The UK government has quietly passed new legislation that exempts GCHQ, police, and other intelligence officers from prosecution for hacking into computers and mobile phones.
While major or controversial legislative changes usually go through normal parliamentary process (i.e. democratic debate) before being passed into law, in this case an amendment to the Computer Misuse Act was snuck in under the radar as secondary legislation. According to Privacy International, “It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner’s Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes… There was no public debate.”
Not surprising, as David Cameron said “for too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone’. This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach.”
What I find most terrifying is that according to Ars Technica (same link), “only a rather one-sided set of stakeholders [were] being consulted (Ministry of Justice, Crown Prosecution Service, Scotland Office, Northern Ireland Office, GCHQ, police, and National Crime Agency).”
I must admit I mistakenly use ‘less’ far too often. BBC’s style guide:
Use ‘fewer’ when you can count something, as in The committee wants to have fewer meetings next year. If you cannot count it, use ‘less’, as in Voters are calling for less bureaucracy. The same rule applies for percentages: hence, you would be correct to say Less than 30% of the hospital survived the fire and Fewer than 30% of the patients were rescued.
Do not use ‘no less than’ with numbers – say eg: He attacked her on no fewer than 12 occasions.
However, ages, heights and weights take ‘less’ eg: Tom Thumb was less than 3ft (91cm) tall; Police say the man is less than 30 years old; She weighs less than seven stone (44.5kg).
GCHQ’s secret “arrangements” for accessing bulk material are revealed in documents submitted to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the UK surveillance watchdog, in response to a joint legal challenge by Privacy International, Liberty and Amnesty International. The legal action was launched in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations published by the Guardian and other news organisations last year.
The government’s submission discloses that the UK can obtain “unselected” – meaning unanalysed, or raw intelligence – information from overseas partners without a warrant if it was “not technically feasible” to obtain the communications under a warrant and if it is “necessary and proportionate” for the intelligence agencies to obtain that information.
The rules essentially permit bulk collection of material, which can include communications of UK citizens, provided the request does not amount to “deliberate circumvention” of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which governs much of the UK’s surveillance activities.
This point – that GCHQ does not regard warrants as necessary in all cases – is explicitly spelled out in the document. “[A] Ripa interception warrant is not as a matter of law required in all cases in which unanalysed intercepted communications might be sought from a foreign government,” it states. The rules also cover communicationsdata sent unsolicited to the UK agencies.
I’m not really surprised by much of the news we’ve lately been seeing, but it’s one of the first times that we’re seeing news come straight from the courtroom as opposed to leaked documents.
I attended last nights TechMeeup at which Jim Killock (@jimkillock) provided an introduction to Open Rights Group, a UK-based non-profit organisation that campaigns on digital rights issues. With all the news in the past year on mass government surveillance and GCHQ’s wire tapping into private email and digital communications, there isn’t a more important time than now to support activists who campaign for our right to preserve traditional liberties in the digital world.
What’s happening now? Well, ORG is expanding into Scotland, with our help;
We are responding to the strong call we’ve had from our supporters for us to expand and hire a new staff member to work specifically on Scottish digital rights threats. But we need your help!
What’s the situation?
Many people are concerned by the direction the Scottish Parliament is taking with civil liberties. There are growing plans for Entitlement Cards – a scheme that looks rather like ID Cards by the back door, attacks on Freedom of Information law in Scotland, proposals for massive data sharing across the Scottish government, and laws ordering the blocking of sectarian websites.
No rights organisation is currently working on these issues in Scotland.
Whether we hire an activism organiser, a policy expert or a part-time ORG Scotland Executive Director, we hope to begin working on Scottish campaigns very soon.
The more new people joining ORG, the more we’ll be able to work for digital rights in Scotland.
And then [Mark Klein] says: “While doing my job, I learned fiber optic cables from the secret room were tapping into the WorldNet circuits by splitting off a portion of the light signal.” And that’s why the program is called PRISM, Leo. What does a prism do?
You want to get all the traffic coming in and out of Google. You get as close to Google as you can. You get on the router that is feeding Google, and you clone all of the data. And that’s exactly – and that’s why it’s called PRISM is that now, at this bandwidth level, they’re using fiber optic cables, so it splits the light. The power drops by 50% down each of the splits because the power of the light has been split, but that’s – there’s still plenty. And so it’s going to be received easily by the other end. And then it goes off to this secret room controlled by the NSA.
An incredibly interesting and well-presented explanation of PRISM, as interpreted by Steven Gibson. A must read (or listen to the podcast).