November 2004 Archives

We will have a lot more to say about the newly published Identity Card Bill, but if you are a Civil Servant, a Trades Unionist or an IT Contractor you should be very worried by:

31 Tampering with the Register etc

"(3) For the purposes of this section the cases in which conduct causes a modification of information recorded in the Register include—

(a) where it contributes to a modification of such information; and

(b) where it makes it more difficult or impossible for such information to be retrieved in a legible form from a computer on which it is stored by the Secretary of State, or contributes to making that more difficult or impossible."

"Explantory Notes:
"167. Subsection (3) makes it clear that modification of information includes cases where someone's conduct contributes to the modification of information, or where it makes it more difficult or impossible for such information to be retrieved in a legible form, or where the conduct contributes to making the retrieval more difficult or impossible."

Presumably this is the Home Office's amateur attempt at drafting some infinitely wide power to cope with Denial of Service attacks on the National Identity Register systems.

However, this also seems to be threatening any Civil Servant or IT sub contractor with up to 10 years in jail if they are engaged in Industrial Action such as a Strike or a Work To Rule etc. !

It would also penalise IT disasters such as the recent loss of service caused by a software upgrade etc. at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Would you risk accepting a contract to work on this system with the threat of 10 years in jail and/or a fine hanging over you, if the software crashes or you withdraw your labour and go on strike ?

The Identity Card Bill looks set to be revealed today. It is unlikely to be revealed before Home Secretary David Blunkett's Home Affairs debate on the Queen's Speech this afternoon, media coverage of which will no doubt concentrate on any questions asked about the media allegations about David Blunkett's private life.

However, the Minister of State for Immigration, Des Browne, has started the media spin and is he is still spinning the line about £1.3 billion "identity fraud"

BBC News 24, 7:20 am 29th November 2004:

"Des Browne:
There is a need, for some form of secure gold standard identification, that people can use, for the important transactions in their life, and if it also enhances security, if it allows us to secure our borders better, and if it also allows us to interdict the sort of behavior which has led to the loss of £1.3 billion a year in identity fraud, then that is all to the good too."

Do Labour Ministers really believe this soundbite rubbish ?

If "identity fraud" is so really such a widespread problem, why doesn't the Home Office bother to collect official Home Office or Police or British Crime Survey statistics on "identity fraud" ?

The magic figure of £1.3 billion comes from statistically worthless "finger in the air" guesstimatescompiled in the annex of a Cabinet Office report, "Identity Fraud: A Study" (.pdf).

There has been no actual quantitative research into the subject since the report was published in 2002 to see if the existing measures such as the alleged improvements in passport security (the justification for increasing the price of a Passport) has made the situation better or worse.

Remember that "identity fraud" is not the same as "Customer Not Present" mail order or credit card fraud. A Biometric ID Card is of no use in preventing online credit card fraud or e-banking "phishing" attacks, and is incompatible with the credit card industry's standard "Chip and PIN" approach.

Jonathan Dimbleby programme, 13:15 ITV Sunday 28th November 2004, interviewed Peter Hain MP, the Leader of the House of Commons, in front of a studio audience.

Transcript of the section of the programme with Questions from the Audience about Identity Cards:

Privacy International, Statewatch and European Digital Rights campaigns are calling for endorsements of their An Open Letter to the European Parliament on Biometric Registration of all EU Citizens and Residents

Please contact your United Kingdom Member of the European Parliament and get them to vote against this sneaky bureaucratic ploy, which will, no doubt, be used by David Blunkett to "prove" the necessity for a UK Biometric Register and ID Card. We cannot see how such a system, can possibly work cost effectively as advertised, or with sufficient security and privacy safeguards for "only" 60 million people in the UK.

How such a system is meant to work multi-lingually, or how much it will cost, for over 450 million people in the European Union is even more of a mystery, which neither the UK Government, nor the European Council of Ministers has bothered to explain in detail to their voters and taxpayers.

Text of the Open Letter:

The controversial Identity Cards Bill is due to get its First Reading this Monday 29th November 2004:


[No debate]

Mr Secretary Blunkett

Bill to make provision for a national scheme of registration of individuals and for the issue of cards capable of being used for identifying registered individuals; to make it an offence for a person to be in possession or control of an identity document to which he is not entitled, or of apparatus, articles or materials for making false identity documents; to amend the Consular Fees Act 1980; to make provision facilitating the verification of information provided with an application for a passport; and for connected purposes.

Formal first reading: no debate or decision."

Learn more about the growing opposition to the Government's plans for this hugely expensive, privacy destroyong, compulsory centralised biometric database poll tax, which will not keep us safe from terrorists or criminals or illegal workers etc. at the

NO2ID Public Meeting Brixton

Tuesday 30 November 2004,
7pm at The Brix,
St Matthews Church,
London SW2 1JF

Location Map

NO2ID have succeeded in alerting the media , and even some politicians, to just how controversial the Government's plans for ancompulsory biometric register database of unprecedented cost, complexity and potential for privacy and human rights abuse.

The opposition to this scheme is growing, as even people who do not object to voluntary ID cards in form, are astonished at the looming IT project disaster that the Government seems intent on inflicting on us, with thousands of people signing the NO2ID online petition (still open for more signatures, even though the first tranche has been submitted to the Cabiinet Office)

ID Cards are the most prominent of various hoped for, but not actually yet achievable, "technological magic fixes" to social problems, in areas of policy where the New Labour Government are trying to appear to be "tougher" than their Tory and Liberal Democrat political rivals, ahead of the forthcoming General Election.

The Times reports that "Press warned over criminal records"

Why does Lord Goldsmith think that he can censor the Internet ?

Why are jurors to be treated as idiots, with the memory span of goldfish ?

Is this another facet of New Labour's attacks on the jury system, which are usually the province of David Blunkett ?

The legal basis of the establishment of the new SOCA - Serious Organised Crime Agency, which, despite the media hype, is not the "British FBI", as it is not tasked with anti-terrorism or counter-espionage duties, is set out in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, which also includes Even More Powers For The Police.

However, the spin surrounding the economic justification for the creation of SOCA throws up a rather large question.

How much money does Serious and Organised Crime cost the UK each year ?

Prior to today, the guesstimate finger in the air figure was £40 billion a year

This £40 billion a year figure was also uttered by Sir Stephen Lander, the Chair of SOCA, formerly the Director General of MI5, the Security Service, during his interview last Sunday with Jonathan Dimbleby.

However today's Home Office press release announcing the new legislation quites Home Secretary David Blunkett as saying:

"organised crime gangs are costing this country at least £20 billion a year and must be stopped."

Who stole the other £20 billion ?

How was either figure calculated, by whom, and using what assumptions ?

Even the Home Office's guesstimates for the alleged cost of part of their ID Card scheme was heavily criticised by the Home Affairs Committee for not being accurate to within the nearest £2 billion.

£2 billion here, £20 billion there, pretty soon this will add up to serious money.

The Daily Mail right wing tabloid newspaper, has chosen to add to the media spin and hype creating a Climate of Fear by devoting it's entire front page to an unsubstantiated report by undisclosed sources, of alleged plots, by uknown persons, vaguely claimed to be involve Al Quaeda.

The headline reads:

'Al Queda plot to hijack jets and fly them into skyscrapers is smashed'

The article has no details about when this alleged plot ot plots were discoverd, or supposedly disrupted, or even the country where the alleged plotters were based.

Other news media e.g. ITV news have chosen to lead with this alleged "story", based on only the Daily Mail report, as if it were verifiably true, illustrating their coverage with stock video footage of the alleged targets.

Astonishingly, ITV News are even claiming that "ITV News has discovered " the alleged plot, which is unbelievable. It would appear that their idea of investigative journalism consists of picking up a tabloid newspaper on the way in to the office. Their leading story on their morning news bulletin does not even mention the Daily Mail, which , obviously, like all newspapers was printed last night, as the source for their report.

If ITV news have actually "confirmed" this report, did they do it simply by being fed the same "off the record" briefing by a Government spin doctor as the Daily Mail ?

Government Minister Alan Milburn claimed to have no knowledge of the alleged plots when interviewd about it by ITV News.

