Tag Archives: gchq

Why you should be bothered about the Snoopers Charter

Late last year, the UK Parliament passed the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. This law builds on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Acts and the Data Retention Laws. This law allows the Government to store all our electronic communications traffic, read the content and meta data and co-opt the product and service vendors to help them. I describe this in more detail below.

The Law was written in the aftermath of Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) ruling in the Schrems vs. Facebook case that the EU’s Data Retention Directive and hence the member state implementations were in contradiction to the EU’s human rights law, the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Parliament had considered aspects of these proposals twice before under the two previous administrations and rejected them.

This article looks at the new Law, criticises it on Human Rights grounds in that it jeopardises the right to privacy, the right to organise, the right to a fair trial and rights to free speech and on IT Security grounds in that the new regulation of encryption products jeopardises access to electronic trust and privacy. It also examines the likely impact of the recent CJEU ruling on the legality of its predecessor law, and in passing, likely conflicts with last year’s passage of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by the European Union.

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Don’t Spy on Us

dont spy on us

I was at #Dontspyonus day of action earlier today. Since it was more of a conference than a demo, one of the more comfortable I have been on. The plenary sessions were noted at this article at Liberal Democrat Voice. Apart from its cynical LibDem sectarianism, it’s reasonably accurate and gives a good flavour of the speeches made in the plenary sessions, particularly Alan Rusbridger & Cory Doctorow. Alan Walpole presents his report on his blog here. For more and less, you can see English Pen’s curated Storify here.

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Surveillance: Lawyer says No

Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones, chaired by Tom Watson MP as received QC’s advice on the legality of British Intelligence’s mass surveillance, reported here in the Guardian and the lawyer says the programmes are probably illegal and that any warrants signed by politicians will be in breach of UK Law,  the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the EU Acquis. Watson points at this article from his blog here. The legal justification is based on RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and Jemima Stanford QC states that it is not fit for purpose given the changes in technology in the last 10 years.

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Who watches the Watchmen?

In the continuing story of the NSA and their five eyes attempts to do to the world what the GDR’s Stasi did to East Germany, someone finally asks how did we let GCHQ capture and process the internet traffic of the British people, those using the transatlantic internet cables and using the decryption technology to spy on allies and diplomats engaged in economic talks and treaties. On the 31st October, Julian Huppert MP with cross bench support from Tom Watson MP and Dominic Rabb MP managed to get time in the Westminster Hall committee room to debate Parliament’s oversight of the Intelligence agencies, specifically GCHQ, but let’s not forget our old friends, the burglars at MI5.  The debate was broadcast on Parliament TV, and transcribed in Hansard here. Both the Video and Hansard report the debate verbatim, and so if you want to hear what the MPs said, then you’ll have to use those resources. The rest of this article is a personal comment on the meeting.

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What was said at the ORG meeting on the surveillance state?

The openrights group meeting at #lab13 was held, and has been reported at their web site in an article called ‘Tom Watson MP: “The surveillance state is running amok and Parliament has absolutely failed.”‘ They have caught the opening speakers, Paul Johnson from the Guardian, Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch, Javier Ruiz (ORG) and Tom Watson MP on video which I recommend you watch, although I have precised the contributions below.

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Backdoors

Earlier this week, the Guardian in conjunction with its partner publishers, New York Times and ProPublica ran an article, Revealed: how US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security. As we’ll see, the title is a bit misleading, but the agencies certainly gave it their best shot. This story builds on the initial Snowden leaks that the NSA has been using computer technology to spy on everyone using the internet in the USA. The story rapidly came to the UK where it became clear that Britain’s GCHQ was tapping the UK/USA telecom links, sharing intelligence with the USA and providing the NSA with a slightly more legal way of spying on US citizens. There is little doubt that the US & UK’s intelligence agencies have outsourced their own domestic spying which is legally restricted to each other.

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Citizens not Suspects

The Guardian reports that Privacy International are going to court to get the UK Government banned from using the USA’s ‘intelligence’ obtained via their Prism programme, and to suspend the UK’s equivalent programme, the GCHQ’s Tempora programme.

Privacy International argue that the UK agencies’ use of NSA supplied data is illegal since there is no warrant and no notification and no appeal; which is a problem when there is no ‘probable cause’. In order for GCHQ to intercept someone, they’d need a warrant issued under RIPA. This looks to be  an example of the two agencies outsourcing the surveillance of their own citizenry, since they are prohibited from doing so. i.e. GCHQ is spying on Yanks, and the NSA returns the favour by spying on Brits. Both agencies need a warrant to spy on their own citizens, but not on foreigners.

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