Home Office paper "Liberty and Security - Striking the Right Balance" - Retention of telecommunications traffic data

| | Comments (2)

Our somewhat lengthy comments on Part 1 of the Home Office paper to the EU Parliament - "Liberty and Security - Striking the Right Balance" -
Retention of telecommunications traffic data:

Right from the start, this section of the paper attempts to blur and confuse exactly what "Data Retention" is, presumably in the hope that the Members of the European Parliament and the public will fail to understand the difference between legal Communications Data Traffic Analysis, of say, mobile phone itemised bills, which are currently available to the authorities, and the proposals to retain such data well beyond the time that they would normally have been deleted or anonymised, in accordance with the necessary principles of Data Protection, which are the law in most European Union countries.

As the EDRI-gram analysis of this section of the Paper points out:

"While Watkin promised the indignant MEPs that the UK Presidency would present a major new study into the effectiveness and viability of the measures the next day, the disappointment was enormous when the UK presidency paper was finally released. In stead of scientific research into the need and benefits of data retention in Europe, as urgently requested by the LIBE members, the paper is a thin narrative with some emotional examples of the use of traffic data in police investigations."

In other words, a typical NuLabour Home Office policy document, an embarrassment to the UK public in front of our European neighbours.

"The study mentions 4 examples of the use of traffic data, all of which seem to fall within a 3 months framework. All these data should thus have been available by the telephony companies for their own purposes irrespective of any law on data retention."

The statement on the retention of Internet Data are surprising, and it contradicts ome of the examples given.

Where is the quantitative research on how long serious criminals or terrorists keep using their old mobile phones / old mobile phone numbers ?

There is no estimate of the huge costs that would be required to securely access and search the huge amount of retained data, which seems to be planned. This is not free, and it easily costs more than the raw data storage.

Retention of telecommunications traffic data


  • Retained communication data has been crucial in unravelling terrorist networks and solving serious crimes.

  • That will remain the case because terrorists and serious criminals have little choice but to communicate by phone or internet.

  • In the UK, over half of all data requirements in terrorist investigations are for data over six months old.

  • Only data generated or processed for business purposes is retained, so the extra cost for business is associated solely with keeping data for longer than it otherwise would be.

  • The UK experience is that these costs are modest: £875 000 for one major mobile network.

  • In the case of the internet, the requirement is to retain information about log-ins and log-outs alone.

Mobile phones and e-mails have a central role in the daily lives of people in the EU. For many of us they are indispensable tools in life. Sadly, the same is true for criminals. However, the technology that makes it easier for them to carry out their criminality can also be their downfall. The information that is automatically generated when they use their phones, mobiles and the internet can be as useful to those investigating crime as the physical DNA or fingerprints that can be left at the crime scene. Of course, it can also be used to corroborate alibis. In the UK it is an essential tool for investigating serious crime and is being used to find those behind the bomb attacks in London.

What is it?

Communications traffic data is the information that is generated automatically when their services are used; including information about where on a network a communication originates or terminates, the devices through which the communication is made and received and about the time the communication is made.

The service providers need this information themselves for legitimate business reasons enabling communications and managing their networks, for fraud detection and revenue collection. They currently keep differing sorts of data for different lengths of time. For example, information required simply for enabling the communication is not required by the provider immediately; data about network management is needed a little longer; and for fraud detection and revenue collection longer still. The periods of time that the information is kept for these purposes varies from provider to provider as they are all currently deleted as soon as they have outgrown that provider’s business need. An example of the data collected is attached to this paper.

How is it used?

Communications data can assist an enquiry by providing a link between people, times and places which may lead to the identification of witnesses, forensic opportunities or the criminal’s financial assets. Drug and people traffickers conduct much of their business through the use of communication services and there are instances when mobile telephones have been used to detonate bombs. The ability to trace to whom a phone is registered, what calls were made, when and where they were made, whether answered or unanswered, means investigators can establish or refute certain events leading to a crime and the individuals associated with it. Terrorists and many serious criminals have already been brought to justice in the UK and other countries with the help of retained data.

