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GCHQ UK Caught Snooping on Transatlantic Fibre Optic Connections

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013 (8:23 am) - Score 2,344
fibre optic cables into united kingdom

The Government’s Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which aims to provide intelligence, protect information and “keep our society safe and successful“, has been caught tapping into at least some of the world’s transatlantic fibre optic cable links that keep us all connected via the Internet and via phone calls.

According to new documents leaked by Edward Snowden, a USA man whom formerly worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) before he apparently went rogue and blew the lid on yet more of the country’s secrets, GCHQ has been tapping into the fibre optic cables that come into and go out of the United Kingdom for the past 18 months (plus possibly a few cables in other countries too but it’s not clear).

The information suggests the operation, which is codenamed Tempora, can store huge amounts of data for up to 30 days for special analysis. The data caught by this project, which covers everything from recordings of phone calls to the content of emails, website visits and Facebook updates, is just as likely to relate to innocent people as it is to targeted suspects.

By comparison the now at least partially defunct internet snooping legislation (Communications Data Bill), which was recently blocked by the Deputy PM Nick Clegg (here and here) over personal privacy concerns, would have only created logs of access and not the content of your communications (it was also intended to target local / internal UK comms). But The Guardian’s piece suggests that Tempora already goes well beyond that.

Edward Snowden, NSA Whistleblower, said:

It’s not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight. They [GCHQ] are worse than the US.”

However a source with knowledge of the situation is reported to have told the newspaper that the data was collected under a system of safeguards and has already helped to stop a significant number of serious crimes. It would also perhaps be wrong to think that other countries aren’t doing something similar (well we know the USA does and China is always a good bet).

At least some of the collected data is understood to have also been shared with other members of the so-called Five Eyes, a term used to describe an electronic eavesdropping alliance that comprises the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, through a supposedly “light oversight regime“.

The report claims that GCHQ had tapped a total of more than 200 fibre-optic cables (most of those have a capacity of 10Gbps) and could access data from around 46 of those at any one time (around 600 million telephone events each day). It’s claimed that the scale of this effort, which began five years ago with some initial trials, is continuing to increase with more cables being tapped all the time (100Gbps+ cables are the next target).

The once secret activity is alleged to have been conducted by using an obscure clause in the original Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which allows the government’s home or foreign secretary to approve such activity as long as one end of the snooped communication is abroad (i.e. international traffic and connections).

Never the less Tempora remains a legally questionable operation and is sure to have privacy advocates up in arms, although this is precisely the sort of work that spy agencies have been doing around the world for decades. The difference is that GCHQ has been doing it on a huge scale and, unlike others, it’s now been exposed. Never a good thing if your job is all about secrecy.

But this is the land that created James Bond; a fictional character perhaps but one whose foundations were built on a hint of truth.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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68 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred

    What amazes me is that this amazes people

    How on earth do you think its done? Its well known that GCHQ (and other agency’s) have been eavesdropping on phone conversations for years looking for patterns / keywords etc

    Its an intelligence agency, how do you expect them to gather intelligence ?

    • Avatar Bob2002

      I’m amazed you’re not amazed. I rather doubt you would have guessed GCHQ had tapped around 200 cables unless you had inside knowledge.

      You have also posted in these comments that old chestnut, “Nothing to hide nothing to fear”. OK in that case you won’t mind posting your real name, address, telephone number, position and place of work instead of FibreFred? Just so we can be clear you don’t, for instance, have a vested interest in mass surveillance of the UK public.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I’ve no idea about specifics no. But am I amazed that a surveillance outfit actually intercepts communications (SIGINT), errr no, for one it says so on there website so… no gasps of shock, no.

  2. Avatar DanielM

    You got my tweet then mark? 🙂

    @FibreFred

    what is being done is wrong. No wonder they wanted the snoopers charter so quick…

    • Avatar FibreFred

      So how do you think they gather intelligence then? Do you think one in every 10 of the population is a spook and they just hope to eavesdrop on a terrorist conspiracy whilst at the bus stop?

      This sort of thing has been going on for years on the phone, communication moves to a new medium (the Internet) so does its eavesdrop.

      How do you expect these authorities to keep you safe, why are people so worried, do you think the GCHQ gives a hoot that you’ve just tweeted you’ve had burger & chips for tea?

      They couldn’t possibly store and sift through everything, they have to be looking for patterns and key markers , you can’t trawl through this stuff by hand. So I’m sure peoples dirty little (non terrorist of course) secrets are safe 🙂

    • Avatar DanielM

      that argument is worn out FibreFred

      Let them spy on us to protect us from “Terrorism” (by the way you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning then a terror attack)

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Strange views, strange views indeed. So what do you think they are really doing and using that data for?

      Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.