Even if this alleged plot was true, the timing of the report must be hugely suspect, givenn that today is the day of the Queen's Speech to Parliament, which is likely to be full of "law and order" legislation.

Transcript and comments about Home Secretary David Blunkett's interview on the Jonathan Dimbleby Programme, broadcast on ITV 13:15. Sunday 21st November 2004

This interview with Home Secretary David Blunkett flies several important political kites ahead of the Queen's Speech on Tuesday 23rd November 2004, and the anticipated General Election probably in May 2005.

Unfortunately, just as with the old Soviet Kremlin, due to the heavy spin and public relations techniques which are such a feature of the New Labour government, one has to try to understand the code words and jargon which the Home Secretary uses. It is often what he does not say which is as important as his latest speeche or interview.

The extremely controversial plans for Biometric Compulsory ID Cards and a Centralised Database, are bad enough, and are opposed by the umbrella group the NO2ID campaign.

As yet, the other measures, which in our view, and that of many others, from all politicial parties, is that the Home Secretary David Blunkett and the Prime Minister Tony Blair, are shifting the delicate balance between authoritarian police surveillance state, and our traditional liberties and freedoms, allegedly in the name of Security, but also, very obviously, simply to try to outflank the Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition parties, in the run up to the General Election.

The programme also has an interview with Sir Stephen Lander, the former Director General of MI5 the Security Service, and now the Chair of the soon to be established Serious Organised Crime Agency, SOCA, which, judging from our web server statistics, is a popular search term.

We have transcribed and commented on, this ITV TV interview, which should really have been made available as a written statement to Parliament, and therefore be freely searchable via world wide web search engines.

There are four major sections of the interview:

  1. Terrorism Hope or Fear
  2. Compulsory Identity Cards and a Centralised Biometric Database
  3. Anti-Social Behavior Orders ASBOs
  4. Serious Organised Crime Agency SOCA and Wiretaps

The full transcript of the text of the interview, and our comments are rather too long for a Blog posting, so we have made a separate web page here

Various other news staories have been built by the rival media outlets , based on this interview e.g. John Lettice's piece in The Register

It's a Sunday, so therefore it must be time for a bit more media spin and disinformation from the Home Secretary David Blunkett.

Despite claiming last Saturday on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that he was not

"to appear on television and radio virtually every day, and I could do it, put the Fear of God Up People"

According to the spin appearing before the actual broadcats of
Jonathan Dimbleby programme on ITV at starting at 13:15 today, David Blunkett seems to be at it again:

""We'd be able to use civil (orders), like anti-social behaviour orders, to say, `If you step outside what we've precluded you from doing, if you actually for instance, use this particular banking network, if you, for instance, use the internet and we can identify you've done it, then we can move you from the civil into the criminal law', and then we can use the normal criminal justice process,"

Does that mean he is planning Soviet Russian style "anti-soviet behavior" offences which do not require any evidence ?

More comments when the interview is actually broadcast

Babar Ahmad is a British citizen, obviously of the extremist Muslim variety, but one who seems to be in the process of receiving rough justice at the hands of the UK and USA authorities, including sustaining documented physical injuries when he was arrested and then subsequently released without charge under the UK's draconian Terrorism Act 2000.

We have no sympathy for Islamic jihadist causes, but for a British citizen, to be fast track extradited to the USA, without the need to present even flimsy evidence about activities which were legal in the UK back in 1997 / 1998 relating not to terrorist crimes in the USA, but to possible activities in a third or a fourth country does seem to be unfair, unjust, and morally unworthy of our democratic traditions and values.

If we throw these away, then the terrorists will have won.

Non-military support for people in Afghanistan or Chechnya is not illegal. Neither the Taleban in Afghanistan nor the Mujahideen in Chechnya were then, or are now proscribed terrorist groups according to United Kingdom law. This is obviously insane and incompetent, but the situation could have been remedied by the Home Secretary David Blunkett, at any time, simply by signing an order. The fact that neither he nor his predecessor Jack Straw have bothered to do so is a scandal.

If there are any "money laundering" etc. charges to be brought, then they should be brought in a UK court.

We have asked questions about this case before: here and here

If Home Secretary David Blunkett was serious in his claims that he is not promoting a "climate of fear", his spin and public relations propagandists should be quashing the impression given by media reports like "Terror suspect 'sought chemicals'" from the BBC and the completely inaccurate and scaremongering hedline "Terror Suspect 'Tried to Buy 5,000 Tons of Sulphur'" by the Press Association.

Of course if you actually bother to read the affidavit in support of extradition (.pdf) by Robert M. Appleton, the Assistant United States Attorney in charge of the extradition case:

"Correspondence Seeking Large Quantities of Fertilizer and
Chemicals and the Specific Reference to Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan

A search of the bedroom at 42a Fountain Road in December, 2003, uncovered approximately 25 to 30 pages of correspondence between AHMAD and various export companies from mid-1997 through early 1998, in which AHMAD sought to purchase up to 5,000 tons of sulfur / phosphate based fertilizers and large amounts of several chemicals, on behalf of a third party. A purchase order from one of the companies that Babar contacted reflects a shipment of “miscellaneous items” on or about June 12, 1997, to a purported company in Pakistan. A July 1, 1997, letter to AHMAD from that company enclosed a bank check for the
exact same amount of the purchase. Agents continue to investigate the significance of this."

Most people call this "international trade", presumably for a profit, which is perfectly legal, even in the United States.

"sulfur / phosphate based fertilizer" is just that - fertiliser. It is not the explosive sort of ammonium nitrate based fertiliser.

Even if this fertiliser was of any use in an armed conflict, anyone who can arrange the smuggling of 5,000 tons of anything to Afghanistan or Chechnya would have to be a logistics genius, with access to vast resources, which Babar Ahmad obviously is not.

There is other "bottom of the barrel scraping" stuff being presented in the affidavit, but which will, presumably not actually get tested as evidence under the "fast track" extradition procedure to the USA under the Extradition Act 2003:

The Controversial Civil Contingencies Act 2004 Royal Assent on Thursday 18th November 2004, and is now the law.

Compared with the relatively unimportant Hunting Act 2004, which also completed its Parliamentary Progress at the same time, there has been virtually no press or media coverage of what is rightly described as the most draconian and powerful piece of legislation since the 1920 Emergency Powers Act.

The Act does not have any easy to understand, clear safeguards and independent checks and balances. Nobody knows what circumstances may or may not cause an Emergency to be declared.

There is no insistance on the use of Digital Signatures to authenticate either the initial Orders declaring and Emergency or the actual Emergency Regulations, which by their very nature are likely to have to be implemented in a hurry. Therefore there will be accidental or malicious hoaxes in the future, for which there will be no punishment of the malicous or the incompetent.

Emergency Regulations can potentially have the full force of Primary Legislation and the Royal Prerogative, with no need for prior Parliamentary approval, scrutiny or amendment i.e. absolute legal power without limit.

We do not believe that the current Government or Opposition politicians would abuse the enormous powers which they have just granted themselves, but we do believe that they have created an Enabling Act which would help any future dictatorship to seize power, using this legal "rod for our own backs".

What the Civil Contingencies Act does not do, is to actually provide the money for state of the art emergency communications systems, equipment, trained personnel, and the large scale realistic training exercises involving real forced evacuations of the general public etc. which are needed for realistic civil defence of the country.

Do you feel safer and more protected from future widescale natural and man made disasters, as a result of the passage of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 ?

Our previous concerns about the Civil Contingencies Bill have mostly not been answered and still remain as fundamental flaws in the Act.

Marks & Spencer
Intelligent Label RFID tag trial
Menswear department
Marble Arch store, Oxford Street, London, November 2004.

Apparently there are six Marks & Spencer stores participating in this latest RFID tag trial until December 2004. This press release from March 2004 implies that that the six stores are probably Aylesbury, Camberley, Ealing Broadway, High Wycombe, Kingston and Marble Arch

Compared with the original trial in 2003 at High Wycombe, the tags seem be restricted to suits and jackets only, with no tags on ties or inside shirt wrappings

These Intelligent Labels seem to be the same sort as before, except that the printing has been simplified. The back of the label is now just plain white, instead of having a glossy white sticker with just the Marks & Spencer copyright information , HQ address, website URL, "ying/yang" arrow symbol and printing reference codes, all of which information now appears at the bottom of the face of the label.

