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Meet PRISM's English Little Brother: Socmint 76

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-know-winston-smith-in-real-life dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a story at Ars Technica, according to which "For the past two years, a secretive unit in the Metropolitan Police has been developing the tools for blanket surveillance of the public's social media conversations. Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a staff of 17 officers in the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU) has been scanning the public's tweets, YouTube videos, Facebook profiles, and anything else UK citizens post in the public online sphere. ... Surveillance operations often require a ministerial sign-off or permission from a superior, but it is unclear whether targeting of public social media data requires the same level of oversight, as head of research at Privacy International Eric King points out."
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Meet PRISM's English Little Brother: Socmint

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  • by Xest (935314) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:34AM (#44121311)

    Because all it does is just scrape public data, whilst Prism targets private data, which is kind of a fundamental difference.

    • by ledow (319597) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:46AM (#44121425) Homepage

      Yeah.

      Basically anything they are doing there, I could do and not get into trouble (so long as you stick to the DPA, etc., and there's no evidence to suggest they don't). Hell, Google already do it too, and just about any number of web crawlers.

      That's a whole different ball game to "monitoring my conversations" when it comes to doing so by looking into the private records of my account, rather than what you can already find on Google.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Thursday June 27, 2013 @01:32PM (#44123885) Homepage

        The problem is that it is the long predicted end-game of the mass adoption of social media where everything gets put online. It borders on pre-crime, where the police actively look for people who seem like they might commit and offence.

        You also have to remember that many members of the police force are scum and will abuse this as much as possible. We already know they like to dig for dirt on people they don't like. It's becoming standard practice to throw in a few dubious but terrifying child porn charges based on the contents of a suspect's browser cache if they are not cooperating to the police's satisfaction. Now everything you ever said or posted can and will be used against you, out of context and even after you deleted it.

        It's somewhat like the Stasi. They had a file on everyone, spies everywhere potentially monitoring anything and everything being said or written for deviant behaviour. The effects were chilling.

        • by DeVilla (4563)

          It's somewhat like the Stasi.
          .
          .
          .
          The effects were chilling.

          Oh wait! I just just had a brilliant idea to help reverse Global Warming!

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by s.petry (762400)

        No you can't, your logic is broken. First, you don't have the time required to do this. Second, you are not getting paid with other people's money to do this. Lastly, you are not using this data in an official capacity even if you had the time to gather it.

        The UK's shit stinks just as much as the US's. I think the difference is really that in the US we are pretty vocal about it on US sites like /.. For all we know in the US, the UK may have the same movements that we just don't see in the US.

        I scoff

    • by Anonymous Coward
      It's still shitty.

      The only thing on Twitter that I find interesting enough to comment on is the ramblings of my local member of parliament. When he's being juvenile, such as when he says "it wasn't me it was the guy before me lol", I call him juvenile because that's what he is. I tell him I voted for him and I've made a big mistake. I tell him to stop posing for the cameras and to get on with the job he's paid to do. I tell him his government sucks and he should be ashamed of his and their actions.

      I now kno
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        It's still shitty.

        The only thing on Twitter that I find interesting enough to comment on is the ramblings of my local member of parliament. When he's being juvenile, such as when he says "it wasn't me it was the guy before me lol", I call him juvenile because that's what he is. I tell him I voted for him and I've made a big mistake. I tell him to stop posing for the cameras and to get on with the job he's paid to do. I tell him his government sucks and he should be ashamed of his and their actions.

        I now know I'm on The List and that limits my other activities on the internet too. It's shitty.

        now this is just comparable to the police reading the newspaper and you posting readers letters to the newspaper - and if you're already on the list why bother with anon? besides, if you were on a list it would be as long as the thames.

        headline is misleading. it would be more interesting to know if GB is spying on chinese turbine production capabilities by intercepting communications and passing them on to their domestic manufacturers - that would be more akin to PRISM.

        • by Xest (935314)

          Exactly. What this system is is basically automation of day to day work which you get in any industry, I wouldn't expect the police to be any different.

          If they can reasonably use publicly posted information to solve crimes or even prevent them before they happen then they're going to need to do that anyway and I'd rather they have a system that automates and pulls out the important parts and hence only need a few officers to review than than have hundreds of officers expensively wasting time reading absolut

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hence the "little brother".
      It certainly has space to get bigger, though.
      That is the main concern.

      Oversight of oversight of oversight. Unless there is constant transparency and equality amongst access, the system is open to abuse.
      In fact, wasn't there that project for people to spy on others through CCTV to report dodgy behaviours?

    • Because all it does is just scrape public data

      Even some of the staunchest "don't post in public that which you don't want to be public" proponents tend to draw lines.

      Remember this thing?
      http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/03/31/0145218/man-creates-creepy-stalking-app [slashdot.org]
      http://apple.slashdot.org/story/12/04/02/1432257/worlds-creepiest-iphone-app-pulled-after-outcry [slashdot.org]
      ( tl;dr: App that combined public foursquare and facebook data so you could quickly find out more details about a person in a given location, like, say,

    • by PhilHibbs (4537)

      This is about as invasive as reading the letters pages in all the newspapers.

  • The Netherlands. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tsa (15680) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:35AM (#44121325) Homepage

    I wonder what kind of spying methods the Netherlands use. We were the best of the world in tapping telephone conversations for a very long time. But our government has a good reputation for fucking up IT projects in catastrophic ways, so I'm curious how they fare in the "spying on your own people" business.

