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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Disclosure: I am proud to have co-founded the Open Rights Group and to volunteer on its advisory board)
As the UK government ramps up to pass the snooper's charter -- a sweeping, unaccountable regime of tax-funded, warrantless snooping on all online activity -- the Open Rights Group is offering workshops across the country on how to talk to your MP about this proposal. Workshops are coming up in London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Bristol.
We're running these training sessions that will help you learn about two of the biggest current digital rights issues and practice how to discuss them with your MP. We'll be covering two big topics:
1. The “Snoopers’ Charter” - aka the Communications Data Bill - was announced in the Queen's speech and is about to be published by the government. The bill will create new powers to intercept and collect information about who you talk to online. Your communications via Google, Facebook or Skype will now be open to what may be a large number of government officials. We want to see the powers to collect and access communications data tightened up, not extended ever further.
2. Internet censorship. The government is considering whether Internet Service Providers should have to block websites that contain 'adult content' by default, with an 'opt out' for uncensored access. That would mean an infrastructure of censorship that could, through mistakes, abuse or mission creep, lead to more and more content being blocked for people in the UK. Our research on mobile Internet censorship recently showed how often the wrong websites can be filtered, for example. We want to prevent this further move towards private policing of the internet and free speech, and recommend better ways to help parents manage their children's Internet access.
(Disclosure: I am proud to have co-founded the Open Rights Group and to volunteer on its advisory board)
Tories divided over UK spying bill, Home Secretary dismisses critics as "conspiracy theorists" who want to protect freedom for "criminals, terrorists and paedophiles"
The UK Conservative party is embroiled in a public internal squabble as its libertarian wing contemplates the "snoopers' charter," a proposed warrantless Internet spying bill that will require ISPs to store fantastic amounts of your online activity and make it accessible to police and government without a warrant, at a cost of billions of pounds that the ISPs can bill the government for. The Tories fought a nearly identical proposal from Labour in the last parliament. Home Secretary Theresa May has dismissed critics of the bill as "conspiracy theorists" who are unaccountably exercised over trivia like accountability, judicial review, and the principle of surveillance being limited to people who have done something suspicious. She says that these freedoms are only of use to "criminals, terrorists and paedophiles."
Alan Travis writes in The Guardian:
May dismissed critics of the new powers, which will allow police and intelligence services to track Facebook, Twitter, email and other web use, as "conspiracy theorists". She defended the 550,000 individual requests for data each year made by security officials as a vital tool to catch serious criminals and terrorists.
She told the Sun: "I just don't understand why some people might criticise these proposals. I have no doubt conspiracy theorists will come up with some ridiculous claims about how these measures are an infringement of freedom. But without changing the law, the only freedom we would protect is that of criminals, terrorists and paedophiles..."
"It's not content, but it's incredibly intrusive," [former Conservative shadow home secretary, David] Davis told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "If they really want to do things like this – and we all accept they use data to catch criminals – get a warrant. Get a judge to sign a warrant, not the guy at the next desk, not somebody else in the same organisation."
38 Degrees has an online petition to stop the proposal, which stands at over 164,000 right now.
The other shoe is slowly dropping on the "Snooper's Charter" -- the proposed UK Internet spying legislation that will require ISPs to harvest and retain fantastic quantities of user activity and make it available to government and law enforcement without a warrant. In a bid to win support for the proposal, the government has offered a "blank cheque" to ISPs, with an offer to pay for additional equipment required to effect this mass surveillance system. They also continue to draw a wholly artificial distinction between "metadata" and "content" -- the URL of a web-page you visit can be had with out a warrant, but the content of the page can't be (unless the police then go look at that page). This obfuscation is intended to make spying into every corner of our digital lives without judicial review -- without suspicion -- somehow less terrifying.
The communications data police and others may seek about an individual includes email addresses and phone numbers of people who have been in contact, when this happened, and where, the details giving the police records of suspects' associates and activities.