UK ISPs betray customers, collaborate on government surveillance

Britain's Communications Data Bill -- AKA the Snooper's Charter -- would effectively eliminate private communications in the UK, giving government and the police the power to spy on virtually everything you do online (which is rapidly merging with everything you do, full stop). The major ISPs in the UK have apparently been turned to the government's cause, and have been quietly supporting the bill, which strips their customers of any semblance of privacy.

The government defends this proposal by saying that they're not intercepting "messages," only "envelopes." That is, they'll get the subject lines, social graph data, who is talking, where, how often, and who replies, how long the messages are, and so on. I like to imagine Alan Turing taking this approach to informational significance: "Mr Churchill, I'm sorry, there's no point in what you're asking us to do: all we can decode from the Nazis is who is sending messages, who receives them, what they're about, where they're sent from, how often they're sent, and how long they are. Nothing compromising." (Then I imagine the ghost of Turing haunting Home Secretary Teresa May, who claims that none of that kind of data compromises Britons' privacy).

In an open letter to the major ISPs, the Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch, and Privacy International accuse the ISPs of entering into a conspiracy of silence on the surveillance system:

It has become clear that a critical component of the Communications Data Bill is that UK communication service providers will be required by law to create data they currently do not have any business purpose for, and store it for a period of 12 months.

Plainly, this crosses a line no democratic country has yet crossed – paying private companies to record what their customers are doing solely for the purposes of the state.

These proposals are not fit for purpose, which possibly explains why the Home Office is so keen to ensure they are not aired publicly.

There has been no public consultation, while on none of your websites is there any reference to these discussions. Meetings have been held behind closed doors as policy has been developed in secret, seemingly the same policy formulated several years ago despite widespread warnings from technical experts.

That your businesses appear willing to be co-opted as an arm of the state to monitor every single one of your customers is a dangerous step, exacerbated by your silence

Consumers are increasingly concerned about their privacy, both in terms of how much data is collected about them and how securely that data is kept. Many businesses have made a virtue of respecting consumer privacy and ensuring safe and secure internet access.

Sadly, your customers have not had the opportunity to comment on these proposals. Indeed, were it not for civil society groups and the media, they would have no idea such a policy was being considered.

We believe this is a critical failure not only of Government, but a betrayal of your customers' interests. You appear to be engaged in a conspiracy of silence with the Home Office, the only concern being whether or not you will be able to recover your costs.

ISPs In ‘Conspiracy Of Silence’ With Government On Snooper’s Charter (via ./)


  1. The Inner Party of Airstrip One would be fiercely proud of this proposal and its method of implementation.

    A little late, mind.

    Next, implementation of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

    Soma, anyone?

  2. Betray? Collaborate? UK ISPs collude with Nazis, reveal hiding place of downed, plucky airmen. 

    Some of the language round here is starting to sound dangerously like the Daily Mail. 

    1. Daily Mail 23 April 2023

      … in the wake of the January discovery of Huawei telecoms network ‘backdoor spying’ mechanisms in MI6 equipment, the government vowed to take action … to date 143,000 people of Chinese descent resident in the UK have been interned … following an effortless sweep of the population by the police which used their own data to implicate them … and 2,139 individuals face prosecution on charges ranging from information theft to treason …

    2. If you trust your privacy to a corporation whic turns around and sells your private data to governments and corporations, is that not a betrayal?  Or is it just that it’s “dangerous” to say so?

    3. Those words correctly convey the meaning of what’s happening. Are you asking Cory to become an unpaid PR flack for the ISPs by altering the language in their favor?

  3. UK and US used to stand for personal freedoms and privacy. They used to criticize Soviets for infringing on these luxuries of the free world. The times have changed.

  4. Is there a list of the ISPs available?  I use information like this to determine which ISP to use and the ISP I’m on has just been bought out by a big one.

  5. I think your thought experiment there would make an excellent test of these types of laws.  If we could require the government to publish all the information about its own activities that it collects from private individuals, the government would suddenly become much more circumspect about privacy.  

  6. Next step: make encryption illegal.  If you’re not guilty, what have you to hide, eh?

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