      I’m glad someones got our back and we don’t believe every conspiracy theory going

    • Avatar FibreFred

      “(by the way you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning then a terror attack)”

      Probably thanks to the GCHQ 😉

    • Whilst the data is only kept and analysed by GCHQ, I am sure you are right FibreFred. What would really worry everyone would be if (when?) the local councils et al decide they “need” access to the data to counter terrorist acts such as benefit fraud, late child support payments, dropping litter, parking fine enforcement, …

    • Avatar FibreFred

      wirelesspacman 100% agree on that, that is a definite no no, and some councils have even used surveillance laws incorrectly to do similar things. I don’t mean internet snooping I’m talking about their own in house surveillance on properties and people, there was something in the press about it a while back.

      Anyway that is certainly wrong

      I dunno , its eyes wide open for me, its a public network just like PSTN is, public not private , always bear that in mind

    • Avatar DanielM

      “Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.”

      so you’re fine with gov spying? I consider my emails and my bank accounts private. nothing to do with the gov.. And once again a silly comment.

    • Avatar MikeW

      No time for a full statement, but I seem to be largely with FibreFred on this one.

      I don’t consider it wrong as the stories go, but once the capability is there, then there is a line that could be crossed if someone wished (someone in a suitable position, anyway). It then becomes a matter of judgement…

    • Avatar FibreFred

      DanielM, spying isn’t some new concept its been around for many years. Spying is necessary for many reasons probably even more so these days.

      Do you really believe someone has sat down and read through your emails and your bank account?

      Seriously your own personal details you as an individual?

    • Avatar DanielM

      IF GCHQ was so good why didnt it stop the woolwich attack? (It was an attack not a terror case since terror is targeting civilians not military)

    • Avatar FibreFred

      You already know the answer Daniel, we can usually have a good discussion , with respect please don’t go down the path of a troll

  3. Avatar catalyzer

    ‘So how do you think they gather intelligence then? Do you think one in every 10 of the population is a spook and they just hope to eavesdrop on a terrorist conspiracy whilst at the bus stop?’

    – So why do they need to spy on my emails, listen to my phone calls and see what I’m viewing online? Do you think everyone one in ten of the population is a terrorist?

    ‘How do you expect these authorities to keep you safe, why are people so worried, do you think the GCHQ gives a hoot that you’ve just tweeted you’ve had burger & chips for tea? ‘

    – I have to agree with you there, before the advent of soviet style pubic snooping I was terrified that I’d be attacked by a terrorist every time I left my house to buy a newspaper.

    ‘They couldn’t possibly store and sift through everything, they have to be looking for patterns and key markers , you can’t trawl through this stuff by hand. So I’m sure peoples dirty little (non terrorist of course) secrets are safe’
    ‘ So what do you think they are really doing and using that data for? Nothing to hide, nothing to fear. I’m glad someones got our back and we don’t believe every conspiracy theory going’

    – Yes I’m sure you’re correct and we can trust our government with all this information, there’s no incentives to pass certain information to certain agencies for example, or use the information for purposes not defined initially, that type of thing hasn’t happened historically. I’m sure the very people who in the past have lied about the threat of chemical weapon use and WMD to enter an illegal war (openly admitted by our Prime Minister no less) and are now using propaganda about Assad and HIS chemicals weapons (words of US serving and ex military officials, not mine), have our back and will put paid to any silly notions or conspiracy theories. Alas, as you stated ,nothing to hide nothing to fear (because those in authority can just say you’re hiding something you’re not – win win).

    “(by the way you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning then a terror attack**)Probably thanks to the GCHQ.’
    ** – Fact, Fred.
    – How many terrorist threats have GCHQ foiled in your current location that would have directly involved yourself coming to harm? I forget the severity of the threat that these decent types are shielding us from – perhaps you could link some information?

    The government surveilling an innocent population is against human rights laws – FACT. Ask yourself why the government would break the law and ignore rights to gather information about innocent people when the supposed threat just doesn’t justify it. The evidence just isn’t there fred – where are the facts and figures to support such an intrusion? Oh, I suppose that comes under national security so they can’t be revealed, how convenient. If it were the case that the UK streets were awash with suicide bombers, then maybe your point of view would be more palatable. Guilty until proven innocent is not freedom.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      More conspiracy tosh, you’ll never know what is/isn’t being done. Tin foil hats at the ready folks

  4. Avatar catalyzer

    Fred, That’s a ridiculous reply. Conspiracy theory is quite often conspiracy fact fred, and that has been documented on many occasions- make the distinction. I notice you cant counter any of the ‘conspiracy theories’/ documented facts that I’ve brought to your attention, Ad hominem is the response of a fool. So, I’ll give you a chance to state your case.

    Which of the points I’ve just raised are factually incorrect, and why?

  5. Avatar dragoneast

    I find this very difficult. Whilst I have no personal objection and believe a government should take reasonable steps to keep it’s people safe, I don’t think expediency is the end of the matter.

    There is a point of principle, history shows how every tolitarian regime has started out on the quite reasonable pretext of combating threats to security. But security isn’t a cover-all blanket that justifies anything done in its name. I think it was the nineteenth century judge Lord Acton who remarked along the lines that things done in secret have a habit of going rotten, and everything benefits from examination and discussion. I agree. Of course spying has always gone on, but that doesn’t gives spies or their modern equivalents, analysts, the right to do whatever they please without question, and seemingly to treat it as a game as some of the leaked comments might indicate. Government works when the people consent, and consent as always should be informed. Even if you take an entirely pragmatic approach, as Europeans do (the Americans seem to me to be much more principled, which is not the same as right before anyone complains), the question of effectiveness remains – as far as I can tell after every terrorist atrocity the question arises why the security agencies seem unable to act effectively on the information they have. As one American commentator put it more eloquently than I can do: it is not necessarily apparent that if you are looking for a needle in a haystack you will find it by piling more hay on the haystack.

    • Avatar catalyzer

      You keep trusting authority and fearing who and what you’re told to fred, good luck with that mindset when you finally realise that politicians are nothing more than administrators for the corporate banking elite – but of course, for the time being we’ll just assume that illegal war, banks laundering drug money and fixing interest rates, collusion, tax evasion and insider trading is the stuff of tin foil hat wearing imbeciles.

      Abuse of human rights laws – in your words ‘not worthy of discussion’

      Assumed guilty until proven innocent – in your words ‘not worthy of discussion’

      Historic evidence of misuse of information – in your words ‘not worthy of discussion’

      Lack of any credible evidence to to support the practise – in your words ‘not worthy of discussion’

      With that said Fred, just what level of corporate- government corruption would it take before you lost your implicit trust for these authoritative types? The chance for discussion is right here fred, the points I’ve raising are indeed worthy of discussion, the only conclusion I can reach is that you have no argument.

  6. Avatar catalyzer

    Okay Fred, I’m happy to leave my comments on this page, and have people read them and see you trying to worm out of a response. My advice to you sir, don’t involve yourself in discussion on matters in which you have no real knowledge.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I’m happy to discuss but there’s nothing in your opening comment to discuss further 🙂

      @dragoneast, agreed. The trouble is, no-one on here can prove or disprove what is going on.

      All people can (and are doing very well) is read a headline and swoon at the thought of all of their private IM’s and Skype calls to their friends over seas appearing on some guys desk to look over.

      Its a conspiracy theorists honeypot – just think of what they are up to, just how many people have read this very page at GCHQ and are now doing profile checks on me, seeing where I went school, what I like to put on my toast and whether I prefer to pay cash or card when I pick up my milk in the morning, the horror!

      You cannot and will never know what they are up to, even if they told you would people believe them? Of course not, it would just be yet another cover up, we all know if things got too out of control they’d just use one of those mass mind control ray guns they reverse technologied from one of the many alien visits. 😉

  7. Avatar dragoneast

    Um, I suppose what I’m saying is that we all (Government included) have this habit of doing things because we can. That doesn’t make it right and raises three issues (well, that come to mind):
    1. We consume an awful lot of resources at considerable cost and, as money doesn’t grow on trees, we need to constantly balance our priorities;
    2. it’s not what you’ve got but what you do with it that matters: experience says you need a keen watch for both effectiveness and misuse in any field of human endeavour, and not least where the light don’t shine;
    3. it’s particularly dangerous when both the data and the existence of the data is kept secret.

    Nothing saps confidence, essential to the functioning of democracy (or anything else, really), like not being told what is going on. Yes the conspiracy theories will thrive on a lack of knowledge – so what’s the cure for that, surely not using secrecy and confidentiality as an unnecessary comfort blanket which I think is too often the case. Most people can recognise a conspiracy theory for what it is – but trust is a two way street.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      It is yes, but people have to realise you can’t be privy to everything that goes on, that predates the internet and will no doubt always be the case.

      Its their job, you just have to assume they know what they are doing and (as they’ve stated) are operating within the law, you can’t call into question everything that everyone does in every walk of life or you’d get nothing done yourself.

      How could GCHQ operate if there was no confidentiality, it simple wouldn’t work

    • Avatar DanielM

      How can we trust them if we let them do what they want? for example sharing spying information with the NSA. am pretty sure that breaks eu laws.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      But your not “letting” them doing anything. Are you saying the general public should be watching the watchers and deciding what the scope of their work should entail?

      How would that work, do we all become DV cleared so we can keep them in check?

      I cannot believe that sharing intelligence with the US is breaking EU laws, but if laws are being broken sure they should be looked at.

