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UK Email Retention Plan Technically Flawed 115

Posted by Soulskill
from the never-stopped-'em-before dept.
deltaromeo points out a BBC report calling the UK's law requiring ISPs to retain users' emails for at least a year an "attack on rights." The article also points out financial and technical flaws with the plan (which we first discussed in October). TechCrunch goes a step further, detailing how it conflicts with other governmental goals. Quoting: "...with one hand the government seeks to lock down the British Internet with an iron fist, while at the same time telling us it is boosting innovation and business online. It is quite clearly blind to the fact that one affects the other. Are we also expected to think that the consumers using online services are not going to be put off from engaging in the boom of 'sharing' that Web 2.0 created? How would you feel if every Twitter you sent, every video uploaded, was to be stored and held against you in perpetuity? That may not happen, but the mere suggestion that your email is no longer private would serve to kill the UK population's relish for new media stone dead, and with it large swathes of the developing online economy."
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UK Email Retention Plan Technically Flawed

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  • by bogaboga (793279) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @01:26AM (#26395975)

    "...points out a BBC report calling the UK's law requiring ISPs to retain users' emails for at least a year an "attack on rights."

    China, that the UK has been so adept at criticizing, must be saying..."I told you so...!"

  • Such optimism (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 10, 2009 @01:33AM (#26396001)

    That may not happen, but the mere suggestion that your email is no longer private would serve to kill the UK population's relish for new media stone dead, and with it large swathes of the developing online economy.

    I wish I had such faith in the awareness and caution of the average British consumer.

  • Re:Governments (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Repossessed (1117929) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @01:43AM (#26396053)

    Revolutions just set up worse governments. Riots make the current government clean up its act.

  • Re:Governments (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @02:04AM (#26396145) Journal

    And besides, revolutions are *expensive.* You've got to get a whole lot of people to pledge their blood and treasure to your cause.

    And anyone who's that kinda popular can just run for office and win in a landslide with no need to risk bloodshed.

  • by tftp (111690) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @02:24AM (#26396211) Homepage

    Worse still, in UK after you are arrested you will be requested to provide a key to decrypt hundreds of KB of those random numbers that you sent, and you will be in prison until the key is working. Do you think they will believe that your emails were just random numbers? "That's what every crypto-terrorist is claiming!" they will tell you.

    As it stands, you'd be better off if every 32-bit word that you sent is a sequential group of 4 bytes from your favorite book (or its ciphertext, if you wish, made with a known key.) At least when they put your feet over hot coals you will be able to save yourself. If that doesn't happen the numbers remain pretty random and your experiment will be unaffected.

  • by garry_g (106621) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @02:25AM (#26396221)

    It's been long overdue - the level of surveillance the UK government has set up over the years is really overwhelming ... how many more drops can that barrel take before the UK people finally kick them politicians in their well deserving @sses?

    Here in Germany, with data retention and other laws like the BKA law that have been made over the last couple years, people are slowly waking up and seeing what is happening. 34000 people jointly went to the "Bundesverfassungsgericht" opposing the EU-originated data rentention law ... court has already reduced the state and state institution access to data kept through that law, with final decision expected (or hoped for) some time first or second quarter ...

    It is time for every citizen in the so-called and formerly free and democratic countries to make sure they do everything they can and get the word out to get rid of the surveillance-measures their countries are putting into effect.

    I guess the old saying "Orwell was an optimist" is true after all ...

  • by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@NoSpAm.palegray.net> on Saturday January 10, 2009 @03:44AM (#26396487) Homepage Journal
    Ummm... change the SMTP-TLS port on your remote mail server to something other than the standard?

    BTW, I use residential cable for at the house for Internet access, and have no issues sending encrypted mail to my server across the country. Generally, only the standard port (25) is blocked.

    The parent post does skip over one important issue, however: in GB, you can be compelled to hand over your encryption keys or face jail time simply for failing to do so. P-O-L-I-C-E S-T-A-T-E.
  • Re:Saving emails (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TGoddard (1058678) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @04:13AM (#26396609)

    There's something deeply wrong with a country's attitude to privacy when its people have to turn to the US for better protection.

  • by thegoldenear (323630) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @05:57AM (#26397027) Homepage

    the mere suggestion that your email is no longer private would serve to kill the UK population's relish for new media stone dead

    I only wish that were true, but sadly I feel your statement is something you dragged out of your ass. Most people's behaviour so far in using the likes of Facebook have shown that they're not likely to worry.

    Pete Boyd

  • Re:surprised (Score:5, Insightful)

    by subreality (157447) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @07:56AM (#26397425)

    That was my first thought. When I was young and naive, I posted to Usenet under my real name. I knew that was for worldwide distribution, but at the time I didn't expect it to be for worldwide *perpetual* distribution. Then DejaNews comes along and brings back a lot of things that I'd expected to fade away like BBS posts used to do.

    I'm lucky. There's nothing horribly embarrassing or wildly contradicting my current opinions out there. I'd hate to be, say, a reformed racist who'd posted some crazy stuff out there, and who now gets to have people he meets form their opinions about him based on who he was ten years ago.

