Mere moments after publications of an independent report condemning UK's mass surveillance programme, sources in the UK spy agencies -- who are pushing for massively expanded surveillance powers through the Snoopers' Charter -- leaked an evidence-free story claiming the Russians and Chinese had magically gained the ability to decrypt the files Snowden took with him from the NSA.
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In my latest Guardian column, I talk about the real danger from the UK Tories' plan to ban effective cryptography: not the initial mandate forcing companies to help spy on their users, but all the things we'll have to do when that doesn't work.
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A bot inspired by UK Home Secretary Theresa May's pledge to bring back the systems of unaccountable mass surveillance that the EU forced the UK to abandon.
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Ed from the Open Rights Group writes, "The Conservatives have won an absolute majority in the General Election. The Home Secretary Theresa May has already said that she will use this majority to pass a new Snoopers' Charter."
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Michael Geist writes, "Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is fast-tracking a bill that eviscerates privacy protections within the public sector that represents the most significant reduction in public sector privacy protection in Canadian history -- he' blocking the Privacy Commissioner of Canada from appearing as a witness at the committee studying the bill."
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An excellent op-ed from the Open Rights Group: "When ORG defends privacy, we are fighting to protect people from abuses of power that leave them vulnerable."
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Last Friday, four rogue Lords copy/pasted the repeatedly defeated "Snooper's Charter" spying bill into a pending bill as an amendment, only to withdraw it on Monday after the Lords were bombarded by an aghast public -- and now, incredibly, these Lords have reintroduced the same language as a new amendment.
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We killed the dreadful Snooper's Charter last week, again, for the third or fourth time, depending on how you count -- now how do we keep it from rising from the grave again and terrorizing Britain with the threat of total, ubiquitous, uncontrolled state spying?
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The secret, emergency snooping law that the UK Tories plan on ramming through Parliament this week without debate has been published. It's bad, and the leadership of Labour and the Libdems are complicit in the plan to make it law.
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UK Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron says that ISPs and phone companies should be required to store records of every click you make, every conversation you have, and every place you physically move through. He says that communications companies should be required to make it impossible to keep your communications from being eavesdropped in, with mandatory back-doors.
He says we need this law because "TV crime dramas illustrated the value of monitoring mobile data."
Remember the Snooper's Charter, the 2012 UK Conservative plan to require ISPs and phone companies to retain the records of all your calls and movements, and make them available to police and government without a warrant? Home Secretary Theresa May proposed an unlimited budget to pay ISPs to help spy on you, and called people who opposed this "conspiracy theorists" and said the only people who need freedom from total, continuous surveillance were "criminals, terrorists and paedophiles."
The Snooper's Charter was killed by a rebellion from Libdem MPs, who rejected the plan. Now it's back, just as the public are starting to have a debate about electronic spying thanks to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed the extent to which our online habits are already illegally surveilled by government spies. Let's hope that the Snowden revelations -- and the US government's admission that mass spying never caught a terrorist or foiled a terrorism attempt -- strangles this Cameron brainchild in its cradle.
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Aw, yeah! The UK Communications Data Bill -- AKA the "Snooper's Charter," a sweeping, totalitarian universal Internet surveillance bill that the Conservative government had sworn to pass -- is dead! Yesterday, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Parliament, announced that his party would not support the bill, and effectively killed it. Though I've been bitterly disappointed with some of the terminal compromises the LibDems have made, this makes me grateful to have them in Parliament. The kind of universal surveillance proposed in the Snooper's Charter was broadly supported by the last Labour government, which radically expanded state surveillance powers, and by the Tories -- thank goodness for the LibDems mustering a scrap of backbone at last!
The only downside is that the Open Rights Group had a whole series of great "Professor Elemental" videos that used pointed, excellent humour to mock and undermine the bill and drum up opposition to it, and now that's all going to go to waste (I blogged episode one yesterday).
Aw, who'm I kidding? This kind of thing never stays dead.
The snooper's charter has reminded Nick Clegg, finally, he is a liberal
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
The Snooper's Charter is Britain's pending Internet surveillance law, which requires ISPs, online services and telcoms companies to retain enormous amounts of private online transactions, and to hand them over to government and law enforcement employees without a warrant. A public campaign on the bill had 19,000 responses, every one of which opposed the legislation. 19,000 against, 0 for. The question is, will the government (which ran in part by opposing similar legislation proposed by the previous Labour government) actually pay attention? Here's Glyn Moody in Computerworld:
Got that? Out of 19,000 emails received by the Committee on the subject of the proposed Draft Communications Bill, not a single one was in favour of it, or even agreed with its premise. Has there ever been a bill so universally rejected by the public in a consultation? Clearly, it must be thrown out completely.
Snooper's Charter: 19,000 Emails Against, 0 In Favour
CryptoParty is a global movement for people who want to teach their neighbors how to use cryptography to protect themselves from snoopers, especially broad government surveillance. It was kicked off by @Asher_Wolf in response to the broad, sweeping Australian Internet surveillance bill, and involves throwing parties where folks who know how to use disk encryption, email encryption, and similar projects teach their neighbors to use it too.
There's a crowdsourced book -- "The CryptoParty Handbook," 400+ pages written in less than 24 hours by activists all over the world -- and other instructional materials to help you get started.
What is CryptoParty? Interested parties with computers, devices, and the desire to learn to use the most basic crypto programs and the fundamental concepts of their operation! CryptoParties are free to attend, public, and are commercially non-aligned.
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has blasted the UK government's Draft Communications Bill, which will allow bulk, warrantless, unaccountable surveillance of all Internet traffic by government agencies in the UK. TBL rightly points out that this will overturn the whole UK tradition of freedom and privacy. The Open Rights Group has a campaign to kill the bill, and you can help.
“If the UK introduces draconian legislation that allows the Government to block websites or to snoop on people, which decreases privacy, in future indexes they may find themselves farther down the list,” he said.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee accuses government of 'draconian' internet snooping
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Legal Director Cindy Cohn was in the UK for the launch of the Snooper's Charter (AKA the Draft Communications Data Bill), and she provides some much-needed global context on the totalitarian slide of the United Kingdom.
This isn’t the first time that an Executive has seized the general authority to search through the private communications and papers without individualized suspicion. To the contrary, the United States was founded in large part on the rejection of “general warrants” – papers that gave the Executive (then the King) unchecked power to search colonial Americans without cause. The Fourth Amendment was adopted in part to stop these “hated writs” and to make sure that searches of the papers of Americans required a probable cause showing to a court. Indeed, John Adams noted that “the child Independence was born,” when Boston merchants unsuccessfully sued to stop these unchecked powers, then being used by British customs inspectors seeking to stamp out smuggling.
The current warrantless surveillance programs on both sides of the Atlantic return us to the policies of King George III only with a digital boost. In both, our daily digital “papers” — including intimate information such as who we are communicating with, what websites we visit (which of course includes what we’re reading) and our locations as we travel around with our cell phones — are collected and subjected to some sort of datamining. Then we’re apparently supposed to trust that no one in government will ever misuse this information, that the massive amounts of information about us won’t be subject to leak or attack, and that whatever subsequent measures are put into place to government access to it by various government agencies will be sufficient to protect our privacy and ensure due process, fairness and security.
UK Mass Surveillance Bill: The Return of a Bad Idea
A reminder: the Open Rights Group is running national workshops on how to talk to your MP about this, and there's a petition you can sign.
If you're as outraged as I am that the UK Coalition government is planning on spending £1.8B to spy on every click, IM, email and Facebook update, without a warrant under the Draft Communications Data Bill, then please consider visiting the Open Rights Group's petition page where we're gathering signatures to present to MPs. The Coalition is deeply divided on this issue, and there's a very good chance we'll be able to put paid to this proposal just as we did with Labour's national ID scheme, but not without your help.
Yesterday the Government unveiled the 'Communications Data Bill'. It's a proposal for more powers to intercept and collect information about who you talk to online. Your communications via Google, Facebook or Skype would be open to what may be a large number of government officials.
You can help! Please email your MP and tell them why you want to see the powers to collect and access communications data tightened up, not extended ever further.
Don't forget that ORG is running nationwide workshops to help you meet effectively with your MP to lobby them on this issue and on Internet censorship.
Snooper's Charter: write to your MP
(Disclosure: I am proud to have co-founded the Open Rights Group and to volunteer on its advisory board)