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Proposed UK Communications Law Could Be Used To Spy On Physical Mail

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the old-bailey's-long-planned-demolition dept.

Communications 125

An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports that the UK's Draft Communications Bill includes a provision which could be used to force the Royal Mail and other mail carriers to retain data on all physical mail passing through their networks. The law could be used to force carriers to maintain a database of any data written on the outside of an envelope or package which could be accessed by government bodies at will. Such data could include sender, recipient and type of mail (and, consequentially, the entire contents of a postcard). It would provide a physical analog of the recently proposed internet surveillance laws. The Home Office claims that it has no current plans to enforce the law."

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125 comments

Be very afraid... (5, Insightful)

frostilicus2 (889524) | about 2 years ago | (#40353553)

Someone should really tell the guys in power that 1984 was more of warning and less of a plan. Guess the old e-petition becomes invalid now: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/32400 [direct.gov.uk]

Re:Be very afraid... (4, Interesting)

game kid (805301) | about 2 years ago | (#40353759)

Ah, but that's a petition to "Scrap Plans to Monitor all Emails and Web Usage". If they only monitor 99.999% of them they can still say they accepted the petition. :)

Re:Be very afraid... (2)

Ogi_UnixNut (916982) | about 2 years ago | (#40354113)

The 0.001% they don't monitor would probably be their emails, and the politicians emails. So pretty much what they wanted to begin with!

Re:Be very afraid... (1)

joocemann (1273720) | about 2 years ago | (#40355285)

Someone should tell all the peaople waiting for others to save them that they should quit wating and put the politicians supporting this crap in the street, eviscerated, en route to a morgue. Or keep waiting around for the Americans. To save the day (we won't for we have the ssame apathy and complicit losers pretending to care). Watch our 99% use facebook after the IO and wonder why they are censored.... lol. Feeding the lions while complaining about lions.

"no current plans to enforce the law." (5, Insightful)

NettiWelho (1147351) | about 2 years ago | (#40353565)

"The Home Office claims that it has no current plans to enforce the law." Really? Then why is the provision in the bill then? If you dont need and dont plan on enforcing it why is it being passed then?

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (5, Insightful)

mcavic (2007672) | about 2 years ago | (#40353873)

Because if they decide to implement it in the future, they can do so without taking the time to pass a new law. And "current" means today, not tomorrow.

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353965)

We have no CURRENT PLAN. We're working on it, and when it's been implemented, you'll be the last to know.

Your government has decided that it's time we kept a database of all contact made between persons, entities, business, nonpersons or their repentatives in order to mine this treasure trove of information for anything that might threaten national security, allow us to infer the existence of formal or informal organizations and investigate their membership and intents, or generate business opportunities and encourage capital commerce.

These are increasingly important matters of national security because we have determined that everything is a potential theat to the status quo. Remember the prophetic false attribution of Winston Churchill, "If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain." This quip is recycled regularly because it is emblematic of the general mistrust of politics and politicians. Moreover, it reveals a truth; the encumbant powers trust no one.

And why should they. It's a perfect reciprocating relationship. The pendulum swings around the center.

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354051)

That is one of the stupidist quotes he's ever said, and proves how conservative and narrow minded he actually was. Only rich geezers vote conservative, everyone else gets royally shafted.

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (1, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 years ago | (#40354137)

I've noticed that the left always go crazy when the working class vote conservative because people who actually work for a living know that most 'progressive' policies are just a means for the middle class to give their kids well-paid government jobs to tell everyone else what to do. The working class are naturally conservative, which is why the left have done their best to destroy working class culture and turn them into the welfare class, who will keep voting themselves more free stuff.

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354737)

Alf Garnett's alive and he's posting on Slashdot!

The working class are not naturally anything, politically. They are busy working.

They could tend toward the classical left, as happened up to the '60s, or they could tend toward labour aristocracy, as happened from the '70s.

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (5, Insightful)

ATMAvatar (648864) | about 2 years ago | (#40354789)

Both liberals and conservatives screw the population as a whole. The liberals tend to lie about it and act like they want to do some good, while the conservatives are rather brazen about giving more money to the wealthy, but they both ultimately do the same thing - concentrate power and money into a small elite group.

In the end, what trickles down to the rest of us isn't green - it's yellow.

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (4, Insightful)

Blue Stone (582566) | about 2 years ago | (#40353987)

They say "no current plans" not "no current intentions".

They have the intention of using it, they just haven't got around to drawing up the plans yet.

Politicians lie. Even when they're telling the truth.