  8. Avatar zemadeiran

    This is my humble opinion,

    All this wire tapping is nothing new as we all know.

    What is new, is the ability to sift through enormous amounts of data looking for points of reference which has been enabled by technologies fast paced momentum.

    This is NOT about protecting human life in the UK, the ability to maintain a stable and easily manipulated population is of paramount importance. This is the reason secondary students are not taught common law as a mandatory subject.

    If saving human lives was the true goal then we would prevent many winter pensioner deaths, completely ban tobacco, move to safer fossil fuels/EV’s etc.

    Take a look at the UK annual death statistics and then tell me if saving lives from “Terrorism” is a priority.

    Industrial espionage is priority number 1, it used to be “He who controls the money” but now it is really “He who controls the data”

  9. Avatar dragoneast

    I’m not sure it’s all as rational as we all might think. I’m sure it is about terrorism and crime (and industrial – or even political – espionage for that matter). But worthy aims always get subsumed in the “let’s do it, it’s fun” mentality, which is where the problems can start since the act, rather than the objective, assumes a momentum of its own. It was the arrogance of “we can do as we please” that got the tabloids, the bankers, and even a few politicians and the police into trouble. Do I detect a bit of that attitude in the security services? It may be a hopeless dream but it’d be nice to check the stable door for once before the horse has bolted. You can’t dot every i and cross every t, and shouldn’t try; but it doesn’t mean you have to wear a blindfold and a gag, does it?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Not at all no, but who watches the watchers, what sort of clearance would that require and can you trust the watchers of the watchers?

      This isn’t like press regulation its classified information to the highest level

  10. Avatar Timeless

    just to add another perspective, l dont think having nothing to hide is a good enough excuse to allow someone to profile and store users data about their online activity.

    some seem to think that just because its done in the name of protecting users in the name of anti terrorism, yet how come such surveillance seems to completely disregard the need for a warrant? after all you still need one to enter ones home, so it could be argued they are breaking the law since technically this invades the privacy of someones own home.

    that being said, this recent revelation which first appeared in the Guardian has proved that while they have the potential to spy on us our data is still unsafe, this time it was a whistle blower, classified information was leaked however whats to say that next time that there wont be someone who instead of whistle blowing decides he can make a few bob by selling credit card information thats been collected? ppl cannot just assume that just because its a government agency that it isnt prone to breeches of security, in addition to that fact while l agree no one can be truly secure online, adding methods of interception can also give other undesirables a back door, whos to say it wont be used as a back door.

    regardless, for me what it boils down to is not only does this disregard the law, completely forgets it and in addition to that we are at the start of a very slippery slope here, no governments track record with personal data is completely clean, they have a habit of abusing such information as well as loosing it sometimes.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Do you know what (if any) laws have been broken though? As that is crucial to any argument

      As for credit card info I’d be more worried about commercial organizations selling it on. Just think how many places your cc info goes when making a transaction including offshore, how many of these places have the same level of scrutiny and vetting?

    • Avatar Timeless

      going by how things are playing out l guess its does boil down to a matter of opinion. either way the laws are pretty vague so it could be argued that whats happened is a gross invasion of privacy.

      think of it in the perspective that the UK has been trying to do something similar however up till recently we thought this was way off. then couple this with the fact that the equipment is not UK owned.. lve nothing against the americans but why is it that their hardware is installed to spy on us? why is it that in order to obtain said intelligence that we have to put in a request for the data which is stored on our own soil?

      and on my final point, lm pretty sure we have all here heard about how data retention laws have changed over the years.. however many are forgetting that “THIS” goes waaaaay beyond the powers outlined.. from every press release lve ever read only contact details and places l visit would have been logged, this goes much further than that and l dont believe that was covered by data retention laws.

      suffice to say whether l have something to hide or not l dont think its right to decide to invade everyones privacy without proof of a crime. and that isnt for the government to decide.. its the courts who should decide based upon evidence who will issue a warrant who should be decide.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      American hardware ? This isn’t prism that is something else

  11. Avatar dragoneast

    What I find a bit difficult to swallow is that the mere fact that GCHQ has this capacity (which as has been said could have been guessed at anyway), or even that there are requests for information is something we should not know because it’s so prejudicial to national security, but perhaps never mind because the foreigners will tell us what our own government won’t. I’m sure it is information known to or surmised by the bad guys anyway. It has a whiff about it.

    I’m sure GCHQ has controls – well actually I can’t say that because it’s prejudicial to national security. (Laughs). Your question is one for the government, but the argument is that we cannot know whether or not they have addressed it, because that would be so prejudicial to national security. (Laughs again).

    • Avatar catalyzer

      It’s the government spying on every little detail about our lives, and we’re told it’s for our safety. It’s pointless addressing the massive implications of this with the likes of Fred – normalcy bias, (it’s quite common). The only reason we know about any of this is because it was leaked, not like they have ‘anything to hide’ then.