"MARKS & SPENCER" still appears at the top of the label.

The "circuit board" graphic and "INTELLIGENT LABEL TM" has been replaced by the simpler "INTELLIGENT LABEL TM FOR STOCK CONTROL" in the centre of the label. This could be due to confusion with the other labels on some of the menswear which in the High Wycombe trial was labelled as allegedly "intelligent fabric" or the Marble Arch one as "urban wear" fabric, which "breathes" moisture and does not need ironing etc.

The words "Please retain this label for refund and exchange" have now disappeared from the label.

Otherwise, the Marble Arch trial environment seemed to be similar to the High Wycombe one, with absolutely no notices, displays or leaflets informing the Customers that they were taking part in an experimental trial of any sort.

There is no RFID scanning equipment at the payment till counter, and therefore no "killing" of the RFID tag once the individual garment has been purchased. We noticed Staff and Customers blissfully unaware that the newly purchased clothing being wrapped up in a plastic suit bag still had its RFID tag label attached.

Approximately one or two RFID tags per rack seemed to be sticking up, presumably due to Customers' handling of the garments. Several of these tags were bent or folded, which may be significant in causing a few of these paper labels to fail to be read by the scanner. Higher frequency, longer range, more compact tags would probably reduce this potential problem.

Some photos of the Marks & Spencer, Marble Arch trial RFID tags:

NO2ID demonstration Wednesday 17th November 2004, Royal Society, Carlton House Terrace, London.

Home Secretary David Blunkett was giving a controversial keynote speech at a closed event organised by the New Labour leaning political think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research.

A small demonstration was organised by the NO2ID umbrella campaign, which is in opposition to the Government's plans for a particularly intrusive, impractical and expensive Compulsory Biometric Centralised Database based National Identity Register and ID Card.

As can be seen from the photos below of press and tv journalists, NO2ID succeeded very well in grabbing the news agenda away from the official Home Office press releases and spin, even on what turned out to be quite a busy news day. The demonstration shows that Government spin doctors cannot claim universal support for this scheme.

David Blunkett's "ludicrous" claims that the existing voluntary supermarket Loyalty Cards such as a Nectar card are more of a threat to people's privacy than the Government's proposed compulsory national biometric system, were a surprise. Alienating the UK Retail Industry by casting aspersions on their integrity and their record on Data Protection, may help David Blunkett and Tony Blair's ID Card policy to rebound on them and to "be remembered as one of the biggest political failures that Britain has ever produced"

The political kite flying about the possible expansion of the proposed role of ID Card Scheme Commissioner, into areas already regulated by the Data Protection Act, can be seen as a snub to the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, who was also a speaker at the very same IPPR conference.

The demonstration itself was very peaceful and friendly, even though the Police corralled the demonstrators behind token street barriers in a United States style "freedom of expression zone" out of earshot (e.g. "Resign !" or "Show us your ID Card !") of the visiting VIPs. Some of the Policemen took an interest in the arguements against ID cards and the National Identity Database, and even asked for, and were given leaflets and NO2ID badges. None of them could see how an ID card would be of any use in determining if, say, Osama bin Laden was in the country or not, and they feared that it would mean even more form filling and bureacracy.

At least one distinguished looking visitor to the Royal Society came over and promised that both he and his wife's would support the camapign by signing the NO2ID online petition which closes tommorrow Friday 19th November 2004.

Some amateur photos of the press and media attention, whilst mock ID cards were burnt, and the arrival of David Blunkett:
The Government has published some statistics of the number of court proceedings under the Computer Misuse Act 1990

According to these statistics, Computer Crimes, running at around on average 18 proceedings a year (which includes "inside jobs", not just "external hackers") would seem to be rarer than Murder, although every internet user in the UK knows different - just look at the spam emials containing computer viruses, illegal pornography, gambling, drugs , bank account "phishing", advance fee 419 fraud etc. etc.

The actual number of convictions a year for Computer Misuse is even less than this, although the conviction rate once proceedings are actually brought is realtively high.

"15 Nov 2004 : Column 1099W—continued

Cyber Crime
Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many cyber criminals have been prosecuted in the past five years; and if he will make a statement. [198061]

Paul Goggins: The available information, taken from the Home Office Court Proceedings Database, relates to England and Wales for the years 1998 to 2002 and is shown in the table. It covers defendants proceeded against under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

It is not possible, from the data held centrally, to identify any other offences that may be connected with internet or computer crime, because the circumstances of any such offences are not collected.

Statistics on court proceedings for 2003 will be published on the 18 November.

Offence descriptionStatute19981999200020012002
Unauthorised access to computer materialComputer Misuse Act 1990, Sec.166894
Unauthorised access with intent to commit or
      facilitate commission of further offences
Computer Misuse Act 1990, Sec.263346
Unauthorised modification of computer materialComputer Misuse Act 1990, Sec.3448128

(52) These data are on the principal offence basis"

Although there have been a few foreign nationals who have been prosecuted, there have been no extraditions of foreign "cyber criminals" to the United Kingdom.

This law, which predated the pularity of the World Wide Web, Internet Email, e-commerce, computer viruses or electronic Denial of Service attacks, badly needs to be updated, but, the Government seems to be wasting its legislative resources on other less important things such as banning fox hunting or on totalitarian measures such as the ID Card and National Identity Register.

Incredibly, they are proposing to strengthen the penalties under the Computer Misuse Act, but only for tampering with the ill defined concept of a National Identity Register computer system, which is presumably more important to them than, say, critical national infrastructure computer systems or safety critical sysems e.g. nuclear powwer station control or air traffic control or medical life support etc systems.

It is also unsatisfactory that Computer or Internet related crime statistics are not being collected.

This makes a nonsense of the 15% crime reduction over 3 years target agrred by the Home Office and the Treasury as a condition of the extra public money which has been allocated to the Home Office budget.

The Home Secretary David Blunkett still seems to be dithering about the possible use of "intercept evidence" in terrorist trials, according to his remarks in Parliament on Monday 15th November 2004:

"Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) has argued much more eloquently than I could that the holding of those individuals is not only wrong but unjust. Does the Secretary of State accept that every day that those men are detained, they act as a focus for further unrest? One way around that might be to adopt a more thoughtful approach towards evidence. Can he tell us when it will be possible to use intercept intelligence as evidence in court?

Mr. Blunkett: The hon. Gentleman has made an excellent case as to why he should never be the homeland security tsar for Britain, because discontent regarding the individuals who are held does not exist."

No discontent ? Perhaps the Home Secretary David Blunkett has not been "in touch" with the protests from the Muslim community in the UK

"If we released them and they continued to pose a risk and colluded on attacks in this country, the unrest at that moment in time would exceed anything that we have experienced here before. Of course, we are prepared to continue examining inceptors' evidence, and we are currently taking the advice of all the security and policing services. Once we have done so, we will make an announcement to the House, but we do not have a panacea for dealing with the problem, at the root of which is admissibility and the nature of the evidence, not the question of whether supporting intercept evidence has been provided."

He originally punted the idea of relaxing the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 law which forbids the use of UK phone taps or email inccterceptions or snail mail postal interceptions as evidence in a British court, restricting such use to intelligence gathering operations, not from a sense of protecting our civil liberties, but more from a wish to prevent the methods and sources used by the security, intelligence and police authorities from being reveled in public. The notorious example of the USA authorities trumpeting of the interception Osama bin Laden's satellite phone, even publishing the actual phone number in open court, was a huge blunder.

However, presumably in order to wriggle out of the dilemma of his own making, caused by the detention without trial of some foreign born terrorist suspects in Belmarsh prison under Part 4 of the draconian Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 David Blunkett, apparently supported by both the Opposition Liberal Democrat and Conservative Home Affairs spokesmen, still seems to be thinking about the possible use of "intercept evidence" as a way of bringing these suspects to trial in the UK. This idea seems to have crytallised during his trip to India and Pakistan in February 2004, where he appeared to be announcing major changes to the legal system to the UK media, before bothering to inform Parliament of them.