Over half of the 30 million or so mobile phones in the UK use pre-paid SIM cards, and most of these are either not registered, or are registered in the wrong person's name , perfectly legitimately e.g. when they are given to other family members as presents.

In Sweden, a bomb threat was made to police by e-mail that a bomb had been placed at Stockholm Central Station. Using logs of the allocation of IP addresses retained by an Internet Service Provider, the source of the e-mail was traced to a public library in Stockholm. The library staff was able to provide information to the police that enabled the identification of the offender.

Did the Swedish Police really wait 12 months before investigating a bomb threat against their own Police HQ the largest Railway Station in the country ? It is likely that their investigation used current business data, not Retained Data.

According to the paragraph on Internet Data in this paper, the proposal would actually prevent this form of analysis of emails and of IP address data for Retained Data !

Why do we need a European model?

Most people acknowledge that in our globalised world cross-border crime is more prevalent than before. All of us agree that greater international co-operation is needed to tackle the problem.

However, as explained above, even within countries different service providers retain data for different lengths of time and so the ability of law enforcement to investigate serious crime is determined by the business practices of the particular service provider that a suspect, victim or witness of crime happens to use or have used.

And with different practices across the EU this element of chance is magnified even further. We are still in the relatively early stages of the investigation into the London bombings but it is clear already that there are international links that may lead to those who encouraged and supported the attacks. Fortunately Italy retains this information for as long as the UK does but should we really have to rely on chance?

The tracking of the terrorist suspect accused of being one of the July 21st failed bomb attackers through Italy to Rome, is an example of real time or near real time, targetted Communications Data analysis.

This is not evidence for Data Retention of every innocent persons data for 12 months over and above the period of time which the Mobile Phone Companies keep their logs files for normal business purposes.

In at least one case in the UK, the ability of the police and intelligence agencies to identify a terrorist network on the basis of an initial lead has depended on access to retained telecommunications data which revealed links between individuals otherwise invisible to investigators.

How many of these links were revealed from the current business data, and how many were revealed by analysis of 12 month or older retained data ?

This appears to be another deliberate confusion of "Data Retention" with "Communications Data Reaffic Analysis of data held for current business purposes".

The draft Framework Decision would provide a legal basis for retention of specified data for the purpose of investigation, detection and prosecution of crime and terrorism. It would provide clarity for the telecommunications providers, law enforcement and safeguards for the public.

It absolutely does not provide any clarity !

This Home Office paper only adds to the confusion.

What safeguards for the public ?

  • 10 years in prison for the misuse of retained communications data ?
  • The forced resignation of the politiicans nominally in charge of the organisations who allow such abuse to occur ?
  • Financial compensation the for unecessary invasions of privacy of individuals ?

If there were safeguards along those lines, then we might be convinced, but there are none, so we are still sceptical.

In the UK a suspect was eliminated from a murder investigation with unsuccessful call data. He gave evidence that he did not know the victim was dead and had, in fact been, calling her all day. His mobile phone call records showed no calls to the victim (because no calls to her had incurred a charge). The mobile phone company did not keep a record of connected-unanswered calls.

However because calls from a mobile to a landline will pass via the cheapest route, they can be present on another provider’s interconnectivity records, which incur a charge (from one provider to another) and thus a record is generated. Communications data evidence showed 27 connected-unanswered calls between the suspects’s mobile and the victim’s landline, corroborating the man's explanation and eliminating him from enquiries.

What a peculiar example ! If the only record of the mobile phone calls was through the interconnect billing record, rhen this does not have any Mobile Phone Cell ID Location Data in it either.

How does this establish an alibi ? The suspect could have been using his mobile phone from right beside the murder victim !

None of the previous, more detailed "shopping lists" for telecommunications Communications Data Retention have included interconnectivity records between telecomms providers.

Presumably this "alibi" was investigated using the existing records kept as part of the normal business procedures.

How many times has "Communications Data" been used to corroborate an alibi, rather than to put someone under suspicion ?

Again, this is not evidence for Data Retention of 12 months over and above the period of time which the Phone Companies keep their logs files for normal business purposes.


In the UK telecommunications data is used to investigate serious crimes. IT is also only used proportionally. Law-enforcement targets their requests for access to data as required by the investigation. For example initially they may only ask for data collected on the day or in the vicinity of a murder. In the case of a terrorist attack they will seek a larger amount of data for a bigger area. In each case the request must be proportionate to the investigation. This is however only possible if the data is retained by the service provider.

Where are the safeguards to prevent "fishing expeditions" or "trawling of databases" via "data warehousing" technology ?

Why 12 months?

Presumably because the Home Office has failed over and over again to make out any believable case for a longer period of retention ?

Concerns have been expressed that retaining data for 12 months or longer is excessive. But data is often needed that is over 6 months old. Examples from Ireland make clear that data that is significantly older is sometimes used. A recent study of the requirements for disclosure of data made by the police in the UK established that the majority of data required (85%) was less than six months old. However, where data between 7 and 12 months old was required, it was used to investigate the most serious crimes, mostly murder.

These statistics are of no value, unless the Home Office also publishes how many of the "requirements for disclosure of data"
actually lead to major lines of inquiry, and were not simply "fishing expeditions" or "clutching at straws" guesses.

That is for two reasons: firstly, the nature of the crimes may mean that the culprits do more to conceal their tracks so a crime (and therefore a suspect) may not come to light for weeks or months – for example where a dead body is only found months after a murder has taken place. In such circumstances investigators need to be able to look back in time to establish with who that victim may have been in contact at the time of death.

The attempted or sometimes successful, concealment of the very fact that a crime has been committed, is something which has goimg on since the dawn of history.

Mandatory Retention of Communications Traffic Data will do nothing to prevent that.

Secondly, in such crimes there will always be an expectation that such investigations will exhaust every line of enquiry and will run for longer, and that the acquisition of older data will be proportionate to the aim of detecting such offences.

Really ? So no stone remains unturned when it comes to invesigating old or even ancient crimes ? These investigations are allocated more resources than current crimes ?

Perhaps in some distopian police state, but not where we the taxpaying public have to fund such investigations, they are not.

In 2002 an aggravated burglary took place in a UK city. Over the following months similar offences occurred across the same city. In each instance the victims were elderly single people or couples, who were tied up, assaulted and robbed of cash, valuables and credit cards. As the series of offences progressed the investigators wanted to determine if any mobile phone could be identified as being in the vicinity of more than one of the offences. This line of enquiry was rejected three times by the senior investigating officer as disproportionate to the offences then under investigation.

The victim of the ninth burglary died three months after being assaulted. By the time of her death at least fourteen offences were linked together and an offence of manslaughter was being investigated. This made the investigation of mobile phone location data and the acquisition of private communications data more proportionate to the aim of detecting the offenders.

Mobile phone data was obtained which proved links between the offences. Because data from the time of the earliest burglaries had been deleted evidence of the full extent of the criminality was lost. Several arrests have been made.

This is not a valid argument for Data Retention !

Most people will be puzzled why the first violent "aggravated burglary" was not treated as a Serious Crime, i.e. one defined under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000,

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2001 section 81 (3) General Interpretation appears to already allow both Communications Data and actual Phone Intereptions to be applied for where crimes of violence are concerned.

    "(3) Those tests are- (a) that the offence or one of the offences that is or would be constituted by the conduct is an offence for which a person who has attained the age of twenty-one and has no previous convictions could reasonably be expected to be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years or more; (b) that the conduct involves the use of violence, results in substantial financial gain or is conduct by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose."
Why isn’t intercepting their telecommunications sufficient?

Interception of telecommunications plays a very important part in tackling crime in the United Kingdom. However, it relies on suspicion in advance of a criminal act. It is entirely possible, with all the resources the UK has put in to tackling terrorism, for people who are completely unknown to the authorities to commit the most heinous acts. In other crimes there may be very little pre-meditation before the crime.

Yes, and how exactly would Data Retention be of any use against terrorists who are "completely unknown" ?

Note how the Home Office paper glosses over the peculiar situation in the UK where "interception of communications" is forbidden by law, from being used as evidence in court, it can only be used for "intelligence" - a situtation which astonishes most of the other European Union countries.

Won’t they use other means of communicating?

In the future some criminals and terrorists will adapt their use of technology to make the retention of this data a less important tool for investigators. However, with the current level of communications technology, this data is a necessary part of many investigations as it is difficult for terrorists and criminals to communicate without using the telephone or internet.

Rubbish ! Criminals and terrorists have always communicated face to face, and will continue to do so in the future.


Experience in the UK and Ireland is that the costs associated with the retention of communications data are not excessive. For example, in its biggest project to date the UK Government is working with a national mobile phone network which represents a substantial share of the UK market and which presently retains all of its traffic data for two days. This data has a high degree of detail which can be valuable to investigators and includes outgoing and incoming answered and unanswered calls together with details of the geographical location of mobile equipment. After two days some of the data is retained for billing purposes and some is normally destroyed.

Following discussion with the UK Government the mobile phone network is proposing to retain all the data for 12 months. The total cost of doing so and providing a tool to retrieve specific data is £875,000 (€1.2m) and the UK Government is funding this project.

We must be told which UK Mobile phone Network is proposing to contravene the Data Protection Act 1998 in this way, by not obtaining the informed prior consent of each of its individual customers, to retain and to process personal data which is no longer required for business purposes.

We shall be asking the Home Office, and if necessary the Information Commissioner, OfComm the telecomms industry Regulator and the individual Mobile Phone Networks, if necessary.

Whichever of the Mobile Phone networks it is, they will by virtue of this scheme with the Home Office, be acting as Public Authorities and will therefore come under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Note that the "cost" figure appears to be simply for the cost of the data storage.

The true cost of accessng such data securely and proportionately, and with a proper audit trail and checking of authorisations, will be many times this.

A Ghanaian national whose family owned what was described as a 'gold-field' came to London to sell a sample of gold. His contacts decided not to buy. The Ghanaian then went to the Netherlands for the same purpose. He was kidnapped, apparently at Schipol Airport, and a ransom demand was made to his family in Ghana, in the sum of £500,000.

The family reported the ransom to police in Ghana who contacted the UK police. The UK and Dutch authorities co-operated with the investigation. After four days there had been no contact from the hostage for more than 24 hours and the UK police were contacted to help identify the hostage’s London contact. With the hostage’s life at risk it was proportionate to seek relevant traffic data and the UK police identified a high frequency of calls from a hotel payphone to a Belgian mobile and to the family of the hostage in Ghana.

The Belgian mobile belonged to those guarding the hostage. Enquiries led the Belgian authorities to the place where the hostage was being held. He was rescued, having suffered severe torture. Arrests were made in Liege and in London.

How would retaining data for a year have helped in this case ?

Surely all the Communications Traffic Data Analysis took place on current business records, at the very most a week old ?

This is another example of, presumably deliberately, confusing "Data Retention" with "Communications Data Traffic Analysis of Current business data records".

For such a significant source of evidence these costs are not considered excessive for government or law-enforcement when set against other costs involved in pursuing criminals or terrorists.

In the UK our police can and do pay for communications data. In a typical murder case they may spend approx £50,000 (€72 400) on communications data, this rises to approx £500,000 (€724 000) for a terrorist investigation. This is a relatively small amount of their law enforcement budget and is not expensive when compared to other costs such as forensics: in a murder case forensics can exceed £500,000 (€724 000) and to forensically examine one cigarette end will cost the police approx £800 (€1158).

Internet data

We recognise the difficulty of retaining large amounts of internet traffic data and it is not the aim of the Framework Decision to require industry to retain this data. The Framework Decision only requires industry to retain information on when and where an individual logs-on and logs off the internet which will require substantially fewer resources.

On the face of it, this is an astonishing climbdown by the UK Home Office.

The misguided European Union plans for Data retention talked of 3 years retention with no distinctions being made between different types of internet data protocols and log files.

