Understanding Julian Huppert MP’s support of Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill

Of all the things I might say about Julian Huppert MP, stupid is not one of them – he’s consistently informed, reasoned and principled. Pretty good qualities of an MP, as I think you’d agree.

This makes his support of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill… surprising.

It seems to be a broadly unpopular stance, which (appears) inconsistent with what one might expect from him. I’m pretty sure we won’t change his mind, but I’m interested to try and understand it from his point of view.

My feeling is that he’s making this decision based on data that is privileged to him which he can’t share with us.

His major contribution to the bill, which legalises wholescale spying (including you Facebook, Gmail) in the UK and expands it to include non-UK citizens, is to make it expire in 2016, after the next General Election.

I think this article in the Guardian goes some way to explaining his point of view, and yet skirts the big questions like “but clause 5 and 6 massively change the scope of the bill” to target people outside the UK.

I feel like I’m going /r/conspiracy, and suggesting that lizards in the rotary club control the world, but one hypothesis for the bill seems less outlandish given the backdrop of Edward Snowden’s revelations about GCHQ and our knowledge that multiple foreign ISPs are suing GCHQ in a UK jurisdiction for spying on them.

My suspicion would be that:

  • Julian has been told this bill will be pushed through whether he opposes it or not
  • He’s been given an opportunity to insert some clauses into it, so long as they don’t alter the ones about interception
  • He may or may not have been told semi-directly by a bunch of security types about how GCHQ is in a precarious legal position which the establishment want to shore up

If we took those things as given, then if you look at his approach from his point of view, it kind of makes sense. I don’t support it. But it makes sense.

I guess we might find out after the next General Election when he can talk freely.

DRIP drip… a legislative stitch up: My letter to Lucy Powell MP

Hi Lucy,

Tim Dobson
Tim Dobson

Thanks for your recent replies on Twitter. I really do appreciate your agility in responding – it does help to get an almost immediate link to you. Thanks also for keeping me updated about the situation in several committees.

I’m concerned about the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) Bill that’s being rushed through Parliament on Monday.

As your colleague Tom Watson (MP West Bromwich East) has said, it’s a “stitch up”. I feel Tom has a great deal of integrity, and when he feels something isn’t being done right… well, it’s worth looking at twice.


I find it frustrating because I feel Her Majesty’s Opposition’s job is to ensure robust debate and due process, and I’m saddened to find the Labour leadership don’t seem to want that here.
You moved to the frontbenches to make a difference and have more of a say in things, so I’m hoping you’ll look at this bit in more detail.

The draft has been published here:

In particular, I’m interested in how clauses 4 and 5 are:

(a) not substantial amendments to RIPA
(b) things that require emergency legislation.

Expanding RIPA’s scope to include people outside the UK is a massive expansion, and equally I’m not sure why the definition of “communications” counts as small revision, in such a loaded context.

I work for Bytemark, an internet company based in Manchester and York that is based on due process being a key tenet of our society. It feels to us that the way in which this legislation is being enacted is further eroding the trust we have in those processes and we encourage you to do what you can to maintain that trust. This letter is posted on our blog.

Best regards,

Tim Dobson

Community Manager

<address withheld>

Originally published on blog.bytemark.co.uk

Phone hacking was a big deal. Is Internet interception ok?

A private investigator hacked a schoolgirl and a few celebs’ voicemails, and it caused a public inquiry, it brought a media mogul (previously considered “untouchable”) to be summoned to parliament and forced a historic Sunday newspaper to shutdown.

Tempora: snooping anyone with an internet connection
Tempora: snooping anyone with an internet connection

All because of a few private investigators listening to a few voicemails.

We’ve learned since then, that GCHQ has, (partly sponsored by the NSA) has been intercepting any internet traffic, conversations, phone calls that leave/return the UK via submarine cables (Level3, BT, Vodafone & others have helped facilitate this) as part of a programme called Tempora.

As even a Facebook conversation with my girlfriend will probably go via Sweden, An email via Gmail will go via Irland, and a good deal of other communications will cross borders, we can assume that details of most people’s daily communications are being captured.

The response from the UK Government has been for William Hague to call for the public to have “confidence” in GCHQ and to state that “law-biding members of the public had ‘nothing to fear’“.

They also released a D-notice (effectively about Tempora) which, though voluntary, means that many UK news outlets won’t report on the Tempora. The Guardian clearly is the main exception.

Interestingly, as lots of EU traffic flows through the UK on the way to the US, a lot of European countries, Germany in particular, are less than pleased about their citizens being snooped on – Germany recently nuked a cold war era collaboration pact with the US in protest.

The Federal Commissioner for Data Protection in Germany has called for the former U.S. intelligence employee Edward Snowden to be given asylum in Germany so he can assist with ongoing investigations.. Imagine if the Information Commissioner of the UK said that?!

The striking thing about the story is not the revelations, or the implications, or the speculation of what these tools could/are being used for, the striking thing about the story is how little the public seem engaged in it.

Since the phone hacking scandal caused a public inquiry, and took down a historic newspaper, why is mass interception of everyone’s email, not an issue?

The story needs to be communicated better to the public and we need to work out how we can make people relate to it.

How can we communicate what Tempora means to the masses?

A few of my thoughts:

  • Can the Tempora story be personified? Who has it been used to snoop on? What has it been used for?
  • What is it used for? Who has access to it? Who chooses targets?
  • Can stunts be deployed as a medium of raising the profile of the system? Can airtime and media attention be ‘bought’ by peaceful and legal activist actions?
  • Would street protests help start a movement and help people supporters meet and rally each other on?
  • Would a coalition of NGO’s signing a public letter with several demands or questions help get the media try to answer those questions?
  • How can we make people feel like something can and must be done to stop this?
How can we communicate what Tempora means to the masses?
How can we communicate what Tempora means to the masses?


Breaking: Professor Elemental to take post at the Home Office.

I’ve just heard breaking news that Professor Elemental – the famed ‘chap hop’ musician is to take a post at the Home Office.

It’s a little surprising for the Home Office to make such a high profile appointment – usually when they’re hiring celebrity endorsements, they get B-rate u21 Tennis players, or Eastenders extras from the 90s – but the Professor seems to have thoroughly bought into the whole thing:

The video on Youtube

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

You can find out more about what he’s been hired to do on the Open Rights Group’s website.

Inspiring Carpets? (How wrong can the music industry get things?)

At TedxSalford, Tom Hingley, former Inspiral Carpets frontman and nowadays, a lecturer at Salford University gave a talk – take a look because it’s quite special:

I have a tendency to show off interesting or insightful TED and TEDx talks on this blog, but unfortunately is noteworthy for neither of these reasons – instead this gives a real taste of how the copyright lobby will use misinformation and misdirection to claim they’re being victimised.

Things to watch out for:

Vague terms that don’t let you check their sources: “A large north American search company”

Muddling copyright with, well, I’m not sure what. “Pirates use banner adverts, therefore copyright”.

Assuming search engines are situationally aware, rather than dumb machines. “Driving test search results“.

Alleging that contract law, facilitated by search engines, causes theft. “Therefore copyright is an issue”.

Suggestions that things will change – when archive.org and the archive team archived the whole of geocities.

Misinterpretting the term Cloud Computing – “so we need to think about as an image”.

Accuses the BBC of Digital Vandalism for archive

Face recognition marketing “they looked at me as if I was completely mad”.

“G3 phone”

“Steal your cookies, then sell them on”

Blaming another industry for their failing business plan. “I’m not against evolution of technology”.

There’s really enough wrong in this talk, to write an entire book debunking it. It’s just so wrong, I’m not sure what to say.

How many incorrect statements or inferences can you spot?

Who are the iconic singer-songwriters of the digital rights movement?

During the SOPA protests earlier this year I asked:

If the iconic singer songwriters of the labour movements were Arlo Guthrie and Billy Bragg, who are the iconic singer songwriters of the digital rights movement?

At the time, I posted a number of my favourite anti-SOPA songs from across the internet, but I didn’t feel that the question was really answered.

In my mind, whilst I loved most of the songs, most of the acts concentrated on writing songs specifically for SOPA, having not written about digital rights much before. That’s brilliant of course – not everyone needs to constantly write about digital things to support the movement, but equally, I feel just doing a one off collaboration, may not make the an iconic in the digital rights movement.

Dan Bull has a strong claim to the title. He’s spoken at Open Rights Group eventsteamed up with the UK’s Pirate Party, Torrentfreak once described him as “a file sharing darling“, he’s done columns at Techdirt, Falkvinge has blogged about him and he’s collaborated with Creative Commons UK.

During 2010, following Dan’s song “Dear Lily”, inspired a competition for budding singer songwriters to focus on the Digital Economy Bill, yet despite some great entries and winners, as far as I’m aware, only Dan has soldiered on writing songs in this area.

But as a friend of Dan and having helped him out in the past, I’m worried about being blinded by my own confirmation bias and missing other contenders.

Nina Paley perhaps deserves a mention, but I don’t feel that recognition comes largely as a result of her work, rather her activism and persistence.

Jonathan Coulton, Akira The Don and many others have spoken out about digital rights issues, yet rarely tend to express these sentiments in music.

Who are the other challengers?

The 5 best, anti-SOPA protest songs

So with the blackout of Wikipedia, Reddit and everything, Rick Falkvinge got me thinking.

If the iconic singer songwriters of the labour movements were Arlo Guthrie and Billy Bragg, who are the iconic singer songwriters of the Digital Rights movement?

I’m genuinely interested if you have a suggestion.

To help you consider the question, here are 5 of the best anti-SOPA protest songs:

Stonebreakers10’s Anti-SOPA ballad:

Stop the SOPA Song by Stonebreakers10

Funk Vigilante’s epic funk-rap-metal internet anthem:

INTERNET FIGHT SONG! by Funk Vigilante

Leah “ObamaGirlCreator” Kauffman’s catchy pop-piano song:

Firewall by Leah Kauffman

Cheezburger Network/The EFF fronted by Laugh Pong’s American Pie parody:

The Day the LOLcats died by Laugh Pong

Dan Bull’s dystopian, futuristic crowdsourced rap:

SOPA Cabana by Dan Bull

Contact your representative today:

Make your own song?
It’s not too late to have a bit of fun and sing about what SOPA would do. Need some inspiration?
Here’s some parodies of popular songs that haven’t been recorded yet.

Honourable mentions
Those that didn’t quite make the cut: