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UK Government To Outsource Data Snooping and Storage 114

Posted by timothy
from the avoid-conflict-of-interest dept.
bone_idol writes "The Guardian is reporting that 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. Also covered on the BBC."
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UK Government To Outsource Data Snooping and Storage

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  • by JohnHegarty (453016) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:43AM (#26298537) Homepage

    At least it's less lightly to be left on the train, if it's not in government hands.

    • Re:Left on a train (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cyber-vandal (148830) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:55AM (#26298593) Homepage

      You wish given that UK government IT is all outsourced to private sector cowboys.

    • Re:Left on a train (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Yacoby (1295064) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:00AM (#26298615)

      At least it's less lightly to be left on the train, if it's not in government hands.

      To be replaced by the private company selling it to the highest bidder?

      • I'll wager that both will happen... probably the same week

      • What basis do you have for this comment? The public is protected against such action by the courts.

        Not that private sector flamebaiting isn't fun...

    • Re:Left on a train (Score:4, Insightful)

      by daem0n1x (748565) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:42AM (#26298783)
      Yes, because the private companies never screw up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by bytesex (112972)

        No. Their employees just don't travel by train.

      • by kno3 (1327725)
        I hope that that is sarcastic!
        Look at how well the private company contracted to organise and mark SATs did, they have now abolished them at KS3 because they f**ked it up so badly.
        I wish the government could learn that its far more sensible to do the job properly yourself than paying the private sector to do it.
        • Governments outsource plenty, and have for a very long time. Sometimes doing a job sensibly means knowing when to let someone with better-developed capabilities handle it.
          • Governments outsource plenty, and have for a very long time. Sometimes doing a job sensibly means knowing when to let someone with better-developed capabilities handle it.

            Quite true to a point. The problem is that the UK government, and especially the current US administration, seems to believe that privatizing government functions is some kind of cure-all. Yes, there are many functions that should be privatized, but there are so many things being privatized (roads, General Jim's Army [a.k.a. Blackwater

            • by daveime (1253762)
              Yes well it cures-all aspects of culpability when shit gets left in public places ... "Oh, sorry, we realise that it was us who wanted to know every aspect of your online habits (for the children doncha-know), but it wasn't us who lost it, it was the (non prosecutable) corporates we outsourced to.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by kno3 (1327725)

            Governments outsource plenty, and have for a very long time.

            This is true, however weather it is sensible I'm not so sure. All comes down to trust in the end, do you trust the private sector with all your details? And do you trust them to behave ethically when the inevitable conflicts of interests occur?
            I personally do not, and would nationalise everything that could be, banks, land, public transport, etc... but that's just me.

            • My first reaction to nationalization is usually negative. I see the government as a stifling force, too easily caught up in its bureaucracy to function efficiently. They are a better manager than they are a technician. I think that is how the framers of the constitution saw it, too.

              Additionally, endowing the government with such control is dangerous. Control equals power. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." That is already evident in our government, as well as many others in th

              • Do you really want your bank run by the government?

                Hell no! I want it to be run by greedy bastards that over lend sink the nation in debt and then crawl to the government crying for bailout money then attempt to pocket has much of that money into their accounts as possible.

                  What we need is a small government that just ensures taxes are properly conducted to nice millionaires.

              • by kno3 (1327725)

                Well, as I said, it is a question of trust. You have the view that politicians are idiots. I don't think this and I feel that it is incredibly unfair, and unrealistic. The press does its best to portray politicians as idiots, and I am pretty sure this is where this view comes from. Overall I trust my politicians, I think that for the most part, they are trying to help the nation, and the world, yes sometimes they go about it incorrectly, but that is just a matter of opinion. I don't think that the same

              • by ultranova (717540)

                I see the government as a stifling force, too easily caught up in its bureaucracy to function efficiently.

                The government is supposed to be inefficient. That way, any change will take long enough for concerned citizens to react. Inefficiency in the government is not a bug, it's a feature. And an important feature at that, for a democratic government must be inefficient. Democratic control is not efficient enough in itself to keep an efficient government under control.

                Do you really want your bank run by the

          • by ultranova (717540)

            More to the point, seeing how the private business interests run everything anyway, why not cut out the middleman ?

