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Total Phone and Email Database Proposed In UK 434

mishmash writes "The Times of London is reporting a proposal for a massive government database holding details of all phone calls, emails, and time spent on the Internet. This is to be justified as being 'part of the fight against crime and terrorism.' Quoting: 'Internet service providers and telecoms companies would hand over the records to the Home Office under plans put forward by officials.' If you want to write to representatives to let them know your views, contact details are available at Write to Them." UK telecoms are already required to keep records of phone calls and text messages for 12 months, accessible by subpoena; the requirement is already slated to expand to records of Internet usage, emails, and VoIP. This new proposal aims to centralize all that information in a single database in the Home Office.
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Total Phone and Email Database Proposed In UK

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  • Mr. Orwell! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IgnoramusMaximus ( 692000 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:09PM (#23469586)

    Mr.Orwell! A telephone call for Mr.Orwell ....

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Mr. Orwell can be reached at 1-BIG-BRO-THER. That's 1-984-BRO-THER.
      • by caitsith01 ( 606117 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:46PM (#23469900) Journal
        Actually, under this proposal Mr Orwell can be reached by calling pretty much anyone, thanks to the OMNI-CALL system operated by MiniLove.

        Simply dial any random number and deliver your message to whoever answers. Give it a little while and the relevant catchwords will be identified and stored in the central database for easy retrieval by unaccountable government drones. 'Correctional' officers will then be dispatched to visit you and 'correct' your views on certain matters.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I am not sure this is so funny. Not so long ago this sort of a joke would be something told with a tone of moral superiority about the old USSR, where the tourists were told, half-in-jest, to speak into the flower arrangements on the hotel table.

          Oh how far the mighty have fallen....

          And how quickly!

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      Hello? Hello?

      Is that you, Airstrip One?
    • Mr.Orwell! A telephone call for Mr.Orwell ....

      no no no - in this situation, there is no need to page anyone.

      if the Men In Charge(tm) want you, they'll come get you. in person. sometimes they may even forget to knock before entering.

      its part of the new super-service our tax dollars have been paying for.

    • by Morromist ( 1207276 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:07PM (#23470040)
      Nobody seems to hate the concept of terrorism as much as the Brits -

      I would like to see us have an Osama Bin ladin day where we burn his effigy to fireworks and general celebration
      - and Guy fawkes never actually carried out the gunpowder plot
      AND nobody seems to forget the bloody goverment reprisals that have taken place under the guidance of the old Kings and Queens, mostly due to religious differences. here I name but a few:

      The rampage of Bloody Bonner during the reign of Queen Mary I

      The Bloody Assizes of Judge Jeffreys in the reign of King James II

      The repression in Scotland against the highlanders after the first Jacobite rebellions which some historians have called genocide

      The Peterloo Massacre in 1819

      Have the English forgot all of these thousands of government killings and yet still remember Guy Fawkes who did not manage to kill a single person?
      If I were British I would be considerably more afraid of my government than any terrorist.
      • by deepershade ( 994429 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:32PM (#23470208)
        If I were British I would be considerably more afraid of my government than any terrorist. Believe me. I am. And when we raise our concerns, they ignore us and do what they want anyway. Learn this, we are no longer a democracy (rule of the majority), we're a totalitarianistic state. The vote is just something they 'allow' us to have because it appeases the masses. And please don't mod this down unless you actually live in the UK. I WISH this were a flamebait or a troll. I really do.
        • by Zemran ( 3101 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:49PM (#23470368) Homepage Journal
          The vote is just something they 'allow' us to have because it appeases the masses.

          Why do people go on about the vote as if it makes a difference? In China they have had elections for decades and nothing has changed. The party puts forward a few suits to chose between and the people choose a puppet to stand in front of them. In Britain we get to choose between 3 suits and in the US they get to choose between 2... It is a long time since we have been any different to China or Russia.

          Russia and China are moving in one direction and becoming more free. The UK and the US are moving in the other direction. Russia has closed its gulags and the US has opened its own...

          In a few years we will be different to Russia and China again when they become the representatives or the free world.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cjb658 ( 1235986 )

            Russia and China are moving in one direction and becoming more free. The UK and the US are moving in the other direction. Russia has closed its gulags and the US has opened its own...

            I think a few Russian journalists would beg to differ (if they were still alive, that is).

          • Oh for Goodness' sake. I know that it's very fashionable at the moment to claim that the UK and US are turning into repressive police states, but is this comment actually based on any knowledge?

            Russia is moving toward becoming more free? Under Putin the state control of the media increased massively, the President's powers were increased hugely and the Duma was reduced to almost nothing. Now we have Medvedev, who won in a landslide that could never have been anything other than a landslide, while Putin is Prime Minister and still hugely powerful, leading a party with a constitutional majority and his hand-picked successor as president.

            China is pretty much the archetypal example of a repressive regime working today. A country employing the most complex control system ever built to prevent the people exercising any control and employing methods that have been associated with tyranny since the days of Aristotle.

            Claiming that these countries are as free as the UK or the US is a very strong statement, especially when you assert it with no evidence or information of any sort. It's a long time since we have been any different? The Republic of China has existed for 58 years, the Russian Federation for 16. And even if we just look at the UK it's difficult to see what you could be talking about.

            In the UK we have a three party system. The candidates embody genuine differences in philosophy, have massive differences in their manifestos and represent different sides of the political divide. It's very popular at the moment to make fun of the parties for having no real differences in policy, but it's mostly popular among people who have no idea what the parties' policies are. People "go on about the vote as if it makes a difference" because it does make a difference - you sound like you're in the UK so you have probably noticed there are some by-elections on at the moment, and the peoples' votes are forcing the Government to give people what they want. If the by-elections are as bad for Labour as many people expect, their entire policy agenda will have to change. This accountability is one of the things the vote guarantees; politicians have to govern reasonably or lose office.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          As a UK "citizen" I totally agree with you. England has sleepwalked into something akin to post war East Germany.

          "Oh but stop moaning, there are twelve kinds of butter in the supermarket".

          Pah, Viz comics bottom inspectors [] are looking more like prophecy every day !
    • by ductonius ( 705942 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @11:23PM (#23470628) Homepage
      Mr.Orwell! A telephone call for Mr.Orwell ....
      Maybe something like this.

      Loudspeaker: Paging Mr.Orwell. Mr.Orwell to the nearest white courtesy phone.
      Orwell: Hmmm... Ok.... Um... there's a sign here that says 'Courtesy Phone', but the phone is black.
      Loudspeaker: No, the courtesy phone is white.
      Orwell: No, it's black.
      Loudspeaker: It's white.
      Orwell: It's black. It's the same color as my suit and watchband.
      Loudspeaker: I don't know how you could be so mistaken. It's clearly white.
      Orwell: How can you not know your black courtesy phones are black?
      Loudspeaker: It's white.
      Orwell: It's black.
      Loudspeaker: Paging the nearest Civil Protection Team. Civil Protection Team to the nearest white courtesy phone.
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:09PM (#23469588)
    What on earth is this going to be good for?
    • by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:18PM (#23469658)
      Stopping terrorists...
    • by Finallyjoined!!! ( 1158431 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:20PM (#23469684)
      Huh? Isn't it obvious; so they can lose the entire database in the post.

    • by mikael ( 484 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:24PM (#23469718)
      Stock prices for data brokering companies, goverment contractors (HP, EDS), and server manufacturers. Seems more like an attempt to breath life into the UK IT industry to win votes in the home counties rather than anything practical.

      Sending all that information to the database system is going to generate just as much traffic as spam generates. How on earth are they going to differentiate between spam with forged E-mail addresses and real E-mail, when they won't have access to the actual message contents?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:13PM (#23469624)
    But how about a much cheaper and effective method of keeping the UK safe from Teh Terrorists:

    1. Stop supporting Israeli terrorism

    2. Stop acting the lapdog to the United States rampaging through the Middle East in an effort to secure oil resources and pipelines and wacky Christian end of world judegement day type crazyness.