David Blunkett has not initiated any discussions or consultations about the use of intercept intelligence against British citizens in extradition proceedings either to the USA under the Extradition Act 2003 or to the new European Arrest Warrant to another EU country. Why is foreign intercept intelligence permissable as evidence in a UK court, but UK intercept intelligence is not ? Or is it being allowed in extradition hearings only ? c.f. the cases of Farid Hilali, Babar Ahmad and the notorious Abu Hamza al Masri (who also now faces some different UK charges) which we have commented on.

Incredibly, the Metropolitan Police and London Buses are again abusing the CCTV surveillance cameras which are installed in many London Buses, in order to hunt down innocent potential witnesses rather than possible criminal suspects.

Back in August we commented on the shocking murder of a young French student Amelie Delagrange in Twickenham, not far from the scene of a similar murder of Marsha McDonnell and several attacks on women walking home at night.

We hoped at the time that the CCTV surveillance cameras on buses , which are primarily to deter attacks on bus drivers and other passengers onboard, would not be abused by the Police to hunt down theoretical potential witnesses, who, may just cobceivably have "seen something", at night, through the dirty windows of a bus, with a brightly lit interior, during the few seconds whilst they passed the bus stop where the murder victim got off to meet her death, well away from the pavement by the bus stop.

These people are have an alibi, by virtue of having been videoed on a bus and alighting from it miles away from the time and location of the murder.

It is exremely likely that these "witnesses" have not come forward since they di not see or cannot remember anything relevant.

What possible use is this CCTV manhunt for alleged "witnesses" in November when the murder happened in August ? Even by the standards of the the Marsha McDonnell case, where the CCTV stills were released 5 days after the murder, this must be an exercise in futility.
Some or all of the "witnesses" who are being hunted could be summer tourists who are no longer in the UK.

The suspicion must be that this tactic is just another example of the form filling "tick the box" Police bureacracy of the sort described in Policeman's Blog

Hunting down innocent possible "witnesses" by publishing their CCTV photos devalues the use of CCTV for fighting crime, by treating the innocent as if they were wanted criminals.

Why has there been no discussion of the forward facing "Bus Lane Enforcement" CCTV cameras which deliberately point outside the Bus instead of spying on the interior ? If there were proper privacy safeguards and legally enforcable regulations regarding CCTV, which, unfortunately there are not, it might possible or even desirable to increase the number of these devices which are currently only installed on a minority of even CCTV monitored Buses.

The Human Tissue Act 2004 and the Children Act 2004 now both have Royal Assent and are law.

"Royal Assent
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts:

Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004,

Highways (Obstruction by Body Corporate) Act 2004,

Human Tissue Act 2004,

Children Act 2004."

The controversial "Schedule 5 Part 2 Use for an Excepted purpose" of the Human Tissue Act introduces huge exemptions to the penalaties under "Section 46 Offences relating to non-consensual analysis of DNA", whilst at the same time fails to regulate all the other genetic database analysis techniques such as RNA analysis, chromosome analysis, protein sequencing etc. which can already now, and which will increasingly in the future, provide similar "genetic fingerprint" data.

The controversial Section 12 of the Children Act, which grants the Government the power to create a massive "Big Nanny" computer database on all the children and their parents in the UK, and which destroys the confidentiality of professional advisors and children or parents seeking their advice "notwithstanding any rule of common law which prohibits or restricts the disclosure of information", and which can be used to circumvent, by regulation without further Parliamentary approval, the Principles of Data Protection laid down in the Data Protection Act.

Following the Parliamentary progress and scrutiny of both of these two Bills, which have now become Acts of Parliament, was a very disheartening experience.

The Members of Parliament in the House of Commons failed to protect our civil liberties during their limited scrutiny of these controversial sections of these Bills, and the Government guillotined debate on them i.e. used its majority to restrict the Parliamentary time available for any debates or amendments.

The Government succeeded in diverting any debate or opposition during the Children Bill, by spinning the less important issues, such as slight changes to the law on the smacking or chastisement of children by parents.

The Human Tissue Bill was, as presented, so flawed that it took heavy lobbying and lots of amendments by the medical research. biotechnology, academic and industrial establishments to prevent the Bill from destroying those vital industries in the UK. However the Government still failed to understand the differences and similarities between say DNA and RNA, something which, given the crucial importance of genetic technology, every schoolchild in the 21st century should be aware of.

The House of Lords did have some useful and informative contributions, but their role is too late in the legislative process to prevent the damage done by the House of Commons. Almost all of their amendments, especially regarding the Children Bill information databases, were simply rejected by the New Labour Government with a "Nanny knows best" attitude.

We are yet again having to rely on the traditional incompetence of the Government, with regard to national scale computer database projects to protect us from the further aspects of an Orwellian surveillance state which these two pieces of legislation could be used to introduce.

We urge ethical IT professionals and civil servants not to allow the Government or their Dilbert style managers to abuse the immense powers which the Government have just granted themselves, and guture Governments by means of these two Acts of Parliament.

The Home Office is repeatedly denying knowledge or involvement in the Indymedia / Rackspace server seizure scandal, yet they are not shedding any light on this attack on British sovereignty by unknown foreigners,

There have been at least 10 Parliamentary Questions posed by 5 different Members of Parliament about this incident:

The latest Answer from the Home Office is rather worrying:

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he authorised the seizure of web servers belonging to Indymedia. [191015]

Caroline Flint: I can confirm that no UK law enforcement agencies were involved and therefore, no authorisations needed."

Does this mean that any foreign government is allowed to arbitrarily seize and disrupt computer systems physically located in the UK, provided that they do not bother to tell the UK authorities, so that they do not have to bother to authorise it ?

If this is so, then it is intolerable and constitutes at least as great a threat to our economy and critical national infrastructure as terrorism or computer malware.

Why does the Home Office not make a clear statement about the legal jurisdictional aspects of this affair ?

Who is investigating any breaches of UK law, and if nobody is doing so, then why not ?

What assurance can the Home Office give that only properly authorised United Kindom authorities, following the National High Tech Crime Unit's Confidentiality Charter and best computer forensic practices, are allowed to seize or disrupt computer systems physically located in the UK ?

NO2ID protest David Blunkett Wed 17th Nov

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The New Labour leaning think tank, the Institute of Public Policy Research is holding an ID Card event this Wednesday 17th November at the Royal Society.

This will no doubt be an interesting and informative event, but it is not a substitute for a full and detailed public debate, which so far, the Home Office have refused to participate in, citing spurious commercial confidentiality, and hiring spin doctors and Parliamentary lobbyists with public money to sell the scheme, even before it has been approved by Parliament. If the scheme is so brilliant and popular, why does it need to be "sold" so hard, whilst the details are kept secret ?

If you can afford entrance fee of over £100, you will be able to hear a keynote speech by the Home Secretary David Blunkett
along with other speakers such as Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner

If you cannot afford this fee, or you are not allowed in to this meeting, you can get a free briefing on the Government's controversial ID Card and Compulsory Centralised Biometric Database plans
from the peaceful demonstrators outside, who will be there in support of the cross party umbrella group which is coordinating opposition to the ID Card Bill plans NO2ID

David Blunkett who will probably arrive in Carlton House Terrace, around 9.30a. and NO2ID are calling for volunteers who would like to show the politicans, civil servants and the media that there is growing opposition to the Government's particularly intrusive ID database plans, which look to be yet another Government IT disaster, on a massive scale.

There is still time to sign the NO2ID online petition,, which under Cabinet Office rules, must get an official response, which is so lacking from the Home Office so far.

To some people it may seem to be obsessive to analyse each word uttered by a politician, but when that politician is the controversial Home Secretary David Blunkett, a certain amount of kremlinology is required, to cut through the media spin and popularist playing to the mob, which this poweful politician indulges in. We want to know where next he is planning to shift the delicate balance between freedom and a police state, presumbaly with "good intentions".

Hence our interest in the interview he gave on the BBC Radio 4, Today Programme, on Saturday 13th November 2004.

The BBC no longer seem to be providing online transcripts (or even printed ones) of their flagship Today programme, presumably to cover their CaRears after the Hutton Inquiry and/or for cost reasons.

Here is an unskilled transcription (hat's off to professional stenographers who seem to be able to sort out the mess of interruptions and simultaneous voices) of the 11 minute interview with Home Secretary David Blunkett about ID Cards and the his counter spin against the "climate of fear" stuff that the BBC has been highlighting recently in series such as The Power of Nightmares

In order to understand all the oblique references and jargon in this inteview, you do have to be pretty clued up on UK political and legal issues, and also on the limitiations of technology, which most people (including the participants in this interview, at least with respect to technology) are not.

The segment can be heard, for a while, until it disappears into the archives, via Real Audio (the Beeb cut a special deal with RealMedia so that you can download a version of the RealMedia player from the BBC website which is not infected with advertising)

The Commons Amendemts to the Children Bill are due to be debated in the House of Lords on Wednesday.

As we have pointed out previously, the controversial Section 12 Information databases (and the similar Section 29 Information databases: Wales) clauses in the Children Bill seem unlikely to be amended before the Bill becomes law, as the tabled amendments deal with matters such as the powers of the Children;'s Commissioner and with "smacking".

We are sliding towards "Big Nanny database surveillance"
of the 11 million or so children and all of their parents continues, without any proper checks and balances specifically in the wording of the Bill.

Why do we let the bureaucrats get away with such red tape and intrusive snooping ?

Why are they destroying the duty of confidentiality of medical and legal advisors to their vulnerable child clients ?

"11) Regulations under subsection (5) may also provide that anything which may be done under regulations under subsection (6)(c) to (e) or (9) may be done notwithstanding any rule of common law which prohibits or restricts the disclosure of information"

This must have a chilling effect on those vulnerable people who would otherwise seek advice and help with their drug or domestic violence or child abuse or teen pregnancy problems, but who will be inhibited from doing so, because all the details of their confidential consultations will be blabbed and shared with an unknown number of people and organisations "notwithstanding any rule of common law which prohibits or restricts the disclosure of information"

The tabled for the Report Stage of the Civil Contingencies Bill will be debated by the House of Lords on Tuesday and Wednesday.

This looks is probably the last chance to limit the astonishing Emergency Powers which the Government is planning to grant itself, before the legislation gets rubberstamped by the House of Commons, which seemingly continues to fail to protect our fundamental liberties and freedoms.

We are not convinced that the Government will actually accept the amendments which try to ring fence certain Acts of Parliament and constitutional documents e.g. Magna Carta or the Human Rights Act or, most importantly, the Civil Contingencies Act itself from being amended by Ministers, by regulation or order, without the need for full debate in Parliamnet, but with the full force of Primary Legislation and the Royal Prerogative.

The Government rejected a similar reccommendation in the Report by the Joint Committee of both Houses on the Draft Civil Contingencies Bill and claimed that since "Ministers are deemed to always act reasonably" the highly complicated and obscure "triple lock" mechanism, which again, they refused to clarify by writing it into a single clause , would somehow protect the public from the potential abuse of the extraordinary "Henry VIII" powers which might be invoked by a future dictatorship.

Do you trust the current Government with so much power ? How about a future Government which could declare Emergency Powers on the basis of the "opinion" of a Minister who has been briefed with a "dodgy intelligence dossier" ?

None of the tabled amendments seek to resolve the questions of criminal sanctions against petty officials or bureaucrats who exceed their Emergency Powers, the need for Digital Signatures to authenticate Orders and Regulations rapidly in an emergency (would you seriously start the evacuation of a City, simply on the basis of an email or phone call or a fax, which can be so easily forged ?), the lack of anti-hoax provisions, the need for audit trails for future manadatory Public Inquiries, etc. which we raised as concerns about the original Draft Civil Contingencies Bill, and which still remain at the Report Stage of the full Bill.

The Sunday Times has a report about the shocked reaction of adult passengers going through the new low intensity X-ray scanner at Heathrow Airport Terminal 4.

'“I was quite shocked by what I saw,” said Gary Cook, 40, a graphic designer from Shaftesbury, Dorset. “I felt a bit embarrassed looking at the image.

A female passenger, who did not want to be named, said: “It was really horrible. It doesn’t leave much to the imagination because you’re virtually naked, but I guess it’s less intrusive than being hand searched.”'

The article fails to mention the question of Children being scanned by such "see under your clothes technology". Under the draconian UK laws, without exception, this constitutes "making or distributing child pornography" and it could also constitute Voyeurism under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. At the very least the operators of the equipment could easily be accused of Voyeurism, which will be very hard to defend against, given the subjective nature of the wording "for the purposes of sexual gratification".


John Lettice's article in The Register points to our previous discussion thread on the subject. back in August.

The Children Bill, which will create databases on over 11 million children and their parents, took another step towards becoming law on Tuesday getting its Third Reading in the House of Commons.

Some good points brought up during the debate by Tim Loughton (Conservative), questioning the need to put so many normal children and families on a massive database designed to help "children at risk", the lack of any appeals process, the lack of any data retention policy etc. and by Harry Cohen (Labour), who pointed out how the Bill would allow a future Minister, simply by means of regulations, to evade the Principles of Data Protection laid down in the Data Protection Act 1998

However, the controversial Section 12 Information Databases (and the similar sSection 29 dealing with Wales) were yet again not amended during the guillotined (i.e. deliberately time limited) debate

The Lords will now probably only debate the Commons amendments, and will not bother to amend the controversial database powers of the Bill.

As we predicted, the media coverage of this Bill was entirely about the "smacking" offences aspects, and totally ignored the database implications.

We often seem to end up having to criticise the Opposition parties for their feebleness in standing up to the Labour Government's obssession with control technologies, but they do seem to have made an effort in the Children Bill debate. However they are not displaying the same passion and active opposition to the slide towards a "Big Nanny" Surveillance State compared with less important issues like the compromise on the penalties for "smacking of children", with which the Government easily diverted their attention.

The scandal of the seizure of the hard disks of two server computers hosting many international Indymedia websites, internet radio streams etc. on October 7th, at the web server hosting facility in London run by the UK subsidiary of a US company Rackspace, on the say so of the USA FBI, allegedly as a result of requests for information, but apparaently not for the actual seizure of servers, from Swiss and/or Italian authorities has still not been resolved.

It is clear from a series of Answers to Parliamentary Questions, the latest of which still does not provide any extra information, that the UK authorities were not informed of this seizure which created a lot of "collateral damage" to websites and other systems sharing one of the servers hosting something allegedly of interest to these foreign authorities.

"Internet (Material Seizure)
Mr. Allan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with US law enforcement agencies concerning the seizure of material from UK-based internet hosting providers; and if he will make a statement. [191627]

Caroline Flint: I can confirm that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has had no discussions in regards to the matter referred to in the question posed by the hon. Member. In the circumstances I do not therefore believe that it is necessary for me to make a statement."

This means that UK sovereignty has been ignored, and that UK laws have probably been broken.

The lack of a clear statement about the affair from the UK Government, and the lack of a condemnation and the lack of a committment to protect the UK's cyberspace jurisdictional borders from future "collateral damage" raids, instigated on the secret say so of a foreign law enforcement agency or multiple agencies, is having a chilling effect on web publishers.

What sort of outcry would there be if a UK law enforcement authority put pressure on a UK company to seize data from a customer hosted by a foreign subsidiary company, and several other unrelated websites or businesses were hit by the "collateral damage" ?

The same principles of free speech and proper legal and jurisdictional process should be taken extremely seriously by the e-commerce and business communities as well.

The United Kindom's National High Tech Crime Unit used to try to work with businesses to minimize any "collateral damage" caused by a criminal investigative process and to ensure that there is a properly audited, uncompromised chain of evidence, as laid down in its Confidentiality Charter. This Indymedia/Rackspace affair completely undermines this worthy effort, and will lead to a continuing relcuctance to report computer crimes, for fear of the disruptive effect on businesses.

How can Britain be "the best place to do e-commerce in the world" to quote the Prime Minister Tony Blair, if this sort of thing is allowed to continue to happen ?

The Home Office continues to pay out millions of pounds a year to subsidise Closed Circuit Television surveillance camera schemes, with no real evidence that they actually prevent crime.

