Gulags in the UK? – “no” says Simon Hughes

On Monday, Theresa May introduced some new counter-terrorism measures to Parliament.

Let’s take two specifics which were mentioned:

Requiring ISPs to retain and disclose user IP address details

May announced:

(The Bill) will therefore require internet providers to retain Internet Protocol — or IP — address data to identify individual users of internet services.

This is meant to remedy a long-standing problem which both Nick Clegg and Julian Huppert have alluded to. That is, for investigators to be able to pinpoint mobile phone users of the internet. (Nick Clegg said in October that he had been urging the Home Office to do something about this problem “for months”.) But as the Open Rights Group explains, this is likely to be dealing with a problem that, technically, ought not to exist as technology develops:

In any case, this is a rather backward proposal, dealing with a problem that exists because the mobile companies continue to rely on out of date technology. To take a moment to explain: the Internet is famously running out of addresses (numbers that identify a point on the Internet – Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses).

To deal with the lack of address space, mobile companies use a technology called “Network Address Translation” or NAT, which allows several devices to share the same IP address. Most people use this at home to allow two or three computers to use the ADSL or cable connection, However the mobile companies do this at a far greater scale called “Carrier Grade NAT” — and there will be hundreds of different people using the same IP address.

However, all of this technology needs replacing. It limits the usefulness of Internet connections, particularly reducing our ability to use peer-to-peer technologies. The government ought to be asking providers to invest in IPv6, rather than upgrading their current, limited technology, just for the purposes of further logging our movements.

Internally relocating returning ‘fighters’ within the UK

May said:

…in response to the increased threat we face and in response to the police and security services telling us this is what they need, we will legislate to allow TPIM [Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures] subjects to be relocated to different parts of the country.

There’s more than a whiff of Solzhenitsyn about that. However, speaking on Today this morning, Justice minister, Simon Hughes firmly rejected this idea, saying that only overnight stays, tightly controlled and authorised, are in the bill under this item.

Photo by thierry ehrmann

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is currently taking a break from his role as one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • I am not sure that I understand Simon Hughes’ message here.
    Can anyone help ?
    What is meant by — “..Justice minister, Simon Hughes firmly rejected this idea, saying that only overnight stays, tightly controlled and authorised, are in the bill under this item.”

    Is there in the UK going to be ‘internal exile’, or ‘house arrest’ or the sort of thing that we used to associate only with totalitarian states?

  • We had “internal exile” in the 1970s with some of our citizens forbidden to travel from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK – that was legislation introduced by the other nasty party.

  • Richard
    Yes indeed and you would have thought on the basis of bitter experience that our MPs would have learned the lesson that such restrictions do not work.
    These sort of totalitarian measures often simply serve as a recruiting sergeant for the very people they are aimed at.

  • “The government ought to be asking providers to invest in IPv6”

    It makes me smile how IPv6 keeps being pulled out as some form of silver bullet to all sorts of problems with the Internet, in this case the identity of individual users. The problem is that whilst IPv6 may by default be more likely to uniquely identify a system/device attached to the internet than IPv4, it isn’t guaranteed. Also, whilst IPv6 doesn’t (currently) formally define a NAT service, it doesn’t preclude the use of one… So having identified a system/device you still have to identify the individual user who used it at a particular time and place.

  • @Roland

    “It makes me smile how IPv6 keeps being pulled out as some form of silver bullet to all sorts of problems with the Internet”

    Completely agree, it makes me smile how the ORG keeps being pulled out as some form of internet silver bullet by LDV – they’re the cornerstone of Lib Dem technological embarrassment (along with Huppert).

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