Recently in Communications Data Bill Category

Pending the publication of the RIPA Commissioners' Annual Reports, which might possibly be online on Tuesday or Wednesday, we would like to remind journalists, broadcasters and bloggers etc. not to confuse the meaningless statistics on the number of Communications Data requests (hundreds of thousands ? How many Subscriber Details, how many Location Data request, how many full Communications Traffic Data history requests ?) , with the meaningless statistics about the number of electronic communications Interception Warrants and Certificates (a couple of thousand ?).

A single Warrant or Certificate supposedly signed personally (except when it isn't) by the Home Secretary or the Foreign Secretary, might authorise mass snooping on multiple targets, or on, all transatlantic cable traffic etc.

  • How many RIPA PArt III section 49 notices for cryptographic de-cryption keys or de-crypted plain text have there been in the last year ?

  • Will there be any more criticism of the lack of a legal basis for the vast Automatic Number Plate Recognition national database ?

  • Following the various Police fishing expeditions in Parliament against MPs and their constituents correspondence and emails, what about the Wilson Doctrine ?

Meanwhile, you might wish to read some detailed documents (in English), which describe how Lawful Interception of mobile phone and broadband internet communications is done in Switzerland.

Unlike the United Kingdom (which relies on potentially easily faked plaintext emails and callback telephone numbers) , the Swiss mandate the use of OpenPGP strong encryption and digital signing of emails, and of encrypted OpenVPN virtual private networks for handling their Lawful Intercept requests, authorisations and data.

Why can't we the British public, be absolutely sure that something like this, or better, is done as standard here in the UK ?

See the documents published by Die Wochenzeitung (WOZ) weekly newspaper:

The use of Strong Encryption is not, of itself, a magical panacea, but it should be the routine, normal, standard practice, for any professional, competent, trustworthy organisation with access to privacy or security sensitive data.

The Labour Government, fearful of by-election results, public opinion polls, the media, the Opposition and some of its own backbenchers, has reduced the amount of time available for Parliamentary scrutiny and "Westminster Village" media interest, by sneakily and unnecessarily extending the Summer Recess from the end of business this Tuesday 21st July until Tuesday 13th October i.e. 3 months

Presumably there will be a splurge of Government announcements and media spin rushed out before Tuesday, which will attempt to divert attention from the Regulation of Invesigatory Powers ACt 2000 Commissioners' Annual Reports:

HC Deb, 16 July 2009, c77WS

Chief Surveillance Commissioner, Interception of Communications Commissioner and Intelligence Service

Prime Minister

Written answers and statements, 16 July 2009

Gordon Brown (Prime Minister, No Department; Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, Labour)

I can announce to the House that I have arranged for the annual reports of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Christopher Rose, HC 704, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Paul Kennedy, HC 901, and the Intelligence Services Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Peter Gibson, HC 902, to be laid before both Houses on Tuesday 21 July 2009.

This is the first time that publication of any of these RIPA Annual Reports has been pre-announced.

This will also be the first time that they have all been published on the same day.

N.B. these Reports are for the previous calendar year so they are already over six months out of date..

Given how short, and lacking in specific detail these reports usually are, they all should have been published in January.

Will the details of these Reports have been leaked and briefed to this weekend's newspapers, or will they have been successfully buried ?

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) established, for the first time in the UK, a comprehensive regulatory system to govern the use of a range of investigatory techniques, some of which had been used without any statutory regulations or safeguards for decades. RIPA set out clear parameters within which these techniques could be used, and established an independent oversight regime and an independent complaints tribunal.

This publication of heavily censored Annual reports, by RIPA Commissioners who have no budget and little inclination to independently investigate complaints by members of the public, should not be mistaken for proper transparency and democratic accountability.

The Home Office is now in the process of reviewing the statutory codes of practice on covert surveillance and property interference, and on covert human intelligence sources. It has recently completed a public consultation exercise on the revised codes of practice, and on all public authorities able to use certain techniques regulated in RIPA, the ranks at which those techniques can be authorised, and the purposes for which they can be used. The Government will shortly table statutory instruments giving Parliament the opportunity to debate a range of proposed revisions to the RIPA framework, following this consultation exercise.