      The fact of the matter is, our government arent to be trusted with anything, let alone our private information. It’s not as if I’m fear mongering here, it’s been proven historically. Compliance (nothing to hide nothing to fear) is the response of fear itself – I say, grow a spine, stop burying your heads in the sand, it doesn’t work.

      I’m not under police investigation, I have nothing to hide – I dont have to prove that in this country . So what now? I should be happy that they’re trampling over my rights because they’re doing it for my safety ? Given the fraudulent way in which this “government’ has acted thus far, I’d rather hand my details over to a serial killer and take my chances.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I’m more surprised that Mark lets you post on here to be honest after your outburst the other week. I’d say you should be ashamed of yourself but there’s no chance of that.

      Are they spying on every aspect of your (you as a persons) life? Or are you just inventing that for the sake of further trolling

  12. Avatar catalyzer

    What outbursts? It’s the first time I’ve posted here . Nice to see you have finally summoned enough courage to address an actual point, maybe you can carry on this course of action and start thinking for yourself as opposed to having the government/media lie machine dictate your every thought and whim.

    Fact is, they (our wonderful government) have lied about their intentions already – why do that if they’ve ‘nothing to hide’? Your logic Fred, not mine. They have abused human rights, once they do that, what’s to stop them from continually taking this course of action in the name of ‘security’ – Every time you trot out the ‘nothing to hide’ mantra, you are condoning such nefarious behaviour Fred. No offense but the term ‘useful idiot’ springs to mind.

    ‘Are they spying on every aspect of your (you as a persons) life? Or are you just inventing that for the sake of further trolling’

    So you aren’t even aware of the depths of the intrusion – and yet you argue in favour of it?

    Abuse of human rights – Assumed guilty until proven innocent – Historic evidence of misuse of information – Lack of any credible evidence to to support the practise. Outright disdain for UK citizens rights, and your answer is “If you’ve nothing to hide’.
    Cowardice and ignorance is not the basis for competent discussion/debate, that’s why you havent got a reasonable argument about this matter. That’s why you call me (and more likely anyone who challenges your world view) a ‘conspiracy theorist’ when I’m discussing documents facts (lol @ that btw). You’re being extremely narrow minded about this situation Fred.

    ‘ I’m more surprised that Mark lets you post on here ‘

    – For the life of me I dont know who ‘Mark’ is, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least to find out your a hopeless sycophant also. ‘Ooo Miss miss, you forgot to set us homework miss’ – Fight your own battles Fred, If you’re not able to, don’t engage in them….. simple really.

  13. Avatar dragoneast

    I think the Government is actually muddled rather than wicked. It seems that the Government actually sees the digital world as the saviour of our embattled economy: the way they try to entice everyone on-line and have got the head of BT to take on a ministerial post. Then this and the harrumphing that t’internet is all about porn; maybe I’m just stupid but is it likely to encourage those who are suspicious of the digital world to become more involved on-line, and those thinking of setting up or moving their digital business to do so in the UK?

    I think what investors make of it is actually of rather more practical importance than my views as a slightly neurotic individual. Maybe they’ll be comforted by our Government’s addiction to universal snooping?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I can’t see it would make any difference to investors to be honest, do you think this sort of practice doesn’t take place in other countries?

      So if you don’t capture all traffic and then based on that traffic highlight the people/practices you really want to spy on, how do you expect it to be done?

      Randomly spy on people and hope you get lucky?

      You have to cast the net as wide as possible, look for the info you need , ditch the rest (99% of it being irrelevant standard of no interest traffic) and concentrate on the people of interest, sounds like common sense to me.

      As I keep saying they are signals intelligence, they intercept, its nothing new at all.

  14. Avatar dragoneast

    One final thought. I believe the First Protocol to Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which the UK Government has been a signatory since the 1950s (and drafted by UK lawyers) specifically protects the right to private correspondence. Sure it has an exception for public protection, but I do not believe that authorises fishing expeditions in the hope that something might turn up.

    Of course it’s convenient that if you don’t know about it, you can’t challenge it. Clever, or stupid? Both, I suspect. But mainly I’m just not sure these things are thought through, modern politicians like actions not words which seem to lead them into trouble, every time.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      So serious question, who should invest their practices, who has the correct level of access that you can trust to investigate this?

  15. Avatar Gadget

    quis custodiet ipsos custodies?

  16. Avatar Bodincus

    All here crying foul: MY privacy, MY data, MY calls…

    And then you…

    – Post geotagged pictures of where you are / have been on Facebook, Tumblr, etc;
    – Tweet your raw uncensored opinions to the world + dog;
    – Troll around on public forums that Google can crawl and index;
    – Have Location services or other similar iOS services active on your mobile;
    – “Check-in” in many of the places you go;
    – Should I continue?