  • This is brilliant! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:14PM (#23469632) Homepage
    When doing something that is both unpopular and demonstrably ineffective, the obvious solution is to do more of it. Those clever Brits! A perfect model for the future of U.S. legislation!
    • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @06:00AM (#23472880)
      I am beginning to wonder if Gordon Brown has been paid to sabotage the government by the Conservatives.
  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:15PM (#23469640)
    enjoy reading my encrypted traffic and voip phone calls.
    • Re:awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

      by letsief ( 1053922 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:24PM (#23469720)
      Often the fact that you communicated with a certain individual is suspicious enough, especially if encryption was used. You don't necessarily need to know what was said to learn a lot of useful information.
    • Re:awesome (Score:5, Funny)

      by John3 ( 85454 ) <> on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:27PM (#23469738) Homepage Journal
      Every month or two I make it a point to send a few long emails encrypted with PGP and with suggestive subject lines like "Schematics for trigger device" and "The Revolution Starts Now" to my Gmail or Hotmail account. The message content is just pasted Chuck Norris jokes, so if someone decides to spend some time and energy breaking the encryption at least they'll have something to read.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by couchslug ( 175151 )
        You'll be sorry when they send Chuck to Gitmo!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Boogaroo ( 604901 )
        You're going to give the crypto people a real headache as they try to figure out the concealed meaning in the formatting/wording of your jokes.

        Not only that, wait 'till someone who wants to move up the ladder starts making up bullshit! It's happened in state-run crime labs before.
      • Re:awesome (Score:5, Funny)

        by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @11:09PM (#23470526)
        "We're got a problem here, Johnson. If this Chuck Norris device can do even half of what this email claims it can do, we're onto the biggest terrorist plot in history!"

        "Agreed. Hopefully he hasn't finished that triggering mechanism or we're all screwed!"
    • Re:awesome (Score:5, Informative)

      by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:31PM (#23469780)

      enjoy reading my encrypted traffic and voip phone calls.
      Don't forget that in the UK, you must hand over encryption keys on demand or face jail time. This has been the law for some time over there.
      • Are these security policies causing any one to immigrate? We keep getting these scary stories on /., but do they scare the British public? Homeland Security wishes it had so much power.
        • Re:awesome (Score:4, Informative)

          by mikael ( 484 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:02PM (#23470006)
          The number of British nationals emigrating every year to Australia, New Zealand France, Spain and many other countries runs to anywhere between 200K and 700K []. Mainly due to increasing crime, increasing taxation, declining standard of living and being treated as second class citizens.

          • Re:awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

            by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:39AM (#23472186) Homepage
            I emigrated from the UK to Australia five years ago, because basically, as one tradesman-type person said to me very succinctly before I left: "Yeah, Don't blame yer mate, it's all fucked, innit?".

            And it is. It's not just the government though - it's also overpopulation, and the fact the the average Brit is happy to work all hours for faceless corps who don't give a fuck about them, because they're all up to their eyeballs in mortgage debt (and are led to believe that owning ones own house is the be-all and end-all of existence, so it's all worth it really). Towns are unfriendly and jammed with cars - there are now so many cars you can't move for the fucking things, being used or just parked. Housing estates are horrible hideous anonymous places with bad architecture, built so shoddily and close together that everyone's at each others' throats about the noise and where everyone shuns their neighbours because there is just no fucking privacy anymore. Simple fact - 60 million people and counting simply do not FIT into the British Isles.

            People pay insane prices for food and other basic needs, and put up with crap quality because they have gradually forgotten what good quality IS. Supermarkets have taken over every town and turned them all into identikit clones of each other - distinguishable only by the small differences in their dysfunctional traffic-saturated ring-road systems. And what are the supermarkets full of? Ready meals full of chemicals - for FUCKS sake Britain, cook your own food!

            There's no pride in anything - ones work, ones environment, ones town, and nobody actually makes anything anymore - it's all "service industry" whatever the fuck that means, what 'industry'?