Spy Blog has submitted some thoughts to the Home Office in response to the Public Consultation which closed on 10tth July.

N>B. There is still time to submit your responses to the other RIPA Consultation, which closes this coming Monday 20th July 2009:

Protecting the public in a changing communications environment

However, on past performance, this Government simply cannot be trusted to change their pre-set policies as a result of the responses they get from the public.

The previous official 12 week Public Consultation of RIPA Codes of Practice, back in 2006 was notable for the Statutory Instrument which was introduced halfway through the consultation period, and which came into legal force 3 days before the 12 week consultation period finished, making an utter mockery of the whole process.

This put into force the Government's favoured option on one of the Questions upon which the public was supposedly being consulted on (about about using Communications Traffic Data to identify dead or incapacitated people)


Remember that Statutory Instruments can, in theory be debated, but this is done on a "take it or leave it" basis, with no chance of making any amendments.

Backbench Members of the House of Commons have consistently failed to properly scrutinise the thousands of such Statutory Instruments, and they always get rubberstamped into law, even when their length and complexity exceeds that of many full Acts of Parliament.

I am grateful to Sir Christopher, Sir Paul and Sir Peter, and to their support staff, for their work on these reports.

How about some proper independent public scrutiny of the increasingly powerful "Database / Surveillance / Snooper / Nanny" State which has been inflicted on us, with proper resources to investigate complaints from the public, able to punish abuses by petty public officials or by private companies and to veto policy disasters in the making by senior officials and Ministers ?

The Twitterverse and the mainstream media seem to be convinced that Twitter and Facebook etc. are important in getting first hand reports and images and videoclips, past the Iranian government censors.

Others acknowledge that these have helped to spread the story in the West, but are a bit more sceptical about what is actually being used successfully in Iran at the moment, They are also rightly critical of the pointless attempts at Denial of Service attacks on Iranian government websites etc.- see Ethan Zuckerman: Iran, citizen media and media attention

What then, can the more than merely internet literate readers of Spy Blog do, to help ?

If you are not doing so already, then you could help Iranian democracy, and similarly repressed people in Burma, China, Tibet, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Cuba etc. by running a Tor Relay or even a Tor Exit node.

Tor - The Onion Routing network

You would be giving something back to the community, which you yourselves will increasingly have to make use of,in order to escape from the Labour Government's "Eye of Sauron" Intercept Modernisation Programme / Communications Data Bill plans for retaining and snooping on your Communications Traffic Data etc. .

There is evidence that Tor is being used in Iran, even though various internet ports may have been temporarily blocked by the Iranian regime.


The official Tor blog has some details about Measuring Tor and Iran

See also the Renesys blog, for details of the temporary outages and congestion of Iranian international internet connections: Iran and the Internet: Uneasy Standoff

Download the Tor / Vidalia software bundle from:

Spy Blog, whilst not yet hosting a full mirror, is hosting a copy of the Tor download mirror sites information page.

If you are desperate, here is a copy of the Tor / Vidalia / Tor Button / Privoxy bundle for Windows (approximately 8Mb) - currently version

Remember to read and understand the warnings about the ways in which you can still betray your real IP address, even if you are using Tor.

Some discussions about setting up Tor and other proxy servers, and other advice for Iranian election protestors:

  • discussion forums.

  • Eric S. Raymond, a famous Open Source software advocate is publicly spearheading the public point of contact for a collaborative effort to set up anonymous Squid proxy servers, for the benefit of Iranian demonstrators and the rest of us, called NedaNet (named after one of the people killed in the street violence, rather than the Iranian ISP)
    See - Dispatches from the Iranian cyberfront.

  • Austin Heap's blog is helping with sorting out configuration files on different platforms and collecting and testing) the IP addresses of open Squid proxy servers and communicating these to the Iranian protestors without tipping off the Iranian regime's censors.