    These days my real name is a conformist sheep, and I keep my crazy politics to pseudonyms. And even still, I have to think twice about what I say because I know the government is archiving it all for when they want to cherry-pick it to declare me unpatriotic if I embarrass them in some major way. I've accepted that level of exposure, but it's disheartening that the world's superpowers are devolving into this level of totalitarianism.

    Free speech, indeed.

  • by fantomas (94850) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @07:56AM (#26397427)

    Really, I don't think most people will care. If a nice leaflet/broadcast/website from the government explains "it's to catch terrorists" and "it's to catch really super big evil criminals" - most people will say "well I am not one of those so I don't care". A few people will mutter over their pints of beer and a couple of articles will appear in the papers, uber-geeks will use some encryption or other work around, the real criminals will read the geek websites and learn how to cover their tracks, and 99% of the population will just go on as before. They don't mind giving their credit card details out to online stores they've never heard of before, they'll not worry the government keeps a copy of their emails.

    Little public outrage was voiced here in the UK when Echelon became known about. A few left wing and liberal newspapers wrote big articles on it blowing the whole thing open to the middle class public and it didn't get much more feedback than a few people switching their vote to a different mainstream party, a couple of letters from Angry of Tunbridge Wells to the Times, and a few dozen hackers waving banners outside a government building or two. The man on the Clapham omnibus just won't care.

  • Re:surprised (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Teun (17872) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @08:55AM (#26397671) Homepage

    I'm lucky. There's nothing horribly embarrassing or wildly contradicting my current opinions out there.

    Same here, I used my real name on usenet, the difference is that I still use my real name.

    Because I'm not afraid to defend my opinion.
    That opinion might on some subjects have changed over the last 15-odd years but that's only natural, after all I believe in Evolution.

  • Re:surprised (Score:4, Insightful)

    by subreality (157447) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @09:17AM (#26397751)

    Because I'm not afraid to defend my opinion.

    Well, neither am I. I can admit when I was wrong, and I can take the heat for the things I think are right despite being unpopular ideas.

    But that's beside the point. The problem is when I'm not given the opportunity to defend my opinions. Like in the hypothetical "reformed racist" scenario: Someone searching the net to read about him will come across that, and find what he's said... And then shun him, but he'll never find out why. Or maybe he'll get fired, or people come and key his car. What should he do? Post a sign in his front yard that says "I'm no longer a racist, I was wrong, and I'm sorry for the stupid shit I said in the past"?

    And when it's the government that's archiving everything I've said, it's way worse. Instead of keying my car, they're going to take provocative things I've said in the past and trump them up to make me look like a terrorist, if they ever think I'm rocking their boat too hard.

  • by adamofgreyskull (640712) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @10:21AM (#26398009)
    I have no idea why the parent post was modded "Troll"?? This is what concerns me more than anything. The Daily Fail [dailymail.co.uk] will sensationalise anything, and unfortunately it's read by a lot of old people and a lot of people who are marginally too intelligent to read The Sun [thesun.co.uk] but not intelligent enough to realise the Daily Mail is no better. People who will turn out in record numbers to vote for any legislation that will hang hoodies [wikipedia.org] and expel immigrants.

    Light bulbs...not a particularly sensational story right? Wrong. [dailymail.co.uk] Apparently [dailymail.co.uk]. My grandad now believes it's every citizen's right to be able to buy "traditional" light bulbs, especially as those new-fangled light bulbs can give you The Skin Cancer [dailymail.co.uk]!

    The 70 and 80 year olds around today may have fought in the war, but they didn't know why. They were at war with The Hun and that's about as far as there understanding of world-politics ever went. "The 60s" as you say, was an era of love and peace, but think about all the 25-40 year olds who couldn't shirk responsibilities like work and family to discover theirselves. While Mary Quant was stirring up the Kings Road, and The Beatles were visiting the Maharaja, they were working to put food on the table. So the dissonance between those two things is actually quite easy to understand. And don't forget, anyone over 18 between 1939 and 1952 will have had to carry an ID Card [wikipedia.org], as they see it, if you have nothing to hide, then why should you have anything to fear?
  • Re:Saving emails (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy.gmail@com> on Saturday January 10, 2009 @11:01AM (#26398237)

    Countries like Sweden are generally regarded as some of the freest in the world, so the EU can't be all bad.

    It depends on your definition of 'freedom'. If you use the American "free to be the biggest arsehole I want and fuck everybody else" definition, then the EU rates pretty poorly.

  • Re:Saving emails (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nickos (91443) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @11:10AM (#26398299)

    Sweden regarded free? You must be joking.

    All emails and phone calls are monitored in the name of national security [thelocal.se]
    Sweden is second from bottom in the EU when it comes to protecting its citizens' private integrity [thelocal.se]

    This is what happens when a government realises it's large imported religious fundamentalist population has ideas that run counter to their modern progressive ones. See also: the UK

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