    We are all leaving a trail like little snails wherever we go, whatever we do, and do it voluntarily. There is no need for governments to “snoop” on you.

    We need some people to dig knee deep in the muck and dig out the dirt festering our gutters, alas unearthing those that try hard to hide something. How do we do that without tapping the mainstream?

    Be realistic, if a rogue power wants to nail you they don’t need your dirty little browser history. Get real.

    • Avatar catalyzer

      So, because so many allow the world to view their lives online (facebook etc),we should all just resign ourselves to having our e-mails snooped on by the government? How is that logical?

      Regarding – ‘Be realistic, if a rogue power wants to nail you they don’t need your dirty little browser history. Get real.’

      I’ve noticed that when people stand up for their rights in this country (yes – Rights), nice little foot soldiers of the establishment such as yourself invariably equate it to some wrong doing – ‘dirty little secret’ – it really is telling of your character (or lack of it). Bury your head in the sand and trust government by all means, but dont expect others to follow suite. We’re not all cowards in this country.

  17. Avatar Timeless

    Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety

  18. Avatar DTMark

    The most relevant point is that the Government does not have the legal mandate to carry out these activities en-masse.

    The Government is just “us”. Just people. Not some sort of etherial organisation to which we all “report”. Unmandated mass spying is the road to totalitarianism.

    I must admit I’m surprised that it’s possible, even in this day and age, to actually trawl through such massive amounts of data at a packet level in a timely way. That requires very serious amounts of kit, for which nobody voted.

    The way to beat spying is misinformation. A concerted campaign to get everyone to add a series of words (bomb, Al-Qaeda, semtex, etc) to their email signatures or just send emails to themselves containing those and other “buzzwords” would make it extremely hard to data mine accurately.

    Wonder if an alert has just gone off somewhere with that post.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      They state they are working within the law, how do you know such a law doesn’t exist that permits this en-masse capturing of data?

      Why would it require the public to vote on every new tool every government department wants to develop/use?

      Did the public vote on what type of new personnel carriers, jets etc the army should use?

      Of course not, a budget is allocated.

      Again I’m surprised by what you are surprised about.

    • Avatar DTMark

      The main reason for the spying is because of the civil unrest that’s coming our way – and indeed, all across the West, in bankrupt countries like the UK.

      At the moment people protesting against such things just get pepper sprayed in their eyes, but they have to present themseleves to the Authorities publicly first.

      The sad outcome for this type of spying is that while it might supposedly be being done to prevent threats to a country’s population, it can rapidly become the threat to the same population.

      I see we’re going to be involved in arming the Syrian rebels now. Sometimes it’s better to start by looking at the causes of terrorism.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      So you think this type of spying has just started in the wake of our recent financial woes and hasn’t been in place for many years?

    • Avatar DTMark

      It’s a question of scale.

      As an example: there’s a world of difference between the Government asking the Courts if they can tap a phone line (or, in a situation which could be demonstrably proven to be time critical and this decision would be seen to be justifiable afterwards when an independent audit is done, bypassing the court in one instance), and listening en-masse in case “something interesting” passes by.

      If the Government required everyone to have a phone line (a dream for BT) but, more than that, required it to have a separate built in microphone that was always left open or got BT to reconfigure the system so that putting down the receiver did not close the “client side”, would you have a problem with that?

      If the eavesdropping broke because of a hardware fault, and people turned up at your door to arrest you on suspicion of avoiding the tapping, would that be justifiable?

      From RevK’s blog:

      “If you’re doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide from the giant surveillance apparatus the government’s been hiding.”

      I suspect that you may have more respect for “the State” and its integrity than many, and certainly more than I have.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Your example, isn’t the same, that is a personal tap. No-one is personally tapping me (that I know of 😉 ) its a set of fat pipes which I may or may not traverse.

      Its the difference between the government setting up a camera looking right at my home and having a traffic camera on the M1

    • Avatar Roberto

      Individual or not does not enter the equation. Law is law, the government are in violation not only with regards to privacy law, human rights but also the telecommunications act as well as probably a whole lot more.

      To even argue the difference between an individual collecting and storing private electronic information via an electronic device is different to a group, organisation or government doing so is just plain silly. Using that logic a lone hacker breaks the law but a group of them doing the same thing does not.

      Arguing its different to “personal” or “individual” wire tapping is also just as daft, using that logic creating a bot net is also legal as that is a group of machines or individual data/resources you compromise. Which uses more than “ONE” line.

      The camera example is no different either. If you are caught on a public CCTV camera be it pointing at your home or be it one on a motorway which captures an image of your car you are entitled in that circumstance to a copy of the footage… https://www.gov.uk/request-cctv-footage-of-yourself

      Im sorry to say it Fibrefred but you do not appear to understand law or what you are talking about.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I’m not a law expert in this field Roberto but it sounds like we thankfully have one with us.

      Would you please let me and others know the exact laws been broken and what ISEC have failed to spot?

      Sounds like an open and shut case

    • Avatar Roberto

      Im no Law expert either but i certainly know what breaking the law is. If you would care to visit http://www.legislation.gov.uk you will find the laws i have already mentioned detailed in full. While you are there also look up the computer misuse act 1990 which i think you will find they are also in violation of.

      Personally i do not care what info they collect about me, as long as that is all they do “collect” and said information does not fall in to hands it should not. Something else the government of this country can not guarantee considering their past with regards to security (IE losing laptops with public information on them, remember that a few years back????).

      To also think this is being done to protect us from from naughty people that want to blow us all up is also incredibly stupid. Surely if you have the power to monitor any individual you please it makes more sense to inform everyone of that fact. I would had thought the mere mention of if you are planning on doing anything naughty we can catch you would be an instant deterrent in itself. A bit like a motorway, many MAY regularly break the law by driving on there over 70MPH but anyone with any sense that sees a Police car does not fly past them at 100+. Prevention is always better than cure.

      Then again the system probably cost the tax payer billions so they have to be quiet about it and catch the odd naughty person to justify its cost and another huge waste of our cash.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      “Surely if you have the power to monitor any individual you please it makes more sense to inform everyone of that fact.”

      Yes that makes perfect sense.. of course. Tell those that want to hide their actions exactly what and how you monitor communications and I’m sure they’ll just stop instead of looking for ways around it.

      So you don’t know the law in this area or what laws can supersede what basic laws you are aware of like the data protection act etc but know what general law breaking is so you’ve assumed what is being done is illegal, not sure how that would fair in court.

      And you had the cheek so say I don’t know what I’m on about? 😉

      None of the armchair experts know if a law is being broken here, all people can (as I keep saying) is add it to the conspiracy theory fire which is burning quite nicely with comments like:-

      Who’s to say they’re not

      You can say that all day but without proof of what is being done and what laws are actually being broken you’ve… nothing.

    • Avatar Timeless

      and theres the proof that this “system” wasnt designed with terrorists in mind.. the UK government technically have been pretty vocal about having their own system.

      their continued reasons relate to terrorism, however the continued press releases and current revelations just go to show that this system was never about catching terrorists, at least not for our own government. with all the press releases about the subject have given so called terrorists the heads up to go further underground.. so from there to make such a system pay you start using it on the general population.

      and for starters my guess will be that any future civil unrest will be met with the thought police, in fact l already know a few peeps who have been arrested just for a few words posted on facebook, none of them said anything l consider a threat they just voiced their views and planned to attend a protest (tho one person was arrested for a large amount of paint in his shed which he happened to buy for a decorating project as home, however the police assumed it was for something else and he spent the night in a cell).

      now l ask you how that information was found out as he ordered the pain online but he never mentioned anything about decorating on his facebook or anywhere else to my knowledge.

    • Avatar Roberto

      “Yes that makes perfect sense.. of course. Tell those that want to hide their actions exactly what and how you monitor communications and I’m sure they’ll just stop instead of looking for ways around it.”

      Nowhere did i say tell everyone the detail specifics of such a system. OR how it works, i can see now either you are just bored, or an individual that asks a question and when it is answered with common sense just wants to dismiss the answer because it makes your rather silly views wrong.

      “So you don’t know the law in this area or what laws can supersede what basic laws you are aware of like the data protection act etc but know what general law breaking is so you’ve assumed what is being done is illegal, not sure how that would fair in court.

      And you had the cheek so say I don’t know what I’m on about?”

      Id obviously fair better than you as i am able to point out specific laws which have likely been broken where as you have no idea, in more ways than one.

      “None of the armchair experts know if a law is being broken here, all people can (as I keep saying) is add it to the conspiracy theory fire which is burning quite nicely with comments like:-

      Who’s to say they’re not”

      I do not believe i used that phrase or anything similar anywhere. I also clearly pointed out i am no expert, my intellect on the matter though along with others is clearly leaps and bounds above yours. You appear to be a bored individual who wants to argue for arguments sake and nothing more. Your content and contribution is long, but empty in every degree.

      “You can say that all day but without proof of what is being done and what laws are actually being broken you’ve… nothing.”

      I have pointed out very clearly in both posts laws which have been broken, it is not my fault if you can not read and extrapolate the information of such laws though.

      Respond as you wish, i will not be responding to you as clearly you do not want to discuss the news item but instead just argue. Fortunately it seems most here have far more common sense.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I am here to discuss Roberto not argue, some of my comments where aimed at others not you specifically , so let’s find some common ground as you don’t seem to get where I am coming from. If I or you tapped the fibre of some corporate hq that would certainly get us arrested or even if we tapped bt fibres outside an exchange which is probably a better example. But we are not talking about me or you we are talking about an organization whose job it is to intercept I.n.t.e.r.c.e.p.t communications so have you considered they may have been granted powers to do this ?

    • Avatar GCHQ ALREADY GOT IT

      Fiberfred HOW dumb are you in trusting government which holds too much power. Take the case of Edward Snowdon who exposed government crime of the highest law in america The Constituion. Oh yeh those enhanced interrogation of the CIA sound like fun torture. Hope CIA accidentally capture you like they did with Khalid El-Masri and perform their enhanced interrogation which included sodomy even though found he was innocent. And no Khalid El-Masri case isn’t conspiracy theory. Shove your government loving sheeple ideas up your ass

  19. Avatar dragoneast

    Sorry folks, should have been Article 8 in last post of mine. I still think it’s darned difficult to know where to come down off the fence on this one, but that the Government doesn’t help its case by a mix of silence and bluster.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      To be fair this revelation has only just been made public, all they can/will say I expect is that ISEC will be tasked to investigate (also in response to your who should protect/control policy etc)

  20. Avatar dragoneast

    And at the moment it looks like this may be out of the control of everyone who should protect us: the Courts, parliament, Ministers (and maybe even GCHQ’s own management). Deliberately?

    • Avatar catalyzer

      Who’s to say they’re not doing it to store the info, pass it on to corps and ‘agencies’ or for total profiling? So, for instance if you have been active on political sites whereby you’ve criticised ‘the state’, in the future it could be used as evidence against you, to incriminate you, or even section you under any new mental health / anti-terror laws they make . There’s is many many bad scenarios this practice could lead to, and has lead to in the past. Our government has basically labelled us all potential terrorists. It’s very clever because it allows them to treat everyone as such. That is NOT freedom, not to mention the lie that is Democracy. We’re living in a time of secret courts, ‘evidence’ gained through torture, indiscriminate murder of people in foreign lands, corruption in the police, media and judiciary , the consensus in this comment section seems to be – it’s all good, we need James Bond on the case. When a whistleblower who exposes human rights abuses is hounded across the globe and vilified, we should all be extremely concerned for our freedoms imo.

  21. Avatar dragoneast

    Fortunately catalyser, I don’t think governments have that level of competence. It’s more like my activities as a child – what my parents never knew about, they couldn’t do anything about; and the mischiefs were small fry anyway. The bombast and bluster from “superpower” America is more Government’s thing (“huff, puff, I’m gonna blow your house down” in the nursery rhyme world we seem to live in). Having spent my working life in government, I know well how we’ve always been addicted to secrecy, really across the board (“need to know” makes you feel so good, doesn’t it?) and it takes more than just passing a Freedom of Information Act to change things. A generation or two at least.

    Government response I expect to be “we don’t deal with the allegations of traitors” and wait for it to blow over when the next tabloid headline comes along. (TBH that’s probably what I’d have said, professionally speaking).

  22. Avatar j bondage the turd

    Ladies and Gentlemen lets put this into some form of perspective shall we.

    The internet is a PUBLIC forum not a PRIVATE one. If I write graffiti on the side of Buckingham Palace then err ……its public! We send credit card details, likes, comments (like this one) emails and all sorts of “private” information every minute of every day over a communications network that’s PURPOSE was meant to be indestructible. ERGO the information traveling on it has not been designed to be “secret” but “available” by one route or another. If you need secrecy, use a pigeon to send messages! GCHQ wont be able to intercept those – mind, nor will your message get to Osama Bin Laden before next February either! But, now our courageous Yankee friends have snuffed him out – after 15 years internet surveillance, we can all sleep easy in our beds.

    Its a generational thing. My parents guarded their privacy jealously. I could’nt give a toss. Why? Easy. My mobile and yours can be triangulated when its on – if my GPS is not already activated. If I live in London or, travel with a commercial company their is a time stamp recorded as to where i enter and leave a station be it tube, rail, port or airport.

    Tescos, Sainsburys and all the other High St chains that you use, ALREADY have all your sensitive personal details and indeed you actual behaviour profiles from the net. As does your mobile phone service, ISP and your bank of course.

    As I said, lets put it into perspective. If theirs ONE agency that will lose, confuse, drop, forget, bury or generally mishandle your “sensitive” information due to incompetence it is, as we all know, H.M Government. Fooking useless bunch of tw*ts.

    Good night all! But one final point – as I wonder off to the kebab shop or other high class dining experience provider I (along with about 5 million other Britons) will have TV cameras trained upon me at every stage of my journey. Sleep well.

    Wally xx

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