            I don't believe in conspiracy theories generally, (after all, conspiracies require competence, and that's a precious commodity these days), but if some shady organisation had wanted to hatch a plot (in the 1960s, say) to turn Britain into a sleepwalking nation of compliant consumers that took any old shit thrown at them with a shrug, they could not have done better than what has actually taken place since then. Britain can be a beautiful place, and it has its good points, and good people, but as a nation it's lost its soul. Very sad. WAKEY WAKEY!!!
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by malsdavis ( 542216 )
            Right, so the hotter climates - which the English crave and all those countries just happen to have - wouldn't be anything to do with it?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by AReilly ( 9339 )

        enjoy reading my encrypted traffic and voip phone calls.
        Don't forget that in the UK, you must hand over encryption keys on demand or face jail time. This has been the law for some time over there.
        And how does that work out for them for https or other common SSL connections like smtp+tls, or imaps, where the keys are generated per-session and then thrown away?
      • Re:awesome (Score:4, Funny)

        by Hojima ( 1228978 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:20PM (#23470110)

        enjoy reading my encrypted traffic and voip phone calls.
        Don't forget that in the UK, you must hand over encryption keys on demand or face jail time. This has been the law for some time over there.
        What encryption key? I happen to send arbitrary data to all my friends.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by beelsebob ( 529313 )
          For those that are going to say they can request the key even if they only believe it's encrypted, you're wrong. They can only request it if they believe you still have the key.

          4 (1)...
          (2)If any person with the appropriate permission under Schedule 2 believes, on reasonable grounds --
          (a)that a key to the protected information is in the possession of any person,
          (b)that the imposition of a disclosure requirement in respect of the protected information is--
          (i)necessary on grounds falling within subsection (3)
    • Enjoy the extra attention you'll get from the authorities outside of just simple data-snooping. Haven't you heard? If you've done nothing wrong then you have nothing to hide. You're encrypting everything, so you must have something to hide. If you're making life difficult for the authorities... they'll make life difficult for you.
  • Fail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:19PM (#23469672) Journal
    If the British Government had any balls, they'd build their own version of the Great Firewall and log everything that goes through a node on their national infrastructure.

    That way you can call it what it is.
    Instead, the ISPs are being pulled into doing the dirty work, which means the gov't gets shielded from some of the heat.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Political Lesson 101:
      1. A totalitarian government spends its money and employs its people to build a Great Firewall. Expenses: $100 million. It Works.

      2. A democratic government takes people's money, gives it to a few chosen private contractors to build a monitoring station that can intercept ten million telephone calls a day, and will work for first few hours before its database becomes full. Expenses: $1215 million. It never works. After a year and spending 10x times the budget, the government blames the c
  • ... or storage consultants, IT consultants, IT services.... Does anyone have an idea how much data this database would have to hold? From the data I'm guessing at (1 MB per 1 minute call, 1 million calls a day for the UK), that's 1 TB a day being generated. They'll need an ungodly amount of storage, processing power and bandwidth to house this just for phone data. Email can easily double that data. Did anybody think this through properly? Is this actually gonna fly? Or is this just gonna make IBM and HP fil
  • by cortesoft ( 1150075 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:20PM (#23469686)
    The article says it is being proposed by Home Office "officials", yet the only person from the home office mentioned by name seems to be clearly against the proposal. I have a feeling that this was just something discussed, maybe brought up in a meeting in the Home Office, but has never been actually proposed officially. In fact, the article seems to confirm this, as evidenced by the line

    Home Office officials have discussed the option of the national database with telecommunications companies and ISPs as part of preparations for a data communications Bill to be in Novemberâ(TM)s Queenâ(TM)s Speech. But the plan has not been sent to ministers yet.
    Of course things like this will be discussed amongst government officials, and talking to the telecoms to find out the technical feasibility would be something done early in the process. I would start to be concerned if this was officially proposed, and then really concerned if it was accepted and enacted.
    • by mrsteveman1 ( 1010381 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:34PM (#23469800)
      Damn facts...getting in the way of a good rant....fuckers
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bogtha ( 906264 )

      the only person from the home office mentioned by name seems to be clearly against the proposal.

      There's nobody from the Home Office mentioned by name in the article. If you are referring to Jonathan Bamford, the assistant Information Commissioner, then the ICO is an independent public body sponsored by the Ministry of Justice. If you are referring to David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, then he is part of the shadow government, i.e. he is the opposition party's counterpart to the Home Secretary.

  • Premature? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:22PM (#23469702)

    If you want to write to representatives to let them know your views, contact details are available at Write to Them.