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354217)

Politicians lie. Even when they're telling the truth.
I once read that lie detectors must never be used on politicians, cos they overload and blow up. hinting at just how much they lie, and yes I do know it was a joke. or was it? :P

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40355033)

Politicians lie. Even when they're telling the truth.
I once read that lie detectors must never be used on politicians, cos they overload and blow up. hinting at just how much they lie, and yes I do know it was a joke. or was it? :P

Using a lie detector on a politician is pointless. They'll never set it off because they never stop lying long enough for you to calibrate it.

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (2)

Scarletdown (886459) | about 2 years ago | (#40355665)

Politicians lie. Even when they're telling the truth.
I once read that lie detectors must never be used on politicians, cos they overload and blow up. hinting at just how much they lie, and yes I do know it was a joke. or was it? :P

Using a lie detector on a politician is pointless. They'll never set it off because they never stop lying long enough for you to calibrate it.

Really no need anyway. You can always tell when a politician is lying. How can you tell? His mouth will be moving.

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#40353993)

"The Home Office claims that it has no current plans to enforce the law."
Rough translation:
"The Home Office will start next week making plans to enforce the law."

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354555)

"The Home Office claims that it has no current plans to enforce the law."
Rough translation:
"The Home Office will start next week making plans to enforce the law."

Alternate translation: "The hardware is still on order; once it starts arriving next week, the law will begin to be enforced."

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (4, Informative)

Kijori (897770) | about 2 years ago | (#40354167)

It is enabling legislation - a statute that allows particular laws to be passed by secondary legislation (also called a statutory instrument - basically legislation that is 'passed' by a minister or a committee of ministers rather than the entire Parliament). It may sound undemocratic but it's inevitable - Parliament could not possibly scrutinise and pass enough legislation to deal with the pace at which the world changes. The power has to be devolved somewhere, and devolving it to Ministers at least has the advantage that someone visible is accountable for it, which means that the power is generally used sensibly and sparingly.

In this case the power, to my mind, seems more extensive than is appropriate for secondary legislation - I'm not defending it, just explaining why it is being done the way it is. There is some comfort in the fact that the Bill is still in the very early stages of the process and extensive secondary powers are the sort of thing that are often removed or curtailed during the debates.

Re:"no current plans to enforce the law." (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 years ago | (#40354353)

"It is at first denied that any radical new plan exists; it is then conceded that it exists but ministers swear blind that it is not even on the political agenda; it is then noted that it might well be on the agenda but is not a serious proposition; it is later conceded that it is a serious proposition but that it will never be implemented; after that it is acknowledged that it will be implemented but in such a diluted form that it will make no difference to the lives of ordinary people; at some point it is finally recognised that it has made such a difference, but it was always known that it would and voters were told so from the outset."
-- Times editorial, published on August 28, 2002

We are currently at the fourth item on the list. It's all downhill to the sixth item.

Hmm... (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#40353589)

Potential Terrorist 391,496, mail log:
Received junk mail from Direct Marketing Alliance.
Received junk mail from Insurance company
Received junk mail from Direct Marketing Alliance.
Received junk mail from "V14GR4 4 U"
Received junk mail from Derp's Amazing Electronics.
Received copy of Harry Potter 4 via Netflix.
...

Well, on one hand, a warrant should be needed for any kind of surveillance. Monitoring activity pre-warrant shouldn't be legal. That said... snail mail is dying. It's mostly just junk mail, bills, and packages ordered online. I can't see how this would have much intelligence value.... Especially since, at least in the US, if you simply reverse the sender and receiver and leave off the stamp, it'll happily go to its destination as long as it's in the same geographic area. Oh wait... was that helping the terrorists? My bad.

Re:Hmm... (3, Insightful)

frostilicus2 (889524) | about 2 years ago | (#40353631)

Silk Road? Bath Salts? Snail mail would also become an attractive method of communication amongst bad guys if the internet surveillance bill goes through (and it probably will).

Re:Hmm... (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#40353839)

Silk Road? Bath Salts? Snail mail would also become an attractive method of communication amongst bad guys if the internet surveillance bill goes through (and it probably will).

Well, mail service only verifies the delivery address, and if that fails, attempts to verify and return it to the source address. My point was that establishing a source/destination registry is not reliable like it is within a packet-switched network. The entire message is contained within a single packet, and there is no handshake or anything else in the exchange to verify the source. So the only part of the registry of high reliablity would be the destination and the size/weight of the package.

And even that's easy enough for a criminal to forge; You don't have to deliver stolen goods to your address. Any address will do for a drop shipment. So this bill is really only for the surveillance of average people, who are probably not criminals, but who might need to become criminals if they became, say, politically active.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353753)

What if the packages are from suppliers of electronics components, "research chemicals", actual research chemicals or are being sent to known or suspected criminals? In these cases, they start to have considerable intelligence value. Given that everything will be OCR'd and data-mined, it could throw up a lot leads (and a lot of false leads) quite quickly. It's also rather invasive and open to misuse: politician ordering from pornodvds.com, for example?

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40355997)

I just mailed a DVD (full of archived data) from USA to China (mainland), it's part of a volunteer consortium I help manage for university students. For the first time, the clerk at the Post Office had to enter the address and my return address into her system for any foreign parcels. Said it was "...for Customs, we've had to do it for larger packages for some time now."

Seems like the USA is already doing most of what the Brits are discussing??

Why do they need a law? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353599)

Can't they just open the letters up anyway?

Really, if you think your mail is secure, I've got a bridge that was just mailed to me from London to sell you.

Re:Why do they need a law? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353691)

Yay Lake Havasu...

Re:Why do they need a law? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353817)

The topless girls are worth the price.

Stop depending on classic mail and Post offices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353617)

Do everything electronically, use encryption and for packages, use something like Fedex or DHL.
Invoices can be sent electronically. No need for Post offices.

Re:Stop depending on classic mail and Post offices (3, Insightful)

frostilicus2 (889524) | about 2 years ago | (#40353649)

Fedex and DHL will also be bound by the law and will always know sender and recipient. Stamps can still be bought with cash though. It's also illegal to withhold encryption keys from the government (senility or internet induced ADHD isn't a defense either).

Re:Stop depending on classic mail and Post offices (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40356323)

I finally found an acceptable solution for this. I have three types of encrypted file containers:

Type 1: That for which is worth giving the key to authorities or under limited circumstances is worth unlocking.
Type 2: That to which if my computer is compromised I accept as permanently lost.

Documents and files in type 1 include things like my bank statements, financial records, and other information which frankly anyone with sufficient power or authority can obtain if they absolutely have to

Documents and files in type 2 include that to which I don't want anyone else seeing ever. This includes my IP (which I can hopefully recreate), any photographs and other things I have taken, including holidays, family related etc, any absolutely anything for which in any context could cost me money if someone decided to be a dick about it (includes my legal backups of DVDs I own, legal backups of CDs, etc).

I am at the point where I can pull a hard drive out, put it in an appropriate container, and ship it across the country with minimal concern.

Now, those keys. For type 1 I have an algorithm. Pass phrase length and character sets used means that no one will be guessing or cracking it any time soon. The idea here is cost benefit.. their cost of getting into what is not theirs.

For type 2 the same, with one special difference. The password is on my fridge, in various places. Yes, today you can find the whole pass phrase for type 2 on my fridge - assuming that you know where to look and in what order to use the characters you find there.

I figure that if my door is bashed down, my stuff is confiscated and I am embroiled in a shakedown then eventually I will lose the place, and eventually the fridge will be gone. It is about then I will inform whomever is demanding my keys that they can have the key any time they like: It is written in plain text *on my fridge*.

Of course, next Sunday I will be picking another random object somewhere in the house and writing characters on it.. perhaps behind the large picture above the lounge.

I am not a lawyer but I believe that if they make a law stating that you must hand over your keys.. it can't state that they key is not indestructible nor can it state that if their actions destroy the key that you are accountable.

You don't need to identify the recipient. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353641)

All you need is the destination address. The person doesn't have to be identified.

The sending address can be omitted, or fake.
(If you don't care about having it returned if it can't be routed).

The content can be encrypted.

So, it's all good. :)

We've heard this before (3, Interesting)

Air-conditioned cowh (552882) | about 2 years ago | (#40353647)

"The Home Office claims that it has no current plans to enforce the law." Similar assurances were made to the jews by the Nazi party when they were encircling them with laws in the 1930s.

Re:We've heard this before (5, Interesting)

Mashiki (184564) | about 2 years ago | (#40354283)

Greetings from post WWII Europe and East Germany. Where the STASI did exactly this, and neighbors spied on each other. I wonder how long before the underground springs up and things start getting smuggled around? Well I'm sure there's a few ex-east germans who would be more than willing to give the Brit's tips on how to do it.

Re:We've heard this before (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about a year ago | (#40355941)

No need for that, the US intelligence agencies opened mail of citizens of East Germany who wrote to the West as well. That is, IIRC they had the BND carrying the sacks from the post office, opening the envelope with a bit of steam or whatever, taking note of anti-government jokes (i.e. there wasn't really ever anything interesting in them), closing them and bringing them back. That actually routinely happened (not "opening ALL mail", but open some, randomly stabbing in the dark as it were) according to to a book I've read, which was written by a ex-BND guy and seemed plausible enough... so, yeah.