Feel free to ask Spy Blog questions about the use of Tor, or other technologies to help preserve your anonymity, and to circumvent internet censorship by repressive regimes, either in the comments or via email (or via PGP encrypted email)

A few tips about Tor:

  • TOR Bridge relays
  • ADSL broadband Bandwidth issues
  • Tor relay exit policies

Researchers from the Policy Engagement Network, based in the London School of Economics Information Systems and Innovation Group, have produced a 57 page report, which is essential reading for anyone worried about the Home Office's EU Directive based mandatory Communications Traffic Data Retention laws, and their vague plans for extending this even further the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), the review of Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) codes of practice and legislation .

It is also relevant to Sir John Chilcot's Privy Council Working Group review of Intercept as Evidence, and to GCHQ's Mastering the Internet plans, and to other Surveillance Database State policy issues like the National Identity Register / ID Cards scheme:

Briefing on the Interception Modernisation Programme (.pdf 57 pages)


In this briefing we aim to provide some depth of understanding of the nature of the Home Officeʼs latest proposals on communications surveillance. We are sympathetic with the needs of the law enforcement community and we agree with the Home Office that the communications environment is changing. However we question whether the Home Office fully understands the extent to which the way in which surveillance activities are authorised would change were its wishes granted, in turn leading to a tipping of the balance in favour of state power and away from the individual. We are also concerned that there is a significant under-estimate of the burdens being placed on Communication Service Providers at a time where elsewhere in government there is a demand for universal broadband internet provision which industry is supposed to fund. This report was not drafted to respond to the Home Officeʼs Consultation document, but rather we are adding more expertise to the public deliberation on this policy. The report is the result of research we conducted with key experts across the UK and internationally.

Table of Contents:

The delayed and modified Home Office "consultation" on Communications Data snooping and retention.

Protecting the Public in a Changing Communications Environment (.pdf) 690Kb

Responses, by Monday 20th July 2009 to:

Nigel Burrowes
Communications Data Consultation
Room P.5.37
Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Or by e-mail to:

What have they been working on for at least the last 7 months ? This "public consultation" should set out several, carefully costed, detailed options, but it does not bother to do so.

You are invited to provide some responses to some Questions, but, astonishingly, of the three alleged Options, this "consultation" document has already ruled out two of them !

The false choice being presented, as the only possible proposal, without any alternatives, is referred to as "A middle way" (remember Tony Blair's vague NuLabour slogan hype about a "Third Way" ? )

As we have come to expect from the Home Office,when attempting to deal with complicated technological issues, they do not give any real practical detail about exactly what they proposing to do.

See Home Office response to Consultation on second phase of EU Comms Data Retention Regulations (internet email, internet telephony etc.) coming into force on 6th April 2009

10. Some respondents suggested that more technical detail should be provided within the draft Regulations. However, the Government's experience of working with public communications providers under the ATCSA voluntary code of practice and the first phase implementation of the DRD suggests that it is unhelpful to provide a high level of technical detail in the legislation as terms that might be meaningful to one business area, may be completely inappropriate for another or may already be given meaning within other legislation.

To whom, precisely, is specific technical detail "unhelpful" ? Not to the industry, and not to the public.

It is the Home Office's job to state clearly and precisely what technical details are required and which ones are exempt from the regulations.

Unless and until they do state in detail, what exactly is, and what is not to be logged and retained, then all their "cost estimates" in the Impact Assessment are fiction.

This response from the Government is not acceptable.

It seems that the Labour Government / Home Office are continuing with this patronising, arrogant "we know best, but we will not bother to to tell you the details", technologically illiterate attitude, with this latest "consultation" as well:

The "middle (or is it muddle ?) way" option:

If you search for news articles about the European Union Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC, you will, unfortunately find several articles, even from the computer and telecommunications technical press, which claim that the new mandatory requirement to store Communications Traffic Data logfiles for 12 months came into force yesterday, something which is not strictly accurate in the United Kingdom.

