Tag Archives: surveillance

Theresa May does a Paul Daniels on internet surveillance – but the devil is in the detail

Theresa May has pulled off quite a trick in the last couple of weeks. She built up the impression that the government would store the entire nation’s internet browsing history (which must have had computer storage salespeople salivating heavily) and ban encryption (effectively banning WhatsApp and Snapchat).

But now she’s spun the upturned eggcups around the table and revealed that she won’t be doing that after all, so isn’t she soooo reasonable?

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LibLink: Julian Huppert on 1984, the Telecommunications Act and the crucial need for scrutiny of its use

GCHQ Bude by Paul WalterOver on Open Democracy, our old friend Julian Huppert writes an excellent piece on his work as an MP looking at the scrutiny of UK state surveillance. He points to the 1984 (yes really) Telecommunications Act and the little debated clause 94 which gives the relevant Secretary of State virtually limitless powers to order telecoms companies to do anything without any parliamentary scrutiny.

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Things to do in your lunch hour: Last chance to respond to Scottish Government’s ID Database consultation

A couple of weeks ago, James Baker told us why the proposals in Scotland to use the NHS identity database and use it effectively as a surveillance tool was wrong and dangerous:

One of the stated aims of the changes proposed is that it would make it easier to ‘trace people’, the examples given are tracing missing children or ‘health tourists’. This is a giveaway as to the increased surveillance capabilities the scheme would create. If it’s able to trace children through civic transactions recorded on the system then it will be able to trace political campaigners, people’s whose library books are overdue, potentially anyone who comes to the attention of the authorities.

The consultation is alarmingly lacking in detail as to how the new database system would work, and what safeguards would be put in place.  If implemented as suggested it would almost certainly raise the possibility of a legal challenge over the breach of people’s right to privacy, and additional  compliance issues with data protection laws. At the very least such a major change in people’s relationship to the state  should be the subject of a public debate, not rushed through by officials using changes in obscure regulations. If these changes are to occur they need to be done through the use of primary legislation not a change in regulations. This seems a request it would seem hard for any reasonable Scottish Parliamentarian to deny.

The Scottish Government is consulting on this and today is your last chance to make your views known. You can do so here. It is worth a few minutes of your time to ask the Scottish Government to think twice before introducing such a step.

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Opinion: Why Scots should worry about their national identity scheme

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 16.45.55One of the first things Liberal Democrats in government did was to scrap the UK wide National Identity Scheme. It would have been all to easy then for NO2ID to pack up, say job done and go home. Thankfully that didn’t happen and the remnants of the campaign instead carried on keeping watchful eye on developments of what has been coined the database state. The database state is the term we now use to describe the tendency of governments to try and use computers to manage and control society.  Another attribute of this database state is function creep. This is the phenomenon whereby a system setup for one discreet purpose starts to grow out of control expanding to be used for ever more administrative functions.

A perfect illustration of function creep can be seen with the Scottish National Entitlement Card (NEC). This card started off as a replacement to pensioners bus passes in cities like Edinburgh but quickly developed into a system for accessing Council services such as libraries. Now it has about 30 uses including proof of age,  paying for school lunches cashlessly and accessing leisure services. In all but name it is a National Identity Card.

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Opinion: Just remember we’re all human

antony Gormley statue by kungfugenWhen young adults, who may even at the time have been members of prestigious universities and their more infamous clubs, became intoxicated and indulged in aggressive or loud and disturbing speech, violent actions or were simply careless and destructive, did we automatically assume that when they matured they would behave that way for the rest of their lives? We did not. Indeed some may still be thought fit to take part in the running of our country.

When young adults or older youths indulge in isolated incidents of unwise pyromania, do we say that they will be pyromaniacs for life? We do not, and in general they are not.

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Julian Huppert MP writes…Nick Clegg has put Liberal Democrats far ahead of other parties on security and privacy

This morning was a good day for Liberal Democrats. I and many others went to RUSI, the Royal United Services Institute to hear Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of our party, deliver a speech on security and privacy in the internet age.

He sent out a clear and strong message: the legal framework for the UK’s intelligence agencies and intelligence oversight structure is in desperate need of an overhaul, and this must start with an independent review, which he has commissioned.

His wider ambitions are set out in a piece for the Guardian today. The Tories are blocking changes …

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Opinion: Do people not care about civil liberties?

