Foiling the Oyster Card

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Many people are worried about the privacy implications of the new Transport for London Oyster Smart Card. This promises greater convenience (and some introductory discounted fares) for travel on London Underground railways and Bus services, at the cost of greater surveillance of individuals, since each Oyster Card is uniquely numbered, and has to be swiped at the start and end of each journey. This self tracking behavior is reinforced by the poster advertising campaign and the policy of charging the maximum possible fare unless you swipe the card past the reader at the end of your journey, not just at the start.

The season ticket versions of the card have name and address and credit card details associated with them. Even the new pre-pay cards, which are more anonymous, unless you use a credit card or choose to register the card, still have a unique tracking serial number which can be tied to the omnipresent CCTV Surveillance on London Underground, and increasingly even on London Buses.

The system uses contactless MIFARE based smart cards with distinctive yellow readers at Tube station barriers and on buses.

There is no authentication mechanism e.g. a Personal Identification Number as with "Chip and PIN" credit cards, it depends only on whether the Oyster card is within range of a reader, typically 10 centimetres or so for the readers currently deployed by Transport for London (which is far less than what the equipment is actually capable of). The only security against being accidentaly overcharged or having your private details read or associated with a particular Oyster Card by people operating their own MIFARE scanners, is to shield the Oyster Card from unwanted radio signals. These private details includes information about the last 10 or so trips that you have made, which is data stored directly on the card, and which will be available to the 3rd party retailers who come on board the "electronic purse" aspects of the scheme.

The MIFARE system uses one of the Industrial Scientific Medical licence free frequencies at 13.56 MHz, so it is not illegal for other people to have or to use their own reader equipment.

One way to preserve your privacy somewhat is to shield the Oyster Card with aluminium kitchen foil. This seems to block the readers on the charge up ticket machines even when only the back of the Oyster Card is shielded i.e. you have to remove the Oyster Card from the shielded holder for it to be read/charged up:


Even if, like us, you do not think that non-Oyster Card readers are very common yet, there is still a case for shielding your Oyster Card. especially the pre-paid one which currently only operates in the central zones 1 to 3. If you travel into London from outside these zones, on a paper ticket which you present to the slot in a Tube ticket barrier on your right, you do not want money to be deducted from your zone 1 to 3 Oyster Card as well - it depends on your physical size as to how close the Oyster Card readers are to whatever pocket or handbag etc you keep your card in.

Similar use of aluminium foil to line pockets or handbags or shopping bags etc. will also block RFID tags on consumer items which have not been "killed" or disabled at the checkout (again, more of a potential problem in the future, rather than a big risk at the moment).

However, if you choose to use such radio frequency shielding techniques, be aware, that you currently run the risk of being suspected of carrying concealed weapons or explosives by the operators of the still rare but controversial "see under your, or your childrens', clothes" Passive Millimetre Wave Radar cameras and scanners being tested by the Police and other military security forces.


We are getting visitors directed to this article via links from discussions about the security and privacy problems with the new US Biometric passport.

This involves some international "bait and switch" propaganda e.g. the US and UK governments claim "we have to introduce biometric passports because that is what the International Civil Aviation Organisation says we have to do."

Speak to anyone in the ICAO and they say "we are specifying biometric passports because the US and UK government were pushing this policy"

Biometric Passports need a chip inside them, and for some astonishing reason, probably to do with commercial lobbying, the ICAO has specified a contactless smartcard solution. All well and good, except that this is not a very tight specification, and the US Government, has chosen not to use any encryption in its passports, i.e. they have ignored all the technology and experience gained through the issue of millions of Mifare type contactless travel smartcards, like the Oyster card.

This means that US citizines will have their passport details secretely read , through their clothing or luggae, by unauthorised standard reader devices, some of which could be operating with more sensitive antenna and amplification in excess of the normal off the shelf equipment which has to obey local radio frequency allocation power limit regulations. This is a threat to the privacy of US citizens(and any other country stupid enough to copy the US system). In the worst case, there will be terrorist bombs and booby traps triggered by a specific individual's US Passport, or a generic "are there sufficient US passport holders in the imm3ediate area" type detonation command.

The way to overcome this is obviouslty to shield the passport in the same way as the Oyster Card above. However the same laws of physics apply, so you cannot put the chip and antenna into the cover of the passport if you intend to shield it with aluminium etc.

You end up having to have a thickly laminated page, effectively a smartcard , bound into the passport booklet (border control visa ink pad stamps are not going to be phased out). You could then shield the covers of the passport booklet.

This means that instead of a convenient, rapid check like the Oyster card, such a passport will involve fumbling to get the covers open to expose the smartcard page inside, and then presenting it to the reader device. Why on earth couldn't they have used a contact smartcard, like millions of "Chip and PIN" credit cards, or an optical barcode system, which can be read by laser without the risk of it ever being read secretly through your clothes or luggae by radio ?