    • by Merusdraconis (730732) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:17AM (#26298927) Homepage

      They should outsource it to the train companies, cut out the middle man.

  • Hardly surprising, considering the public sectors long and colourful history of IT debacles. See El Reg and Private Eye ad nauseum. One more reason to SSL all my traffic to a proxy somewhere (anywhere) else.
  • The US does this now. There evidently are quite a few companies out there that specialize in gathering intel for nations.

    I think I was listening to someone on NPR talk about this not too long ago.. Maybe the guy who wrote Shadow Factory?
    • Re:Whats new? (Score:4, Informative)

      by ZombieWomble (893157) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:44AM (#26298791)
      What's new is the scope of this database - the goal is to contain details of every single communication in the country. Information about every website accessed, every phone call made, every e-mail sent would be recorded in a database held by the government (or their appointed company), although not their contents (for now).

      Previously this data wasn't collected in a central location and was only gathered from providers as required by criminal investigations etc, but the goal here would be that the government should have every bit of communications data directly at hand at all times, even if it's not suspect in any fashion.

      • by Kagura (843695)
        There's already plenty of precedent for this kind of activity. It's not unheard of to collect and store tons of unnecessary information, not all of which is encompassed by the warrant (for example, if you're wiretapping a guy who's under investigation for something and you get private information about non-related people because he happened to call his mom or dad to say 'hi'). You're allowed to legally store information that you are not legally allowed to collect on, but you're not allowed to do anything wi
  • Slippery slope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slugtastic (1437569) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:49AM (#26298569)

    Senior Whitehall officials responsible for planning for a new database say there is a significant difference between having access to "communications data" - names and addresses of emails or telephone numbers, for example - and the actual contents of the communications. "We have been very clear that there are no plans for a database containing any content of emails, texts or conversations," the spokeswoman said.

    Pretty slip indeed.

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      no plans for a database

      "Oops, your communications data got in my database!"
      "Hey, your database is encapsulating my communications data!"

      - brought to you by Hershey's Reese's Foreign Government Datamining Division. We care about your data.

  • by Linker3000 (626634) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:55AM (#26298589) Journal

    And as Jacqui drafts the invitation to tender document in Word - up pops clippy...

    "I see you are outsourcing Government IT requirements. What level of cock-up and overspend do you want?

    Shall I insert the address for:

    a) EDS
    b) Capita
    c) SAP
    d) IBM
    "

  • missed the issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:12AM (#26298663)

    Don't be concerned at who is holding the data rather be concerned that the data is actually being collected.... (it's probably safer if the government isn't managing this anyway)

    • My hope is its somebody really incompetent so good old bobby drop tables; will mess everything up for them

  • It just amazes me how STUPID our governments are nowadays. I mean, we used to put up posters about how "loose lips sink ships" and now we want to trust our "intelligence gathering" to "private" firms that'll inevitably end up in India?

    This reminds me of the article about how China is salvaging old consumer microchips, relabeling them as military grade, and selling them to the pentagon as "brand new." I hope it makes people feel better knowing that those lethal weapons and bombs we have cached everywhere ha

    • by mad_robot (960268)

      For some reason I read that as "loose lips pink slips".

      I guess what the government has realized is that cock-ups are inevitable. By outsourcing this work they can put someone else in the firing line next time it all goes wrong.

      Nothing is going to improve until we take a stand against this culture of state-sponsored snooping.

    • This reminds me of the article about how China is salvaging old consumer microchips

      Is that why my military-grade computer has only 3583 bytes free when it starts up?

  • Standard practice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Burnhard (1031106) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:17AM (#26298679)
    I'm afraid this is standard practice. Outsourcing allows those in charge to blame the company or corporation for any theft or data loss, not government ministers.
    • by dnwq (910646)
      That's because governments are too incompetent and stupid to do anything themselves, don't you know that! [/groupthink]
  • by damburger (981828) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:21AM (#26298699)
    What the hell is wrong with that woman? More to the point, what the hell is wrong with us? In any sane society a person like that would've been strung up from a lamppost a long time ago.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by u38cg (607297)
      If you think that a sane society is one that strings people up to a lamp-post for saying things you disagree with, then I'll stick to being insane. Truth will out; mob lynchings should not be necessary.
      • by damburger (981828)
        Yes. Lets have another cuppa and roll out the red carpet for those who are no better than the fascists we fought again two generations ago. The killing of Mussolini was such an act of insanity, they should've just written a strongly worded letter to il duce
        • by ultranova (717540)

          Yes. Lets have another cuppa and roll out the red carpet for those who are no better than the fascists we fought again two generations ago.

          Fascists - you mean those people infamous for killing lots of people because they didn't like them ? That's the best example you could come up with to justify lynch mobs ? The most infamous lynch mob in history ?

          As for your idiotic strawman, no, you don't have to roll out the red carpet for fascists. You have many tools in your disposal to oppose them: the soap box, the

          • by damburger (981828)

            You are confusing fascism with resistance to fascism. There is a moral difference between state violence motivated by expediency and citizen violence against the state motivated by outrage.

            You have many tools in your disposal to oppose them: the soap box,

            They control the media, and I can't shout loud enough. I could build a transmitter to get my views out but I would be arrested. There is always the Internet, but unless this post kicks off an anti-government protest, I think it is safe to say that will no

            • by ultranova (717540)

              You are confusing fascism with resistance to fascism.

              No, I'm equating fascism (rightly or wrongly) with all statements of "might makes right".

              There is a moral difference between state violence motivated by expediency and citizen violence against the state motivated by outrage.

              There is; and when you're suggesting that someone be hanged by a lamppost because you disagree with them, the line has been crossed.

              They control the media, and I can't shout loud enough. I could build a transmitter to get my views ou

    • by jimicus (737525) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:53AM (#26298837)

      What the hell is wrong with that woman? More to the point, what the hell is wrong with us? In any sane society a person like that would've been strung up from a lamppost a long time ago.

      She's the product of a party which is obsessed with micromanaging the citizens of the country. A party which got to power by ruthlessly instilling discipline within its own membership - in other words, "follow the party line to the letter or get out".

      Jack Straw and David Blunkett were almost as bad. Tony Blair has openly gone on record as saying that he doesn't consider the civil liberties argument against ID cards to be a particularly strong one.

      There is no fscking chance you'll find anyone in a remotely senior position within the current Labour party who's prepared to contradict the party line - particularly when the arguments presented in favour always boil down to "it will drastically reduce crime" - never something that's easy to argue against.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hal_Porter (817932)

        She's the product of a party which is obsessed with micromanaging the citizens of the country. A party which got to power by ruthlessly instilling discipline within its own membership - in other words, "follow the party line to the letter or get out".

        LOL WUT?

        Have you ever been a member of the Labour Party? Pretty much every meeting I went to was devoted to people carping about the leadership.

      • by replicant108 (690832) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:53AM (#26299679) Journal

        That's a nice theory, but it's actually not about the party. The Home Office has been pushing for these powers since long before New Labour came to power.

        In fact, the Tories under John Major were pushing for ID cards in 1995 - a move opposed, ironically by Tony Blair [the-statio...fice.co.uk].

        If you think that a Tory government will be any different then, you will be sorely disappointed.

        http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd%5B347%5D=x-347-61886 [privacyinternational.org]

      • Insightful my arse, the Torries would be no different. as proved here [privacyinternational.org]*

        *link provided by replicant108 (690832) above

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:15AM (#26298915)
      UK citizens, get on this: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Anti-Big-Brother/ [number10.gov.uk]
      • Please mods, wherever you are from mod parent up, do it for England! It has been known for the government to actually act on these petitions (or at least comment), and I've just added only the 70th signature. I personally can't wait to finish at university and get out of this rapidly sinking ship I call home, although to be honest most countries that have a similar culture (Europe/US) seem to all be going downhill...bugger...
        • by xaxa (988988) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:05AM (#26299241)

          I've signed several of those petitions. They do nothing -- someone writes a response, and the issue is then ignored.

          If you have the time, write to your MP. Go here: http://www.writetothem.com/ [writetothem.com]
          I haven't written to my MP yet, but I have written to the Mayor of London a couple of times. I received real, written responses and felt it was a much better use of my time than signing 10 spur-of-the-moment petitions. I'm currently waiting for a response from Boris Johnstone after responding to his transport policy document.

