The technology that will defeat the government’s online monitoring plans

Following the Queen’s Speech it is becoming a little clearer – although only a little clearer – what it is that some parts of the Home Office want to achieve by pushing for the Communications Capability Development Programme (CCDP, aka Online Snooping Charter).

One scenario is this: the law enforcement authorities start having solid grounds for suspecting someone is up to no good. Currently, they can then get access to the history of that person’s phone calls – who they rung and when from their landline or mobile. Getting such retrospective data for some forms of internet-based communications is possible, albeit requiring convoluted legal routes (e.g. via an international legal mutual aid treaty to get information from US-based Facebook). But for other sorts of online communication such history records are not available at all, and this is something those pushing the CCDP want to change.

There is, however, a problem. I’ve been talking to a range of communications and security experts and there is a technology which will floor even the most extreme and extensive of the proposals that have been floated.

Although not many people talk about it, the technology – known to insiders as LPTRM – has already been used in some cases of terrorism, by some paedophiles and also by organised crime gangs. One reason for LPTRM’s popularity in those circles is that it is an extremely reliable and easy to use technology. It can be used with a wide range of encryption – including the equivalent of one-time pads. In the absence of human error or similar, such encryption cannot be cracked by even GCHQ and the NSA combined.

What’s more, LPTRM is cheap, using component parts widely available in all high streets and even most homes. It relies on items that can easily and quickly be disguised as having an innocent use. Even more troubling, those using LPTRM do not leave behind records of who has communicated with whom and when.

Let us hope that if CCDP goes ahead, no-one new switches to LPTRM to side-step it.

What is LPTRM? Letters Posted Through the Royal Mail.

 

(For an update on what is actually happening with CCDP see Jonathan Calder and Zoe O’Connell.)

* Mark Pack is Party President and Co-leader of the party. He is editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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4 Comments

  • Very droll.

    Why is it that the online snooping plans have been successfully split off (hopefully a precursor to dropping them entirely), but the proposal to have secret evidence in civil trials is still in the Justice and Security bill. Does that mean that you are giving up on that fight?

    The only argument I have heard in favour of secret evidence is that it may save the government a bit of money (“the government does not have settle cases that it believes have no merit”).

  • A lifelong Liberal 11th May '12 - 12:30am

    I am very sad to hear that the Queen’s speach proposed plans for such an ‘Online Snooping charter’ There is no doubt in my mind that such a capability would inevitably be misused, that information would be collected and stored on everyone in the UK who uses the internet and that once this information exists it would be made available to commercial and special interests. We can not even trust our politicians to be honest about their expenses claims, this sort of information would be invaluable to commercial and other special interest groups. Notwithstanding that the collection of such data is a blatant infringement of a persons reasonable expectation of privacy. For example many people use Skype as a cheap and fun means of communication, with such a capability in place the home office would have the means and the mechanism to record and intercept all such communication unless adequate safeguards are inplace to potect the innocent public.

    The LibDems are in a perfect position to protect us from this attempt to curtail civil liberty and personal privacy. No Bill can make it through parliament without LibDem support. I urge any LibDem Member of the house to think very carefully before allowing such a charter to proceed. LibDem support is already in the toilet to judge by the recent election result, allowing a bill to pass that takes away more of our civil liberties and further reduces our freedom of thought, freedom of self expression, and individual expectation of privacy will be the final nail in the coffin of the party.

  • William Jones 11th May '12 - 8:46am

    We could also close the loop by snooping on our snail mail too, just like good old former communist states. 😉

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