The UK's own Voluntary Code of Practice Appendix A (,pdf) under Part 11 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001:

    "EMAIL DATA 6 months e.g. Log-on (authentication user name, date and time of log-in/log-off, IP address logged-in from) Sent email (authentication user name, from/to/cc email addresses, date and time sent) Received email (authentication user name, from/to email addresses, date and time received)

    ISP DATA 6 months
    e.g. Log-on (authentication user name, date and time of log-in/log-off, IP address
    Dial-up: CLI and number dialled
    Always-on: ADSL end point/MAC address (If available)

    e.g. Proxy server logs (date/time, IP address used, URL’s visited, services)
    The data types here will be restricted solely to Communications Data and exclude content of communication. This will mean that storage under this code can only take place to the level of www.homeoffice.gov.uk/……."

Can it really be true that Internet usage, using many and various data protocols, will be virtually exempt from this Data Retention scheme ?

It appears to contradict the "Swedish bomb threat by email and IP address" example given above, in the unlikely event that the Swedish Police waited for several months to try to track down a bomb threat against their own Police HQ.

What use is "when and where an individual logs-on and logs off the internet" when so much of the Internet activity in the UK now involves "always on" broadband services, and via GPRS and 3GPP mobile phones, WiFi wireless local/wide area networks etc. ?

Does the sneaky wording including the word "individual" hide an attempt to force some sort of repressive Communist Chinese crackdown on cyber cafés and registration or licensing and identification of individual internet users ?

Such a scheme would obviously also be totally impracticable, but that is no barrier to the panopticon fantasies which seem to surround the topic of Data Retention in the corridors of the Home Office and the European Union.

Zero data calls

Unconnected calls are not included within the scope of the Framework Decision. Connected but unanswered calls are included within the scope because these can be signals to accomplices or used as a way of detonating explosives. The data call record attached shows some unconnected calls.

If a mobile phone is used as a bomb detonator, rather than just as a source of a cheap electonic timing device, as in the Madrid bombings, then the detonation phone call could come from anywhere in the world, i.e. outside the European Union

Surely any bomb explosion will be investigated on the day of the explosion and not 12 months or more later ?

How will mandatory Data Retention of the personal data of the European Union's 450 million people's help at all ?

Completely innocent "zero data calls" happen all the time.

How are investigators meant to magically distinguish between a "subliminal channel" "wait for 3 rings and then start the next phase of the crime" type message, and a normal mobile phone "uncompleted call" caused by network traffic congestion etc ?

They would need access to, and the analytical skills to interpret even temporary local problems at every single Mobile Phone Cell base Station transmitter, and fixed line telephone exchange and to retain a history of all of these for the data retention period.

Various telecomms industry bodies have expressed fears over the costs of implementing this "zero data call" requirement.

Data Protection

The UK understands the data protection concerns around this issue and there is absolutely no doubt that when data is retained by a service provider it must be stored securely.

Under the Framework Decision neither the police nor any public authority will have unrestricted access to the retained data. This will be governed by national law. Of course, they will only be permitted access for the reasons set out Framework Decision in the Directive, namely the investigation, detection and prosecution of crime.

Rules on access are regulated at a national level and police and other authorities will therefore have to meet the national standards to access private information.

The Presidency agrees that further clarity on the data protection rules relating to the third pillar would be helpful and we look forward to the Commission producing a proposal on data protection in the third pillar later this year.

What safeguards are there to prevent a Police or intelligence agency or even a private sector consultancy or subscontractoe from regularly submitting repeated piecemeal requests, which result in a cloned copy of the Retained Data, which is not destroyed or anonymised after even the 12 month Data Retention period ?

What is there to prevent such data being transferred to another European Union country or even outside of the EU, e.g. the USA or Russia, where our Data Protection laws do not apply ? Nothing, and it is increasingly likely thatthis will happen under the various "anti-terrorism" data sharing plans that Home Secretary Charles Clarke was alluding to in his Introduction to this paper and his speech during which he stressed some of the points in this paper.

[Simplified fake example of a Call Data Record omitted for brevity]

We note, as do other people who have actually worked with mobile phone data, such as the fourth place blog, this alleged example of a Call Data Record seems to be rather sparse, compared with real ones.

