Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill rubberstamped by the Commons

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The dreadful undemocratic "wash up" period at the end of this Parliamentary session, which to his credit, has been condemned by the Conservative MP Eric Forth, has now seen the rubberstamping of the controversial Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill.

The House of Commons, with barely a quorum of Members of Parliament in the Chamber, has accepted the Lords' Amendments to the Bill.

This is the result of the backroom deal through "the usual channels", and omits Clause 124, the incitement to religous hatred offence, but leaves all the other controversial powers and offences which have nothing to do with the establishment of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

It is too early to see if SOCA will be a success, but it is worrying that it is only accountable to the Home Secretary, not something which inspires our trust, given the dubious records on human rights and civil liberties of the last four politicians who have occupied that office. Similarly it is unclear just how big a problem it is set to tackle (£40 billion or £20 billion a year ?) and therefore what resources it really needs. There is also the huge question of why the priorities of SOCA will, apparently, be set partially as a result of the Home Office's self re-inforcing "climate of fear" newspaper column inches feeback loop,

Included in the Bill, soon to be an Act:

  • The extension of police powers of arrest without warrant to include all offences, no matter how trivial, which trigger the existing bureaucratic powers of fingerprinting, photographing, the taking of DNA and other intimate samples, and their retention forever, no matter whether or not anyone is ever charged, let alone convicted of any crime.

  • Since the Road Safety Bill seems to have been lost, the Lords managed to add in a couple of clauses granting powers for access to Motor Insurance data and for roadside breath test sampling, rather than requiring visits to the police station. We are not convinced that there are sufficient safeguards to prevent this power from being used by the Police to harrass people.

  • The further restriction on protests and demonstrations within one kilometre of Parliament, inspired by a single "peace" protestor camped out in Parliament Square has now also gone through on the nod.

    Why should anyone have to apply in writing at least 6 days (or is it at least 24 hours ?) in advance, of any demonstration ? Incredibly, this applies even to a demonstration consisting only of a single protestor !

    Perhaps the Labour Party is fearful of mass demonstrations protesting the fiddled results of the General Election like in the Ukraine or Kyrgyzstan ? They cannot claim that they have never been involved in such electoral fraud, as the Postal Votes in Birmingham Scandal shows.

    Perhaps we should apply for a demonstration permit to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, no later than Friday 29th April, just in case ?

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10 Comments

It has just now recieved Royal Assent, and is now an Act of Parliament.

This is really bad news.

The section on fingerprinting ushers in a new age of compulsory printing (by the roadside, while walking through town etc), while the utterly scandalous restrictions on protestations within 1km(!) of Parliament surely go beyond anything previously suggested in the modern age of "free" countries, and is a sure sign of an out of control, centrist, government....

Sadly, even if Labour somehow lose their zombie majority and fail to retain their grip, i doubt any government will actually repeal this law....

Makes you wonder if this is the bill that was always meant to pass, with the ID bill making more noise but being dropped.....

oh dear

Currently the "mobile" fingerprint technology is alleged to take 3 minutes to communicate with the cental database of only a couple of million criminal record fingerprints - imagine how impractical this would be for 60 million records on the National Identity Register, or even for a Passport, where the whole process needs to be completed in a few seconds at most, otherwise the country would grind to a halt because of the queues.


In theory, the use of roadside fingerprint equipment is meant to be only for the purposes of identification, and any such electronic fingerprints are not retained.

This can happen even if you have just been stopped and searched, but not actually arrested or charged with anything, which does involve going back to the police station, where, in addition, you will be photographed and have your DNA samples taken, and retained forever, no matter if you you are never charged or are found not guilty.

Do you know if there are any mentions anywhere of the mobile fingerprinting technology being improved?

What has been used up to the present seems to me to be a testing phase; the new(ish) police TETRA radio network, which i know you have mentioned befor, is capable of high speed data transmission, and database searches should be able to keep up.

The speed of the communications and database searching is sure to rise, especially now this bill has passed; can you say "enabling legislation"?!

The fingerprinting section in the SOCA bill has, to me, always been inextricably linked to the Identity card bill (indeed, they were in the committee stage at the exact same times, next door to each other, with the two main LibDem opponents (Oaten & Allan) swapping places in the two debates ala "tag team"), as it sets up a system which supports the section in the ID bill that makes it compulsory to be on the NIR, and a crime if you are found not to be.

Printing you on the spot and checking that against the NIR was always going to be the only way to do this in a reliable manner.

Now they have it......

Just the so called "Identity Card" Bill to go now.

As an aside, does anyone here think that anything in this context will change if the Conservatives win the General Election, because i'm not so sure they would.

TETRA data transfer speeds have been criticised for being too slow i.e. only about 28.8 kbs with a following wind, nowhere near what is achievable with GPRS or 3GPP mobile phones.

For text only email or messaging , Automatic Number Plate Recognition look up etc. this is adequate, but not for sending or receiving high resolution images or streaming video.

So far as I have seen, the current generation of mobile fingerprint devices do not take a full set of criminal record standard prints i.e. all 10 digits (if you have them) and both palm prints.

There are customised hardware based fingerpriont image checking computers which claim to do about one million comparisons per second, but these are only available at the centralised fingerprint systems and are expensive. How many simultaneous fingerprint database requests are there at any one time ?

In theory, had the Identity Cards Bill been passed, the Police would not have been permitted to do a lookup on the NIR without first checking their own systems first. Obviously, in practice, you are never going to know if this procedure is followed correctly, because whatever oversight there is of of the National Identity Register audit trails, it will be forbidden from having access to internal police or intelligence agency systems. All that they have to do is assert that they could not find a match on their own systems "for operational reasons".

Even if they do look up biometrics on their own systems, there will still be thousands of times where the presented biometrics do not match those on their database, even if they belong to the correct person.

There is also the issue of massive database trawling and downloads from the NIR into local (probably out of date) copies in each police or intelligence agency's systems. The amount of data storage or download bandwidth required even on 60 million people is less than a few DVD movie downloads.

Obviously this breaks Principles of Data Protection, but then Data Protection Act or the Human Rights Act would have been circumvented anyway, by the fact that Primary Legislation trumps the safeguards/loopholes in the Acts.

You are right about the TETRA dataspeed; i was getting mixed up with the use of the O2 GPRS network for data access (which was hailed as if it were a great sucess of the TETRA network!)

One way or another, however, the Police are going to have mobile access to their own PNC, as well as the NIR, should it come about.

The legislation did say that the NIR could only be checked against once all other databases has been used first, but, as you say, how restrictive this would be in practice is hard to know, and it may just be one of those things that is generally ignored by officers in their day to day business.

Either that or running checks against the PNC/national fingerprint database first, and then passing the quiery onto the NIR, is going to be an automated task, which would therefore make no real difference; you will still be scanned once, and you will still be ID'd or found to be off the database.

The whole thing is rather unsettling, since if you are found to not be entered on the NIR when stopped and scanned, you will be arrested, taken to the Police Station, and fingerprinted IE. Placed on the NIR :-/

Note, though, that AFAIK Tetra is a telecoms grade system; that is, five nines of reliability. GPRS and indeed 3G data service is best effort, so it's "384Kbps if you're lucky and standing next to a base station and you're the only one there, otherwise it might be anything down to 28.8 or less".

Also, 3G data is asymmetric-the limiting factor isn't the headline downlink speed but the uplink, which is somewhere between 64 and 128Ks varying according to circs. This is OK for mobile browsing, when most of the uplink data is either mouseclicks or text and the downloads are the problem, but fingerprint lookup involves sending the big lump of data UP, first!

All the mobile phone telecomms networks claim to offer a full "carrier grade" service, even for GPRS and 3GPP, especially to large organisations who pay a premium, rather than the general public, but of course, "your milage may vary".

The Public Safety Radio Communications system is a TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) based system and is supplied under a Public Finance Initiative contract by O2 Airwave, and is not exclusively used by the Police, but also by some Ambulance and Fire & Rescue services as well.

http://www.airwaveservice.co.uk

http://www.pito.org.uk/what_we_do/communications/airwave.htm

Raw image capture data from a mobile scanner would involve large data uplinks to a central system, but not if local image processing is done by the mobile unit, and only the "minutiae" key datapoints are uploaded for matching.

They offer a full carrier grade service for *voice* service - it works very differently because mobile voice is circuit switched and data is packet. New stuff, like the move to IMS core networks, will permit telecoms grade mobile data (if the Bell Labs folk I was talking to about it aren't lying).

Processing by the mobile unit would seem to offer the best solution, given the useful information above.

Sending compressed data is one image, but only if it is done losslessly; perhaps the sending of the print characteristics, as wtwu said, is the way?

Whatever happens, i don't personally see any problems with such a system becomming reality because, as you have commented on before, it has been used for a while now within the immigration department, which can be seen quite clearly as a trial run of the technology, prior to (steam) rolling it out on the rest of us saps.

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Recent Comments

  • jymjim: Processing by the mobile unit would seem to offer the read more
  • Alex: They offer a full carrier grade service for *voice* service read more
  • wtwu: All the mobile phone telecomms networks claim to offer a read more
  • Alex: Note, though, that AFAIK Tetra is a telecoms grade system; read more
  • jymjim: You are right about the TETRA dataspeed; i was getting read more
  • wtwu: TETRA data transfer speeds have been criticised for being too read more
  • jymjim: Do you know if there are any mentions anywhere of read more
  • wtwu: Currently the "mobile" fingerprint technology is alleged to take 3 read more
  • jymjim: This is really bad news. The section on fingerprinting ushers read more
  • wtwu: It has just now recieved Royal Assent, and is now read more

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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

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Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

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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."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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

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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.

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FreeFarid.com - 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)

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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).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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

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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."

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

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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."

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

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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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."

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

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers