Tag Archives: Big Brother

How This Government Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love ID Cards

A new ‘virtual’  ID Card scheme and Identity Assurance database are quietly being introduced by stealth as the government presses forward with plans to make all public services ‘digital by default’.

Just like under Blair’s scheme, the new virtual ID Cards will not be mandatory (yet) but will be required to access all government services including benefits, tax assessment, the NHS, and possibly even services provided by local councils.

Whilst for most people the new ID system will be ‘virtual’, meaning that it will be accessed by smart phones or internet connections, tender documents suggest that those who are not online may be forced to use physical ID cards to access services.

Defenders of the new scheme claim this is nothing like the ID Card and National Identity Register introduced by the last government because information will be held by private companies and not centrally by the state.  However with Theresa May desperately trying to introduce new powers to snoop on emails and social networking, the idea that government will not be able to access the new database is beyond naive.  All the involvement of the private sector means is that unaccountable private sector sharks will also have access to personal information.

With companies like facebook rumoured to be involved, and the recent awarding of an ‘identity assurance’ contract to credit reference company Experion, this suggests that data-harvesting could go way beyond anything contemplated by Blair’s band of government busy-bodies.

Somewhat predictably it will be benefit claimants and disabled people who are used as guinea pigs for the new database.  Claims for both Universal Credit and the upcoming replacement disability benefit Personal Independence Payment, will be the first benefits to be digital by default.

Recently the DWP announced contractors to manage the  ‘identity assurance’  database for benefit claimants which includes the aforementioned Experion, along with arms company Cassidian.

What has not been reported is that one of the contracts placed out to tender was for a face to face identity verification service.  If this doesn’t mean ID Cards then it’s difficult to know what it could mean.

Tender documents also reveal that DWP access to the database is being built into the new provision stating that ‘data attributes’ may be “be requested by the DWP and provided by the service provider: e.g. verified telephone numbers, history of addresses, etc.  The initial service should also meet the following requirements:”

All benefit claimants, including those on in work benefits such as tax credits and housing benefits, will be need to choose an ‘identity assurance’ provider which will then allow them to access Universal Credit.  21 million people are expected to be affected by the change to the benefits system and entered onto the Universal Credit database – which is the most extensive data gathering system ever devised by a government.

Universal Credit will not just collect details of income on a monthly basis, but will contain details on health conditions, employment, job seeking activity, housing, family make up, bank details, childcare, tenancy agreements, and personal information such as dates of birth and National Insurance numbers.  There have even been recommendations that this database could be linked to NHS prescription records (PDF), whilst the launch of Universal Jobmatch is giving Jobcentres unprecedented access to spy on how and when claimants look for work.

People on Self-Assessed tax are likely to be the next group who will be forced to sign up to an ‘identity assurance’ provider to fill in tax returns.  Eventually this will be extended to cover all government services, including the NHS (PDF).  Signing up to ‘Identity Assurance’ will soon be necessary even to make an appointment with your GP if this Government get their way.

The  feeble excuse for this mass data gathering operation is that people currently have to use different passwords to access different online services.  This flimsy justification falls apart simply by pointing out that people are well within their rights to use the same password to sign up for different things – a hardly unique concept amongst internet users.

The real reason is a long term plan to make thousands of public sector workers redundant by abolishing any face to face relationships between citizens and the state.  And of course, with government eavesdroppers GCHQ having been involved in designing the Universal Credit system, the spooks will have a field day as they have new powers to trawl through huge amounts of detail about people’s very personal lives.

There are even plans to use ‘voice biometrics’ as part of identity assurance, meaning providers, and ultimately the state, will have access to the individual voice print of everyone using the system.  Whilst this technology is untested on anything like this scale, this could, in theory, be used to track people’s phone conversations simply by scanning the airwaves for individual ‘voice prints’.

Before they became the enabling arm of the Conservative Party many Lib Dems were quick to point out that it’s not just what a current government might do with a national identity database, but any future administration.  Whilst it may seem difficult to conceive of a worse government than this one, as the neo-liberal bandwagon rolls on ever more authoritarian measures will be necessary to stamp out resistance to the suffering caused by naked capitalism.  A free market does not mean free people.

And that’s why Big Brother is back, just this time hidden beneath a cloak of Tory deception and Lib Dem spinelessness.

Carry On Big Brother

The Government that promised Civil Liberties are falling over themselves attempting to enforce ever more draconian measures aimed at snooping on the population.

Proposed legislation means that GCHQ will be able to hack into anyone’s communications without even having to give a reason.  This differs from the current situation whereby several state bodies can already access the same information if they give a reason.  Over half a million ‘information requests’ were made by public bodies last year to access ‘traffic data’.  Just like under the proposed legislation, this means data on who you talk to and when, but not what you actually say.  Spooks can of course access this as well, they just need a Home Office warrant. Apparently all this isn’t enough for the peeping toms at GCHQ.

That the Government seem to think that these powers should be extended suggests they are laying the groundwork for GCHQ to routinely monitor everybody’s communications details and online activity.

GCHQ will never have to buy themselves a drink again as tabloid hacks suck up to them in an effort to find out what kind of porn Hugh Grant looks at or whether Katie Windsor is googling diet pills.

GCHQ are also involved with the design and implementation of Iain Duncan Smith’s magical Universal Credit database.  This will contain details on everyone who’s ever claimed any form of benefit and will also be harmonised with the current tax office database (in their dreams).

Information that could be held will include details of health problems and disability assessments should you ever claim sickness benefits.  Monthly income details are to be reported to the state in ‘real time’.  Should you ever claim Housing Benefit the database will contain full details of housing status, including how many rooms you have, who lives with you and scans of your bank statements.  Any job search activity you may carry out whilst unemployed (or working part time) will be recorded, along with details from private providers such as A4e.   The database will also contain your tax return or PAYE information, details of your children, your partner (and how much they earn if you claim Child Benefit), your bank account details and anything else Iain Duncan Smith can think of before the new tax and benefits system is introduced in 2056.

Currently the Government are tendering for private companies to provide Identity Services – this will be the way in which you access the Universal Credit database which is set to be only available via the internet or telephone except in very few cases.  Voice Biometrics, meaning a ‘voice print’ which is unique to individuals, is one option being considered.  That this is in the pipeline at the same time GCHQ are plotting to extend telephone surveillance suggests that the spooks have a better idea of joined up government than ministers currently do.

At present benefit claims also require some form of ID, usually a passport or driving licence.  It is likely that the Universal Credit database will also therefore contain your photograph, as well as a copy of your birth certificate.

If the Government get their way GCHQ will have all this information available in one handy place, which they can then cross reference with their own snooping which will tell them which websites you visit, who your friends are and how often you ring your mum.

The situation is truly chilling except for the fact that the whole sorry racket is to be run by a bunch chinless toff wonders who can’t even eat a pasty without causing a national embarrassment.

Voice biometrics over clunky telephone system is a fantasy with the current technology available.  IDS is about to waste a lot of money finding that out.  A Government Minister who knows fuck all about computers has been given £2 billion to spend on IT and every shark in the industry wants a slice of it.  It was only recently the DWP were getting all excited about ‘lie detection’ software before abandoning it in a sulk.  Voice Biometrics will likely go the same way.

Universal Credit has already been described as ‘pie in the sky’ by DWP insiders.  The privacy implications are only starting to emerge, not because the Government has actively tried to cover them up, but just because it doesn’t even appeared to have occurred to them.  There is no great conspiracy, just a monumental cock up waiting to happen.  If the Illuminati overlords did exist (and they really don’t so please just stop), then they wouldn’t go within a mile of fuckwits like Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling.  They couldn’t get in the fucking Woodcraft Folk, never mind a shadowy new world government.

Universal Credit will be an expensive disaster.  When Working Tax Credits were introduced, which are far simpler, the online interface was abandoned after hundreds of thousands of people jammed the phone calls complaining that it didn’t fucking work.  IDS is attempting to create the most expansive, and indeed draconian database ever made in the world, on a cheap budget and to an unrealistic timescale.  This won’t bother the likes of Accenture and IBM who have the bulk of the contracts to deliver the new IT.  It’s in their interests to string the Government along for as long as possible.  After all, once you’ve spent £2 billion then it’s difficult not to be persuaded to spend another.  Universal Credit will be just around the corner, just a little more time and cash required, until finally someone puts the whole sorry project to bed and IDS is sacked.

This doesn’t mean that millions won’t suffer in the carnage as new systems don’t work, benefits don’t get paid, fraud runs rampant and well meaning DWP staff haven’t got a clue how the fucking thing works.  On planet Oxbridge they think that almost everyone will be able to use the online interface, because of course everyone has a computer, broadband and scanner and all the other bits of kit required.  In reality lots of benefit claimants can’t even afford a land line, something inconceivable to the public school toffs in this Government.  Local Authorities are to be left to pick up the slack for those unable to use the labyrinthine database online according to current plans.  Council Tax payers will foot the bill for this Government’s lack of understanding of how most benefit claimants actually live.

The spooks are no better.  Despite recent attempts to recruit anyone who can speak Arabic in a Bradford accent, by advertising in the Guardian of all places, they are still stuffed to the brim with chinless toffs.  MI5 is far more Johnny English than it ever was James Bond.  Whilst they may have fantasies of perving over the nations porn habits any large scale information analysis would be hugely expensive.  And it’s easily got round by doing what drug dealers, activists and presumably terrorists have been doing for years – not chatting about sensitive shit on the phone or online.

It is of course a concern that such vast information gathering powers may be used by any future dictator who may happen to claw their way to power.  But then dictators don’t tend to worry much about the illegality of hacking someone’s twitter account when they are hauling people off to labour camps.

There’s no doubt that the Government is terrified of further civil unrest.  But whilst GCHQ are pissing about trying to find out who you share kitten pictures with on facebook the kids will be burning out department stores the old fashioned way, just like they did last Summer.

That doesn’t mean these new initiatives shouldn’t be resisted. All increases of state power are bad news.  But let’s not get carried away.  All Government’s are incompetent.  GCHQ will welcome the fact their budget is secure, but their dreams of vast Orwellian state surveillance techniques  remain little more than fantasies.  For every over-arching database or internet monitoring system they bring in there is some kid in their bedroom working out how to bring it down.  Governments don’t win because they are cleverer than their citizens.  Political power still comes out of the barrel of a gun, not a USB port.

This post is dedicated to all the conspiracy types who turned with their youtube videos and revelations after David Icke linked to this post on the Universal Credit database.  The last time the fruitcake linked to this blog he claimed it “encapsulates the bile, hatred and puerile nature of so many on the ‘Left’ who claim to be ‘anti-system’ when the system is in complete control of what they bravely call their ‘minds’.”

Presumably he was too slaughtered to remember.

Big Brother is Back – ID Cards Were Nothing Compared to This Government’s Snooping Plans

Iain Duncan Smith’s new database, quietly being built in India, is set to be the most expansive data-mining operation every carried out by any Government against it’s citizens.

The Universal Credit system will contain an unprecedented amount of information on all aspects of our lives, much of which will be controlled by private companies.  In a chilling development it appears that the database will use ‘voice biometrics’ as part of it’s security protocols.

The new system, which is due to be launched in 2013, will dwarf the plans for a National Identity Register which was dropped by Labour after storms of protest.  With the advent of smart phone and hand held readers this new system could easily become an effective, electronic National Identity Card.

Universal Credit is the Government’s policy to replace all benefits and tax credits with one unified benefit.  The database set up to manage it will be built into the tax system and rely on the ‘real time reporting’ system for tax payments which is currently in development.  It is therefore likely that everyone,with or without a job, will find themselves on the database.

Under Real Time Reporting, the Government will require self-employed tax-payers and PAYE employers to submit monthly figures on earnings.  The Government will know where you are on a month to month basis, unlike the current system which only relies on annual returns.  This will create a huge amount of additional work and bureaucracy for self employed people and small firms alike. Like many aspects of the plans, this is something the Government hasn’t been particularly forthcoming about.

Like the current tax database it will also contain details of whether you are married, your basic details such as name, address, date of birth and National Insurance number, along with details of your children.  To accommodate the changes to child benefit, the database will also need details of whether you live with a partner even if you aren’t married.  Presumably this data will need to be updated ‘in real time’.  If you split up with your partner, be sure to tell the Government as soon as possible.

Should you ever claim a benefit such as Housing Benefit, sick pay or Employment Support Allowance, the database will be even more intrusive.  At present Housing Benefit data is largely collected locally, and requires a huge amount of information, ostensibly to prevent fraud.  Claimants are required to provide full financial details, bank statements, tenancy agreements, details of anyone who may live with them, even housemates, plus information about the type of property, how many rooms it contains etc.  All this information will now be held by central Government, quite likely along with information claimed to be for ensuring ‘equal opportunity’ such as details of ethnicity, religion and sexuality.

Should you fall sick and need disability benefits then the database will also contain full details of your health condition.  It will probably also have all the results of the planned regular health checks to be carried out by private companies like Atos and security companies like G4S.  As Job Seekers Allowance is also to be built into the system,it is likely the database will include details of criminal records, job search activity, educational achievements and even your CV.

No Government before has ever attempted to collate such a huge amount of data on their citizens all in one place.  It is not yet even known whether the system will have scope for further information retention as the project is shrouded in secrecy.  Iain Duncan Smith has refused to say how the system will manage any child care payments or whether Council Tax is also to be built into the new software which IT insiders have nicknamed ‘The Beast’.

Universal Credit is set to be ‘digital by default’ meaning people will only be able to input information online.  People without online access at home will be required to use insecure internet cafes and, if they can still find one, libraries, should they need to report in personal information changes to the Government.

It is the voice recognition system however which will be of most concern to civil liberties campaigners.  Known as ‘voice biometrics’ this relies on the fact that everyone has a unique ‘voice print’ which can be used to identify them.  Whilst it has never been tested on such a huge scale, the DWP are trialling voice recognition technology right now in the hope of building it into the new system.  This has the potential to become an ID Card by default.  Whilst coppers will not be able to demand to see your papers they will only need a sample of your voice to access your extensive government file.  You have the right to remain silent.

By far the most chilling aspect of the plans however will be the ability of spooks everywhere to track and access your phone calls.  The US Echelon satellite famously hoovers up all digital information flying through the air which includes telephone conversations.  If they have access to your voice print, they will be able to immediately identify and record any telephone call you make from any phone in the world.

If big brother UK isn’t listening to you then the CIA may well be.  Not to be outdone however are this countries leading eaves-droppers GCHQ.  With well founded fears of fraud and hacking being voiced, it is GCHQ who are being brought in to try and prevent this. 

Iain Duncan Smith said recently:  “We are talking to everybody from the private sector right the way through to GCHQ about how and what is the best point at which you protect that information.”

So private companies and spooks alike are set to have access to your  Government file.

When the ID Card row first blew up under Labour many campaigners warned it was the database planned to be behind the system which was of most concern.  The Lib Dems were one of those voices that shouted loudest about infringement of civil liberties and privacy.  Yet here they are supported a national identity database far in excess of anything that Tony Blair dared to dream up.  Barely any consultation on the power that this will give the Government, or the implications for privacy, has been carried out. Iain Duncan Smith is launching it by stealth, pretending it’s only benefit claimants who will be subject to it.  The Government is hoping no-one notices that by benefit claimants they mean everyone who claims, or has claimed, Tax Credits, Child Benefit, Housing Benefit, Statutory Sick Pay, Disability living Allowance or a state pension.

In fact as the DWP and HMRC databases are due to be merged it is likely that the Government plans for everyone to be on the new database.  They are hardly likely to continue to run the old HMRC database when this one does the exact same thing.  Again this is not something which has been adequately explained by a Government which promised Civil Liberties. It is of little wonder that Iain Duncan Smith has been so evasive about the details of the DWP’s flagship scheme.

Big Brother would blush at this vast state intrusion of privacy.  He may not always be watching, but very soon he could be listening to every phone call you ever make.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Big Brother’s Blind

Fresh from criminalising millions of internet users (including void readers) the government still seems determined to prove it knows nothing about computers with new plans to track every email and phone call ever sent.

According to the Home Office:

“The Communications Data Bill will help ensure that crucial capabilities in the use of communications data for counter-terrorism and investigation of crime continue to be available.

“These powers will continue to be subject to strict safeguards to ensure the right balance between privacy and protecting the public.”

How exactly this will be managed in practice is not made clear. Neither is how the state will generate the massive storage required for such information and persuade the thousands of online email providers, many of whom are not based in the UK, to play along is unclear.

Even in the most surveillanced state in the world anonymous communication is relatively easy, all you need is access to a cybercaf’ or a pay as you go phone.

But that won’t stop the goons in the Home Office making crass pronouncements in the hope of catching a few Daily Fail headlines.

Some old tosser once said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”, and he was right.

The quote came from Franklin D Roosevelt, quite aptly referring to the economy during the great depression. He qualified the statement with: “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Which is the real reason for these constant nonsensical utterances from the state. They want us frightened …

… don’t be.

Phone calls database considered