UK home secretary says Britain needs more data retention, cites an example where a corrupt cop gave murdered victims' details to crime boss

This morning saw the publication of an editorial in The Sun by Theresa May, the UK home secretary, defending her bulk Internet surveillance proposal, the Communications Data Bill, AKA the "Snooper's Charter."

In the article, May cites a submission by by Peter Davies (Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre) as an example of why all Internet communications should be stored and made accessible to police without a warrant. Davies told the story of a murder that had been difficult to solve, and suggests that dragnet surveillance would have made the police's job simpler.

But as the Open Rights Group points out, the case in question is anything but a defense of bulk data-retention. Indeed, it involves a corrupt police officer who improperly used retained records to find information to pass on to a crime boss about a couple who were subsequently murdered. In other words, logging and storing information made it possible for a criminal and a corrupt cop to track people down.

It's nothing short of bizarre for Theresa May to cite this as a reason to retain more information, on more people, and to give access to that information to more agencies.

Tales of the Unexpected: the Communications Data Bill


  1. the spin is strong in May.
    stronger than the stink of blue veined cheese left in old unwashed gym socks. i think she is one of those people that when she lies enough to herself actually begins to believe it.

    1. Isn’t the actual role of the Home Secretary to be so unlikeable that she deflects criticism from the rest of the government? Or have the last few been an aberration?

      1. It is indeed ever since the Weimar Republic, when a stint as Minister of the Interior was seen as the end of the road for any major politician.

    1. Her quote on the BBC this morning was “People who say they are against this bill need to look victims of serious crime, terrorism and child sex offences in the eye and tell them why they’re not prepared to give the police the powers they need to protect the public.”

      Everything she’s said about this could just as easily apply to having compulsory CCTV surveillance in everyone’s homes.

      My considered opinion is that people need to look _her_ in the eye and tell her to fuck off and die.

      1. If given the choice, I might well choose the 24/7 CCTV house surveillance. It has the advantage that it only reveals your body, not your intentions, dreams, anxieties, hopes, or loves.

    2. Home Secretaries are universally hated and despised, because their role is invariably to push for more orwellian instruments of control as requested by the police. Labour Home Secretaries were exactly the same, unfortunately.

  2. So if I understand this correctly, the logic is: The fact that through this system we can find people who abuse the same system, validates the system.

    A very good example of how meta-level logic may be coherent without making its parent logic coherent. Sort of a perverse reductio ad absurdum.

    I say we should call this move “Trying to Gödel yourself out of an embarrassment”.

  3.  In ‘Case 2’ that The Sun mentions, no extra data retention was required.  The on-line counselor, I assume, had very recentlyhad communications with the individual.

    If this communication was by email, the email headers have the IP info – which the ISP could use, from its monthly billing info, to track down an address.  No need to keep the data for a year.

  4. I wouldn’t expect any less from News Corp for hyping this story; fear sells, and Murdoch is clearly good at selling. What does disturb me is the fact in defense  of her position of the proposal is that Mrs. May said:

    “Criminals, terrorists and paedophiles will want MPs to vote against this bill. Victims of crime, police and the public will want them to vote for it. It’s a question of whose side you’re on.”

    That is clearly a radical stance on privacy meant to polarize the public in general. Because criminals, terrorists and paedophiles…

    I recall hearing the same type of rhetoric during the run up to invading Afghanistan and then the invasion of Iraq (curveball is a prime example). Neither of which arguably has achieved the goals of ridding the world of terrorism and making it a safer place. Terrorism is a term used to describe a tactic with a very bad connotation and hence can’t ever be eradicated. One man’s terrorist is another ones freedom fighter, and never the twain shall meet. You can’t ever win a war on a tactic, nor one on drugs, nor on anything else that is considered a crime, full stop.

    Of course the lines of distinction are much clearer when it comes to paedophiles and criminals because of the laws in various countries so she throws them into the mix as two more reasons to justify unfettered access to communication. Specifically to Internet communication, which by all rights essentially means no right to privacy ever again. Use a phone, email, or otherwise express yourself in any fashion which has a capability of being digitally recorded? They want all of that monitored in perpetuity.

    Logistically this can’t be easily accomplished of course without someone paying the costs and that means us footing the bill. Even if the logistics weren’t a barrier the shear amount of resources needed to gather, compile, and maintain a database are insurmountable in regards to actually being able to extract useful information.

    I suggest a much simpler test for such a system. Track all the mail passing through the Royal Post and anything on a post card should be scanned into such a system. Sounds hard to do right? It’s a lot easier logistically than what they are proposing but it won’t actually accomplish much other than busy work for an army of newly employed snoopers. An army that will wade through an endless stream of communications which may or may not contain something potentially incriminating. It’s like trying to find a needle in haystack in field the size of Texas which is already full of haystacks.

    All in the name of stopping things which can’t ever be stopped because of false positives and false negatives vs the manpower available to actually separate the wheat from the chaff. Not to mention the fact that the likelihood of any terrorist, criminal, or paedophile’s actions actually impacting the lives of anyone are so miniscule as to make them about as likely as winning the lottery or being struck by lightning. More people are more affected by their daily commute in accidents every single year planet wide than will ever see their lives touched by any of her three reasons combined over the entirety of human history.

  5. Aside from the main issues at hand, I often wonder why people frequently cite as a good example something that is notably bad. Such as citing this case, when there are tens of thousands that could have been used in its place.

    For example, I remember seeing an artistic movie that emphasized its wide-screen-ness to an extreme, and the video reviewer (Roger Ebert) specifically noted that the pan-and-scan treatment was good here.  It wasn’t.   It *so* wasn’t.  And he rarely mentioned that topic, so why bring it up then?

    All I’ve got on the issue is a French professor told me a story about being in France as a young man, and a Frenchman commented that his French was very good (for an American).  The compliment was sincere.  But my professor realized immediately that he must have made a mistake to draw attention to the fact that he was not a native speaker.  

    So, why bring something up in conversation as really good/bad, when it is specifically and clearly neither?  Anyone else ever notice this phenomenon?

    1. Roger Ebert? the guy who spent the whole 90’s unable to shut up about how pan and scan was the work of the devil?

  6. Why doesn’t someone just ask her if this bill is so more corrupt cops can help the highest bidder murder the people they dislike. 
    She wants to play the do it for the victims card, we should return the favor and place her in a position where any answer (or lack there of) will leave her in an untenable position.
    Its fun watching them squirm.

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