Tag Archives: surveillance

Conservative contact tracer app may be a front for covert surveillance

Is this yet another conspiracy theory? Maybe not – it seems to have the ring of truth about it.

The Tories are using the Isle of Wight to test a new contact tracing app – ostensibly to help the treatment of coronavirus, but possibly as a means of quietly watching everything users do.

Conservative governments have form with regard to covert surveillance. David Cameron’s Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 granted the government huge powers to watch your communications – albeit with safeguards demanded by MPs who were concerned about the erosion of civil liberties.

Now, concerns have been raised that the Tory app will infringe people’s civil liberties by gathering data on their movements and uploading their contact lists.

It seems Tories like Matt Hancock want everybody in the UK to download and use the app, providing the government with an enormous amount of data on their personal lives.

The demand is meeting resistance:

In the Commons, Marcus Fysh warned “widespread surveillance” was “not acceptable” in Britain, and it was essential the system was voluntary.

“We’re not a people who take well to surveillance and it’s a little ironic that the country that has probably been surveilling its population more than any other appears to have been the source of this virus,” he said, referring to China.

Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said… “We’re extremely concerned that the Government may be planning to route private data through a central database, opening the door to pervasive state surveillance and privacy infringement, with potentially discriminatory effects,” she said.

Tory officials insist the app is designed with privacy and security “front of mind” with the data stored on an individual’s phone until the point they contact the NHS to report symptoms and request a test.

But Tory officials also supported Hancock when he lied to us all that he had reached his target of 100,000 coronavirus tests per day. He should have been forced to resign over that but he hasn’t even apologised.

On Twitter, matters seem straightforward:

Source: Trial of coronavirus contact-tracing app begins on Isle of Wight – ITV News

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DWP slammed over ‘total surveillance’ policy

Philip Alston: He has warned you. What are you going to do?

This is well worth your time:

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been slammed by the UN over its surveillance of benefit claimants. Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur warned that the department is not just spying on those it suspects of fraudulent claims:

“It’s not. It will soon affect everyone and leave the society much worse off. Everyone needs to pay attention and insist on decent limits.”

Alston emphasised that the current system applies to everyone and that all claimants are:

“screened for potential wrongdoing in a system of total surveillance”.

Source: The DWP is back in hot water after the UN slams its ‘total surveillance’ | The Canary

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If you want to avoid Snoopers’ Charter scrutiny, look out; most VPN services are terrible

[Image: @richard_littler/Twitter.]

[Image: @richard_littler/Twitter.]

Typical.

Only days after I write an article saying Virtual Private Networks are the best way to avoid scrutiny by the government under its newly-approved Snoopers’ Charter, someone chimes in to say that they’re rubbish.

I’d normally say that is a business opportunity for someone, but in this case it seems they would need to be based outside the UK, in order to avoid falling under the jurisdiction of the Snoopers’ Charter themselves.

I don’t have anything against foreign nationals creating a decent service and offering it to UK citizens; it’s just that it won’t directly benefit the UK’s economy.

Anyway, you’d best read the information for yourself: Most VPN Services are Terrible · GitHub. The gist is:

My TL;DR advice: Roll your own and use Algo or Streisand. For messaging & voice, use Signal. For increasing anonymity, use Tor Browser for desktop, and Onion Browser for mobile.

Does anyone else have an opinion?

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It is still possible to protect your privacy from the government. Here’s how to do it

internet-surveillance

Do you have any idea who’ll be able to look at your browsing history soo?

After the Snoopers’ Charter – sorry, the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 – receives Royal Assent, your web history for up to a year will become available to almost 50 police forces and government departments. They’ll be able to see which sites and internet messaging apps you visited and used – but won’t know which pages you saw.

Police and intelligence agencies will be able to hack into your computer and access its data, and can order Communication Service Providers (CSPs) to help them with this – and it will be an offence for a CSP or an employee of one to reveal that your data has been requested.

Here’s the list of organisations that can view your history, courtesy of this site:

  • Metropolitan police force
  • City of London police force
  • Police forces maintained under section 2 of the Police Act 1996
  • Police Service of Scotland
  • Police Service of Northern Ireland
  • British Transport Police
  • Ministry of Defence Police
  • Royal Navy Police
  • Royal Military Police
  • Royal Air Force Police
  • Security Service
  • Secret Intelligence Service
  • GCHQ
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Department of Health
  • Home Office
  • Ministry of Justice
  • National Crime Agency
  • HM Revenue & Customs
  • Department for Transport
  • Department for Work and Pensions
  • NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England that provide ambulance services
  • Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service
  • Competition and Markets Authority
  • Criminal Cases Review Commission
  • Department for Communities in Northern Ireland
  • Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland
  • Department of Justice in Northern Ireland
  • Financial Conduct Authority
  • Fire and rescue authorities under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
  • Food Standards Agency
  • Food Standards Scotland
  • Gambling Commission
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
  • Health and Safety Executive
  • Independent Police Complaints Commissioner
  • Information Commissioner
  • NHS Business Services Authority
  • Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust
  • Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board
  • Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Regional Business Services Organisation
  • Office of Communications
  • Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
  • Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
  • Scottish Ambulance Service Board
  • Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
  • Serious Fraud Office
  • Welsh Ambulance Services National Health Service Trust

The same site adds that bulk collection and storage will also create an irresistible target for malicious actors, massively increasing the risk that your personal data will end up in the hands of:

  • People able to hack / infiltrate your ISP
  • People able to hack / infiltrate your Wi-Fi hotspot provider
  • People able to hack / infiltrate your mobile network operator
  • People able to hack / infiltrate a government department or agency
  • People able to hack / infiltrate the government’s new multi-database request filter

None of the above are likely to have your best interests at heart, and experience indicates that a major security breach will happen sooner, rather than later, “assuming, of course, that the powers that be manage not to just lose all of our personal data in the post.”

What’s to be done about it?

Well, according to The Guardian, not an awful lot. For a start, you can’t hide from the security services, and if they want to hack your devices, they will. But then, if they’re not out to get you, there’s no reason to behave as though they should be. Inconspicuousness could become the order of the day.

The paper advocates Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which encrypt traffic between computers for a small monthly fee. Your service provider can’t see the final destination so its records should contain only the VPN company’s server addresses.

Apparently, when choosing a VPN, you should check the number of servers and where they are located, their privacy policies, the applications they support (Tor, BitTorrent etc), speed and price. Some have applications for different devices – Windows, MacOS, iPhone, iPad and Android.

If you are trying to avoid Snoopers’ Charter-related surveillance, choose a VPN that is not UK-based, and that does not keep any logs – because then they can’t hand them over to the government. TorrentFreak keeps an updated list of “which VPN services take your anonymity seriously”: The Best Anonymous VPN Services of 2016.

Some VPN providers accept payments by dozens of different methods including Bitcoin and anonymous gift cards – but a VPN cannot guarantee access to any particular website; Netflix has taken to blocking most VPN services, and problems may arise with Google’s geolocation, PayPal’s fraud detection software, and so on. And a VPN doesn’t protect you from phishing emails, keyloggers, and websites that try to install “drive by” malware.

Your web visits may still be logged – in your own web browser history and dozens of advertising services, including Google’s. You can block trackers with a browser extension such as Ghostery or the EFF’s Privacy Badger, but note that Privacy Badger only blocks trackers from third-party sites. GRC has a “forensics” page, which checks whether you are being tracked by cookies.According to the Graun: “For increased privacy, you could access the internet from a “virtual computer” loaded in your operating system, and then throw it away after use. VirtualBox is a good free example. VMware Workstation Player is also free for non-commercial use.

“This may be the only way to avoid being tracked by “browser fingerprinting”. This is when the tracking company (or government agency) gives your PC a unique identifier based on variables such as screen resolution, browser version, extensions, fonts, timezone and so on. If you use a virtual PC, every session starts with a more-or-less generic fingerprint. It may not be perfect, but it’s less identifiable than the alternative.”

Will This Writer be doing any of the above?

No. Or at least, probably not.

It’s a lot of hassle for someone who doesn’t actually break the law – even though I might say things the government would prefer people not to know.

But it’s good to know what the options are, just in case. Right?

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Nicola Sturgeon quizzed after Police Scotland caught spying on journalists

Here’s something that should worry everybody.

Tapping people’s communications in order to keep journalists under control is a Tory strategy, don’t you know?

Let’s all keep a close eye on this.

The Scottish government is under growing pressure to clear the air over alleged spying on journalists and their sources by an elite unit within Police Scotland.

Scottish Labour has tabled a parliamentary motion calling on Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, to reveal what she knows about the allegations.

“We need full transparency from the first minister about exactly what SNP government ministers know about these allegations and whether they have authorised any surveillance of journalists and their sources by Police Scotland,” said Hugh Henry, Scottish Labour’s shadow justice secretary.

The political row follows a report in the Sunday Herald that named Police Scotland as one of two forces which used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) without judicial approval to find sources. Ripa was amended in March, requiring judicial approval before officers can gain access to journalists’ phone records, texts and emails.

The Herald reported that Police Scotland’s elite counter corruption unit (CCU) used its spying powers to try to uncover a journalist’s sources without getting approval.

Source: Nicola Sturgeon told to reveal what she knew of Police Scotland spying claims | UK news | The Guardian

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Clegg the Innocent – Diary of a Benefit Scrounger

Zliberaldemocrats

Sue Marsh published this last week but it is worth highlighting as it shows up the Liberal Democrats for what they are. You can read the full article on Diary of a Benefit Scrounger but here’s a quick summary:

Never has there been a better example of naive little fishes swimming in a vast, Machiavellian pond than Nick Clegg’s “Orange Bookers”.

It’s easy now to forget just how shocking and incomprehensible we all found even the concept of a Tory/LibDem coalition. To forget those 5 surreal days our democracy was in hiatus, holding it’s breath while just 4 men decided the future of our countries behind a locked door. For 5 days and 5 nights, Cameron, Osborne, Alexander and Clegg hammered out their agreement. A vacuum where one day, history would be.

In fact, Vox Political believes Rob Wilson, Tory MP for Reading East, who reckons the Coalition was in fact agreed in March 2010, two whole months before the general election.

After 29 million, 691 thousand, 380 people had voted, in fact they may as well not have bothered. The manifestos they thought they had voted for were discarded along with student trust and the last drop of belief in our political system. The party of civil liberties was artfully convinced to give them up for the promise of a few tempting beans.

Clegg… came out having ceded to Osborne’s right wing economic strategy, with the promise of a referendum on AV that was dependent on boundary changes that would see the Tories gain an almost indefinite majority in the commons, tripling tuition fees and supporting a welfare reform bill that would throw all but the most fortunate to the wolves.

Almost every policy decision for the next 5 years was decided in that room, by those 4 men. Since then, each time democracy has tried to object, she has been silenced with either bribery, dishonesty or the Whip. From using financial privilege to overturn Lord’s amendments and increasing government surveillance measures, to threatening the BBC and deleting old speeches from the internet.

They ripped up disability living allowance and replaced it with personal independence payments in that room, agreeing to slash a random 20% of people with disabilities from the budget – it was in neither manifesto. They awarded themselves 5 years of power with virtually no possibility of challenge the very day they left the room.

Nothing has demoralised me more than watching previously centre left politicians with apparently, well, Liberal values, file into those lobbies, one by one, in support of slashing payments for disabled children, selling off our NHS in piecemeal chunks and slashing legal aid.

What disgusted me, was being assured through it all that the Lib Dems had somehow stopped the worst excesses of the Tories. I have found myself living in a country that has allowed sick and disabled people to die in hunger and despair and they dare speak to me of mitigation?

Now, we start to see the predictable sight of the little fishes trying to swim like mad away from the shark.

But it’s too late to pretend they’re in the wrong pond now. 

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Conservatives set to launch ‘incoherent’ attack on human rights

Sacked: Dominic Grieve's reservations about Legal Aid cuts put him at adds with the Coalition government; it seems his concern over a planned attack on human rights led to his sacking.

Sacked: Dominic Grieve’s reservations about Legal Aid cuts put him at adds with the Coalition government; it seems his concern over a planned attack on human rights led to his sacking.

Now we know why former Attorney General Dominic Grieve got the sack – he is said to have opposed a forthcoming Conservative attack on the European Court of Human Rights, which he described as “incoherent”.

Coming in the wake of his much-voiced distaste for Chris Grayling’s cuts to Legal Aid, it seems this was the last straw for David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister who seems determined to destroy anything useful his party ever did.

The European Court of Human Rights was one such thing; Winston Churchill helped set it up after World War II and its founding principles were devised with a large amount of input from the British government. It is not part of the European Union, but is instead connected to the Council of Europe – an organisation with 47 member states.

It seems the Conservatives want to limit the European Court’s power over the UK, because they want Parliament to decide what constitutes a breach of human rights.

The opportunities for corruption are huge.

Considering the Conservative-led Coalition’s record, such corruption seems the only reason for the action currently being contemplated.

The plan could lead to the UK being expelled from the Council of Europe, and the BBC has reported that Mr Grieve had warned his colleagues that the idea was a plan for “a legal car crash with a built-in time delay”, an “incoherent” policy to remain a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights but to refuse to recognise the rulings of the court which enforces it.

This blog has already discussed the Tories’ plan to take away your human rights but it is worth reiterating in the context of the latest revelation.

The United Kingdom helped to draft the European Convention on Human Rights, just after World War II. Under it, nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.

The Department for Work and Pensions has been allowing the deaths of disabled people since 2010. Withdrawing from the European Convention and scrapping the Human Rights Act would mean this government would be able to sidestep any legal action to bring those responsible to justice.

Article 4 of the Convention prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour – in other words, the government’s Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes. The government has already faced legal action under this article, and has been defeated. It seems clear that the Tories want to avoid further embarrassment and inflict the maximum suffering on those who, through no fault of their own, do not have a job.

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial – which has been lost in the UK already, with laws allowing “secret courts” to hear evidence against defendants – which the defendants themselves are not permitted to know and at which they are not allowed to be present. The Legal Aid cuts which Mr Grieve opposed were also contrary to this right.

Article 8 provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life, his home and his correspondence” – and of course the UK’s violation of this right has been renewed only this week, with the Data Retention Act that was passed undemocratically within a single day.

And so on. These are not the only infringements.

Clearly the Tories want to sideline the European Court so they never have to answer for their crimes against the British people.

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Internet surveillance plan will extend – not create – a communications ‘police state’

Nobody should be looking forward to having Big Brother watching us through our monitors, but he’s already reading our mail and listening to our phone calls.

Government monitoring of our mail and phone messages has been going on for years, and Theresa May’s plan to monitor every UK citizen’s online activity is merely an extension of this.

It’s still an unwarranted invasion of our privacy, but when has any government ever let that stop it?

According to the BBC, the current government’s plans mean service providers will have to store details of internet use in the UK for a year, to allow police and intelligence services to access it.

It will include for the first time details of messages sent on social media, webmail, voice calls over the internet and gaming in addition to emails and phone calls.

The data includes the time, duration, originator and recipient of a communication and the location of the device from which it is made.

Hold on, did I say “for the first time” details of messages on social media?

What about the police who called on a female disability activist last week, in her home at midnight, in relation to comments she’d posted on Facebook about the Department for Work and Pensions’ cuts?

According to her account on the Pride’s Purge blog, “They told me they had come to investigate criminal activity that I was involved in on Facebook… They said complaints had been made about posts I’d made on Facebook about the Jobcentre.”

(All right, I know what you’re going to say – those posts were publicly-accessible. The point is that the police are already using social media to target people – in this case, an innocent woman)

According to Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, the planned legislation is “absolutely vital” in “proving associations” between criminals, and it was often possible to penetrate the top of a criminal gang by linking “foot soldiers” to those running operations.

Is this in the same way the police were able to use the postal service to target terrorist gangs? Because I’ve got a story about that.

It concerns a young man who was enjoying a play-by-mail game with other like-minded people. A war game, as it happens. They all had codenames, and made their moves by writing letters and putting them in the post (this was, clearly, before the internet).

One day, said young fellow arrived home from work (or wherever) to find his street cordoned off and a ring of armed police around it.

“What’s going on?” he asked a burly uniformed man who was armed to the teeth.

“Oh you can’t come through,” he was told. “We’ve identified a terrorist group in one of these houses and we have to get them out.”

“But I live on this street,” said our hero, innocently. “Which house is it?”

The constable told him.

“But that’s my house!” he said.

And suddenly all the guns were pointing at him.

They had reacted to a message he had sent, innocently, as part of the game. They’d had no reason to open the letter, but had done it anyway and, despite the fact that it was perfectly clear that it was part of a game, over-reacted.

What was the message?

“Ajax to Achilles: Bomb Liverpool!”

Expect further cock-ups of similar nature, pretty much as soon as the current proposals become law.