If the US style passport is not shielded (still an option), and people go for the home brew or commercial (there must be millions of leather and other passport wallets on the market) shielded passport holder, then experience with the Oyster Card shows that you will have to remove the passport from this shielded wallet for it to work. Simply flipping it open will not be sufficient, especially if the offical passport readers are deliberately detuned to only work at a vey short range (so as not to get confused by the next people in the invetiable queue).

All the worries about "see under your clothes" snooping devices applies even more to such shielded passports - this equipment is being introduced in airports first, as it is still expensive. Therefore there will be a number of "false positives" where people are suspected of carrying weapons, explosives or drugs, simply on the basis of their shielded passport holders which will show up in high contrast aginst their "naked" bodies.

Obviously when this happens too many times, the security gurds will become lax, and criminals will start to smuggle small amounts of drugs, explosives or sharp weapons, within the shielded passport holder itself.

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Interesting post.

I am generally a big fan of Oystercard - makes accounting for travel easier, has the potential for intelligent fares (one day cards, loyalty etc).

The privacy issues are a concern and for me the issue is making the risks fully transparent and trying to ensure that no one is fooled.

Thanks for an interesting blog which I scan regularly!

any more info on jamming techniques would be appreciated

Thanks for your post. I too am not a great fan of giving out my personal details to all, specially to the likes of Ken L., who would only use it to track down your every move and think of ways to maximize his fares. As it is, too many organisations already have my details. I had thought that the prepay Oyster card would be ideal for me, now that I have been forced into using TFL (YUK!). Problem is, they won't sell me one unless I register. No amount of explaination works,even showing their leaflet which explains it. I do not mind paying the deposit, that makes sense. The idea of this card is great, only if it was'nt used to screw the poor defencless public. After all, it's only a glorified train ticket. (I await phone taps etc)

We certainly have not registered our pre-paid Oyster Cards. Perhaps it is worth trying to find some better trained staff at a different station ?

If you don't want to give your information to Uncle Ken, register with fake details. I did. Makes no difference whatsoever, and nobody has ever checked anything. I think I gave my real date of birth in case it's ever used as password verification or something, but that's it and I've never been asked for it anyway.

Great comments (thanks GOOGLE for bringing me here)

Im concerned with the subject though and thanks for making me aware.

One matter where there will be difficulty is (myself included) for the 'out of towners' who have to pay their TOC (train operating Company) for a zone 1 ticket (eg to get to VICTORIA) then, when passing through the gate, the OYSTER READER will deduct a zone 1 debit from the card when I have no intention to use the underground and then, on my return, will deduct another single on my way home - equating to paying for the zone 1 journey twice both ways when all I did was cross the border line.

On the other hand if I buy a train ticket from my TOC for a journey up to the zone 2 border (vauxhall) and then use my oyster card I will have to get off the train to validate it or may run the risk of payment avoidence claims.

Hmm another one of those amazingly good ideas thought up in an 'ivory tower' without any reference to whats going on on 'planet earth'

Maybe another attempt by Ken L to win the greater london travel franchise from Network Rail and the TOCS?

If so (and Ken if you are reading this) what a fiasco would have been last night (new years eve) if the unions had shut down the whole of greater london travel (if you do get to run the lot) based on their wish to renage on an earlier agreed terms and conditions?

I keep my Oyster Card in my leather wallet as opposed to the plastic wallet given free with it (and seen in the picture in the first post).

When I "touch in and touch out" it often doesn't work the first time I put the hidden face of the card in contact with the reader. Between the card and the reader there's one layer of leather and three thin silk layers (and sometimes a receipt, bank note, or something else).

The reader often flashes an error / unreadable message at me but, when pressing the wallet more firmly to the reader, it reads it okay and lets me through the barrier.

So, if it struggles to read the card through a bit of leather and paper, then surely there is little risk of it accidentally deducting money from the card when you're just walking past the barrier and the Oyster Card is in your pocket? Similarly, how would anyone sitting next to me on a train with a scanner read the information on this (or a passport, etc.). I guess a stronger (unauthorised) scanner would do this easily would it?

From my experience I see no need for protecting the card with foil or some other means. Has anyone else had similar experiences to me?

@ IanC - how can you tell if your Oyster Card (or any other contactless Smart Card in common use, like door entry passes or the forthcoming contactless / RFID ICAO standard Passports) has been sneakily read by an unuthorised scanner or not ? You cannot.

When the Oyster system was being tested prior to going live, they did have to turn down the power on the yellow readers, as they were picking up Oyster Cards from the adjacent Tube gates. The 13.56MHz ISM licence free radio signals can be legally used at a power setting which is adequate for "portal" applications i.e. a doorway wide enough for a person to walk through, like an airport metal detector scanned by a reader on one side i.e. somewhat wider than a Tube gate.

So even "legal" scanning equipment will pick up your Oyster Card at a distance 8 or 10 times the TfL implemented power setting.

An illegal scanner (which would not have to even be a modified one, only one designed to work in a country like the USA where higher power levels and/or more sensitive antenna are permitted) could do so at an even longer range.

Provided that the TfL equipment is maintained properly (not something that is certain), then, it is likely, that there is little risk of having money falseley deducted from your Oyster card by TfL.

However, when stage 2 of the project rolls out, with Oyster Card readers in third party company hands, for the Electronic Purse function "cashless shopping", then all bets are off.

In reading the oyster cars, is the whole card read, or is there a chip inside, Essentially i want to cut out the chip and stick it to the back of my wallet, i just thouht this would be less hassle, so please tell me if cutting the card would render the oyster inoperable

@ Boy-o-flex - the chip is quite small - it is about half a centimetre square in the upper right hand of the card level with the word oyster (blue side up). It is easeier to see the slight blemish in the plastic where it is embedded, on the reverse i.e. in the top left corner.

However there is also a wire loop antenna, which is vital for the radio link and for powering up the chip, which runs around the circumference of the card, again, about half a centimetre from the edge.

If you have really good scalpel skills you could probably do it without damaging the system, but what will it achieve ?

The antenna will not work properly if it is bent or folded, which is why it is held nicely in place by the thin plastic card.

Thanks a lot, for your advice, i realise it is not possible to do what i had planned

actually some of what you've said is crap
You don't need to take the card out of the plastic wallet for it to be charged or read. There is no need to get it out What so ever. Thus no body being able to see your card number...

@ Matthew - You seem to have entirely missed the point. Perhaps you should read the whole thread again.

We were talking about preventing accidental deductions of money, or sneaky remote reading / tracking by unauthorised reader equipment, of the electronic ID number in the Oyster Card, by use of a simple homemade aluminium foil radio frequency shielding
lining the standard plastic wallet as illustrated by the photo.

I landed at this webpage by accident while Googling something else.

Here in Hong Kong, we've been using the Octopus card for about 10 years. Works the same way and has the same tracking functions as the Oyster. Additionally, the Octopus has also become (almost from Day One) our electronic money for groceries and other everyday shopping. The Octopus is made by Sony.

In the old days (i.e. about 3-4 years ago), our Octopus came with an antimagnetic pouch to shield it from accidental cash deductions. We've had people using aluminium foil, but they don't work as well as the antimagnetics. Maybe it's the same situation for London. Today, the readers are much, much more realiable and accidental deductions or card failures are almost unheard of.

What are the antimagnetic strips? You know, it's those plasticky magnetic things you stick on refrigerators. Thin and non-metallic.

Here's something interesting. I was in London in December 2005. I had an Oystercard with me, but I swiped my Octopus instead by mistake. The reader machine emitted a high-pitched noise, went kaput, and had to be reset by the staff. This was in Piccadilly Circus during the evening rush hour.

GuyUK wrote:-
One matter where there will be difficulty is (myself included) for the 'out of towners' who have to pay their TOC (train operating Company) for a zone 1 ticket (eg to get to VICTORIA) then, when passing through the gate, the OYSTER READER will deduct a zone 1 debit from the card when I have no intention to use the underground and then, on my return, will deduct another single on my way home - equating to paying for the zone 1 journey twice both ways when all I did was cross the border line.

This is quite impossible when it comes to overground railway as PrePay is not allowed and will not let you pass through the gates, Prepay is purely a TfL thing, nothing to do with national rail.
If you have a Travelcard on your Oyster it wont matter how many times you swipe it, you wont pay extra.
A word of warning though the revenue protection will be piloting a new handheld reader which will be able to read your card from several feet away. The trails will be taking place on the Southern and SouthWest ToCs

Ha Ha Ha. Why the hell would anybody at TfL be remotely interested in you or your journeys at 4 in the morning to soho?

I think perhaps we could employ even better methods to avoid surveillance. lets all wear aluminium foil over our entire bodies to avoid those nasty radio waves and mean cctv cameras.

Im sure anyone of you would be well chuffed if a peadophile or rapist attacked you or someone you love and they couldnt be caught because they were wearing a tin foil jump suit and dark glasses.

Get over it. If you dont like oyster - buy paper tickets. if you cant afford paper tickets - walk. or get a bike. But remember - always pay in unmarked bills or big brother will get you. ooooooooooo!!!!!!

by the way - the company who developed the technology for the Oyster card also make military tracking equipment for the government, NATO and also US armed forced.

Are you scared yet? they can seeeee yooouuuu!!!

@ Thomson - TfL are already handing over your Oyster Card data to the Police etc.

There are already open source tools available via the internet to allow people other than TfL, including criminals or terrorists, to track Oyster Cards remotely

You may not value your privacy and security, but we do.

TfL could hand over the same information based on a Mag ticket serial number, althogh associating a person with the ticket is not as easy.

Will any of the open source tools available actually read (as opposed to attempt to read) an Oyster card? It's not just an open system - they would need the keys which will presumably eventually happen - then the keys will be changed and the whole process will restart.

@ rom - you do not need to be able to read what is stored securely on the Oyster Card, in order to use cheap, perfectly legal reader equipment and simple open source software, to log the time date and location of individual Oyster Cards, and thereby almost certainly the people who carry them, without those people's express permission.

This can all be done entirely independently of the Transport for London infrastructure, and their alleged safeguards.

If you could read what is on each individual card, then the system would be entirely compromised, and open to massive fraud, as you could then clone Oyster Cards and change or reset the amount of money stored on them, or on a programmable device which pretends to be an Oyster Card to a reader

Since the Phillips MiFare system has been in use around the world, and does not seem to suffer from such frauds, this second scenario seems unlikely, but the third party tracking without your permission or knowledge scenario does seem to feasible.

Can you identify individual cards wih the equipment you describe if you can't read the encrypted card data?

@ rom - take the analogy of using your web browser to connect to an internet bank or e-commerce website, which protects your financial details over the internet using a Secure Sockets layer (SSL) or Transaction Layer Security (TLS) encrypted session.

Your local network administrator or your Internet Service Provider cannot read your banking or credit card transactions because of the encryption, but they absolutely and routinely do know on what date and at which time and which IP address or URL you used to connect to the secure website, information which they may hand over to someone else either for law enforcement reasons, or simply for money.

Similarly with "proximity" or "contactless" or "RFID" smartcards or tags or tickets etc. the reader equipment has to be able to distinguish between two or more smartcards or tags which happen to be within range of the permitted strength radio signal ("collision avoidance"), otherwise, just as with an IP address on a computer network, some or all of the wrong data will end up at the wrong network card, usually preventing either of the non-uniquely addressed devices from working properly.

There are already various commercial marketing experiments in tracking unsuspecting individual members of the public, which are illegal in the UK because they do not obtain the explicit, individual's informed consent first, according to the Principles of Data Protection enshrined in the Data Protection Act e.g.

  • tracking BlueTooth mobile phones, of repeat "high value" customers visitors in a department store,

  • using the same technology to activate an "intelligent" advertising billboard display,
  • using GSM mobile phones carried by car drivers to estimate traffic flows and traffic jams for the benefit of paying customers, but not of the people whose traffic movements have been snooped on
  • snooping on the radio station to which car drivers have their radios tuned to e.g. pop, classical or news etc. again for drive by advertising targeting purposes.

When, as with Transport for London, the technology is combined with CCTV camera surveillance, the threat to your privacy, and in the wrong hands, to your security is increased.

With any of these radio based schemes, they usually send out some characteristic information like a unique serial number, as part of the initial smartcard or device to reader handshake protocol, before any encryption can be established.

This is what betrays your privacy / security to an unauthorised attacker.

With things like mobile phones , actively pinging devices or cards from an unauthorised reader is illegal because of the controlled monopoly which the mobile phone networks have paid billions of pounds for exclusive use of that radio frequency. Anyone doing this will have their equipment seized etc.

With Licence Free, Industrial Scientific Medical band frequencies, such as those used by the Oyster Card, the new Biometric Passports, BlueTooth, WiFi etc, there is no such thing as an "unauthorised" radio transmitter, provided that it keeps within the agreed power limits, something which is much harder to enforce than just the mere presence of a transmitter on a particular frequency. The popularity of such devices also makes the required equipment cheap, and available worldwide.

If you have voluntarily signed up to be tracked by such schemes, and are getting the benefit of some service or getting money to do so, then that is fair enough, but to do it without the informed consent of those being snooped on, often for the financial benefit of third parties, is wrong.

Doesn't really answer my query. You said:

"With any of these radio based schemes, they usually send out some characteristic information like a unique serial number, as part of the initial smartcard or device to reader handshake protocol, before any encryption can be established"

Do you know whether this is the case with Mifare based systems like the current Oyster cards? I'm trying to understand whether there is a way of identifying individual cards using the methoods you describe, or there is a perceived threat because someone might be able to identify individual cards.

@ rom - it is only a question of economics.

There are already of thousands of "legitimate" Readers which can cope with MiFare and usually several other similar variations of protocols as well, around the world, not in the direct control of Transport Authorities, since other countries have successfully implemented third party commercial schemes to use their equivalent cards to allow the purchase of non-travel ticket items e.g. newspapers, sweets etc. from third party commercial companies.

Transport for London's scheme seems to have foundered , for the moment. as they cannot seem to sort out the financial aspects properly.

These retailers not only have access to the unique serial numbers of any passing customers and non-customers within radio range, but they can obviously read the actual stored data as well i.e. the amount of money, and in some cases the transaction history of purchases at other vendors.

If this technology gets "cracked" with Open Source tools, that does not increase the existing vulnerabilities, it only reduces the cost of exploiting them.

Attacks which are not worth investing in to compromise a small amount of money stored on a travel ticket, and a limited travel location history, certainly are worth investing money and effort in, when the same technology is used in a vastly more valuable target like a Biometric Passport or Identity card.

Illegally boosting the radio signals to much greater ranges than the legitimate equipment is tuned for within the permitted legal power levels, is only a question of better / bigger antennas and amplifiers.

None of these privacy and security threats posed by individual technologies should be looked at in isolation, it is the combination of mobile phone tracking, CCTV surveillance combined with RFID tracking etc.(as personal items so tagged get more widespread) which needs to be considered.

I love the Oyster card. Whenever I rob a bank I simply send a friend, wearing similar clothing, on a day out around town using my card. Perfect alibi.

I am so scared. At this moment i have a Oyster Card and doubtless there are probably 40+ satellites looking at me, there is also a silent black helicopter hovering above my roof scanning my flat with a death ray and as i sit typing this with a tin foil hat on my head i am really scared. I am sure that the government is so interested in my mundane life that i am being followed by people like Agent Smith from the Matrix and just yesterday someone got on my train and got off the same stop as me. Because of this i had to run the whole way home.
No really people i could not care less about what organisations "follow" me around i have better things to do with my life than talk rubbish all day long.

@ wam434 - if you really have "nothing to hide, nothing to fear", then why not post your real name, address and other contact details here ?

No ? Perhaps you actually do have something you wish to keep private from criminals and commercial and government surveillance ?

Well it seems most of london are being mugged off with oyster card prices !!!!
Not me i've found a way of getting all my journeys half price(yep child price)
and will do this for as long as i can ....
so to red ken "up yours" your system is'nt fool proof.......

@ darren - sounds like fraud, unless you are using a discount photo card issued to various students or unemployed or disabled people.


I have been a bad boy I got on a bendy bus for one stop without swiping my oyster card i got off my card was taken off me and I had to give my address. Probably not the place but are there any tips on an excuse I can use. I agree with some of your other posts big brother is everywhere there is absolutely no way I would have anything other than a pre paid card I don't want red ken tracking my every move.

Does anyone know the types of fines handed out?

Start an OysterCard sharing club at your office - empty cards go in the pot. Take a new one to recharge, use and put back in the pot when empty. The card is not going to be able to give anything but recent history of your movemens and not profile can be built up. Even better if you can use several card sharing schemes.

@ dug - a good idea. We swapped the particular Oyster Card in the photo with someone else's last year.

It is possible to cut an oyster card down to any size larger than the chip itself. Yes you will have to disconnect the antenna but a magnifying glass, the thinnest piece of wire, a smidgen of non heat metallic bond and a little manual dexterity means that you can easily reconnect a makeshift antenna externally and cellotape it in place. All data is initially lost. But if the card is powered up as a new card it will work. My contraption measured approx one inch by one and a half. I wedged it in behind the battery cover of my Blackberry. It could not always be read by the blue handheld readers as the bendy bus inspectors will attest. But all other readers worked and with the payment reciept they were ok. I had big fun for two weeks before it died. R.I.P.
P.S. It did take four cards to get there.

Identity Stronghold makes an inexpensive shielded card sleeve to keep your Oyster or other contactless cards in. They also have a shielded passport sleeve and a shielded ID badgeholder. This is the same as keeping your card wrapped in foil but much more convenient as it doesn't tear easily. Their website is

If you want to get a weekly or monthly pass on an Oyster card and don't want to register your details, you can do this by buying a pre pay card and purchasing your travel pass (with cash-not debit card) through a newsagent. As most of you are aware, an underground station would not sell you a travel pass unless its registered.
On the subject of travel, does anybody else agree that the London Lite paper is another bombardment of trash which is an insult to people's intelligence and is another tool designed to distract people from the real concerns our society is facing?
Front page of the Daily Mail today reveals a new law being implemented TOMORROW which will allow the Government to spy on all our mobile and landline calls:
This is staggering. How on earth could a law like that be implemented without debate and consultation? We are firmly entrenched in a Police State. The masses need to WAKE UP.

@ Lynsey - useful advice on Oyster Cards - remember also that you can swap them between friends and family (adjusting for any money on them at the time), which can blur the picture of your own personal journey patterns, but which will not affect the bulk data if it is used for traffic planning and service improvement purposes (we can but hope).

Regular readers of Spy Blog should be more aware than most people about the Communications Data Retention and the Cryptographic Keys snooping regulations which come into force on 1st October.

Technically there has ben "public consultation", sort of, although the mainstream media and Members of Parliament have not bothered to hold the Government to account over their proposals.

Spy Blog even ran a couple of sub-blogs last year, to try to stimulate some deabte on the proposed Codes of Practice under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000:

RIPA Part I Chapter II consultation - Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Traffic Data


Code of Practice for RIPA Part III - Investigation of Protected Electronic Information

However, the Labour Government went ahead with one of the policy options on which they were allegedly consulting the public (regarding the identification of dead or seriously injured people) , by issuing an Order right in the middle of the supposed 13 week public consultation process, They could not even be bothered to pretend that they were considering the responses to the consultation, before going ahead regardless.

This destroys any trust that these consultations are anything more than exercises in propaganda spin and manipulation.

We also pointed to the actual Secondary Legislation (a year later than originally threatened) , which was sneaked through amongst a batch of other repressive measures just before the Parliamentary summer recess, by the supposedly now "open and transparent and accountable" Gordon Brown regime, who is still using the same cynical manipulations as Tony Blair:

A flurry of repressive Labour government Secondary Legislation passes unnoticed by the mainstream media and opposition politicians

I have a Freedom Pass Oyster Card and on screen at stations can look at my usage. Is there any way I can look on web for my total usage after inputting my card identity number?



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Surveillance & Society the fully peer-reviewed transdisciplinary online surveillance studies journal

Statewatch - monitoring the state and civil liberties in the European Union

The Policy Laundering Project - attempts by Governments to pretend their repressive surveillance systems, have to be introduced to comply with international agreements, which they themselves have pushed for in the first place

International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance

ARCH Action Rights for Children in Education - worried about the planned Children's Bill Database, Connexions Card, fingerprinting of children, CCTV spy cameras in schools etc.

Foundation for Information Policy Research
UK Crypto - UK Cryptography Policy Discussion Group email list

Technical Advisory Board on internet and telecomms interception under RIPA

European Digital Rights

Open Rights Group - a UK version of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a clearinghouse to raise digital rights and civil liberties issues with the media and to influence Governments.

Digital Rights Ireland - legal case against mandatory EU Comms Data Retention etc.

Blindside - "What’s going to go wrong in our e-enabled world? " blog and wiki and Quarterly Report will supposedly be read by the Cabinet Office Central Sponsor for Information Assurance. Whether the rest of the Government bureaucracy and the Politicians actually listen to the CSIA, is another matter.

Biometrics in schools - 'A concerned parent who doesn't want her children to live in "1984" type society.'

Human Rights

Liberty Human Rights campaigners

British Institute of Human Rights
Amnesty International

Prevent Genocide International

asboconcern - campaign for reform of Anti-Social Behavior Orders

Front Line Defenders - Irish charity - Defenders of Human Rights Defenders

Internet Censorship

OpenNet Initiative - researches and measures the extent of actual state level censorship of the internet. Features a blocked web URL checker and censorship map.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Reporters without Borders internet section - news of internet related censorship and repression of journalists, bloggers and dissidents etc.

Judicial Links

British and Irish Legal Information Institute - publishes the full text of major case Judgments

Her Majesty's Courts Service - publishes forthcoming High Court etc. cases (but only in the next few days !)

House of Lords - The Law Lords are currently the supreme court in the UK - will be moved to the new Supreme Court in October 2009.

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals under FOIA, DPA both for and against the Information Commissioner

Investigatory Powers Tribunal - deals with complaints about interception and snooping under RIPA - has almost never ruled in favour of a complainant.

Parliamentary Opposition

The incompetent yet authoritarian Labour party have not apologised for their time in Government. They are still not providing any proper Opposition to the current Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition government, on any freedom or civil liberties or privacy or surveillance issues.

UK Government

Home Office - "Not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope, it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management systems and processes" - Home Secretary John Reid. 23rd May 2006. Not quite the fount of all evil legislation in the UK, but close.

No. 10 Downing Street Prime Minister's Official Spindoctors

Public Bills before Parliament

United Kingdom Parliament
Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.

House of Commons "Question Book"

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

FaxYourMP - identify and then fax your Member of Parliament
WriteToThem - identify and then contact your Local Councillors, members of devolved assemblies, Member of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament etc.
They Work For You - House of Commons Hansard made more accessible ? UK Members of the European Parliament

Read The Bills Act - USA proposal to force politicians to actually read the legislation that they are voting for, something which is badly needed in the UK Parliament.

Bichard Inquiry delving into criminal records and "soft intelligence" policies highlighted by the Soham murders. (taken offline by the Home Office)

ACPO - Association of Chief Police Officers - England, Wales and Northern Ireland
ACPOS Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland

Online Media

Boing Boing

Need To Know [now defunct]

The Register

NewsNow Encryption and Security aggregate news feed
KableNet - UK Government IT project news - UK eGovernment and public sector IT news
eGov Monitor

Ideal Government - debate about UK eGovernment

NIR and ID cards

Stand - email and fax campaign on ID Cards etc. [Now defunct]. The people who supported have gone on to set up other online tools like The Government's contemptuous dismissal of over 5,000 individual responses via the website to the Home Office public consultation on Entitlement Cards is one of the factors which later led directly to the formation of the the NO2ID Campaign who have been marshalling cross party opposition to Labour's dreadful National Identity Register compulsory centralised national biometric database and ID Card plans, at the expense of simpler, cheaper, less repressive, more effective, nore secure and more privacy friendly alternative identity schemes.

NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID bulletin board discussion forum

Home Office Identity Cards website
No compulsory national Identity Cards (ID Cards) BBC iCan campaign site
UK ID Cards blog
NO2ID press clippings blog
CASNIC - Campaign to STOP the National Identity Card.
Defy-ID active meetings and protests in Glasgow - New Alliance's ID Cards page - total rejection of any UK ID Card

International Civil Aviation Organisation - Machine Readable Travel Documents standards for Biometric Passports etc.
Anti National ID Japan - controversial and insecure Jukinet National ID registry in Japan
UK Biometrics Working Group run by CESG/GCHQ experts etc. the UK Government on Biometrics issues feasability
Citizen Information Project feasability study population register plans by the Treasury and Office of National Statistics - comments and links to each paragraph of the Home Office's "Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Scheme".

De-Materialised ID - "The voluntary alternative to material ID cards, A Proposal by David Moss of Business Consultancy Services Ltd (BCSL)" - well researched analysis of the current Home Office scheme, and a potentially viable alternative.

Surveillance Infrastructures

National Roads Telecommunications Services project - infrastruture for various mass surveillance systems, CCTV, ANPR, PMMR imaging etc.

CameraWatch - independent UK CCTV industry lobby group - like us, they also want more regulation of CCTV surveillance systems.

Every Step You Take a documentary about CCTV surveillance in the Uk by Austrian film maker Nino Leitner.

Transport for London an attempt at a technological panopticon - London Congestion Charge, London Low-Emission Zone, Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, tens of thousands of CCTV cameras on buses, thousands of CCTV cameras on London Underground, realtime road traffic CCTV, Iyster smart cards - all handed over to the Metropolitan Police for "national security" purposes, in real time, in bulk, without any public accountibility, for secret data mining, exempt from even the usual weak protections of the Data Protection Act 1998.

RFID Links

RFID tag privacy concerns - our own original article updated with photos

NoTags - campaign against individual item RFID tags
Position Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Products has been endorsed by a large number of privacy and human rights organisations.
RFID Privacy Happenings at MIT
Surpriv: RFID Surveillance and Privacy
RFID Scanner blog
RFID Gazette
The Sorting Door Project blog - where we sometimes crosspost RFID articles

Genetic Links

DNA Profiles - analysis by Paul Nutteing
GeneWatch UK monitors genetic privacy and other issues
Postnote February 2006 Number 258 - National DNA Database (.pdf) - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

The National DNA Database Annual Report 2004/5 (.pdf) - published by the NDNAD Board and ACPO.

Eeclaim Your DNA from Britain's National DNA Database - model letters and advice on how to have your DNA samples and profiles removed from the National DNA Database,in spite of all of the nureacratic obstacles which try to prevent this, even if you are innocent.

Miscellanous Links

Michael Field - Pacific Island news - no longer a paradise - John Gilmore versus USA internal flight passports and passenger profiling etc.

The BUPA Seven - whistleblowers badly let down by the system.

Tax Credit Overpayment - the near suicidal despair inflicted on poor, vulnerable people by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown's disasterous Inland Revenue IT system.

Fassit UK - resources and help for those abused by the Social Services Childrens Care bureaucracy

Former Spies

MI6 v Tomlinson - Richard Tomlinson - still being harassed by his former employer MI6

Martin Ingram, Welcome To The Dark Side - former British Army Intelligence operative in Northern Ireland.

Operation Billiards - Mitrokhin or Oshchenko ? Michael John Smith - seeking to overturn his Official Secrets Act conviction in the GEC case.

The Dirty Secrets of MI5 & MI6 - Tony Holland, Michael John Smith and John Symond - stories and chronologies.

Naked Spygirl - Olivia Frank

Blog Links blog - Comments on IT security and Privacy or the lack thereof.
Rat's Blog -The Reverend Rat writes about London street life and technology
Duncan Drury - wired adventures in Tanzania & London
Dr. K's blog - Hacker, Author, Musician, Philosopher

David Mery - falsely arrested on the London Tube - you could be next.

James Hammerton
White Rose - a thorn in the side of Big Brother
Big Blunkett
Into The Machine - formerly "David Blunkett is an Arse" by Charlie Williams and Scribe
infinite ideas machine - Phil Booth
Louise Ferguson - City of Bits
Chris Lightfoot
Oblomovka - Danny O'Brien

Liberty Central

dropsafe - Alec Muffett
The Identity Corner - Stefan Brands
Kim Cameron - Microsoft's Identity Architect
Schneier on Security - Bruce Schneier
Politics of Privacy Blog - Andreas Busch
solarider blog

Richard Allan - former Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam
Boris Johnson Conservative MP for Henley
Craig Murray - former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, "outsourced torture" whistleblower

Howard Rheingold - SmartMobs
Global Guerrillas - John Robb
Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends

Vmyths - debunking computer security hype

Nick Leaton - Random Ramblings
The Periscope - Companion weblog to journalist network.
The Practical Nomad Blog Edward Hasbrouck on Privacy and Travel
Policeman's Blog
World Weary Detective

Martin Stabe
B2fxxx - Ray Corrigan
Matt Sellers
Grits for Breakfast - Scott Henson in Texas
The Green Ribbon - Tom Griffin
Guido Fawkes blog - Parliamentary plots, rumours and conspiracy.
The Last Ditch - Tom Paine
The (e)State of Tim - Tim Hicks
Ilkley Against CCTV
Tim Worstall
Bill's Comment Page - Bill Cameron
The Society of Qualified Archivists
The Streeb-Greebling Diaries - Bob Mottram

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke - Freedom off Information campaigning journalist

Ministry of Truth _ Unity's V for Vendetta styled blog.

Bloggerheads - Tim Ireland

W. David Stephenson blogs on homeland security et al.
EUrophobia - Nosemonkey

Blogzilla - Ian Brown

BlairWatch - Chronicling the demise of the New Labour Project

dreamfish - Robert Longstaff

Informaticopia - Rod Ward


The Musings of Harry

Chicken Yoghurt - Justin McKeating

The Red Tape Chronicles - Bob Sullivan MSNBC

Campaign Against the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Stop the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Rob Wilton's esoterica

panGloss - Innovation, Technology and the Law

Arch Rights - Action on Rights for Children blog

Database Masterclass - frequently asked questions and answers about the several centralised national databases of children in the UK.


Moving On

Steve Moxon blog - former Home Office whistleblower and author.

Al-Muhajabah's Sundries - anglophile blog

Architectures of Control in Design - Dan Lockton

rabenhorst - Kai Billen (mostly in German)

Nearly Perfect Privacy - Tiffany and Morpheus

Iain Dale's Diary - a popular Conservative political blog

Brit Watch - Public Surveillance in the UK - Web - Email - Databases - CCTV - Telephony - RFID - Banking - DNA

BLOGDIAL - smart mobile phone forensics, information security, computer security and digital forensics by a couple of Australian researchers

Ralph Bendrath

Financial Cryptography - Ian Grigg et al.

UK Liberty - A blog on issues relating to liberty in the UK

Big Brother State - "a small act of resistance" to the "sustained and systematic attack on our personal freedom, privacy and legal system"

HosReport - "Crisis. Conspiraciones. Enigmas. Conflictos. Espionaje." - Carlos Eduardo Hos (in Spanish)

"Give 'em hell Pike!" - Frank Fisher

Corruption-free Anguilla - Good Governance and Corruption in Public Office Issues in the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla in the West Indies - Don Mitchell CBE QC

geeklawyer - intellectual property, civil liberties and the legal system

PJC Journal - I am not a number, I am a free Man - The Prisoner

Charlie's Diary - Charlie Stross

The Caucus House - blog of the Chicago International Model United Nations

Famous for 15 Megapixels

Postman Patel

The 4th Bomb: Tavistock Sq Daniel's 7:7 Revelations - Daniel Obachike

OurKingdom - part of OpenDemocracy - " will discuss Britain’s nations, institutions, constitution, administration, liberties, justice, peoples and media and their principles, identity and character"

Beau Bo D'Or blog by an increasingly famous digital political cartoonist.

Between Both Worlds - "Thoughts & Ideas that Reflect the Concerns of Our Conscious Evolution" - Kingsley Dennis

Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair - the rich Uzbek businessman and his shyster lawyers Schillings really made a huge counterproductive error in trying to censor the blogs of Tim Ireland, of all people.

Matt Wardman political blog analysis

Henry Porter on Liberty - a leading mainstream media commentator and opinion former who is doing more than most to help preserve our freedom and liberty.

HMRC is shite - "dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of the HMRC, who have to endure the monumental shambles that is Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)."

Head of Legal - Carl Gardner a former legal advisor to the Government

The Landed Underclass - Voice of the Banana Republic of Great Britain

Henrik Alexandersson - Swedish blogger threatened with censorship by the Försvarets Radioanstalt (FRA), the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishement, their equivalent of the UK GCHQ or the US NSA.

World's First Fascist Democracy - blog with link to a Google map - "This map is an attempt to take a UK wide, geographical view, of both the public and the personal effect of State sponsored fear and distrust as seen through the twisted technological lens of petty officials and would be bureaucrats nationwide."

Blogoir - Charles Crawford - former UK Ambassodor to Poland etc.

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

Lords of the Blog - group blog by half a dozen or so Peers sitting in the House of Lords.

notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society - blog by Dr. David Murakami Wood, editor of the online academic journal Surveillance and Society

Justin Wylie's political blog

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia


Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

syf_logo_120.gif Secure Your Ferliliser logo
Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

cpni_logo_150.gif Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

SIS MI6 careers_logo_sis.gif
Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid_150.jpg - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

Amnesty International's campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV


I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !


Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign


Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."


Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

wblogocrop_150.jpg - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers