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In the UK, Big Brother Recedes and Advances 176

PeterAitch writes "The UK government's Home Office has put a hold on their surveillance project to track details of everybody's email, mobile phone, text, and Web use after being warned of problems with privacy as well as technical feasibility and high costs." Four hours before the above Guardian story was filed, the BBC reported that the same Home Office insisted that it will push ahead with plans "to compel communication service providers to collect and retain records of communications from a wider range of internet sources, from social networks through to chatrooms and unorthodox methods, such as within online games."
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In the UK, Big Brother Recedes and Advances

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  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @06:28AM (#30043752) Homepage

    could someone please seriously enlighten me as to why the UK government believes this has a chance of succeeding?

    TalkTalk's director has already said unequivocably that TalkTalk will sue the UK Government if they proceed with policies like this, on the basis that presumably the TalkTalk director does not want to be put in jail for being ultimately responsible for implementing UK government policies that violate E.U and International Laws on privacy and human rights.

    Additionally, the UK's secret service has warned the UK government that raising people's awareness of attacks on their privacy simply raises their awareness of techniques to keep their conversations private, thus making the job of snooping on conversations that really *matter* just that much more difficult and costly.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @06:51AM (#30043844)

    Quite simply, we don't. It's just that we have no say in how the country is run. Oh sure, there are those election things, but when there are only two parties and neither is any good, it doesn't really matter who is in power - both sides want to do this kind of thing.

  • by ChiefMonkeyGrinder ( 1459991 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @07:58AM (#30044142)
    It appears the Guardian has just parsed the legislative process in a strange way to make it look like the Home Office has changed its position when it in fact hasn't.
  • by SgtChaireBourne ( 457691 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @08:22AM (#30044246) Homepage

    If we banned cars we could save thousands of people from being killed or severely injured every year,

    Wrong. You'd save many tens of thousands from being killed. Many hundreds of thousands would be save from injury: []

  • by the_womble ( 580291 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @08:29AM (#30044292) Homepage Journal

    Encrypted traffic does not hide who you are communicating with.

  • by WarwickRyan ( 780794 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @08:37AM (#30044328)

    Terry Gilliam made a really good documentry about: []

  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:45AM (#30045428) Journal

    Well, it's against the laws of thermodynamics to be able to brute force AES-256 for a start. If there were exploitable weaknesses in the algorithm, given that there are open source AES-256 implementations, it would not be possible to keep them quiet. This leaves brute forcing. (Of course, people can choose bad passphrases, but most who go to the bother of using AES-256 will probably use something decent) []

    One of the consequences of the second law of thermodynamics is that a certain amount of energy is necessary to represent information. To record a single bit by changing the state of a system requires an amount of energy no less than kT, where T is the absolute temperature of the system and k is the Boltzman constant. (Stick with me; the physics lesson is almost over.)

    Given that k = 1.38×10-16 erg/Kelvin, and that the ambient temperature of the universe is 3.2Kelvin, an ideal computer running at 3.2K would consume 4.4×10-16 ergs every time it set or cleared a bit. To run a computer any colder than the cosmic background radiation would require extra energy to run a heat pump.

    Now, the annual energy output of our sun is about 1.21×1041 ergs. This is enough to power about 2.7×1056 single bit changes on our ideal computer; enough state changes to put a 187-bit counter through all its values. If we built a Dyson sphere around the sun and captured all its energy for 32 years, without any loss, we could power a computer to count up to 2192. Of course, it wouldn't have the energy left over to perform any useful calculations with this counter.

    But that's just one star, and a measly one at that. A typical supernova releases something like 1051 ergs. (About a hundred times as much energy would be released in the form of neutrinos, but let them go for now.) If all of this energy could be channeled into a single orgy of computation, a 219-bit counter could be cycled through all of its states.

    These numbers have nothing to do with the technology of the devices; they are the maximums that thermodynamics will allow. And they strongly imply that brute-force attacks against 256-bit keys will be infeasible until computers are built from something other than matter and occupy something other than space.

  • Re:More jobs! (Score:3, Informative)

    by tomtomtom ( 580791 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @11:40AM (#30046160)

    You can have as many shotguns and rifles as you want, just no hand guns. And if you go up against the cops with just a hand gun, you're not making a stand but an easy target.

    Shotguns (at least of the type not requiring a firearms certificate), basically yes. Rifles... while there is technically no limit on the number you can apply for on a firearms certificate, you need to effectively justify each one on the basis that you will actually use it regularly, so it's unlikely you'd be allowed to build up a significant arsenal. You'll also find it basically impossible to purchase the types of rifles which are most common in the US, as all full-bore semi-automatic rifles (e.g. the AR-15) are, along with all handguns, all fully automatic weapons and (bizarrely) self-contained gas cartridge air rifles, classed as Section 5 firearms. This makes them all but impossible for private citizens and pretty difficult even for specialist collectors/dealers.

    I'd also add that if you go up against the police with ANY kind of weapon (including non-firearms), you are making yourself an easy target. People have been shot dead by the police for brandishing table legs, samurai swords, air rifles, and even a couple of cases where the victims were totally unarmed).

  • by tomtomtom ( 580791 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @12:03PM (#30046484)

    It's not just the Brits, it's the whole EU. It's an EU regulation that pretty much all countries accepted.

    No. Sweden, for example, tried to avoid implementing it completely []. The Irish and the Slovaks also didn't like it. It was a British idea [] - they just realised it would have had a rough ride through the UK parliament so went to the EU to policy launder [] it (which in less polite circles is called "corruption").

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @12:18PM (#30046720)

    Well so called Catholics (IRA) have blown up way more shit in the UK than any Muslim has.

    the problem, is people like you who help propagate fear and hatred against your fellow human beings.

    What you are really advocating is a Stasi state where neighbours inform on neighbours.

  • by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:50PM (#30049408)

    When people learn that not all dark-skinned foreigners are Muslims that would be a step in the right direction too.

UNIX enhancements aren't.