    While I think Write To Them is a fine service and encourage people to use it more, I can't help but feel this is a little premature. This is just another hare-brained idea by the Home Office that MPs haven't even seen yet. Why don't we wait until they actually have a copy of the bill before bombarding them with complaints about it? Otherwise we run the risk of looking like paranoid kooks for protesting a bill that nobody has read because it doesn't even exist yet.

    • Re:Premature? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dafrazzman ( 1246706 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:35PM (#23469808)
      Pre-bill political wrangling is a proven tactic. If you get a lot of people to complain about the concept, the bill will never come to fruition.

      In fact, if you can get enough people to write in fearing some sort of massive problem, any bill that can be seen to have the slightest association with that fear, no matter how much the original fear was inflated, will never come to pass.

    • Its worth pointing out that if these people really do want such a database, writing letters to them isn't going to do much to stop it from happening:

      "Mr Prime Minister sir, we were going to start collecting data on everyone, but Mrs. Bugglesby from 3593 Pettycoat lane wrote us a letter....and well, we're just going to call the whole thing off."
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ClintJCL ( 264898 )
        I guess you shouldn't vote either. Or do anything. How about you just curl up in the corner and die, since you make no difference? No individual can. I propose mass suicide.
    • Re:Premature? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ewe2 ( 47163 ) <> on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:37PM (#23469826) Homepage Journal
      Because history shows that a negative public reaction will make them think twice. The whole point of this "leak" is to test that public opinion, and allows MPs to avoid thorny questions. Frankly, being called a paranoid kook is preferable to being on a database.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by smoker2 ( 750216 )
        In fact this "leak" will later become known as "the period of full and frank public consultation" which provides the mandate for the enforced changes.
  • Why not? After all their current, obtrusive, all-seeing camera system works so good at stopping major crimes, errr, I mean, illegal dog poop [].
  • Now more than ever (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ciaohound ( 118419 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:28PM (#23469752)
    "Western civilization isn't possible without relational databases." -- Bruce Lindsay, IBM fellow. I always loved that quote.
  • ...I wonder if the Empress Elizabeth II gives a crap about her government running all over her subjects.
  • NIMBY! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:33PM (#23469790)
    After the very public demonstration of the UK Government's (more specifically, Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs) laughable security policy when it comes to personal data, I'm suddenly very paranoid.
  • ...will that include spam? If so it becomes quite useless: >90% of the e-mails are spam these days. Good luck doing anything with such a noise to signal level.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) * on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:57PM (#23469976) Journal
    Watch Adam Curtis's documentary, The Trap.

    Here it is:

    Part One []

    Part Two []

    Part Three []

    Brilliant stuff. Really sad. But brilliant.


  • Wow! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by isotope23 ( 210590 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:57PM (#23469978) Homepage Journal
    You know, stories like this make clear its a good thing the Nazis didn't win WWII. Just imagine if the Nazis had won, they might have tapped everyone's.....
    er..... Nevermind....

  • by joe user jr ( 230757 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:05PM (#23470030)

    How can we be safe from criminals and terrorists while we still retain the ability to communicate face to face without full disclosure to our loyal public servants?

    I regard it as not only highly desirable but a moral duty to provide the contents of all non-electronically-mediated conversations - ideally a full video or audio recording would be made available, but at the very least a transcript or precis.

    I just don't know how one could claim to be an upstanding citizen without providing such.

  • V for Vendetta (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:20PM (#23470114)
    Cue the 1812 Overture...
  • by Stanislav_J ( 947290 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:00AM (#23471976)

    But don't you understand? All this -- the surveillance, the monitoring, the foolproof IDs -- is going to ultimately eliminate crime in the UK and enable everyone to live in blissful peace and safety and harmony, correct? I mean, hasn't crime already slowed to a trickle because of all the CCTV and stuff?

    What? It hasn't? could this not work? I thought for sure...

    Unless.....maybe this has nothing to do with battling crime and terrorism, but instead to establish total control over the lives of citizens? NO!!! NO!!! Perish the thought...not in a Western Democracy...we have freedom and all that other good stuff, not like those nasty totalitarian regimes, right? Must...eliminate...negative...thinking....all is well...all is well....all is well.....

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta