First off - I appreciate that my blog is not an official statement for A&A, but I have linked the status page here to give you an idea of my thoughts on the matter and how that may play out for A&A in due course.
Summary: Watch this space - more to come over coming weeks.
I have commented many times on the Investigatory Powers Bill, and submitted written evidence to parliament as well as oral evidence to the committee. I have attended meetings with privacy groups and legislators. I have spent a lot of time on this. I have tried very hard to try and get some degree of sanity in to this legislation, and I am sorry to say that on the whole I have failed to make any real changes, sorry.
Once we see it, I am planning to go through the final wording of the Act, with a lawyer friend of mine, and we are going to try and make sure we understand the nuances that finally made it in to law. Once we have done that I do plan to write up something much more comprehensive.
But how does this impact A&A and the services offered.
As I say, this is not an official statement yet - we'll be posting more details of what we are doing and when as time goes on. At this stage there is nothing that needs doing urgently - it will take time for anything to happen in relation to the new Act and a lot of time (and money) for the monitoring and logging to get in to place.
It is also worth pointing out that I don't really have a real problem helping the police investigate crimes as long as there is a proper oversight and control.
In practice a lot of the Act relates to the intelligence agencies, and whilst there a lot of problems with this, it is unlikely we can do much now, or that we would be impacted by this aspect of the Act. However, some of the steps we can take for privacy thwart those parts of the Act too!
The real issue we see is the huge invasion of privacy in collecting and storing data on innocent people - and the bulk powers for "data retention" do just that. They are designed to allow lots of personal information to be gathered on everyone - so mostly people completely innocent and almost entirely people not even suspected of a crime in any way. This is compounded by systems to search through that data over many ISPs and provide it to a wide range of people including the police, without a warrant of any sort.
We expect that it is very unlikely A&A will be asked to do anything - this is because companies like BT and Talk Talk will be asked (ordered) to and that will allow deep packet inspection in the back-haul networks that are used by A&A (and most ISPs).
So what can we do about that?
One of the biggest things we can do is provide information and advice about exercising your basic human right to a private life. This will take some time to put together in detail once we fully understand the legislation. We will start a specific section of the wiki pages as well to cover ideas people have. We are interested in suggestions people have too.
There is also a good possibility that we can engineer some services that operate in a way that bypasses the logging. A simple example would be an outgoing email server that is esmtp only (encrypted) to a service that is outside the jurisdiction of the UK and new law. This would be servers outside the UK and also set up in a way that A&A, or any people in the UK, technically have no control of them. This means that nobody under UK law could be required to comply with an order to include logging on those servers. As an ISP we, or BT/TT, would only see encrypted esmtp traffic to that server and hardly any useful meta data on the emails and nothing on the addresses involved.
Of course, even something simple like this suffers the big problem that the person at the other end of such communications (e.g. emails) will not have the same degrees of security and hence allow logging of meta data at that end. This is always a problem with any communications.
There is also a lot of advice on the use of tools and apps that help - like signal and tor. Sadly even tor has limitations and performance issues.
One answer is VPN services with endpoints outside UK jurisdiction but still reasonable latency. This is hard to scale up - but we are already talking about this in the FireBrick dev team about this.
In the short term we are seriously considering a trip to Iceland to investigate data centres and transit there - perhaps installing some tin that can run VMs as needed - but we also have to investigate the exact way such servers can be outside our control and hence not subject to orders on us to add data retention or intercepts under UK law.
It is, of course, right for everyone to expect to be able to exercise their human rights, including the right to privacy. There are a lot of people, in light of this incredibly intrusive new legislation, that wish to do so, and so there will therefore be a lot of companies working on ways to provide (sell) services to help people do that. These services will have to be designed to be outside UK law, obviously. But this means they are also outside the law where there is a specific suspect of a crime, and a more reasonable justification to provide intercept or collect data to help law enforcement (with suitable warrants). So by encouraging people to need privacy and encouraging companies to offer privacy you actually make fighting crime harder. It is worth bearing in mind that serious criminals have always been able to avoid this type of monitoring, but more and more normal people and, occasionally, those committing minor crimes will find it easier and easier to use services offering privacy now.
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