Drunks fighting in the streets after chucking out time in pubs and clubs ignore the massive number of CCTV systems that they are caught on. Street muggers routinely wear hoodies on top of baseball caps to avoid a clear view of their faces.

Their main effect seems to be as a placebo to damp down political anger from the local communities who complain loudest that there are not enough policeman patrolling the streets etc.

Some recent Answers to Parliamentary Questions (c.f. below) illustrate the large sums of money involved. N.B. thes are usually only for some the capital costs of installing cameras and control rooms, and not for the annual running costs or equipment maintainence, which has led to many headline schemes grinding to a halt after a few years due to lack of funding to keep the cameras operating effectively.

How many CCTV spy cameras are enough ?

In the UK we already have something like 20% of the CCTV systems in the entire world, yet there is still plenty of crime and disorder which is not deterred by such generalised snooping and mass surveillance.

NO2ID are organising an online petition against the Government's contoversial , expensive, privacy threatening and ultimately useless Compulsory ID Card and Centralised Biometric Database schemes.

Bearing in mind the disheartening experiences of STAND, when they organised a web page for individuals to email their responses to the Home Office's so called Entitlement Card consultation, where several thousand individual responses were treated by the Government spin doctors as a single petition, NO2ID are hoping to use some new Government online petition rules to get an official response from Number 10 Downing Street.

The NO2ID Petition closes on November 19th 2004, in time for the Queen's Speech on 23rd November in which it is likely that the full ID Card Bill will be announced.

Closing date, 19th Nov 2004
(i.e. in time for the Queen's Speech on the 23rd)
We, the undersigned residents of the United Kingdom, petition the Prime Minister and the government to immediately cease all further development of, and legislation for, national identity cards and the National Identity Register.

We believe the proposals constitute an attack on individual rights and freedoms. We believe they will lead to institutional discrimination and to unfair and unlawful denial of benefits and services. We believe the proposals will lead to an increase in state control and surveillance over the individual, and that they will create an unacceptable imposition on every citizen. We believe the proposals are unlawful under the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantee every person the fundamental right to privacy.

We believe the identity proposals will lead to an endemic loss of privacy and freedoms. We believe they will present dangers to marginalised, disenfranchised and disadvantaged people. We also believe that an identity scheme will imperil the relations between citizen and state.

Furthermore, we believe that even if these principled concerns had been fully addressed, that the government's proposals would still constitute an enormous waste of financial resources and would achieve little or no tangible benefits.

For these reasons we urge the government to fully abandon the proposals"

NO2ID Petition website:

The Home Office has announced more funding to the tune of £15 million to expand the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems throughout the UK's Police Forces.

The pilot projects are claimed as a success, and have resulted in 9 times the arrests by roadside patrols than for similar teams not equipped with ANPR and data links to the Police National Computer, and local Firearms and Drugs intelligence databases.

All well and good, this is the 21st Century and it is impossible to use purely manual methods to catch Road Tax evaders, disqualified drivers etc.when there are nearly 30 million vehicles on the roads.

However, as with all Home Office technology initiatives, there is a danger of throwing away precious civil liberties and individual privacy, in the rush to make headline grabbing crime statistics.

The very short "Case Studies" examples in the "Notes to Editors" (as if the general public are incapable of understanding these themselves) included in the Home Office Press Release show some potential danger areas in the more widespread use of ANPR.

Already prevalent in London, where the ANPR enforced Congestion Charge has led to a large increase in the number of vehicles using false "cloned" number plates based on innocent vehicles with of a similar or identical model and colour, so that any £80 Penalty Notices for not paying the Congestion Charge are sent to the address of an innoocent Registered Keeper of the vehicle with the genuine Number Plate. This will only increase as more road tolling and congestion charge schemes spread through the country, which is what the Department of Transport seems to be planning to encourage.

The Home Office press release cites two "case studies":

"In December 2003 during an ANPR operation, a CCTV camera registered a PNC hit on a 4x4 vehicle. The vehicle was suspected of using clone plates having previously gone through a speed camera in Surrey"

and also

"In June 2004, a Golf TDi drove through a check site and activated a PNC warning that the vehicle may be using false number plates"

When the ANPR system is made even more widespread, the chances ofa roadside patrol stopping and harrassing the innocent vehicle which the cloned or faked number plates are trying to throw suspicion on increases substantially.

If the criminals are also flagged as "Occupant suspected of possession of drugs" or "Occupant suspected of carrying Firearms", then this will be a potentially terryfying experience for the innocent driver of the vehicle, involving armed police officers and perhaps police dogs.

The current Operation Laser equipment only stores information locally within the roadside unit. However, function creep being what it is with IT projects, one can already detect the temptation for widespread automated database trawling in another of the "case studies". It is a short step on the road to hell from:

"A Mini Metro passed through an ANPR intercept site and showed as a hit on a local database. Intelligence suggested that this vehicle had been spotted the previous week in suspicious circumstances and that it was likely to be used by a gang of local shoplifters. The vehicle was stopped and checks made on the occupants"

to 24/7 ANPR linked to the CCTV systems in town centres, ports, airports etc. and to other ANPR systems like the UK Army's Glutton system (used to track vehicle movements to and from Northern Ireland), perhaps in conjunction with Trafficmaster being used to log the movements of the 30 million innocent vehicles over a period of time.

Once such ANPR systems start getting linked together, then the opportunities for corrupt or ideologically motivated police or civilians with access to the database to stalk or track potential victims is huge.

The Home Office report "Driving down crime" (170 page .pdf), which gives more details about the ANPR pilot schemes, also contains the worrying reccommendation to create yet another massive national database.

"There is a need for a national data warehouse to hold all vehicle intelligence to be read in real time by all ANPR users nationally. In turn, this data warehouse would also hold ANPR reads and hits as a further source of vehicle intelligence, providing great benefits to major crime and terrorism enquiries."

Even though this very same report criticises the innaccuracy of the Driver Vehicle Licesnsing Agency records, it assumes that somehow the same problems would not affect this new system.

Any increase in the use of ANPR by the Police must only happen within a framework of privacy checks and balances to protect the the innocent and must not become part of a generalised state surveillance system.

Festung Parliament - missing visitors' passes

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Officially, the Government claims not to comment on "security measures", even when doing so would not actually compromise security, but would just highlight an ongoing scandal which bureaucrats do not want to take the blame for.

An example of this is the question of Visitors' Passes to the Houses of Parliament raised as a Parliamentary Question:

Grey Visitor Passes
Norman Baker: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission (1) how many grey visitor passes have been issued to visitors to the parliamentary estate since they were introduced; [194316]

(2) how many grey visitor passes issued to visitors to the parliamentary estate have been lost since they were introduced; and what efforts have been made to recover them; [194317]

(3) what measures are in place to ensure that grey visitor passes issued to visitors to the parliamentary estate are successfully retrieved from visitors when they leave the parliamentary estate. [194318]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: It is not the practice of the House of Commons Commission to publish details of the operation of security arrangements on the parliamentary estate.2

However, the BBC reports that:

"Commons Confidential
By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

Daily despatches from the House of Commons
1230 BST 1 November

Security in the Commons has become so tight of late that not even the mice can get in without a pass and a body search. One of the most obvious changes has been the requirement for all visitors to wear passes around their necks with a large black V on them.

Trouble is, they have become sought-after souvenirs for tourists and other casual visitors.

So much so that it is believed up to half of them never get handed back, but simply go missing.

Surely there must be ways of getting them to self-destruct after a period of time!"

Where are the turnstyles ?

These do not have to be full height revolving door "man traps" if they are supervised, like the London Underground ticket barriers which are so familiar to most visitors to the Palace of Westminster.

What is the point of issuing passes if, during a security or fire alert or evacuation, nobody can tell exactly how many people might still be trapped inside the building ?

Even if, in the future, every visitor had to show Biometric ID cards or Passports to get a Visitor Pass, the basic security problem would remain.

About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog attempts to draw public attention to, and comments on, some of the current trends in ever cheaper and more widespread surveillance technology being deployed to satisfy the rapacious demand by state and corporate bureaucracies and criminals for your private details, and the technological ignorance of our politicians and civil servants who frame our legal systems.

