will we know if the proposed measures are protecting us effectively? And importantly, how much will all this cost, assuming that someone has bothered to cost it at all. These are just questions, don't expect any answers.

Sham legal gloss on its snooping activities

However, with the Communications Data Bill, Britain was attempting to get ahead of the pack, the Bill was announced in the Queen's 2012 Speech. The idea behind the Bill was to make it easier to discover who has contact with whom, when and where, via internet services such as Facebook, Gmail and Skype. ISPs would be expected to intercept and store the relevant data for 12 months. In the land of the free, the liberal democracies, can use the Act to eavesdrop on citizens, just in case they might become dissenters. The Bill appears to have hit the buffers and as of mid-2014 is still not passed into law. However, given the news over Prism and Dishfire we have to ask why the government needs to put a sham legal gloss on its snooping activities, especially when the cost of this legislation is put at £1.8bn.


The Internet provides a means to convey samizdat, to give a voice to the dissenters, to reach out in a way that radio and TV do not allow the average citizen to do. Any fool from GCHQ can eavesdrop on Facebook and Twitter but will struggle to do much more no matter how much money they throw at their snooping projects. Savvy web users would do well to use the web independently of Google, Facebook and Twitter, these money grubbers are the unwitting assistants of the State snoopers as they amass a vast store of personal data for their own marketing purposes. And let's not forget, Google's own snooping activities whilst gathering data for its Street View project. Google's software mistakenly gathered data from citizen's wi-fi connections as it filmed the streets. Well, that's what Google told the world, a US investigation found that the engineer who designed the software specifically intended to collect and analyse the data. (Big Brother Watch website) The company was fined $25,000.


Readers’ note: you will find the details of the government’s latest plan to snoop on you in Part 4.

Local Authority Snoopers

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) is another part of New Labour's legacy. The Act has wide-ranging surveillance powers introduced to tackle terrorism and serious crime but is being used regularly by councils to tackle relatively minor problems and to routinely snoop on citizens. Councils are using RIPA to snoop on residents leaving their bins out on the wrong day, on the look out for dog-foulers, people 'fly tipping' donations outside a charity shop, and covert surveillance on their own staff.

This Act is 'self-authoring' which means that councils can decide for themselves to use the legislation and they have and they do, hundreds of times a year, to little effect, prosecutions have been few. 372 local authorities in Britain have conducted RIPA surveillance operations in 8,575 cases over two years and managed only 300 convictions. Incredibly, some authorities said they didn't keep records of successful outcomes? (The Grim RIPA Report, BBW)


The cost to rate payers of this grossly irresponsible use of anti-terrorism legislation is impossible to calculate but Dave has had enough:
"We will ban the use of powers in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) by councils, unless they are signed off by a magistrate and required for stopping serious crime." (Cabinet Office)


Which should mean, when it happens, that councils can no longer use RIPA since they have no business dealing with serious crime - that's what the police and real spooks are for.


Voice Risk Analysis (VRA) Many local authorities are keen on the use of 'voice risk analysis' to catch people trying to fiddle their council tax discounts. The idea here is akin to the use of lie detectors, where software is used to gauge how nervous people are when answering questions.

Campaign group False Economy gleaned information about the use of VRA from FoI requests of more than 200 local authorities.
The VRA software was originally sponsored by the New Labour government, to the tune of £1.5m but the coalition cancelled their support in 2010. The DWP decided that the software didn't work. Local authorities have continued to fund the use of VRA, having been convinced by outsourcing cowboys, Capita, that its use provides a valuable tool in the fight against benefit cheats.
However, language experts tell us:
“From the output it generates, this analysis is closer to astrology than science.”
Councils seem to believe that whether it works or not is beyond the point since if people think they have got a high tech weapon in their armoury, they will be more honest in their claims for council tax discounts. There appears to be a fly in the ointment because it's not generally known that councils are using the weapon, so why would it encourage honesty?


Citizen Snoopers

"If you're worried, so are we, don't worry alone..."

Radio request for citizen spooks: The Met Police placed radio adverts asking citizens to be alert for odd behaviour. The ad' campaign seems reminiscent of War-time calls for vigilance, 'careless talk costs lives' and all that. As you would expect there's a dedicated call centre waiting for all that vital citizen intelligence to come pouring in - who needs M15?


See them, report them: a local council snooping scheme was launched in London and could eventually be rolled out across the country. Residents were being told: “We need your eyes and ears to help us wipe out enviro-crime.” SNOOPING residents are being offered rewards of up to £500 to spy on their neighbours.

Let's look at that again....


"If you're worried, so are we, don't worry alone..." If you are worried, you've got every right to worry because you are alone, when you ring the bell at your local police station and the voice speaking to you on the answer phone is coming from several miles away. Your police station has become a victim of Dave's Cuts!

Cyberwar - the new panic

The cost of cyber crime is estimated to be between £18bn and £27bn a year. And cyberwar is a reality and cyber espionage is perfectly logical and real. The Chinese have a cyber crack commando unit tasked with stealing secrets from commercial and military targets abroad but they are Dave's new best friends, so no worries for us but America are mightily concerned.
The National Audit Office warned that threats were evolving and that more cyber crime fighters were needed to meet these threats but education experts have warned that it could take 20 years to fix the skills gap.
In 2011, ministers announced funding of £650m to implement the UK's Cyber Security Strategy, which set out the risks of the UK's growing reliance on cyber space.


The strategy identified criminals, terrorists, foreign intelligence services, foreign militaries and politically motivated "hacktivists" as potential enemies who might choose to attack vulnerabilities in British cyber-defences.
New regional police cyber crime centres and a trebling of the size of the Police Central e-crime Unit has helped but there are not enough techies in the pipeline to meet the challenge.

The government's proposed Strategy promises to protect citizens' cyber freedom, so don't have nightmares.

Reference: The UK Cyber Security Strategy 'Protecting and promoting the UK in a digital world' (2011)

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Prism and colourful ignorance

Watching from afar, i.e. a Russian airport, Edward Snowdon decided that he didn't want to face the same justice as Bradley Manning for revealing the private moments of the NSA. Snowdon's revelations were to some extent more far reaching than Manning's, involving the British government and the major Internet players like Google, Facebook and Microsoft.


The Empire of America is spying on the world of Internet communications using a snooping program called Prism. At an internal presentation, given to NSA employees, it was revealed that the program was used to access data held by the world’s major Internet companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype. These companies all claim to know nothing of the program's use and are keen to assure citizens that they take your privacy seriously. All very mysterious, given that this has been going on for years and our own 'listening spooks' at GCHQ have been receiving reports from the NSA, acquired using the program. Further along, we discovered that the NSA were using a text message collection system called Dishfire; the big telecoms companies were shocked and surprised.


Politicians of all shades here also claim to know nothing about these programs and its use or GCHQ's involvement. Laughably, opposition MPs lined up to ask Theresa May, the Home Secretary, questions in the House - the odds of Ms May supplying a useful response were inestimable, according to William Hill, the bookmaker.


The interesting thing about Prism is that it is able to access the contents of emails and live chat. This takes it way beyond the now discarded Data Communications Bill, with its focus on capturing metadata, i.e. simply listing the destination and duration of communications.

News of the use of Prism came to light in June 2013 and the big Internet players were mightily embarrassed by it since it made it look like they were colluding with the spooks.
A few months later we saw Microsoft and Google preparing to sue the US government to win the right to reveal more information about official requests for user data. This heralded the start of a legal battle over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa), the mechanism used by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other US government agencies to gather data about foreign Internet users.

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Conclusion

National security is usually given as the justification for spying on the citizenry. The mass surveillance that Edward Snowden revealed was undertaken to protect you against terrorism and crime.


According to Charles Farr, the government's top security official, social media chatter can be monitored because it is judged "external communications". Farr just wants you to know that no laws are being broken when the spooks are listening to your conversations. This is analogous to torturing someone in a foreign country and claiming we don’t torture prisoners. 

Watching the snoopers

And if the law is being broken when surveillance takes place, how would we know. Well, a number of agencies are tasked with watching the snoopers, like the Office of Surveillance Commissioners, there's a commissioner for intercepts, and one for the intelligence services - he's part-time but has a staff of one. There's also the investigatory powers tribunal taking care of complaints. That's all very reassuring, isn't it? Well actually no, all these commissioners are not part of some joined up oversight project, quite often they just trust that the snoopers are doing the right thing. A report from the Intelligence Services Commissioner tells us that only 17% of warrants for intercepts were checked by his office, there's only so much one man and his sidekick can do.


Bottom line: Oversight is weak, accountability is non-existent. So, citizens should take it on trust that the snoopers are acting in the public and national interest. It's a classic 'Catch 22' circumstance, the interests that inform the actions of the snoopers cannot be relaid to the public because its not in the public’s interest to know. We hope that's clear! 

In the meantime, Ms May has another ‘initiative’ to assist in the fight against the terror threat, a leaflet campaign entitled “Run, Hide, Tell”, which seems reminiscent of the US “Duck and Cover” campaign of the 1950s, designed to protect citizens following a nuclear explosion. 


And did you Know?

In 2013, more than 570,000 data requests were made to companies by the police, security services, HMRC and various public bodies. Why these requests were made will forever remain a mystery.


Still, if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear. Now, remind us again, why didn't Dave release those papers for the Chilcott Inquiry?

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Investigatory Powers Act

The Investigatory Powers Bill, aka, the ‘Snooper's charter' became law on 29 November 2016. This will force web and phone companies to collect browsing histories.
 
New Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said the Act 2016 was “world-leading legislation” that provided “unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection”. She should have said that it provided a marvellous blueprint for authoritarian regimes across the globe.The government says it will equip the police and intelligence agencies with the tools to keep people safe.

Extremism Bill

This includes measures to tackle broadcasting of extremist material. The government wants to strengthen watchdog Ofcom so that it can take action against channels that transmit extremist content. The legislation will also propose the introduction of banning orders for extremist organisations who use hate speech in public places, but whose activities fall short of proscription. A new power to allow police and local authorities to close down premises used to support extremism will also feature. And employers will be able to check whether an individual is an extremist and barring them from working with children.

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Digital Economy Bill

This Bill was annouced in the Queen's Speech with much talk about Britain becoming a world leader in Digital Economy - whatever that means?

However, beyond the headlines about faster broadband the Bill provides for public authorities to begin sharing all our personal data in order to improve the delivery of public services. 

"Essentially the government wants to upgrade the law so that is can do all the things it used to do with the post and telephones with all the plethora of online communications that now exist." BBC website

Basically, it's about spying on everyone, whether suspected of a crime or not.

 

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