This Mandatory Data Retention is regardless of whether an Internet Service Provider or Telecommunications Company has any business need for this data any more , and which would therefore have been destroyed or anonymised under the Principles of Data Protection under the Data Protection Act. This data is not data identified as being useful for a particular targeted criminal investigation, but is mass surveillance snooping on the vast majority of the 450 million innocent people in the European Union.

The first part of this EU Directive, regarding landline telephones and mobile phones has already been in force in the UK since October 2007.

Remember that none of the "serious crime" or"terrorism" cases which were trotted out in support of this Data Retention policy actually involved any investigations which needed out of data communications traffic data as old as 12 months. The Soham murders investigation and the tracking of the July 2005 failed terrorist bomber who fled from London to Italy, all used current, Communications Traffic Data no more than a few days old or even in "real time", which would not yet have been deleted by the telcos in the normal course of their business anyway.

Like many other EU countries, the UK cried off from implementing the Internet aspects of the Directive for a further 18 months, which, based on the date on which the original Directive was passed, crudely puts the start data for the new scheme as the 15th March 2009 i.e.yesterday, a Sunday. - see the Official Journal of the European Union:

DIRECTIVE 2006/24/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC (.pdf)

However, the new Regulations do not appear to come into force in the UK for another 3 weeks, i.e. Monday 6th April 2009 - why the delay ? They have had at least 18 months to prepare for this date:

See the Draft Statutory Instrument, which will presumably be rubber stamped, without debate and without amendment, by being "laid" before the House of Commons and the House of Lords, sometime soon.

The Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009


Coming into force 6th April 2009


The Home Office has now published its responses to the Consultation on

Consultation: Transposition of Directive 2006/24/EC

which closed back in October 2008.

This is the extension of mandatory Communications Traffic Data Retention, beyond what would be otherwise permitted under the Principles of Data Protection i.e. another end run around the protections of the weak Data Protection Act 1998, applied to internet access, internet email, and internet telephony.

This was set to be implemented on 15th March this year, 18 months after it was applied to landline and mobile phone telephony, but now the Draft Regulations state that they will come into force on 6th April 2009.

The Summary of the Responses to the Consultation does not include any reassurance for the public, or even anything to indicate that this was anything more than a "going through the motions" consultation exercise.

Responses to the consultation on transposition of directive 2006/24/EC (.pdf 493Kb)

5. A total of 54 responses were received and the respondents are listed
below. The general reception of the draft Regulations from public communications providers was positive. In particular, there was continued support for the Home Office's pragmatic approach to implementing the Directive in the UK


Many responses were from members of the public opposed to the Directive on principle (24 out of 54 responses). These responses did not distinguish between the Directive and the draft Regulations on which we were consulting

Nonsense - we certainly distinguished between the two.

As is usual with Home Office consultations, they deliberately Ask The Wrong Questions, assuming that the entire policy is going to be implemented, one way or another, when what they should be consulting on is whether aspects of the policy should be rejected altogether as a matter of principle or as a matter of technical complexity and cost to the public.

This Government Response is limited to issues which can be addressed in the Regulations. We would advise respondents whose comments are not directly addressed here to contribute to the forthcoming consultation exercise on how the Government can maintain its communications data capability generally

There is no indication of when the supposed Consultation on the Communications Data Bill, which it is rumoured, will go far, far beyond this EU mandatory Data Retention and snooping, will appear. It was promised "by the end of January 2009", but it is now mid February.

Question 2: Is the data required to be retained specified clearly in the draft regulations? If not, why not and can the specification be clearer?

9. The majority of respondents who had a view on this question considered there was a need for meaning to be given to certain terms and in particular "internet email" and "internet telephony". However, the DRD makes clear in Article 2(1) that the definitions in Directive 95/46/EC, in Directive 2002/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services (Framework Directive), and in Directive 2002/58/EC (Privacy and Electronic Communications) shall apply. For example the term "email" has the same meaning as "electronic mail" which is given meaning within the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, transposing Directive 2002/58/EC into UK law. Both terms therefore refer to:

    "any text, voice, sound or image message sent over a public electronic communications network which can be stored in the network or in the recipient's terminal equipment until it is collected by the recipient and includes messages sent using a short message service".

10. Some respondents suggested that more technical detail should be provided within the draft Regulations. However, the Government's experience of working with public communications providers under the ATCSA voluntary code of practice and the first phase implementation of the DRD suggests that it is unhelpful to provide a high level of technical detail in the legislation as terms that might be meaningful to one business area, may be completely inappropriate for another or may already be given meaning within other legislation.

To whom, precisely, is specific technical detail "unhelpful" ? Not to the industry, and not to the public.

It is the Home Office's job to state clearly and precisely what technical details are required and which ones are exempt from the regulations.

Unless and until they do state in detail, what exactly is, and what is not to be logged and retained, then all their "cost estimates" in the Impact Assessment are fiction.

This response from the Government is not acceptable.

11. The Home Office therefore proposes to continue the practice, initiated through the ATCSA voluntary code, of developing meaningful detail through bilateral consultation and specific agreements with individual public communications providers (in cases where the public communications provider's own business practices do not already meet Government's public protection requirements).

Note the utter lack of any involvement by members of of the public, citizens, taxpayers or customers in this cosy, secretive "bilateral consultation".

The dangers of Deep Packet Inspection coupled with sponsored advertising keywords, e.g. the notorious Phorm, or just the dangers of sponsored search engine keywords coupled with the exisiting and future Communications Traffic Data retention and snooping databases, is illustrated by the inept Metropolitan Police Service Google AdWord / sponsored link campaign, currently afflicting

If you search for the following phrases, you will get a Sponsored Link to a Metropolitan Police Service's Specialist Operations web page, which re-hashes their controversial "suspect everyone who travels or uses any modern technology", advertising campaign, promoting the supposedly confidential anti-terrorism hotline.

If your blog or website is running Google adverts and is unlucky enough to have such beeing automatically, and very fallibly classified as such, these sponsored advert banners may also appear on or around your web content.

See London's Met Police running adverts on Google, [hat tip to Iain Dale - Is There a Right Wing Extremist Under Your Bed? ]

However, although these "right wing" bloggers seem to be the first to notice this, it does not necessarily mean that only they are on some carefully chosen NuLabour political watchlist.

e.g. searching for "Left Wing Extremist" gets you a Sponsored Link entitled "Right Wing Extremist":


Results 1 - 10 of about 525,000 for Left Wing Extremist. (0.09 seconds)

Sponsored Link

1. Right Wing Extremist Call the Anti-terrorist Hotline Your call could be vital to us.

These search engine query keywords are not being applied fairly or impartially or even logically.

No doubt there are other possible combinations and variations, and the results may vary depending on which of the multiple Google search engine boxes you are actually being served by at any particular time.

Google are probably desperately trying to fix this, and some or all of the above may not not work, but the fact that these inaccurate results came up at all (we have screen capture evidence)) indicates just how politically dangerous this technique is.

Commercial advertising can usually be ignored, but this is different, it is UK Government funded anti-terrorism propaganda and intelligence gathering. The taxpayers of London get no direct say in, or any value for money analysis of, how the Metropolitan Police Service "tackles" national security and anti-terrorism intelligence gathering and snooping, which is veiled in secrecy,

As advertising sponsors, the Metropolitan Police Service are entitled to some of Google UK's search engine log file data.

Under the current, and soon to be expanded Communications Traffic Data laws, the MPS can demand and snoop on even more web server logfile and ISP IP address record logfile data.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's weasel worded assurances that the existing European Union Communications Data Retention Directive, and her forthcoming Communications Data Bill, would not grant direct access to the "content" of a web page (i.e. interception of electronic communications, requiring a targeted warrant signed by the Home Secretary), it is clear that the state authorities would have access to a logfiles of the Results pages returned by these Google keyword searches.

Most public web search engines, including Google, tend to encode the actiual keyword search terms in the URL of the web page via the HTTP GET method, so there is no real world distinction between "communications data" and "content of communications" with respect to web search engine queries..

Search term -> resulting Metropolitan Police Sponsored Link phrase:

The Guardian reports: Private firm may track all email and calls, quoting Sir Ken Macdonald, the recently retired Director of Public Prosecutions:

Private firm may track all email and calls
'Hellhouse' of personal data will be created, warns former DPP

Alan Travis and Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian, Wednesday 31 December 2008

The private sector will be asked to manage and run a communications database that will keep track of everyone's calls, emails, texts and internet use under a key option contained in a consultation paper to be published next month by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary.

A cabinet decision to put the management of the multibillion pound database of all UK communications traffic into private hands would be accompanied by tougher legal safeguards to guarantee against leaks and accidental data losses.


"Authorisations for access might be written into statute. The most senior ministers and officials might be designated as scrutineers. But none of this means anything," said Macdonald. "All history tells us that reassurances like these are worthless in the long run. In the first security crisis the locks would loosen."


Macdonald, who left his post as DPP in October, told the Guardian: "The tendency of the state to seek ever more powers of surveillance over its citizens may be driven by protective zeal. But the notion of total security is a paranoid fantasy which would destroy everything that makes living worthwhile. We must avoid surrendering our freedom as autonomous human beings to such an ugly future. We should make judgments that are compatible with our status as free people."

Maintaining the capacity to intercept suspicious communications was critical in an increasingly complex world, he said. "It is a process which can save lives and bring criminals to justice. But no other country is considering such a drastic step. This database would be an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information," he said. "It would be a complete readout of every citizen's life in the most intimate and demeaning detail. No government of any colour is to be trusted with such a roadmap to our souls."

Such common sense views as expressed by Sir Ken, need to be encouraged within the corridors of power.

The political kite being flown, through this briefing / leak to The Guardian, regarding the idea that this intrusive national database of communications traffic data should somehow be sub-contracted to a private company must not be allowed to fly.

When, not if, such a database is compromised, then Ministers and senior civil servants at the Home Office and in Downing Street must be forced to resign and / or be prosecuted. The control freaks must not be allowed to simply blame a private sector sub-contractor for future data security and privacy scandals.

The BBC's Politics Show broadcast last Sunday, has collated some Freedom of Information Act disclosures on the financial payments made by Police Forces to mobile phone companies, to reimburse them for the cost of providing Mobile Phone Communications Traffic Data.

[hat tip to the BBC's Martin Rosenbaum and his Open Secrets blog about freedom of information]:

Police: Mobile phone payments...

The Politics Show has used Freedom of Information requests to find figures for 49 of the 52 regional police forces who, in total, spent £8.6m in the 2007/2008 financial year.

Twenty five forces spent over £100,000 and four spent over £500,000.

The Metropolitan Police Force was the largest, spending £1.4 million.

There is no standard fee for a search, and whilst it can be waived (and sometimes is) forces tend to be billed on a case by case basis.

The article quoted David Davis MP

On the Politics Show on 7 December, Former Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said: "Companies should have a sense of civic responsibility, and in my view, that means this sort of material should be provided free."

Unless and until, other effective safeguards are put into place, e.g. making it a criminal offence to request a disproportionate amount of data from the telecomms companies and internet service providers, then these requests definitely should not be free.

If the telecomms companies did not make any financial charge to recover these costs, then there would be massive abuse by the Police, intelligence agencies and by the hundreds of Local Authorities and Government quangos, and other bureaucrats and by rich libel or copyright lawyers in civil cases via a court order etc. who are authorised under the the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to access such data.

They would be tempted to demand, as they have already done in the past, excessive amounts of data, wholly disproportionate to the investigations or cases which they are involved with,

Currently, there are no other effective safeguards to prevent this sort of disproportionate Communications Data snooping and trawling, only the financial cost and audit trail mechanism.

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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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