The hope is that you the readers, will help to insist that strong safeguards for the privacy of the individual are implemented, especially in these times of increased alert over possible terrorist or criminal activity. If the systems which should help to protect us can be easily abused to supress our freedoms, then the terrorists will have won.

We know that there are decent, honest, trustworthy individual politicians, civil servants, law enforcement, intelligence agency personnel and broadcast, print and internet journalists etc., who often feel powerless or trapped in the system. They need the assistance of external, detailed, informed, public scrutiny to help them to resist deliberate or unthinking policies, which erode our freedoms and liberties.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email your views about this blog, or news about the issues it tries to comment on.


Our PGP public encryption key is available for those correspondents who wish to send us news or information in confidence, and also for those of you who value your privacy, even if you have got nothing to hide.

You can download a free copy of the PGP encryption software from
(available for most of the common computer operating systems, and also in various Open Source versions like GPG)

We look forward to the day when UK Government Legislation, Press Releases and Emails etc. are Digitally Signed under the HMG PKI Root Certificate hierarchy so that we can be assured that they are not fakes. Trusting that the digitally signed content makes any sense, is another matter entirely.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Dissidents

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link:

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

House of Lords Constitution Committee - Surveillance: Citizens and the State

House of Lords Constitution Committee 2008-2009 session - Second Report: Surveillance: Citizens and the State


Watching Them, Watching Us

London 2600

Our UK Freedom of Information Act request tracking blog - ethical and technical discussion about the project for anonymous mass leaking of documents etc.

Privacy and Security

Privacy International
Privacy and Human Rights Survey 2004

Cryptome - censored or leaked government documents etc.

Identity Project report by the London School of Economics
Surveillance & Society the fully peer-reviewed transdisciplinary online surveillance studies journal

Statewatch - monitoring the state and civil liberties in the European Union

The Policy Laundering Project - attempts by Governments to pretend their repressive surveillance systems, have to be introduced to comply with international agreements, which they themselves have pushed for in the first place

International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance

ARCH Action Rights for Children in Education - worried about the planned Children's Bill Database, Connexions Card, fingerprinting of children, CCTV spy cameras in schools etc.

Foundation for Information Policy Research
UK Crypto - UK Cryptography Policy Discussion Group email list

Technical Advisory Board on internet and telecomms interception under RIPA

European Digital Rights

Open Rights Group - a UK version of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a clearinghouse to raise digital rights and civil liberties issues with the media and to influence Governments.

Digital Rights Ireland - legal case against mandatory EU Comms Data Retention etc.

Blindside - "What’s going to go wrong in our e-enabled world? " blog and wiki and Quarterly Report will supposedly be read by the Cabinet Office Central Sponsor for Information Assurance. Whether the rest of the Government bureaucracy and the Politicians actually listen to the CSIA, is another matter.

Biometrics in schools - 'A concerned parent who doesn't want her children to live in "1984" type society.'

Human Rights

Liberty Human Rights campaigners

British Institute of Human Rights
Amnesty International

Prevent Genocide International

asboconcern - campaign for reform of Anti-Social Behavior Orders

Front Line Defenders - Irish charity - Defenders of Human Rights Defenders

Internet Censorship

OpenNet Initiative - researches and measures the extent of actual state level censorship of the internet. Features a blocked web URL checker and censorship map.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Reporters without Borders internet section - news of internet related censorship and repression of journalists, bloggers and dissidents etc.

Judicial Links

British and Irish Legal Information Institute - publishes the full text of major case Judgments

Her Majesty's Courts Service - publishes forthcoming High Court etc. cases (but only in the next few days !)

House of Lords - The Law Lords are currently the supreme court in the UK - will be moved to the new Supreme Court in October 2009.

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals under FOIA, DPA both for and against the Information Commissioner

Investigatory Powers Tribunal - deals with complaints about interception and snooping under RIPA - has almost never ruled in favour of a complainant.

Parliamentary Opposition

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

UK Government

Home Office - "Not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope, it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management systems and processes" - Home Secretary John Reid. 23rd May 2006. Not quite the fount of all evil legislation in the UK, but close.

No. 10 Downing Street Prime Minister's Official Spindoctors

Public Bills before Parliament

United Kingdom Parliament
Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.

House of Commons "Question Book"

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

FaxYourMP - identify and then fax your Member of Parliament
WriteToThem - identify and then contact your Local Councillors, members of devolved assemblies, Member of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament etc.
They Work For You - House of Commons Hansard made more accessible ? UK Members of the European Parliament

Read The Bills Act - USA proposal to force politicians to actually read the legislation that they are voting for, something which is badly needed in the UK Parliament.

Bichard Inquiry delving into criminal records and "soft intelligence" policies highlighted by the Soham murders. (taken offline by the Home Office)

ACPO - Association of Chief Police Officers - England, Wales and Northern Ireland
ACPOS Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland

Online Media

Boing Boing

Need To Know [now defunct]

The Register

NewsNow Encryption and Security aggregate news feed
KableNet - UK Government IT project news - UK eGovernment and public sector IT news
eGov Monitor

Ideal Government - debate about UK eGovernment

NIR and ID cards

Stand - email and fax campaign on ID Cards etc. [Now defunct]. The people who supported have gone on to set up other online tools like The Government's contemptuous dismissal of over 5,000 individual responses via the website to the Home Office public consultation on Entitlement Cards is one of the factors which later led directly to the formation of the the NO2ID Campaign who have been marshalling cross party opposition to Labour's dreadful National Identity Register compulsory centralised national biometric database and ID Card plans, at the expense of simpler, cheaper, less repressive, more effective, nore secure and more privacy friendly alternative identity schemes.

NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID bulletin board discussion forum

Home Office Identity Cards website
No compulsory national Identity Cards (ID Cards) BBC iCan campaign site
UK ID Cards blog
NO2ID press clippings blog
CASNIC - Campaign to STOP the National Identity Card.
Defy-ID active meetings and protests in Glasgow - New Alliance's ID Cards page - total rejection of any UK ID Card

International Civil Aviation Organisation - Machine Readable Travel Documents standards for Biometric Passports etc.
Anti National ID Japan - controversial and insecure Jukinet National ID registry in Japan
UK Biometrics Working Group run by CESG/GCHQ experts etc. the UK Government on Biometrics issues feasability
Citizen Information Project feasability study population register plans by the Treasury and Office of National Statistics - comments and links to each paragraph of the Home Office's "Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Scheme".

De-Materialised ID - "The voluntary alternative to material ID cards, A Proposal by David Moss of Business Consultancy Services Ltd (BCSL)" - well researched analysis of the current Home Office scheme, and a potentially viable alternative.

Surveillance Infrastructures

National Roads Telecommunications Services project - infrastruture for various mass surveillance systems, CCTV, ANPR, PMMR imaging etc.

CameraWatch - independent UK CCTV industry lobby group - like us, they also want more regulation of CCTV surveillance systems.

Every Step You Take a documentary about CCTV surveillance in the Uk by Austrian film maker Nino Leitner.

Transport for London an attempt at a technological panopticon - London Congestion Charge, London Low-Emission Zone, Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, tens of thousands of CCTV cameras on buses, thousands of CCTV cameras on London Underground, realtime road traffic CCTV, Iyster smart cards - all handed over to the Metropolitan Police for "national security" purposes, in real time, in bulk, without any public accountibility, for secret data mining, exempt from even the usual weak protections of the Data Protection Act 1998.

RFID Links

RFID tag privacy concerns - our own original article updated with photos

NoTags - campaign against individual item RFID tags
Position Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Products has been endorsed by a large number of privacy and human rights organisations.
RFID Privacy Happenings at MIT
Surpriv: RFID Surveillance and Privacy
RFID Scanner blog
RFID Gazette
The Sorting Door Project blog - where we sometimes crosspost RFID articles

Genetic Links

DNA Profiles - analysis by Paul Nutteing
GeneWatch UK monitors genetic privacy and other issues
Postnote February 2006 Number 258 - National DNA Database (.pdf) - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

The National DNA Database Annual Report 2004/5 (.pdf) - published by the NDNAD Board and ACPO.

Eeclaim Your DNA from Britain's National DNA Database - model letters and advice on how to have your DNA samples and profiles removed from the National DNA Database,in spite of all of the nureacratic obstacles which try to prevent this, even if you are innocent.

Miscellanous Links

Michael Field - Pacific Island news - no longer a paradise - John Gilmore versus USA internal flight passports and passenger profiling etc.

The BUPA Seven - whistleblowers badly let down by the system.

Tax Credit Overpayment - the near suicidal despair inflicted on poor, vulnerable people by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown's disasterous Inland Revenue IT system.

Fassit UK - resources and help for those abused by the Social Services Childrens Care bureaucracy

Former Spies

MI6 v Tomlinson - Richard Tomlinson - still being harassed by his former employer MI6

Martin Ingram, Welcome To The Dark Side - former British Army Intelligence operative in Northern Ireland.

Operation Billiards - Mitrokhin or Oshchenko ? Michael John Smith - seeking to overturn his Official Secrets Act conviction in the GEC case.

The Dirty Secrets of MI5 & MI6 - Tony Holland, Michael John Smith and John Symond - stories and chronologies.

Naked Spygirl - Olivia Frank

Blog Links blog - Comments on IT security and Privacy or the lack thereof.
Rat's Blog -The Reverend Rat writes about London street life and technology
Duncan Drury - wired adventures in Tanzania & London
Dr. K's blog - Hacker, Author, Musician, Philosopher

David Mery - falsely arrested on the London Tube - you could be next.

James Hammerton
White Rose - a thorn in the side of Big Brother
Big Blunkett
Into The Machine - formerly "David Blunkett is an Arse" by Charlie Williams and Scribe
infinite ideas machine - Phil Booth
Louise Ferguson - City of Bits
Chris Lightfoot
Oblomovka - Danny O'Brien

Liberty Central

dropsafe - Alec Muffett
The Identity Corner - Stefan Brands
Kim Cameron - Microsoft's Identity Architect
Schneier on Security - Bruce Schneier
Politics of Privacy Blog - Andreas Busch
solarider blog

Richard Allan - former Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam
Boris Johnson Conservative MP for Henley
Craig Murray - former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, "outsourced torture" whistleblower

Howard Rheingold - SmartMobs
Global Guerrillas - John Robb
Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends

Vmyths - debunking computer security hype

Nick Leaton - Random Ramblings
The Periscope - Companion weblog to journalist network.
The Practical Nomad Blog Edward Hasbrouck on Privacy and Travel
Policeman's Blog
World Weary Detective

Martin Stabe
B2fxxx - Ray Corrigan
Matt Sellers
Grits for Breakfast - Scott Henson in Texas
The Green Ribbon - Tom Griffin
Guido Fawkes blog - Parliamentary plots, rumours and conspiracy.
The Last Ditch - Tom Paine
The (e)State of Tim - Tim Hicks
Ilkley Against CCTV
Tim Worstall
Bill's Comment Page - Bill Cameron
The Society of Qualified Archivists
The Streeb-Greebling Diaries - Bob Mottram

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke - Freedom off Information campaigning journalist

Ministry of Truth _ Unity's V for Vendetta styled blog.

Bloggerheads - Tim Ireland

W. David Stephenson blogs on homeland security et al.
EUrophobia - Nosemonkey

Blogzilla - Ian Brown

BlairWatch - Chronicling the demise of the New Labour Project

dreamfish - Robert Longstaff

Informaticopia - Rod Ward


The Musings of Harry

Chicken Yoghurt - Justin McKeating

The Red Tape Chronicles - Bob Sullivan MSNBC

Campaign Against the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Stop the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Rob Wilton's esoterica

panGloss - Innovation, Technology and the Law

Arch Rights - Action on Rights for Children blog

Database Masterclass - frequently asked questions and answers about the several centralised national databases of children in the UK.


Moving On

Steve Moxon blog - former Home Office whistleblower and author.

Al-Muhajabah's Sundries - anglophile blog

Architectures of Control in Design - Dan Lockton

rabenhorst - Kai Billen (mostly in German)

Nearly Perfect Privacy - Tiffany and Morpheus

Iain Dale's Diary - a popular Conservative political blog

Brit Watch - Public Surveillance in the UK - Web - Email - Databases - CCTV - Telephony - RFID - Banking - DNA

BLOGDIAL - smart mobile phone forensics, information security, computer security and digital forensics by a couple of Australian researchers

Ralph Bendrath

Financial Cryptography - Ian Grigg et al.

UK Liberty - A blog on issues relating to liberty in the UK

Big Brother State - "a small act of resistance" to the "sustained and systematic attack on our personal freedom, privacy and legal system"

HosReport - "Crisis. Conspiraciones. Enigmas. Conflictos. Espionaje." - Carlos Eduardo Hos (in Spanish)

"Give 'em hell Pike!" - Frank Fisher

Corruption-free Anguilla - Good Governance and Corruption in Public Office Issues in the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla in the West Indies - Don Mitchell CBE QC

geeklawyer - intellectual property, civil liberties and the legal system

PJC Journal - I am not a number, I am a free Man - The Prisoner

Charlie's Diary - Charlie Stross

The Caucus House - blog of the Chicago International Model United Nations

Famous for 15 Megapixels

Postman Patel

The 4th Bomb: Tavistock Sq Daniel's 7:7 Revelations - Daniel Obachike

OurKingdom - part of OpenDemocracy - " will discuss Britain’s nations, institutions, constitution, administration, liberties, justice, peoples and media and their principles, identity and character"

Beau Bo D'Or blog by an increasingly famous digital political cartoonist.

Between Both Worlds - "Thoughts & Ideas that Reflect the Concerns of Our Conscious Evolution" - Kingsley Dennis

Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair - the rich Uzbek businessman and his shyster lawyers Schillings really made a huge counterproductive error in trying to censor the blogs of Tim Ireland, of all people.

Matt Wardman political blog analysis

Henry Porter on Liberty - a leading mainstream media commentator and opinion former who is doing more than most to help preserve our freedom and liberty.

HMRC is shite - "dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of the HMRC, who have to endure the monumental shambles that is Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)."

Head of Legal - Carl Gardner a former legal advisor to the Government

The Landed Underclass - Voice of the Banana Republic of Great Britain

Henrik Alexandersson - Swedish blogger threatened with censorship by the Försvarets Radioanstalt (FRA), the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishement, their equivalent of the UK GCHQ or the US NSA.

World's First Fascist Democracy - blog with link to a Google map - "This map is an attempt to take a UK wide, geographical view, of both the public and the personal effect of State sponsored fear and distrust as seen through the twisted technological lens of petty officials and would be bureaucrats nationwide."

Blogoir - Charles Crawford - former UK Ambassodor to Poland etc.

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

Lords of the Blog - group blog by half a dozen or so Peers sitting in the House of Lords.

notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society - blog by Dr. David Murakami Wood, editor of the online academic journal Surveillance and Society

Justin Wylie's political blog

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia


Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at

RIPA Consultations

RIPA Part III consultation blog - Government access to Encrypted Information and Encryption Keys.

RIPA Part I Chapter II consultation blog - Government access and disclosure of Communications Traffic Data

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Please bear in mind the many recent, serious security vulnerabilities which have compromised the Twitter infrastructure and many user accounts, and Twitter's inevitable plans to make money out of you somehow, probably by selling your Communications Traffic Data to commercial and government interests.

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

intelligence_gov_uk_150.gif - Cabinet Office hosted portal website to various UK Intelligence Agencies and UK Government intelligence committees and Commissioners etc.

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protestClimate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

syf_logo_120.gif Secure Your Ferliliser logo
Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

cpni_logo_150.gif Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

SIS MI6 careers_logo_sis.gif
Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

Serious Organised Crime Agency - have cut themselves off from direct contact with the public and businesses - no phone - no email

Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

netcu_logo_150.gif National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit
National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit - keeps a watch on animal extremists, genetically modified crop protesters, peace protesters etc.
(some people think that the word salad of acronyms means that NETCU is a spoof website)

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid_150.jpg - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

Amnesty International's campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV


I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !


Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign


Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."


Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme