UK Home Secretary Says Don't Worry About Collection Of Metadata; FOIA Request Made For Her Metadata

from the well,-this-should-be-interesting dept

With the release of the new UK Snooper’s Charter, UK Home Secretary Theresa May tried to justify the collection of phone and internet records as nothing more than being like an “itemised phone bill” and therefore nothing to worry about. Keith Vaz replied that there is plenty to be concerned about when the government can look at such records:

I know you said the information is equivalent to an itemised bill but there’s a lot of information in an itemised bill.

If I were to look at your itemised telephone bill and you were to look at mine we might be surprised at who we were telephoning.

But, in response to Vaz, May apparently insisted that there was nothing at all in her records that anyone might find surprising — leading some to question whether this was May agreeing to release her phone and internet records. Apparently Chris Gilmour decided to find out for sure, and has filed a Freedom of Information request in the UK for a bunch of May’s records (found via Ryan Gallagher).

Dear Home Office,

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 I hereby request the following information from and regarding the Rt Hon Theresa May MP (Con), Secretary of State for the Home Department (the “Home Secretary”):

1) The date, time, and recipient of every email sent by the Home Secretary during October 2015.

2) The date, time, and sender of every email received by the Home Secretary during October 2015.

3) The date, time, and recipient of every internet telephony call (e.g. “Skype” call) made by the Home Secretary during October 2015.

4) The date, time, and sender of every internet telephony call (e.g. “Skype” call) received by the Home Secretary during October 2015.

5) The date, time, and domain address of every website visited by the Home Secretary during October 2015.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Gilmour

Should be interesting to see the responses to that request, huh?

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Comments on “UK Home Secretary Says Don't Worry About Collection Of Metadata; FOIA Request Made For Her Metadata”

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26 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

"It's just metadata."

There’s an article somewhere and I wish I could locate it again, which tells the story of the CIA growing crazy about moles because the Russians pretty much knew who among the embassy personnel around the world were CIA agents. Apparently their career and postings were public information (it’s just metadata) and the Russians figured out just which careers/career patterns fingered the agents to near-certainty.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "It's just metadata."

It‘s probably not that hard to investigate, especially in a free society. Just monitor the activities of any suspects to see what they do with their time. Do they have a job? How do they pay their bills. Where do government agents tend to meet? I am sure the Russian government has the resources to hire (private) investigators that can look into the lives of suspects. It can’t be that hard.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: "It's just metadata."

yes, i read that one too, interesting stuff…
turns out one smart kgb type had a list of criteria he had garnered over the years that when winnowed through gave them about a 99.99% chance of ‘guessing’ (it wasn’t guessing) who was/wasn’t a cia stooge in state dept clothing…
a LOT of it was such stupid, elementary stuff, you REALLY do wonder about the ‘intelligence’ of so-called intelligence agencies…
for example, they were too fucking cheap to mix it up when a new spook was introduced into the embassy fold, so they were put up in the SAME FUCKING HOUSE the previous spook was given… same with their local cars, etc…
herp derp
there were other clues, as far as real state dept types would have on their record they went to a certain school for state dept ‘stuff’, while the spooks skipped class…
when they put all these together, they had a near fool-proof method of spotting the spooks, DUE TO OUR OWN laziness and stupidity…
no wiretaps, no backdoors, no blackbag jobs, no social engineering (although i’m sure they do all those too), just plain open records and holmesian ratiocination…
AS IF anyone with two INDEPENDENT eyes can’t tell all this spookery has NOTHING to do with the russkies or red chinee, and EVERYTHING about keeping the rabble in line in der faderland…

Anonymous Coward says:

i can’t possibly tell you how relieved i am to know that there’s no problem whatever with storing metadata. i very much look forward to ms may’s illustration of that assurance by sharing hers from the month of october.

i’m sure she will consider october to be the first installment of an ongoing campaign to assuage our concerns, since, you know, there’s no problem doing that.

Anonymous Coward says:

if metadata was so useless, none of the security forces would be interested in collecting it and definitely not interested in sifting through it all, especially if the chance of finding something in this ‘phone bill’ was almost negligible! this is typical May, trying to subdue outrage, just as what happened in the US, when in fact metadata gives an abundance of information. the real issue is that if there were some nefarious people, plotting some nefarious crime, would they be stupid enough to not cover their tracks? this is nothing to do with terrorism but all to do with every government worldwide trying to do whatever it can to make sure of forewarning when the people are angry about something, like TPP and intend to make their opinions and feelings known! it will also serve to forewarn companies when customers are upset and intend to try to do something, which is a major reason why TPP and deals like it are so bad! they are handing the run ning of the planet to the elite and the people will have no recourse against them, but will have to pay out of taxes when a company uses ISDS!!

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

It should be fun to see how they react as they tried to play the ‘it’s just meta-data’ card.
On the one hand they can spin some story about not releasing it because security… but then they have to admit it is useful information.
On the other hand they could release it… and have people construct a very useful timeline revealing all sorts of things using only ‘meta-data’.

It is nice to see a politician backed into a corner where there is no good answer that doesn’t destroy their own arguments.

ALASTAIR BAKER says:

MetaData

Its been a while since I was in the Army but I was taught about such a thing as Signals Intelligence (SigInt for short)

A technique developed during WW2 by Bletchley Park for analysing communications to determine a great deal of information (about your enemy), without even knowing what the messages were.

I may be old fashioned and behind the times, but this MetaData sounds exactly like that, only 70 years later.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

That One Guy (profile) says:

Not a chance

While I love that he called her bluff, and it’s about time someone did, there is no chance they’ll release the required data.

At most they’ll comb through the requesting records, removing anything that would provide real data before releasing the butchered records, but more likely they’ll give some pathetic excuse as to why they simply cannot comply with the request.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not a chance

“… and after all the numbers have been added up, it looks like the cost to hand over the requested information will be… ten pounds more than you have.”

“You mean ten pounds more than I have at the moment? That’s easy enough to fix, I’ll just borrow some money from someone.”

“Oh no no no, I mean exactly what I said, the cost will be ten pounds more than you have at the time of the transactions. It will always be ten pounds more than you have, no matter how large or small that number is.”

“… in other words, it will always cost more than I have, making the request impossible to pay for, and the information always out of reach.”

“It does rather seem that way doesn’t it? Now then, if that was all, I will bid you goodbye.”

Arioch (profile) says:

Collecting What?

The fact that this has even been proposed shows the total lack of basic internet awareness of the average UK politician.
This in itself is somewhat worrying.

Living in the UK, I already know that my ISP cannot collect metadata from me because of my habitual use of a VPN service and TOR. Hell, I’m one of the good guys, don’t they realise that the bad guys are going to hide themselves even more?

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