It is inevitable that amongst the images of more than 1.8 million Yahoo! users hoovered up by GCHQ there are photos of children, and surely – given the scale of it – of children in their bedrooms. Yet where is the outcry?This latest discovery from the Snowden files is not simply the next chapter in the story of how every aspect of our online lives has been monitored over recent years. It also blows apart the standard defence used so far that only metadata – who called who when, but not the content – has been gathered up and …

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Farron and Huppert submit Lib Dem Conference motion to curb surveillance

Today’s Guardian reports that Tim Farron and Julian Huppert are behind a move to get Liberal Democrat conference to adopt policy which would stop intrusive mass surveillance of personal data.

Judicial oversight of state surveillance and a regular release of the number of data requests made by the security services should be among the issues examined by a government “commission of experts” into all the recent allegations raised by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, theLiberal Democrats are to propose.

They will also call

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Tim Farron MP writes: Liberal Democrats must stand up against blanket internet surveillance

I regularly get asked “who are your Liberal Heroes?” and I’ll reel off a list of people like Beveridge, Penhaligon and Paddy Ashdown and usually the person who has asked the question nods and smiles. Then I will tell them that the person I most admire is Harry Willcock. That’s typically met with a look of bemusement! I got similar looks of bewilderment when I cited Harry in 2005 in one of my first speeches in the House of Commons when I opposed Labours ID cards bill…

But Harry is at the top of my list because he was the Liberal that helped stop ID Cards in …

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Lord Paul Strasburger writes…Government must engage in public debate on surveillance

No reasonable person would deny that our spies should be able to intrude, as deeply as is appropriate, into the affairs of people suspected of the most serious offences.  But this scandal is not about those suspects.  It’s about suspicion-less, untargeted surveillance of the entire population as represented by GCHQ’s Project Tempora.

The real questions I will be asking in the chamber of the House of Lords are:

1.       How have we sleep-walked into a situation where GCHQ is collecting massive amounts of the private data of every innocent citizen without the informed consent of Parliament?

2.      Why won’t the government acknowledge this …

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LibLink…Paddy Ashdown: NSA surveillance: who watches the watchers?

Paddy Ashdown has been writing in the Guardian about what he considers should be the key principles underpinning any state intrusion into our communications, online or otherwise. First of all, he tackled the “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” argument:

We have recently been told, even by those charged with overseeing the extent of state intrusion in our lives, that citizens who are not breaking the law have no cause to be concerned about intrusion into their private lives.

Wrong point. The right one is: if governments never broke the law, citizens would have no cause to be concerned. But no

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Liblink: Paddy Ashdown says Snoopers’ Charter breaches the Coalition Deal

Writing in today’s Times, former leader Paddy Ashdown, a key ally of Nick Clegg, has condemned Government’s proposals to increase internet surveillance and warned that we must not “part company with our principles.”

He wrote:

The Government claims that it will have unfettered access only to “data” (ie, sender, recipient, time and duration) rather than content, so this does not constitute “a communications interception”. That is sophistry.

It is one of our rights as free citizens to talk to whom we wish, when we wish and wherever we wish without the State knowing about it, unless there is good cause for it to

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The Independent View: How do we stop the growth of the surveillance state?

From any dispassionate view, it’s clear that the Liberal Democrats have consistently believed that the protection of our right to privacy is vital for a free and open society.

However, protecting that fragile right is a complex process that requires genuine and tangible policy objectives that will make a real difference. To reverse the rise of surveillance is a task that goes to the heart of how we are governed. Making a real difference will require a courageous agenda of change that reaches deep into the powerful institutions of parliament and government.

There is no doubt in the …

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Daily View 2×2: 13 September 2009

Welcome to the Sunday edition of LDV’s Daily View. And as Mark Pack of this e-parish is (apparently) forraging for chocolate in Bristol, it falls to me to bring you today’s supplement with extra multimedia entertainment.

2 Big Stories

NSPCC and Nick criticise new Government regulations for parent helpers

Today’s Telegraph reports:

Ministers are under intense pressure to scale back plans for a “big brother” child protection database which will force millions of parents to undergo paedophile and criminal checks. In a major blow for the Government, Britain’s largest children’s charity, the NSPCC, criticised the regulations for parent helpers which it said threatened “perfectly safe and normal activities” and risked alienating the public.

The paper also quotes Nick Clegg’s condemnation of Labour’s proposals:

This scheme is wildly over the top. How are we supposed to create a country fit for our children if we regard every adult looking after children as a potential threat?”

TV companies to get product placament approval

The Government is to overturn its ban on TV companies selling product placement in programmes, after culture secretary Ben Bradshaw overturned predecessor Andy Burnham’s objections:

Independent broadcasters will be allowed to take payments for displaying commercial products during shows. The change is intended to bring in extra funds for commercial broadcasters. Experts believe it could raise up to £100m a year.

There are currently strict rules against product placement and this ban would remain in place on BBC shows. Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw is expected to announce a three-month consultation on the changes in a speech to the Royal Television Society next week.

The move will not apply to the BBC, and children’s programmes will remain product-placement free. A long-overdue acceptance of commercial reality? Or a retrogade intrusion into public broadcasting space?

2 Must-Read Blog-Posts

Why I Hate Leaflet Delivery (Jennie Rigg)

After about an hour or so of having my knuckles scraped by ridiculously snappy letterboxes, and falling over on uneven paths, and generally feeling pretty battered and bruised and grumpy, I got to a house where a skinhead with no shirt on and a BNP tattoo set his dog on me. … I suspect that this is a big part of the reason political parties are haemorrhaging membership. The expectation that people risk their own personal safety for nothing on a regular basis is not a rewarding experience for the activist.

Why you still don’t know what Party Committees are up to (part 4) – is there an easy answer to the dilemma? (Mark Valladares)

… the whole point of blogging is that it is interactive, or it is nothing. If most committee members don’t blog, don’t engage with the blogosphere, in short, have lives, and do not respond immediately, or even at all, will they be criticised? You bet they will and, like I did, would probably withdraw back into their collective shells.


Sunday Bonus track

You may have noticed a chap called Derren on the telly this week attracting a lot of attention. Here’s a reminder of him at his best:

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Opinion: Lib Dems must lead the way in improving scrutiny of council surveillance

Media coverage of the abuses by various councils regarding the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) has been very welcome. Conversely, it has unfortunately meant that (at least from my experience) whenever it is brought up at council, those who dare scrutinise the usage of this law are dismissed as bandwagon-jumpers who simply wish to capitalize on the media orgy against council surveillance.

This is why I brought a motion to Liberal Youth Conference in February that was passed unanimously to make restrictions on the legislation party policy; and Liberal Youth subsequently chose for it to go …

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“People fix society, if you let them”

Please read this. Weep at its simplicity and common sense. Then join me in carrying its writer Becky Hogge aloft down Whitehall.

From the New Statesman:

You cannot fix society with computers. People fix society, if you let them. That means freeing nurses, teachers, social workers – and their clients – from the relentless tyranny of Whitehall’s cravings for ever more information. A benevolent state must have a human face, not an unblinking screen. Technology can help, but only if it is despatched by those at the front line. It is a perverse truth that in an age

Posted in Big mad database | 3 Comments

Not carrying mobile phone = suspicious activity

When did you last leave home without your mobile phone?

The Register describes cases in Germany and France where people were accused of being terrorists because they didn’t use mobile phones:

By design, phones pass their location on to local base stations. You can gauge how effectively the networks can track you by requesting your personal information from your network provider using a data subject access under the Data Protection Act, or by just running Google Mobile Maps on your phone. The smaller 3G cells in central London give an even better location than on GSM.

Mobile phone penetration in Europe

Posted in Big mad database | 11 Comments

“Tourist” sounds a bit like “terrorist”: be very afraid!

A father and son on holiday in London were stopped by police and made to delete photos from their cameras, of a bus station and some double decker buses.

From the Guardian:

Like most visitors to London, Klaus Matzka and his teenage son Loris took several photographs of some of the city’s sights, including the famous red double-decker buses. More unusually perhaps, they also took pictures of the Vauxhall bus station, which Matzka regards as “modern sculpture”.
But the tourists have said they had to return home to Vienna without their holiday pictures after two policemen forced them to delete the photographs from their cameras in the name of preventing terrorism.

Matkza, a 69-year-old retired television cameraman with a taste for modern architecture, was told that photographing anything to do with transport was “strictly forbidden”. The policemen also recorded the pair’s details, including passport numbers and hotel addresses.

I’ve just got back from Moscow, where there were hardly any CCTV cameras, and where I photographed and filmed stations and public transport to my heart’s content. (Isn’t that what everyone does on holiday?)

No sign there of the citizens-vs-State surveillance arms race (or should that be “eyes race”?) that is commonplace in Britain’s major cities.

While innovations like Google Streetview show images of our cities in detail, tourists and journalists alike are becoming suspects for simply observing the “wrong” things in a public place.

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