But for some reason, even if it affects perfectly civilian people who didn't hurt a fly, it's not spying --- as long as it happens to foreigners, right?

Re:We've heard this before (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | about 2 years ago | (#40355601)

I wouldn't be so quick to talk. Hitler was fond of air-conditioning as well, from what I understand.

What are Brits control freaks? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353655)

Constantly in Britain you hear of control freak legislation and technology proposals and laws. I thik they have the most CCTV per capita, they are happily extraditing any of their fellas to any country claiming IP infringement, and you constantly hear of such obsessive control of the individual. In a country with a lot of parliamentary direct democracy (they vote individual people, not party lists, and the one with most votes wins), the only logical conclusion is that the citizens want to be controlled at this (insane, to me) level. What I do not understand is why?

Re:What are Brits control freaks? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353673)

(1) Political apathy
(2) "if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear"
(3)People seem to believe that there's a terrorist on every street and a pedo under every bed.

Re:What are Brits control freaks? (3, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 years ago | (#40354057)

(1) Political apathy

So, which party can Britons vote for which doesn't want this stuff?

And even if they could vote for someone, most seats are so safe that it would make no difference. Where I used to live in the UK I could vote for any party I wanted and the Tories would still win.

Re:What are Brits control freaks? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354709)

It used to be the Liberal Democrats, then they finally got some power and decided that civil liberties weren't so desirable once they were in the government.

Re:What are Brits control freaks? (3, Informative)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 2 years ago | (#40353797)

I haven't seen the figures for the CCTV per capita but it wouldn't surprise me if Britain was among the highest, DM scaremongering notwithstanding.

they are happily extraditing any of their fellas to any country claiming IP infringement

That's news to me. Scary if true.

In a country with a lot of parliamentary direct democracy (they vote individual people, not party lists, and the one with most votes wins)

I'm guessing you aren't a Briton, because people do tend to vote for parties. Hell, I'd be surprised if more than one in ten voters could actually name their MP a week after the election; the only reason I can (it's Chi Onwurah, by the way) is that I read Hansard a lot. When I last checked there were less than a dozen independent MPs. Britain has representative democracy, not direct democracy.

Re:What are Brits control freaks? (2)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | about 2 years ago | (#40354397)

Britain has representative democracy

No they don't with having First Past The Post as their method for electing members of Parliament.

Re:What are Brits control freaks? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354899)

No they don't with having First Past The Post as their method for electing members of Parliament.

They truly do. The system used for electing representatives is not relevant; one could, for example, have a representative democracy where representatives are elected by sortition.

Re:What are Brits control freaks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353995)

Most of those cameras are in London, elsewhere there ain't as many cameras, some cities have hardly any!
 

Re:What are Brits control freaks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40355129)

I think you'll find that they're just very, very well hidden. We're in 2012 not 1972: miniaturization has come a long, long way...

Re:What are Brits control freaks? (0, Offtopic)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 2 years ago | (#40354303)

It's actually the US that has the most CCTV per capita, *and* armed police everywhere ready to shoot you if you cross the road in the wrong place, or say something bad about the president.

I live in the UK, and there isn't a CCTV camera within 50 miles of this place. I wish there was, it might stop manky bastards dumping rubbish at the foot of our road every other night.

Re:What are Brits control freaks? (5, Interesting)

manicb (1633645) | about 2 years ago | (#40354375)

We didn't vote for it, and we actually voted against it. None of this stuff was in the manifesto of either of the parties in the ruling coalition. They were highly critical of similar legislation when proposed by their opponents, who were turfed out in the last general election. We've had such a long run of crazy authoritarian Home Secretaries now that it's pretty clear somebody or something is getting to them, possibly through their office (or bedroom) window.

Re:What are Brits control freaks? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40355359)

All that means is that this programme is embedded in the Home Office civil service, and they'll keep re-proposing it under various headings until it passes one way or another. As far as they're concerned, the politicians' job is to pass the legislation they want passed.

Next up: the National Identity Register. Remember that? I'll be astonished if the Tories don't reintroduce it in their next term, assuming they get one.

The only cure for this sort of thing is to purge the Home Office civil service, which (in the UK at least) means breaking up the department and parcelling its responsibilities (and its civil servants) out to several disparate departments. It's a structural problem, and it needs a structural solution, not a political one.

Re:What are Brits control freaks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40355077)

The plans for monitoring communications (and they are just plans) have been reported extensively in the national and international media - which presumably is how you found out - and there's a very good chance that public pressure (stirred up by the same media) will render them unworkable. Consider for instance the withdrawal of ID cards, and (a good time ago now) the poll tax riots.

But it doesn't really matter, read up about Echelon. While the UK government can't monitor UK citizen's net activity (yet...) there's nothing stopping the USA from doing so. (Or the UK reading USA data of course.)

Regarding the CCTV meme, they're mostly useless - we had a break-in recently and the recovered footage from a nearby (private) camera appeared to have been recorded on a twenty-year old video-tape loop.

Not sure who you're referring to wrt extradition for IP infringement, McKinnon [guardian.co.uk] and O'Dwyer [bbc.co.uk] are both still in the UK.

new stationery (1)

Alien Being (18488) | about 2 years ago | (#40353787)

Would the government consider it a threat if people started marking all their posts "death to fascists"?

Oooh, rife with opportunities (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353879)

if people started marking all their posts "death to fascists"

Hey! Who said you were allowed to think like me?

How about marking posts with phrases like "Top Secret Plans To Bring Western Society To Its Knees Enclosed" and then inside put your own instructions on how to kneel for prayer services?

Or mark the outside "Private" and inside just put a note that says "Your wife's been screwing a guy half your age and a willy twice as big as yours!"

Does anyone actually believe that what's... (3, Insightful)

Nutria (679911) | about 2 years ago | (#40353801)

on the outside of an envelope (or any part of a post card) has ever actually been private? Certainly not I, even before I knew enough to care about privacy.

It's just not been technologically practical to store all that info, but with 3TB HDDs stuffed into 42U SAN racks, it's more than doable. And with modern CPUs and high-density RAM, OCR on even the worst penmanship is probably practical.

Re:Does anyone actually believe that what's... (1)

frostilicus2 (889524) | about 2 years ago | (#40353843)

Royal Mail have actually been using OCR for at least 20 years.

Re:Does anyone actually believe that what's... (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 2 years ago | (#40354497)

For post code sorting, as has the USPS for zip code sorting. It's why ZIP+4 was created. I'm sure every other 1st world PTT does OCR, too.

But only now is it practical to OCR the whole front and back and then store the images and text.

Re:Does anyone actually believe that what's... (1)

frostilicus2 (889524) | about 2 years ago | (#40353897)

It's been quite private though because no one's ever taken the time to look at it. Now it can all be logged, stored, processed, lost, stolen or used for blackmail. How about a Tory MP buying a DVD from a known source of Fetish porn? Even in this case you'd expect an obscured return to sender address.

Re:Does anyone actually believe that what's... (5, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 2 years ago | (#40354377)

on the outside of an envelope (or any part of a post card) has ever actually been private? Certainly not I, even before I knew enough to care about privacy.

You are overloading the term "private" - no one thought it was a secret, but only the crazies thought that the information on every single envelope was permanently recorded in a database. Crazy is the new normal.

Re:Does anyone actually believe that what's... (2)

guruevi (827432) | about 2 years ago | (#40355005)

With a strong enough light (especially laser or x-ray) you can see through the envelopes and look at the contents. All it would really take is enough sensitivity and some post processing which could probably be automated.

If you wonder when they implement this within 5 years why the implementation costs $500k per device and a couple of data centers you might remember this.

One's right to life, liberty, property, speech... (2)

Nutria (679911) | about 2 years ago | (#40355097)

press, freedom of worship and assembly may not be submitted to vote

But it must be seized by force from oppressors, and is given away by the apathetic and scared.

government and elites (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353803)

wow, Britain must really be expecting some major social and political upheaval to occur sometime in the near future, cause I can't believe the status quo justifies this level of intrusive surveillance now.

Re:government and elites (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354059)

I don't think that this is about maintaining an elite. It's mostly a consequence of having a risk-averse population who are distanced from politics, are not scared by an invasion or privacy because they've never actually experienced an oppressive government (unlike pro-privacy Germany) and generally aren't too interested in thinking about deeper issues (Britain has given the world some great thinkers and scientists but most of its population are suspicious of "pretentious intellectuals"). There's the "Nothing to fear, nothing to hide" argument and the "I'm a good, I have nothing to hide" response and all of this is compounded by being forever told that everyone's a paedophile or a terrorist.

Ha ha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353853)

So if Some Bloke is messing around with my wife, all I need to do is send a postcard ...

Dear Al Qaeda HQ,
The bomb is in the mail, it is sure to make a bang.
Some Bloke

Re:Ha ha (1)

tqk (413719) | about a year ago | (#40356263)

So if Some Bloke is messing around with my wife, all I need to do is send a postcard ...

Ah, screw your wife. No really, screw your wife.

Dear Al Qaeda HQ,
The bomb is in the mail, it is sure to make a bang.
Some Bloke

There's bigger fish to fry. How about:

Dear ${EachBritishMPAndMembersOfHouseOfLords ...}
The bomb is in place and is sure to make our mutual friends and sponsors very happy. The ensuing destruction will cement your career for years.

Yours truly,
BlahBlahBlah

This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (4, Informative)

dryriver (1010635) | about 2 years ago | (#40353859)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is INTERNATIONAL LAW, and which the UK is a signatory of, states it crystal clear in Article 12: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or CORRESPONDENCE, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." ---------- URL here for those who want to check the validity of this claim: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a12 [un.org] ------ So UK Home Office, how the hell are you going to explain to the UNITED NATIONS that your little mail-snooping project violates ARTICLE 12 of the UDHR? -------- If you were going to pull shit like this, why did your government sign and rattify the UDHR to begin with? Why can't you just leave your citizens alone, like other civilized countries. And, finally, have you learned nothing from George Orwell's '1984'? It was published back in 1949, so you have had OVER 60 YEARS to learn something from that brilliant, brilliant piece of work, which was written by someone who was your countryman no less, who was British. ------ I give up. The more I look at the UK from a privacy perspective, the more I feel that that particular country has really gone down the drain, and perhaps irreversibly so.

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353921)

That is why there is such a campaign at the moment, amongst certain groups, to scrap the UK Human rights legislation,

Because it keeps getting used by all these people with funny names and dark skin, you understand?

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

dryriver (1010635) | about 2 years ago | (#40353947)

You cannot just "scrap" or "take back the signing of" Human Rights legislation. It would cause a serious uproar by human rights groups worldwide, were something like that to be done in a major country like Britain. ------ I think they are trying to pass some crazy Home Office law that makes inspecting correspondence legal, and then "play dumb" with regards to whether it is actually LEGAL under International Law. -----

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

frostilicus2 (889524) | about 2 years ago | (#40353955)

You can when half of the population read the Daily Mail.

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

dryriver (1010635) | about 2 years ago | (#40354081)

The one I worry about more is "The Sun". It's owned by an arch-conservative right-wing media oligarch of Australian origin who hates muslims, freedom, civil rights and good journalism to an equal extent. ----- Its seriously worrying that in a supposedly highly advanced country/democracy like Britain, junk like The Sun can sell 9 million copies a day.

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (2)

manicb (1633645) | about 2 years ago | (#40354505)

Daily Mail readership: 4,371,000 (http://www.nmauk.co.uk/nma/do/live/factsAndFigures?newspaperID=10#readership)
The Sun readership: 7,652,000 (http://www.mediauk.com/newspapers/13707/the-sun/readership-figures) [A lot of these people will only look at the tits and sports]
UK population: 62,232,000 (http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-kingdom)
UK electorate in 2010 general election: 45,597,461 (http://www.ukpolitical.info/2010.htm)
Votes in 2010 general election: 27,833,834 (http://www.ukpolitical.info/2010.htm)

It's impressive, to be sure, but I think these papers rather exaggerate their influence.

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 years ago | (#40354061)

It would cause a serious uproar by human rights groups worldwide, were something like that to be done in a major country like Britain.

Oh, the horror.

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

dryriver (1010635) | about 2 years ago | (#40354181)

What I implied is that an established Western Democracy like Britain cannot pull out of a major Human Rights treaty without causing a huge bruhaha in the international media. ------- Being a developed country and f%%king up your duty to uphold Human Rights Laws is a seriously bad combination. ----- It would cause the country in question to loose A LOT of prestige. -------- That said, the UK Govt is determined to undermine all Human Privacy it seems. Oh well, it might help solve Britain's immigration problems when not even poor people of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin want to move to the UK anymore. =)

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 years ago | (#40354825)

What I implied is that an established Western Democracy like Britain cannot pull out of a major Human Rights treaty without causing a huge bruhaha in the international media.

Like I said. The horror.

No serious government gives a crap about what 'human rights groups' say unless what they're saying is promoting whatever policy the government wants to impose. Sadly, Britain hasn't had a serious government since the 80s.

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353933)

Well, I have to say that the US (where I am at the moment) is worse off than the UK
I went into a store a few hours ago and tried to buy a replacement PSU for my laptop. The jerks from the TSA damaged the original at LAX yesterday.
I was regarded with suspiscion when I wanted to pay for said item with cash. 'Can I have your phone number and zip code please' asked the cashier
'Why?' I asked
'It is warranty purposes'
'I don't have a zip code, I'm a visitor to your country'.
'I will have to check with the manager to see if I can sell you this item.'
I gave up and walked out.. I fully expect the SUV's with blacked out windows to pull up outside my hotel any minute. The Cameras outside the store will have photographed the license place of my rental car. Easy enough to check with the rental company where I'm staying. The DHS has my hotel data as well via the ESTA programme.
So who is the most spied upon now then?

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (2)

dryriver (1010635) | about 2 years ago | (#40353997)

America has been fucked up in the way you describe, ever since they created the whole DHS bureaucracy. ----- And don't worry about the way you are treated. Since 9/11, Americans have been doing what they did to you to practically everyone who visits their country. ----- If you had been wearing a NASCAR t-shirt and similar apparel, and had an American accent, you might have been able to buy your PSU with cash. ----- Any hint of being foreign - even British or French - and the average American cannot tell you apart from a Libyan terrorist, LOL. ------ Sorry about your experience. I myself got treated pretty rough in America a few years ago, too. ----- What an unwelcoming and uncivilized country the U.S. has become in the last 10 years. ------ Pretty sad....

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354005)

UDHR is not a law, it's a declaration. Therefore it is not legally binding, it's just a guideline.

Protection of privacy does not imply that no data about your interactions with 3rd-party organizations may be retained. Recording your direct conversations with other people is an invasion of privacy (unless sanctioned with a specific court order), but just keeping a record of the recipient, sender and date of mails that you hand over to mail delivery companies is not invasive, but actually quite an obvious thing to do. As long as it takes a court order to access this data, I don't see any problem.

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (4, Informative)

dryriver (1010635) | about 2 years ago | (#40354117)

This is what Wikipedia has on the subject: "While not a treaty itself, the Declaration was explicitly adopted for the purpose of defining the meaning of the words "fundamental freedoms" and "human rights" appearing in the United Nations Charter, which is binding on all member states. For this reason the Universal Declaration is a fundamental constitutive document of the United Nations. Many international lawyers, in addition, believe that the Declaration forms part of customary international law and is a powerful tool in applying diplomatic and moral pressure to governments that violate any of its articles. The 1968 United Nations International Conference on Human Rights advised that it "constitutes an obligation for the members of the international community" to all persons. The declaration has served as the foundation for two binding UN human rights covenants, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the principles of the Declaration are elaborated in international treaties such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and many more. The Declaration continues to be widely cited by governments, academics, advocates and constitutional courts and individual human beings who appeal to its principles for the protection of their recognised human rights."

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 years ago | (#40355295)

Yes it's a noble peice of work, however it does not (and should not) prohibit the mailman from reading and/or recording what is on the OUTSIDE of a mail item.

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

dkf (304284) | about 2 years ago | (#40354317)

So UK Home Office, how the hell are you going to explain to the UNITED NATIONS that your little mail-snooping project violates ARTICLE 12 of the UDHR?

Two points. Firstly, they have to explain it to the UK Supreme Court first, since the UDHR is incorporated into UK law (though I forget as which Act). Secondly, it's the Home Office: they can't explain shit to anyone. It's the part of government where incompetent bureaucrats are shuffled off to in order to serve their time and get to collect their pensions. They've a history of being bad at proposing legislation proportionate to actual requirements, and they're always keen to have far more powers.

That said, they've got another problem: implementing the proposed act is going to require a lot of money at a time when the Treasury is exceptionally keen on departments cutting their spending and the public disinclined to be keen on further security restrictions. Getting the Act through Parliament without significant neutering is going to be very hard, and articles like TFA are going to encourage the emasculation process.

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

Grumbleduke (789126) | about 2 years ago | (#40354495)

Two points. Firstly, they have to explain it to the UK Supreme Court first, since the UDHR is incorporated into UK law (though I forget as which Act). Secondly, it's the Home Office: they can't explain shit to anyone.

That said, they've got another problem: implementing the proposed act is going to require a lot of money at a time when the Treasury is exceptionally keen on departments cutting their spending and the public disinclined to be keen on further security restrictions. Getting the Act through Parliament without significant neutering is going to be very hard, and articles like TFA are going to encourage the emasculation process.

Firstly, the UDHR isn't the ECHR. The UDHR has the effect of a treaty, so is only binding on the Government, and governments are perfectly happy to ignore it, with little interference from the UN. The ECHR is sort of binding on the UK via the Human Rights Act, and yes, the UK Supreme Court (or even the English High Court) would be within its power to declare this law incompatible with the ECHR, or overturn any order issued by the Home Secretary under it. However, for that to happen, orders have to be issued, then challenged, then appealed.... compare it with the illegal s44 Terrorist Act stop-and-search powers; they were used for 10 years before finally repealed (in 2010 alone, used on some 28,000 people). The law itself is primary legislation, so can't be struck down even if it breaches the ECHR, although the European Court of Human Rights could issue fines over it, but that would take even longer than going through UK courts.

As to the cost; the UK budget is about £700bn, this is "estimated" to cost £1.8bn over 10 years; that's about 1/40 of 1% of the annual budget. For a law described as being a "criminal's nightmare" to help capture "criminals, terrorists and paedophiles", the cost is not going to be an issue. Of course, it will spiral out of control, but then it's too late.

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354579)

Why do you still believe ink scratches on paper have the power to restrain a government?

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 years ago | (#40354589)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is INTERNATIONAL LAW, and which the UK is a signatory of,

The UDHR is NOT "international law".

It isn't even a Treaty, for god's sake.

So, no, it's not especially binding on anyone.

You might also be interested in reading Article 29 (2). In case you're not aware, it's the escape clause - it lets you do pretty much anything by claiming it's necessary for "just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society"....

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 years ago | (#40355167)

Nice rant, now tell the class, how is recording what is on the outside of a package "interfering with corrospondence"? Why are the automated mail rooms that currently read and track mail items not "interfering with mail", when the guy on a motorscotter reads the back of your postcard before dropping it into your mail box he is being a nosey douche, he is not breaking international law nor is he working for the ministry of truth. The only thing sinister about the whole deal is that it is a giant waste of money and resources, the knowledge you posted a package from A to B, combined with the fact B is now a smoking crater is at best circumstantial evidence.

BTW: George Orwell was born in Bengal, and 1984 is a great work of FICTION.

Re:This is completely ILLEGAL under the UDHR (UN) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40355957)

Interesting thought. However, in the US the constitution trumps "international law" and treaties. If say the president signed a UN treaty outlawing handguns in the US, and then the Senate approved the treaty, it would mean nothing.

The seond problem is, when is anything the UN declares enforced unless the US does it? The UN could tell the UK that all of its citizens are declared slaves to the Congo, but unless the US agreed with it and enforced it that also would mean nothing.

The UN is worthless other than a meeting place for world leaders to get together. It has no teeth and is corrupt as hell.

Response (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 2 years ago | (#40353885)

Might I recommend chaff.

Re:Response (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354609)

Might I recommend chaff.

Envelopes made from aluminum foil might work. Put addresses on stickers so they're easily read by humans, but the foil in the scanner probably will reflect so badly that no useful image can be gotten, at least not without manual intervention.

Perhaps a protest of mailing aluminum foil envelopes, or postcards with one side painted with metallic paint, sent to Parliament might achieve something.

Strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353909)

Quite frankly I'm surprised they didn't already do that, since this isn't any more invasive than retaining the information about phone calls.

Re:Strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354187)

If it's physical surveillance, it feels real. Electronic is too abstract.

Penis mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40353941)

yes folks just write this nice word on hte back of every envelope

PENIS

PGP (2)

macs4all (973270) | about 2 years ago | (#40354349)

Just PGP the contents of your postcards. Should drive them crazy.

You have to write vewy, vewy tiny, though...

Already done (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354515)

Mail is electronically sorted and the data is used for trending purposes, thus stored for years.

Relative Outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354525)

It's not impossible that the act was deliberately excessive. Got a bill that's too outrageous to pass? Make it huge! Huge outrage! Super outrage! Mega Outrage!
Shrink it back down to its original size, everyone feels much happier and they let it pass.

Ladies and Gentlemen: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40354677)

Can we please get off any suggestions of domestic spying and just get back to being holier than thou?
You know, like berating China for violating human rights and shit? Please?
Accusations of being hypocrites is very distracting.
So please, let it go.

Oh no this would be terrible 20 years ago (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | about 2 years ago | (#40355623)

Holy shit the right to read our personal mail? Next they'll grant themselves the ability to read our telegraphs or message pigeons!

Glad I don't live in the UK (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40356631)

I am so glad I live in America where we have freedom and the fourth amendment of our constitution explicitily forbids this type of thing.

R.I.P Privacy (1)

Tasha26 (1613349) | about a year ago | (#40356703)

And some thought Rupert Murdoch was the bad guy... I bet he laughed when he read about these recent addendums to the Communications Act.
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