UK's Snooper's Charter Hands Over Access To User Data To Several Non-Law Enforcement Agencies

from the ALL-ACCESS-PASS dept

The UK's "Snooper's Charter" was already terrible. The draft bill, finally released earlier this month, confirmed the UK government would be mandating encryption backdoors and requiring the retention of citizens' web browsing history. On top of that, the bill confirmed dragnet surveillance by UK agencies was already in place (unbeknownst to its "oversight") and, in fact, is looking to legalize the snooping after the fact.

The Investigatory Powers Act, as can be inferred by its name, would obviously allow any number of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to access the data and communications retained by ISPs. But it's not just GCHQ, M16 and various police forces being granted access to UK internet users' web browsing history. As Joseph Cox at Motherboard points out, it's also several agencies with seemingly no need for additional access to communications data.

On page 210 of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, a planned piece of UK surveillance legislation that was announced earlier this month, is a table of “relevant public authorities.” These authorities would “have the power to obtain communications data,” according to a briefing paper on the Bill.

As you might expect, the list includes various police forces, the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), the UK's signals intelligence agency GCHQ, and the Ministry of Defence. However, it also includes agencies such as the Department of Health, the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Department for Transport, whose need for such surveillance data is less obviously clear.
Despite the parade of child-murdering, drug-dealing, criminal-masterminding horrors that serve as slightly-less-dry interludes to the bill's text, access to "all" retained data will be provided to a long list of mundane regulatory agencies, presumably for the sake of the children.
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs
  • Department for Transport
  • Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland
  • A fire and rescue authority under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
  • Food Standards Agency
  • Gambling Commission
  • Gangmasters Licensing Authority
  • Health and Safety Executive
  • National Health Service Business Services Authority
  • Duty Manager of Ambulance Trust Control Rooms
  • Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust
  • Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board
Most of these agencies are granted access to all "communications data." The justification for this is laid out in the table starting on page 210 of the pdf, with most of these agencies utilizing Section 46(7)(b) ("for the purpose of preventing or detecting a crime or of preventing disorder").

But the bill contains several other justifications for the obtaining of user data, not all of which seem severe enough to warrant special legislation -- like "collecting any tax, duty, levy or other imposition" or "exercising functions relating to financial stability."

Not exactly the terrorist-hunting, child kidnapper-finding wonderbill it's being depicted as -- often in its own pages. Worse, the stuff authorized here is already in place and has already been used. Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group:
“This is already happening under RIPA—there were around half a million data requests made last year. Many of these were by the police but also by organisations such as Royal Mail, the Department of Work and Pensions, and local authorities.” RIPA, or the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, is another controversial piece of UK surveillance legislation.
In other words, the new bill is codification redundancy. The UK government is hoping to ensure the snooping it's been doing for years, via a variety of agencies, will be solidly in place for years to come.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 3:23am

    Is there any doubt left that this bill is about extending the governments control over its citizens?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 4:19am

      Re:

      well this is what mass surveillance is for
      if we built a skynet/big brother system, we better start using it?
      don`t we?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Klaus, 2 Dec 2015 @ 1:35am

      Re:

      Control over citizens? I'm more inclined towards a flaw in modern management.

      Middle managers have a mind-set that says they have to make their mark. Even if the thing they are responsible for is working fine, they cannot leave well alone. They have to be seen to "make improvements". If you are a manager in the middle of an organisation such as the NSA or GCHQ, how do you go about this? How do you differentiate yourself from your predecessor? The answer is simple, you make changes. Even if they're not necessary. Increasing the scope is popular. If before you did x & y, go on to do x, y & z.

      In any normal organisation this would be limited by someone in accounts who would say "let's not do z because it's too expensive". Even in government. Budgets are managed all the time. In the security services however, there's a problem, budgets are kind of guaranteed. It requires courage to say "let's not do z" because the instant the next tragedy occurs, anyone with an agenda will come crawling out of the woodwork looking for blood. And heads will roll.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 3:31am

    Department for Work and Pensions

    Actually the DWP makes sense. They do investigations into false claims (fraud) for various benefits or other credits which are paid to people. This can lead to criminal charges, potentially. As one way to identify fraudulent claims is through online activity (e.g. "I can't work because I'm disabled" -> pictures of someone on an action holiday), or claiming to be single and posting relationship updates on Facebook, this can help with actual criminal (or civil) charges.

    Not to say that the whole bill isn't ridiculous, but within the remit of investigating criminal activity, the DWP do have a legitimate cause to access data which can help with this, and the internet generally has resulted in at least some benefit cheats being caught without needing these powers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 3:38am

      Re: Department for Work and Pensions

      The problem with that logic is that if you care to, I'm sure you could stretch it to cover pretty much any government agency. Mass, indiscriminate spying is bad enough when the excuse is 'we need it to stop terrorists', 'We need to spy on everyone, just in case some of them are committing some minor crimes' is even worse.

      If they believe that someone's filing bogus claims, they can investigate that one person, they don't need to be able to sort through everyone's data to do their job.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 9:49am

        Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

        The problem with that logic is that if you care to, I'm sure you could stretch it to cover pretty much any government agency.

        Feature! I'm surprised not to see the BBC on the list as they expend a lot of costly effort trying to sort out watchers vs. non-watchers. I'm sure they'll eventually be added, along with all the performance rights orgs who need this data to protect Imaginary Property rightsholders.

        "Mission creep" is the term for this. We used to joke about the phenomenon of every program eventually gaining the ability to send email. Same with gov't programs, but in a manner leading towards totalitarianism instead.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 10:04am

          Re: Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

          We used to joke about the phenomenon of every program eventually gaining the ability to send email.
          Except back then, we used to write “e-mail”.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            tqk (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 11:05am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

            Except back then, we used to write “e-mail”.

            Many did. However, it wasn't an actual word you'd find in a dictionary then. I've never seen the point in using unnecessary extraneous characters so even if I'm a Canuck, I prefer favor over favour (& etc). The British al-yoo-min-i-um cured me of that foolishness.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 11:13am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

              (& etc)
              I find “ &c ” perfectly acceptable—if you don't wish to write out “et cetera” in full.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 12:52pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

                Real men write out the entire et, per se 'and', cetera.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 1:10pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

                  Real men write out the entire et, per se 'and', cetera.
                  In cursive! On parchment! With ink and goose-quill!


                  Then Gutenberg printed his Bible.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  tqk (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 1:30pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

                  Real men write out the entire et, per se 'and', cetera.

                  Pedantry is generally frowned upon, for good reason. Correctness is good. Minutia isn't. Hence, the well deserved reputation of "Grammar Nazis."

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 12:52pm

        Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

        Here!Here!

        Very well put

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 4:21am

      Re: Department for Work and Pensions

      yes fucking the sheeple makes sense, FOR THE TRIBE

      there is plenty of books on how this all human cattle management makes sense

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 4:25am

        Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

        you don`t want the sheeple disturbing the hunting gardens of the tribe`s offspring, do you?

        or drinking the water, or breathing the air?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 4:38am

          Re: Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

          I'm curious, has no-one ever told you that one of the quickest ways to get people to ignore anything you say is to use the word 'sheeple', or do you honestly think it's a good way to convince people of the merits of your argument?

          In general, most people don't take well to insults and condescending words from others, so unless you're just ranting for the fun of it, might want to use some different words when describing others, whether in general or specifically.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 5:27am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

            it does not matter how you call them:
            sheeple are trained to reject foreign ideas;
            they are disabled and cannot entertain a thought without rejecting it.
            thence everything you post in techdirt is kind of "just ranting for the fun of it"

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              That One Guy (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 6:10am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

              If certain people are lost causes, and there are definitely those that are, you don't comment for their sake, you do so for the sake of those on the fence who can still be convinced, if approached right, of which 'insulting them' is not one of the right ways to go about it.

              I've spent more than a little time in numerous discussions on TD, even when I knew, or strongly suspected, that it wouldn't do anything to change the mind of the person I was responding to at the time. Why? Because I wasn't doing it for their sake, I was doing it for the sake of those that might read what I wrote, and who might be a bit more willing to consider things, even if they ended up disagreeing with me. If your comment can get someone to think about something, to question it and come to a more informed decision, even if it's the same one as before but with a bit more thought put into it, then that's awesome, and well worth the effort.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 8:19am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

                If your comment can get someone to think about something…
                Educating people is an entirely lost cause. Most people do NOT want to become informed, and resent it when you shake them out of their ignorance. Then, they go back to just ignoring facts.

                No. If you want to do practical politics, then you must be brutally manipulative. You want to get as many people as possible agreeing with you, as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Or, if they do not exactly agree with you —most likely because they do not comprehend you— then at least they vote for your awesomeness. Practical politics is about getting what your side wants. Getting it.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                JoeCool (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 10:09am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

                I've been watching your (That One Guy) posts since you popped up, and have almost invariably marked every one as insightful. You have a fine grasp of discussion, and your posts are very persuasive without being insulting. This post is dead on target with how you handle nearly all your own posts, and is a wonderful example of how people who wish to aid in the discussion should phrase their own posts. KUDOS!

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Wendy Cockcroft, 2 Dec 2015 @ 7:34am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

                  Ditto. That One Guy is generally right and usually hits the spot. I rarely disagree with him.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 6:25am

      Re: Department for Work and Pensions

      Except for when they are incorrect and just make assumptions about photos and things online without any context.

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/depressed-woman-loses-benefits-over-facebook-photos-1 .861843

      But then the UK routinely slashes benefits to people who need them meanwhile no one is after the tax cheats who owe millions. I mean you had the gall to not show up at the appointed time for your meeting, the fact you went to your wifes funeral instead is no excuse for not turning up when we demand you turn up, benefits cut back for you slacker.

      There are ways to give investigative powers without scooping up everything. It does appear the money would have been better spent training those civil servants in the idea that those who require their help are not all subhuman and worthy of contempt. Giving petty dictators the ability to sift everyones info totally won't lead to more people being cut off for crappy reasons or more of those in need ending up dead or hospitalized.... wanna buy a bridge in brooklyn?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 7:12am

      Re: Department for Work and Pensions

      Actually the DWP makes sense. They do investigations into false claims (fraud) for various benefits or other credits which are paid to people. This can lead to criminal charges, potentially. As one way to identify fraudulent claims is through online activity (e.g. "I can't work because I'm disabled" -> pictures of someone on an action holiday), or claiming to be single and posting relationship updates on Facebook, this can help with actual criminal (or civil) charges.

      In that case they should have been happy to promote this type of thing as the purpose of the act instead of hiding it behind terrorism.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 2 Dec 2015 @ 7:35am

        Re: Re: Department for Work and Pensions

        Agreed. This is pure, unadulterated mission creep and yet another step in locking us down into a police state.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 3:34am

    They have discovered it is much easier to protect citizens rights when they remove as many as possible from their lessers.
    All of the little people should just accept we will have total awareness into their lives, while we deny them to means to keep us honest... because we are the good guys "trust us".

    We let them take an inch, and we finally caught up to them the miles ahead they ran... now they want to get a marathon ahead. Pity they don't seem to think that angering the masses will end poorly for them.

    There is a 5th every month. Seems like a good day to put the fear of the people back into them. Take back what they used fear to steal, or accept the party line and repeat how everything is fine while walking across a scorched plain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 3:46am

      Re:

      Now we come to the real reason for mass surveillance, being able to nip mass protests in the bud, by finding some reason to arrest any leaders, of something with wish to blacken their name. That is what scares the politicians, a popular movement that sweeps them from power.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 8:47am

        Re: Re:

        I think Tim pulled out the best part with Section 46(7)(b) ("for the purpose of preventing or detecting a crime or of preventing disorder").

        That phrase "preventing disorder" is all the excuse they need to do pretty much anything.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 2 Dec 2015 @ 7:37am

          Re: Re: Re:

          That was the phrase that scared me the most. This is pre-crime detection and will certainly be used to crush dissent.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AJ, 1 Dec 2015 @ 3:51am

    "and, in fact, is looking to legalize the snooping after the fact."

    That means, they were breaking the law. They were illegally intercepting the peoples communications. If I were to so much as record a conversation, a conversation I'm a participant in, I could be charged with wire tapping laws. They were stealing everyone's internet AND phone data! Lets see some prosecution of these law breakers!

    How in the hell do they expect the people to follow the law when the people creating the law, are blatantly breaking it. Then passing laws after the fact to cover their illegal activity? I'm getting really fucking sick of these double standards.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Steve, 1 Dec 2015 @ 4:01am

    Royal Mail

    So this means that a private company, Royal Mail, can now get access to my communications data! Great, who's next Tesco?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 1 Dec 2015 @ 5:00am

    Thanks

    Thank you UK. You have given people a new goal. Before hackers and reverse engineer people would tinker with random various programs to get in and gather information with hopes of finding a way in. Now we know there is an open door with the information needed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Namel3ss (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 5:05am

    The Nazis scattered to the four winds after WW2 and, they say, mostly ended up in Argentina.

    It seems they were wrong - the Nazis are all in the UK now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 1 Dec 2015 @ 5:08am

    Liability

    Who gets blamed for future hacks. The company which fails to adequately protect customer information or the government that makes the company fail to adequately protect customer information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 5:10am

      Re: Liability

      The company of course, to do otherwise would be to admit that the government was in error in forcing companies to cripple the security of their products/services, and since that's not possible the only ones to blame will be the companies.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 5:27am

        Re: Re: Liability

        No, the little people get blamed again. Afterall, id theft is their fault and has nothing to do with corporate security or government bullshit. /s

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 5:31am

          Re: Re: Re: Liability

          we need mass surveillance to prevent the id theft of that powerful unique number we tattooed on your head

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 6:12am

    Maybe

    Reading this story sort of made me think that they are trying to avoid arguing the legal issues of collection for law enforcement by giving everyone something bigger to argue. It's likely someone will launch a lawsuit or otherwise try to challenge it in a court of law. It would be very easy for a court to say "collection is okay but don't give it to X".

    At that point, the rest of it stands as legal and they have won.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 6:38am

      Re: Maybe

      You might very well be on to something there. Include a bunch of agencies that people will object to, and then when the objections start coming in, 'graciously' remove the tacked on entries to the list, leaving the ones they actually wanted untouched until the law has been passed and it's much more difficult to do anything about it.

      It works for other stuff, I certainly wouldn't put it past them to try it here, though at the same time I'd say it's even odds that they truly are trying to increase the general spying and dissemination of data as much as they seem to be, given how brazen they've been in the past on the matter.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 1:04pm

        Re: Re: Maybe

        Had the exact same thoughts

        Fear or predictability, i dont know..........like you say, theirs not much i wouldnt put it past them now

        We are heading down a dark road with no end in sight

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 6:47am

    We could always start a pool that covers how long it will take the US to follow suit (at least publicly). I think I will put my bet on the low end. /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 1:06pm

      Re:

      Depends on how the uk alpha test goes i'd wager

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 1:07pm

        Re: Re:

        For the love of peace, can someone seriously commit a freedom patch

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          tqk (profile), 1 Dec 2015 @ 1:49pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          For the love of peace, can someone seriously commit a freedom patch

          Yes you can. Democracy is gov't open sourced, after all. It's not like that proprietary shit we put up with from kings and queens (and numerous religious tyrants) a few centuries ago.

          Give it your best shot. Fire away. Not that I'm advocating violence or anything, but whatever floats your boat ...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Wendy Cockcroft, 2 Dec 2015 @ 7:41am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I don't approve of violence. Organised actions such as mass mailing, calling, and emailing MPs would be the way to go AND it is proven to work. Remember SOPA? ACTA? They keep trying to bring them back because we clobber them each time they do.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              tqk (profile), 2 Dec 2015 @ 1:17pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I don't approve of violence.

              Generally speaking, neither do I. On the other hand, it does have the single virtue of being the only thing that certain sorts of predators understand, and we'd be foolish (or lunch) if we didn't at least have it in the toolbox and are willing to use it when necessary. On the third hand, pointing a weapon at a predator is not the same as assaulting that predator. Warnings or threats can often eliminate the need to actually carry through.

              When the wolves become convinced that the only thing protecting the sheep is a shepherd with a stick, it's time to show them what that stick (or rifle) can do. I'm growing very tired of this always being on the lookout for these predators. Perhaps they need to be culled. If not now, the way they're going that time will eventually arrive.
              Remember SOPA? ACTA? They keep trying to bring them back because we clobber them each time they do.

              So, we need to demand of our representatives that we need a law that would stop them from coming back. The law's broken (and worthless) if all it takes to defeat it is perseverence.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 8:24am

    i think maybe if i wanted to keep an eye on my ex and report her behavior to our kids to keep her from having undue influence on them i might try to get on with that food standards agency. that doesn't sound like much work and would leave me time to check up on people.

    as disgusted as i get over here, i console myself from time to time by realizing i'm where we use z's, not s's. christ, i'd hate to be there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 8:31am

    Airstrip One

    Yeah ... that's pretty much it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 8:52am

    Thank goodness. We'll finally be safe from terrorists, pedophiles, and unlicensed shellfish workers. Ever get a bad clam? Mess you up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 12:19pm

    i cannot believe how much the uk government has fundametally changed the idea of human rights the idea of freedom, in such a short time period, not for only this but for other things too

    Human race, victims of its own creations

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 12:35pm

    Its fucking disgusting to see a government exploit tragedies like this

    I question their moral ethics, frightens and angers me, when i see some of the things they believe they have a right too

    The old ways are dying......and the chosen one is on vacation :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Klaus, 2 Dec 2015 @ 1:15am

      Re:

      "Its fucking disgusting to see a government exploit tragedies like this"

      Methinks you have the wrong thread; the snoopers charter has been on the books for quite some time now.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 12:49pm

    "Some are born more equal then others"

    Quoted: Unknown

    2098

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2015 @ 1:06pm

    "or of preventing disorder"

    Can't get more Orwellian that that...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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