Data retention inconsistancies

"Slugging through this data retention proposal I see an example of a call data record with these fields:

Date & Time Of Call
Calling MSISDN
Video Call flag
SMS event flag
Record Type (e.g. mobile originated, unanswered etc)
Duration In Seconds

Suffice to say that this portrayal of a CDR is very much simpilified. The seven fields given here are actually more like 30 to 50 fields. I notice there is a video call flag, so this is could be the "3" network. I also notice that there is no cell ID field in the example"

Compare and contrast this with the earlier United Kingdom Home Office proposal for voluntary data retention here in the UK:

Voluntary Code of Practice Appendix A (,pdf) under Part 11 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001

"APPENDIX A Data retention: expansion of data categories


(From end of subscription/last change)
Subscriber details relating to the person
e.g. Name, date of birth, installation and billing address, payment methods,
account/credit card details

Contact information (information held about the subscriber but not verified
by the CSP) e.g. Telephone number, email
address Identity of services subscribed to (information determined by the
communication service provider)
e.g. Customer reference/account number,

list of services subscribed to

Telephony: telephone number(s), IMEI, IMSI(s)

Email: email address(es), IP at registration

Instant messaging: Internet Message Handle, IP at registration

ISP - dial-in: Log-in, CLI at registration (if kept)

ISP - always-on: Unique identifiers, MAC address (if kept), ADSL end points,
IP tunnel address


e.g. All numbers (or other identifiers e.g. name@bt) associated with call (e.g.
physical/presentational/network assigned CLI, DNI, IMSI, IMEI, exchange/divert

Date and time of start of call

Duration of call/date and time of end of call

Type of call (if available)

Location data at start and/or end of call, in form of lat/long reference.

Cell site data from time cell ceases to be used.


For GPRS & 3G, date and time of connection, IMSI, IP address assigned.

Mobile data exchanged with foreign operators; IMSI & MSISDN, sets of GSM
triples, sets of 3G quintuples, global titles of equipment communicating with or about the subscriber.

SMS, EMS and MMS DATA 6 months
e.g. Calling number, IMEI

Called number, IMEI

Date and time of sending

Delivery receipt - if available

Location data when messages sent and received, in form of lat/long reference."

Some of this, especially the sets of GSM
triples, sets of 3G quintuples i.e. the cryptographic keys which also protect the confidentiality of the conversations or data messages over the air, goes well beyond the equivalent landline telephone itemised billing.

Are you really convinced by this paper, through which the UK Home Office seeks to influence the European Parliament into accepting its controversial plans for Data Retention ?

If not, the you may wish to sign the online Data Retention is No Solution online petition, urging the European Parliament to reject these illegal, invasive, disproportionate and ineffective European Union wide Mandatory Data Retention plans.


Stockholm Central Station is accually the central RAILWAY station, not a police station.

@ Marcus - thanks for the correction - the point about Current Business Data, rather than Retained Data still stands though, as any bomb threat to a Railway Station reported to the Police should have been dealt with as much speed and vigour as one against a a Police Station.

Leave a comment

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 www.pgpi.org
(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: http://ht4w.co.uk

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

WikiLeak.org - ethical and technical discussion about the WikiLeaks.org 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
PublicTechnology.net - 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 stand.org.uk have gone on to set up other online tools like WriteToThem.com. The Government's contemptuous dismissal of over 5,000 individual responses via the stand.org 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
www.idcards-uk.info - New Alliance's ID Cards page
irefuse.org - 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

CommentOnThis.com - 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

RFIDBuzz.com 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
freetotravel.org - 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

e-nsecure.net 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 Euro-correspondent.com 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


MySecured.com - 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 http://nuclear-weapons.info

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

Syndicate this site (XML):

Follow Spy Blog on Twitter

For those of you who find it convenient, there is now a Twitter feed to alert you to new Spy Blog postings.


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.

Recent Comments

  • wtwu: @ Marcus - thanks for the correction - the point read more
  • Marcus: Stockholm Central Station is accually the central RAILWAY station, not read more


Monthly Archives

November 2010

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30        

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 - 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.com - 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 irrepressible.info 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