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Old 11-19-2016, 01:09 PM   #1
atlas_hugged
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Investigatory Powers Bill

The U.K. just passed the bill, and not too many people have noticed.

It is hard to find nonconflicting information about the bill. For example, I've read some websites claim that the bulk metadata collection doesn't need a warrant. What the bill does allow or mandate is this though:

Bulk Metadata collection accessible to law enforcement agencies.
CSPs to maintain 1 year long individualized records of metadata for each of their users
Targeted hacking of anybody, with a warrant. This could include installing programs such as keyloggers, or simply downloading information.
Corporations will be legally required to assist lawful hacking efforts by law enforcement agencies, by doing things like removing encryption. Foreign corporations may be exempt.
The Bill creates a new oversight level, to replace old ones. Made up of senior or former judges.


I think that's it, and I could be wrong about some of these parts, as there is conflicting information that I'm reading. The general consensus by those commenting on it is that this is the largest expansion of surveillance power so far.

I'm a U.S. citizen, but I think mass surveillance states are a global problem. What are actual residents of the UK thinking about this?

EDIT: I suppose the bill isn't law yet. It's got to get "royal assent" before it becomes effective law.

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Old 11-20-2016, 06:34 AM   #2
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EDIT: I suppose the bill isn't law yet. It's got to get "royal assent" before it becomes effective law.
To be clear, Royal Assent has not been denied for over 300 years, and is entirely a formality in the modern United Kingdom. But it's commencement date will probably be shortly after the Royal Assent is granted.
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Old 11-20-2016, 06:57 AM   #3
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I've seen a bunch of stuff being said about how this isn't being talked about. But I've seen multiple news articles about it. So its definitely being talked about.

The Government have forced this bill through. But I'd expect to see at least certain provisions being challenged in court before too long. I won't get too worried unless the courts uphold the bill in its entirety.
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Old 11-20-2016, 07:15 AM   #4
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The Government have forced this bill through. But I'd expect to see at least certain provisions being challenged in court before too long. I won't get too worried unless the courts uphold the bill in its entirety.
How much can it be challenged? It was my understanding that the primary (/only) limits on Parliamentary sovereignty in the UK came from EU law. Which I suppose still stands as of yet, but anyway: what's the jurisprudence on the extent to their limiting powers?

(I suppose there's also the principle of legality, but my understanding is that the privacy law in the UK is structured in such a way that I doubt there would be a right existing.)
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Old 11-20-2016, 07:39 AM   #5
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I'd expect any challenge to be under convention 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights - the convention of privacy.

You're right that UK courts can't overrule primary legislation passed by Parliament, but the courts can rule that the legislation contravenes the convention on human rights.
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Old 11-20-2016, 11:34 AM   #6
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What are the objections, in detail, that UK citizens have to the law? Do they have alternative solutions to the very real problems it seeks to solve, or are they just ideological objections to the concepts as outlined?

From a protection standpoint, the bill basically sets up an equivalent to our FISC, so it would seem the rights of innocent people are adequately protected.
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Old 11-20-2016, 11:56 AM   #7
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Personally my biggest object is that it gives the police and security services the right to require companies to unencrypt anything that they believe is pertinent to an investigation. Weakening encryption is a recipe for disaster, and I'm concerned will be exploited by third parties.

Beyond that, it not only requires internet histories to be stored for minimum of 12 months so that police can request them for investigation, it makes it a crime for your provider to tell you your records have been requested. These records will usually require a warrant for the police to access them, but in some circumstances no warrant will be required.

I'll accept that they've built in some reasonably good levels of protection. But I think it gives the police and security services too much discretion with too little oversight.
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Old 11-20-2016, 12:46 PM   #8
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I don't even want to get into the details of this steaming shitpile because it does bad things to my blood pressure, but I'm always amused about the use of "but it's only the metadata, and not the content!". The problem being, of course, that metadata is exactly what they want - it is easy to categorize, analyze without any human interaction, dirt cheap to store forever etc. Actual content is none of these things, at least not yet.

The leading excuse is 'Think of the Children!' this time. Surprising; I'd have bet that it would be terrorists.

The law is certain to pass and take effect, even if it will probably be clipped slightly in courts. Theresa May has a hard-on on those things, and was a champion of this bill for years now, opposition is neither interested in opposing this bill nor actually able to do this (they're unable to do anything in fact as of late, worthless bastards) and people in UK seem to be down and even enjoy being spied on. All opposition there is are the techies that actually have a clue (like HN crowd, professional software developers etc) and few other scattered groups that have no power behind them whatsoever. There's also the fact that bigger things like Brexit and Trump still holds peoples attention, so a bill to 'Catch Paedophiles and Terrorists™' is low on the radar for the average Joe. The only hope would be EU interference at this point, but with Brexit... yeah.

FISC also doesn't seem to be any sort of golden standard to strive for, IMO. If that is the best protection of the rights of innocents that we can achieve, then I'm distinctly unimpressed.

I think that I'll have to finally accept that you cannot stop the ever-increasing amount of privacy invasion happening pretty much everywhere in the world. It seems simply incompatible with ever-improving technology, which makes permanent storing of anything and everything that 'might come in handy down the line somewhere' ever easier and cheaper. The future is clear, and you won't be able to fart without having it permanently recorded before long.
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Old 11-20-2016, 12:56 PM   #9
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Its worth noting that the ECHR, which is where the court cases will likely end up, is not part of the EU. So Brexit isn't relevant to this.
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Old 11-20-2016, 01:08 PM   #10
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Well, yes, but being a member of ECHR is required if you want to be in EU (there is some disagreement, but most people agree that it is so). But with Brexit in the way, that's no longer a concern, and May is in favor of leaving ECHR (article is from before the referendum actually; she was in favor of leaving ECHR regardless of Brexit outcome, and with 'yes' winning I can't see her changing her mind on it).
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Old 11-21-2016, 07:44 AM   #11
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What are the objections, in detail, that UK citizens have to the law? Do they have alternative solutions to the very real problems it seeks to solve, or are they just ideological objections to the concepts as outlined?

From a protection standpoint, the bill basically sets up an equivalent to our FISC, so it would seem the rights of innocent people are adequately protected.
My worry is that the bill is setting up a FISC, and that therefore the rights of innocent people are not adequately protected.

There needs to be some judicial oversight, but I would hope that whatever England sets up avoids modeling our FISC too heavily.
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Old 11-21-2016, 03:40 PM   #12
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Somewhat related, another gem from the UK, fresh off the press: protecting the children from adult websites, coming to UK soon! (Note - adult websites, not pornographic websites).

Enjoy having to input your CC details or some Internet ID to access PornHub in a year, and any site that a proper citizen shouldn't in another five.

It is meant to prevent your innocent 8 years old daughter from accidentally watching bestiality midget gangbang videos, of course. I guess that I really shouldn't have been worried about that carte blanche for spying, hacking etc - everyone will become a role-model citizen when half of the internet will be blocked anyway.
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Old 11-21-2016, 07:35 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by atlas_hugged View Post
My worry is that the bill is setting up a FISC, and that therefore the rights of innocent people are not adequately protected.

There needs to be some judicial oversight, but I would hope that whatever England sets up avoids modeling our FISC too heavily.
...Care to enlighten me on how you think the FISC does not adequately protect the rights of innocent people?

I ask out of genuine curiosity as to your reply, because in my experience, most people who object to it simply don't understand what it is or does, and you seem to.
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Old 11-23-2016, 08:56 AM   #14
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...Care to enlighten me on how you think the FISC does not adequately protect the rights of innocent people?

I ask out of genuine curiosity as to your reply, because in my experience, most people who object to it simply don't understand what it is or does, and you seem to.
Briefly:

  • The procedure of the court is opaque. What I do understand is that nearly every warrant application is submitted in a rough draft form, and the staff of the court works closely with the applicants to review the warrants. Some writers have suggested that the review process between court staff and warrant applicants is merely to get the warrants in line with statutory requirements about format and such, while others have suggested it is a highly rigorous substantive review of warrant applications. I have no clue who to believe because there is no transparency at all.
  • The law of the court is opaque. Because rulings are very rarely published or leaked, the public doesn't know what sort of law the court is creating until there is a leak. Secret courts applying secret laws terrifies me.
  • The structure of the court is set up to create a rubber stamp situation. Judges are selected by the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Roberts has stacked the court with republicans and former executive branch members. Judges nearly always only hear the government's argument, which isn't problematic for warrants, but is problematic when the judges are changing precedent with secret rulings.
  • The success rate and number of warrants granted is extremely high. I wouldn't have too much of a problem with this if the other issues were not there, but taken in light of the above points it is extremely concerning.
  • Challenging the rulings of the FISC is extremely difficult due to current jurisprudence on Standing. This means harmful, potentially blatantly wrong precedent is being set, and will likely remain the actual law of the land for the foreseeable future.
I would like to see significantly more transparency in our courts, and I hope the English courts established are. It would be possible to do this without endangering national security. For example, by creating an auditing organization with security clearance, that prunes and redacts cases and decisions to be released to the public. Procedures need to be publicized and vetted. And the structure of the court needs to be reconsidered, so it is no longer subject to being taken over by one ideology.


Finally, as long as I'm dreaming, I would like to see a staff of attorneys with security clearance paid to contest the government. Instead of the judge's staff reviewing warrant application drafts, I would like a Public Defender of sorts whose job it is to limit the scope of warrant applications as much as possible, or even get them tossed out. They could also be paid to argue against the government when it seeks to expand the scope of 4th amendment loopholes.
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Old 11-23-2016, 01:47 PM   #15
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Well, on the bright side with this law, at least the parts of it related to encryption are completely toothless.

They can't make companies break encryption any more than the US government could, and if they do manage to force companies to insert backdoors going forward, anyone who actually wants their shit secret will just switch to different encryption software. So I'm reasonably certain encryption will remain secure and they'll realize it the second they try to enforce those provisions of this bill.
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Old 11-23-2016, 02:30 PM   #16
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Well, on the bright side with this law, at least the parts of it related to encryption are completely toothless.

They can't make companies break encryption any more than the US government could, and if they do manage to force companies to insert backdoors going forward, anyone who actually wants their shit secret will just switch to different encryption software. So I'm reasonably certain encryption will remain secure and they'll realize it the second they try to enforce those provisions of this bill.
I don't encrypt all my stuff, and I don't have much interest in encryption for the sake of it, so excuse any ignorance.

But would the companies providing the encryption tell you they left a back door for the government? Would a simple "we will comply with legal requests" hidden in the T&C be okay, or would they be able to get away with just not informing anyone?

On top of that, the courts could, probably, order a super-injuction on the name of the encryption software. So unless someone wants to face more legal issues, you as a user wouldn't be aware of any backdoors into your files.

As a final option, the goverment could make it a legal requirement that encryption software has a backdoor. Anyone using ES without one is guilty of "hiding evidence" or whatever new charge they decide to make up and enforce. Sure, it might not be popular, but I'm sure someone could find a way to ram it through.


Also, in less pessimistic news, I ended up getting linked ot an article about sniffer dogs trained to sniff out electronics. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel.
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Old 11-23-2016, 04:41 PM   #17
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I don't encrypt all my stuff, and I don't have much interest in encryption for the sake of it, so excuse any ignorance.

But would the companies providing the encryption tell you they left a back door for the government? Would a simple "we will comply with legal requests" hidden in the T&C be okay, or would they be able to get away with just not informing anyone?

On top of that, the courts could, probably, order a super-injuction on the name of the encryption software. So unless someone wants to face more legal issues, you as a user wouldn't be aware of any backdoors into your files.

As a final option, the goverment could make it a legal requirement that encryption software has a backdoor. Anyone using ES without one is guilty of "hiding evidence" or whatever new charge they decide to make up and enforce. Sure, it might not be popular, but I'm sure someone could find a way to ram it through.
See, the trick to that, for anyone that actually cares about encryption, is to simply use open-source projects. There can't be unknown backdoors in them, because the source code is freely available. It would be a fairly trivial effort for any of the developers, or anyone in the general public with a software engineering background, to tell if there was a backdoor, and it would become known very quickly, as well as builds without the backdoor becoming quite prolific immediately afterwards. As long as open-source encryption is a thing, this law is completely toothless about encryption itself.

You're right that someone could make owning encrypted data illegal, and it wouldn't surprise me if someone tried it, but this particular bill doesn't touch that, so it's not an issue yet.
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Old 11-23-2016, 05:08 PM   #18
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open-source projects.
That makes sense. Thanks!
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Old 11-23-2016, 05:11 PM   #19
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I also don't bother with encryption of my files etc, as I personally have no need for it. My 'need to hide' consists of not wanting my tranny gangbang videos to be publicly available for my friends, and I have no truly sensitive data stored on my PC (and personal data are siphoned off from email anyway, and you sure as fuck aren't using PGP to send your CVs etc anytime soon). But even if I were okay with fucking over the people that do have a reason to encrypt their drives etc, any ban on encryption still breaks down when you consider how ubiquitously is it used.

There's a reason why NSA and the like doesn't leave holes in encryption solutions or weakens the standards on purpose for the most part. They would love to be able to access anything with a backdoor, but it is not possible to make sure that only you are able to access it. Security through obscurity can be useful, but it's not enough in the long term. So if your newest funky encryption standard got a government-sponsored backdoor, well, great, but 6 months from now on some Russian team working for the government found out. Or maybe it was a group of crackers that can net a ton of cash selling it on the black market. Shit. What do you do now?

You cannot eliminate encryption for the web. Simply put, the entire internet goes down in minutes without it. Virtually everything uses it, from simplest https requests, to storing passwords on any website, to keeping your connection with your online banking secret from others, to making sure that one guy with knowledge of PHP doesn't decide an election in a country using online voting from his living room. Needless to say, inserting any backdoors into this infrastructure is a BAD idea. The web has enough problems as it is, and such things always leaks, sooner or later. And what happens afterwards? Oops, your database just leaked personal data of twenty million citizens, including things that aren't easily changed such as SN etc. Shit, now what? What can you do, even with the government backing you?

In case you're wondering, such leaks are hardly impossible. And apparently the best they can do is offer you 3 years of monitoring your credit and a few identity-protection services. Good luck with that, champ. And you want to deliberately include more holes that can give people complete access to such systems? No company that actually has data that is worth a lot would be willing to put up with it, and since money=power any such laws won't pass anytime soon (or if they do, they won't be enforced).

So you cannot reasonably expect to keep the myriad of encryption methods that are used in the internet bugged and expect that only you will have that access. It's simply impossible and makes more problems that it solves.

There is also the fact that anyone can implement their own encryption method. You cannot make an "encryption-proof" computer, because there are infinite ways to encrypt a file and it's not particularily difficult to roll your own solution. And if such action would be illegal, those technically inclined, or just able to google, would still have a wide array of choices. At best you've now cut off those that have completely no clue about the topic, but most criminals of various kind don't bother with encryption anyway (see Paris shootings and the entire debacle about encryption, where perpetrators used unencrypted SMS to communicate).

Good encryption also doesn't rely on the person that created the software for it. If your program is solid, there is no 'master key' to use, so even if you got the developers of some encryption software working for you they can do very little aside from including deliberate holes in a future update, but those things tend to be found quickly by other techies for the most part (see TrueCrypt which is believed to be unsafe since some time ago). The absolute best you could hope for would be to include a vulnerability into some application that faciliates encryption and requires the latest version to run like WhatsApp, but then you target every single user of it and that's a Bad Idea. If your software requires manual updates, you're out of luck.

Really, if you had something you really don't want anybody to know, your biggest problem would be worrying about hacking targeted at you from this bill. It's impossible to have an impenetrable system that's connected to the web; it's incredibly unlikely that one person, no matter how knowledgeable, would be able to stop competent and determined team trying to pwn him. I'm certain that it happens even now, but probaby isn't too common and you still have to do other things like parallel construction of a case and all that jazz. Inneficient, for the most part. But with a legal framework, that changes instantly.

It's also one of the things that I would be willing to accept if I had any trust that it would be kept within reasonable bounds. This actually allows to go after targets that matter and doesn't necessarily mean that everybody else gets the shaft at the same time. Makes sense and can do some good, unlike the metadata collection etc. But since there is a very real 'give them an inch, they take a mile' situation with governments when they want something... well. So it's still bad, but I can at least accept that it will do some good.

Forcing other corporations to 'assist' the government seems way more iffy, as I have no idea what could it possibly entail. If you make encryption that can be removed from the top-down, you're doing it wrong anyway.

TL;DR - don't worry about the encryption parts, technology got your back there. Worry about everything else. Also I didn't bother beta-reading this post as I'm fucking tired, so might be some mistakes here and there.
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Old 11-28-2016, 08:55 PM   #20
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Briefly:
  • The procedure of the court is opaque. What I do understand is that nearly every warrant application is submitted in a rough draft form, and the staff of the court works closely with the applicants to review the warrants. Some writers have suggested that the review process between court staff and warrant applicants is merely to get the warrants in line with statutory requirements about format and such, while others have suggested it is a highly rigorous substantive review of warrant applications. I have no clue who to believe because there is no transparency at all.
  • The law of the court is opaque. Because rulings are very rarely published or leaked, the public doesn't know what sort of law the court is creating until there is a leak. Secret courts applying secret laws terrifies me.
  • The structure of the court is set up to create a rubber stamp situation. Judges are selected by the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Roberts has stacked the court with republicans and former executive branch members. Judges nearly always only hear the government's argument, which isn't problematic for warrants, but is problematic when the judges are changing precedent with secret rulings.
  • The success rate and number of warrants granted is extremely high. I wouldn't have too much of a problem with this if the other issues were not there, but taken in light of the above points it is extremely concerning.
  • Challenging the rulings of the FISC is extremely difficult due to current jurisprudence on Standing. This means harmful, potentially blatantly wrong precedent is being set, and will likely remain the actual law of the land for the foreseeable future.
I would like to see significantly more transparency in our courts, and I hope the English courts established are. It would be possible to do this without endangering national security. For example, by creating an auditing organization with security clearance, that prunes and redacts cases and decisions to be released to the public. Procedures need to be publicized and vetted. And the structure of the court needs to be reconsidered, so it is no longer subject to being taken over by one ideology.

Finally, as long as I'm dreaming, I would like to see a staff of attorneys with security clearance paid to contest the government. Instead of the judge's staff reviewing warrant application drafts, I would like a Public Defender of sorts whose job it is to limit the scope of warrant applications as much as possible, or even get them tossed out. They could also be paid to argue against the government when it seeks to expand the scope of 4th amendment loopholes.
Since I was busily stuffing my face with turkey all week and away from my computer, I didn't take the time to respond to this. Now that I'm back, I will, because your objections fit with the flawed legal arguments of many in the pro-privacy camp, who ascribe malice to the FISC because they don't really understand it.

1. The process is not opaque. The FISC's only purpose is to grant warrants and ensure legal compliance of established procedure. Like all warrants, FISA warrants are granted only upon the provision of probable cause, oath or affirmation, and a description of what is to be searched and what will be seized. The only addition is that it requires the probable cause to demonstrate that the target of the warrant is an agent of a foreign power. The warrants are prepared by lawyers, and presented to the judges. The FISC does not have clerks.
2. The law is certainly not opaque to anyone who takes the time to read it. You can read the relevant legal code just by googling it (50 USC Chapter 36), and a detailed text of the most recent law here: FISA Act of 2008.
3. The FISC does not create law. It only grants or rejects warrant applications. The closest it comes to making law are in the legal procedures it requires for warrant applications.
4. The judges on the FISC are not rubber stamps. They're anything but. They require strict adherence to procedure and strict demonstration of probable cause. The only reason that the court rarely rejects an application is that the people applying for warrants are very good at their jobs, and they never submit an application unless they are sure of the basis and of the procedural validity.
5. You cannot challenge a warrant. So granted, it has full validity. If it wasn't based on firm ground, it wouldn't have been granted.
6. Again, the FISC does not set precedent, because it does not consider questions of law.

Transparency in this case is a fool's errand. Transparency would invalidate the entire point of a secret warrant: The target of the warrant cannot know he is being watched, or he will evade scrutiny.

As for your final point, this already exists. Justice scours every application for potential problems before it ever submits the applications. A Devil's Advocate would be a pointless redundancy.
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