  • by SomePoorSchmuck (183775) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:41AM (#44121365) Homepage

    As I said of Western governments many years ago, "WE read 1984 and took it as a warning. THEY read 1984 and took it as a blueprint."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:42AM (#44121381)

    I'm blowing the whistle on Facebook. I work for Facebook and support systems that also scour posts and collects personal information and trends. It is my understanding that this data, which is in the 1000's of TB's, is sold to governments and capitalist entities. I complained once, but they told me I was doing my country and the community great favors by what I was doing. Then my cat disappeared that night. Like I sai

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's worse than that. I have come into ownership of secret information about a classified NSA program known by the code name Magellan. The system is said to scour the whole Internet and present a simple user interface for searching this gigantic database, allowing the NSA to instantly conduct searches for information that used to be private and known only through word of mouth. This is only the first generation of this technology. The corporation Digital Research, heavily connected to the military-industria

  • Even reading the article, I'm still not clear on wtf the "Metropolitan Police" referred to are. Is that the London police? Sydney? Some other city?

    • by Xest (935314) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:48AM (#44121441)

      It's okay, you can be forgiven for not having heard of them, it's not like they're the oldest police force in the world or anything:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Police_Service [wikipedia.org]

      • by Inda (580031) <slash.20.inda@spamgourmet.com> on Thursday June 27, 2013 @10:10AM (#44121621) Journal
        Oldest and most corrupt?

        They have been so many scandals since my birth, that naming them all would take too long, so I'll name the ones that are current in my mind.

        Currently they are investigating themselves for a victim smear campain. Last year 50 were suspended for corruption. They've been labled as "institutionalised racists" in the past. They've murdered people like Ian Tomlinson and Jean Charles de Menezes in recent years. They've sold out to the national press, more than once.

        'ello, 'ello, 'ello, what a 'orrible lot we are.
        • by Xest (935314)

          I agree they've got a lot to answer for but "most corrupt" is pushing it a bit given that in some countries you can outright pay officers to arrest people or get arrested on made up charges and have to pay a bribe to be released.

          It's also a rather big force as it has the best part of 50,000 staff which is more than Sweden and Norway put together have to police their entire countries and given that you're bound to have some bad eggs, but yes, they could certainly do better.

      • And not to be confused with the http://www.cityoflondon.police.uk/CityPolice/About/ [police.uk]
      • Yeah, it's not as if the term "Metropolitan Police" could refer to any large city's police force...

        • by Xest (935314)

          When one is more famous than any other it's usually quite normal to assume it's the most famous one being referred to if there's ambiguity.

          It's like when someone bitched the other week when an article said "The Queen" saying "Which Queen?". Which fucking Queen do you think? It's not exactly rocket science just as when an article says the "FBI" and talks about crime I don't scream "What has this got to do with the Federation of British industries?" or ask why Nashville School of the Arts has been engaged in

        • by stiggle (649614)

          The title says they're "English" and there is only one English Metropolitan Police - aka "The Met"

        • Because we invented police forces, it made sense for us to call our force the Metropolitian, because as the first, it couldn't be confused with anyone else. It's the same with stamps; we still don't put any country identity on our stamps, just the queen's head. Just remember: 'The English the English the English are best,I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest' and 'It's not that they're wicked or naturally bad It's just that they're foreign that makes them so mad The English are all that a nation s
      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's okay, you can be forgiven for not having heard of them, it's not like they're the oldest police force in the world or anything:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Police_Service [wikipedia.org]

        "The Metropolitan Police Service was founded in 1829, under the Metropolitan Police Act 1829, and at that time, merged with the River Thames Marine Police Force, which had been formed in 1798. In 1837, it also incorporated the Bow Street Horse Patrol that had been organised in 1805"

    • You've probably heard of "Scotland Yard", which is a nickname for the Metropolitan Police.

      • Not really - they're normally referred to as 'The Met'. Scotland Yard, or simply 'The Yard', is their HQ.
  • This is why I'm not and never have been on Facebook and don't use a real name elsewhere. How stupid are people? Oh gee, I put something out in the public and now people are looking at it. Seriously? Don't use Facebook.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      This is why I'm not and never have been on Facebook and don't use a real name elsewhere. How stupid are people?

      Apparently, stupid enough to believe that this project only sniffs public data, and also stupid enough to believe that by avoiding Facebook, they've avoided being tracked.

      • by liamevo (1358257)

        We have "tempora" for the none public data.

  • Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a staff of 17 officers in the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU) has been scanning the public's tweets, YouTube videos, Facebook profiles, and anything else UK citizens post in the public online sphere.

    I agree, that does seem extreme...

  • There's only one group responsible for oversight, and we're doing a pretty lousy job of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is almost a non-story compared to Tempora [wikipedia.org].

  • by Anonymous Coward

    National. Domestic. Extremism. Unit.
    *facepalm*
    You can't make this stuff up.
    Can you imagine the receptionist?

    Receptionist: Welcome to the National Domestic Extremism Unit! Please hold!
    AC: Okay. (20 minutes later)
    Receptionist: Hello, how may I help you today?
    AC: Hi I was wondering if you had any spare SCUD missiles? Last ones we've seen so far were lost somewhere in the Middle East.
    Receptionist: I'm sorry, you must have the wrong department. We're providing monitoring services, you'll have to talk to MI6 a

  • Doubleplus ungood.

  • ...are...do my feet really stink that badly?

    I do the best I can... :'(

  • Somebody needs to work with the British to help them improve their naming of sinister police-state infrastructure. "SOCMINT" just doesn't have the James Bond supervillain police-state cachet of "PRISM" or even "ESCHELON".

    If the program's name doesn't strike fear into peoples' hearts, how do they expect to people to properly cower? They've got a lot of catching up to do if they're going to achieve the US government's level of soul-crushing totalitarianism (though they do get extra points for implementing a

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