      • by funkatron (912521)
        Why bother? You'll only get an email in a few months explaining why they're going to do it anyway.
        • by drspliff (652992)

          Yes, it is strange that every petition I've been informed enough about and seen as valid enough to sign, has ended up being ignored with some very vague reasons.

    • by owlnation (858981)

      What the hell is wrong with that woman? More to the point, what the hell is wrong with us? In any sane society a person like that would've been strung up from a lamppost a long time ago.

      I think what is wrong with Citizen Smith is clear. If you look at her, she's a woman who is neither attractive nor intelligent. She's obese too. I wold guarantee she was unpopular in school. Her brooding resentment of her then peers has resulted in her current state of mind -- revenge. Her weight denotes her greediness an

    • We don't live in a sane society. Most people don't care if the government does this, because they believe that the government will only ever look at your email if you do something wrong.

      People talk about freedom, but they don't care about it as long as no-one is stopping them buying useless shit to fill up their house with.

    • What the hell is wrong with us? In any sane society a person like that would've been strung up from a lamppost a long time ago.

      The problem is we don't have a choice. The Tories are making a fuss about the speaker allowing the police to conduct an investigation in the house of commons (something that is IMHO fine) and quietly forgetting that they pushed through the anti-terror legislation that caused the entire problem. The liberal democrats and other fringe parties, that may care about our freedom simply don't stand a chance under the first past the post system.

      • by makomk (752139)

        The problem is we don't have a choice. The Tories are making a fuss about the speaker allowing the police to conduct an investigation in the house of commons (something that is IMHO fine) and quietly forgetting that they pushed through the anti-terror legislation that caused the entire problem.

        Perhaps you haven't been following things quite closely enough. The Speaker (who was from the Labour Party, but was supposed to have given up any party affiliation) allowed the police to raid the office of a Conservative Party MP without a warrant. Yes, you read that right - he let them do a warrantless search and seizure of an important opposition member's office. Not only was there no legal requirement to do so, it's his responsibility to protect MPs of all parties from such interference.

        • I fully support the police being able to do warrant less searches of parliament, why should MPs be above the law they write. The houses are parliament should be open for anybody to investigate, if MPs have something to hide they can stick on private property, not in a public place.

      • by makomk (752139)
        Oh, and the investigation by the Metropolitan Police was requested by the Home Office, which is run by the Home Secretary, one Jacqui Smith. The Home Secretary also has the power to appoint the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, a job that's currently vacant. The investigation was led by the Deputy Police Commissioner, one Bob Quick, who also authorised MP Damien Green's arrest - and is a candidate for the Police Commissioner job.
        • IMO the problem is that the government has the right to do this all legally, not that it was done. The blame for it being legal for the government to raid opposition MPs for leaking non security related information lies firmly in the hands of BOTH parties.

          • by makomk (752139)
            Not really. They abused some obscure and little-used offense to do it - there's a lot of those lying around, and it's not difficult to find one that fits. (Getting a conviction is harder, but obtaining a warrant is easy.)

            The UK never had a whole lot of protection in its constitution - a lot of it relies on convention and people in positions of power behaving themselves. (With, of course, the implied threat that they won't remain in said positions of power if they abuse their trust too much.) Unfortunatel
  • by neonux (1000992)

    TPB's new year celebration is more true than ever :-/

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Come one now Wacky J., a joke's a joke, we've had a laugh, a few giggles, when are you going to do your job properly?!

    Has anyone, from a sane country, got any room left? I want to leave the UK now, please?

    • Re:Please... (Score:5, Informative)

      by xaxa (988988) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:43AM (#26298785)

      Has anyone, from a sane country, got any room left? I want to leave the UK now, please?

      Well, you can choose any country in the EU with no difficulty. Anywhere in the EEA isn't much harder. Some Commonwealth countries, like Canada, Australia and New Zealand, want skilled immigrants.

      Or you could just complain about it online :-).

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        He asked for a sane country. "Any country in the EU" won't do.

        I live in Finland. We here have internet censorship.

        It is illegal to question holocaust in France. (Not that I personally would deny it but making it illegal to deny takes it off the list of sane countries)

        I could probably find examples from most other countries too. It is really hard to find a western country which still respects freedom.

        Switzerland would do but they have pretty strict immigration policy...

        • by xaxa (988988)

          He asked for a sane country. "Any country in the EU" won't do.

          Ah, sorry, I missed the "sane" part. Many other EU countries seem saner than the UK, although from my point of view here in the UK I'm sure some of that is just "the grass looking greener".

        • by cheros (223479)

          Immigration is easy for EU residents - AFAIK no problem as long as you have a job to go to..

        • Most EU countries already have mandatory ID cards and just as much, or more, government interference and corruption.

          I suppose there's always Somalia.

          • by damburger (981828)
            That isn't a bad idea. I could sell my technical skills to the pirates of the sea to the northeast of Africarrrr!
      • by pjt33 (739471)

        My initial response was that running to another EU country won't help, because this data collection is mandated by an EU directive. Then it occurred to me that Greece probably won't implement it for another 10 years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anne Thwacks (531696)
      Has anyone, from a sane country, got any room left? I want to leave the UK now, please?

      As a UK citizen, I am currently considering moving to one of several insane countries!

      • by Kjella (173770)

        As a UK citizen, I am currently considering moving to one of several insane countries!

        sane:
        1: proceeding from a sound mind : rational

        Having your country decide what's rational or not is the totalitarian way. I guess an insane country would be a country that is irrational to boot, but that wouldn't make it better. The best countries are indifferent, they don't have an opinion at all. In the US declaration of independence it said one of your inalienable rights is "pursuit of happiness" that never really made it into the constitution, because what does it really mean? To me it's a default, a "0

        • But all ahead full speed in that direction in the name of stopping the few, scattered terrorists.

          I must take issue with your suggestion that repressive, badly-thought out and intrusive laws are promoted under the excuse of combatting terrorists.

          It's terrorists and paedophiles, didn't you get the memo?

        • Having your country decide what's rational or not is the totalitarian way. I guess an insane country would be a country that is irrational to boot, but that wouldn't make it better.

          I have actually lived in countries where the head of state appeared to be criminally insane, and IMHO, at least it is more fun than our present regime. A government that is incapable of doing anything may not be much good, but they are incapable of doing much wrong either. The present UK government has the power to make enormo

  • Its called snoopernet. No joke.
  • ITIL (Score:5, Funny)

    by retech (1228598) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:46AM (#26298809)
    Everything will be fine. Whoever it is will have to be ITIL certified. And a good certification guarantees a perfect outcome.
  • ...so we are going to insist that you do it to yourselves.

    I wonder when the British people will realize that the cost of non-compliance will be nothing if no one complies.

  • Hasn't privatisation gone just a little too far this time? I mean it's bad enough that the UK is planning to spy like this on all it's citizens, but to outsource it to contractors?

    If they outsource it to anyone, they should outsource it to google. They already know all our personal stuff anyway!

  • What the UK sorely needs is Impeachment to deal with people like Smith.
  • by QJimbo (779370) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:07AM (#26299255)

    The thing about this whole database, is that it will only be able to log activity of people who don't think they have anything to hide, in other words, you and me. The average person.

    Criminals can just SSH tunnel everything through a server in some far away country. They will have no idea what those people are doing.

    So forgive me for seeing this as just an invasion of privacy as opposed to any serious way of fighting crime.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by janrinok (846318)

      Until they make the use of SSH tunnels or even encryption illegal. After all, if you have nothing to hide, why would you even consider using either? - or so their argument will go.

    • Your use of logical dissent has been logged and will be reviewed by an analyst.

  • Don't worry... all we have to do is type in 'Lucius Fox' to self-detonate the tracking system!

    No one should have that much power.

    (... wow I feel like a loser)

  • Man! I could make billions! And get paid by the government too!
  • Former Journalspace employees should start a data hosting company for opportunities just like this. If they can lose data that we don't want lost, they should have no problem losing data that we do.

    Too early?

  • will be Israeli. They've been infiltrating this sort of government program everywhere. At one point an Israeli company was in charge of the wiretapping software for the FBI and other US government agencies - until they got caught selling wiretap info to drug gangs in LA. The FBI threw a fit and now somebody else in charge of CALEA hardware.

    Israel is a major supplier of security products to the world - because they decided decades ago that the best way to spy on the world is to be the world's supplier of an

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