Spy chiefs plot £12bn IT spree for comms überdatabase
Black boxes to keep Black's firm in the black
Billions of pounds of public money will soon be up for grabs for private IT contractors ready to serve the Interception Modernisation Programme - UK spy chiefs' plan to store details of every call, email, text and web browsing session.
And The Register has learned that one plugged-in firm is better poised than most to profit.
The ongoing push in Whitehall to establish a central database of all UK communications data went mainstream this weekend, with eerily similar reports surfacing in The Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and Scotland on Sunday. Most of the news was uncovered by El Reg two weeks ago, although it now seems insiders are willing to put a figure on the cost of the project: £12bn.
Tom Black, Detica CEO
That price tag would have the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) - as MI6 and GCHQ envisage it - vying for the dubious honour of most expensive IT project in UK history. Its only challenger would be the oft-troubled NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT), which the National Audit Office said in 2006 is set to run to £12.4bn.
It's sobering to bear in mind that the original cost for NPfIT touted by ministers was just £2.3bn. Reg sources say Treasury officials are already extremely concerned about how massive a hole an overbudget IMP could blow in spending plans.
Such fiscal collywobbles are of course unlikely to dampen the enthusiasm that the intelligence agencies' plans are being greeted with in the private sector. As we reported in August, a pilot project is in the works and funds were allocated last year. This weekend's reports reveal that the first probes at a fixed line telco/ISP and a mobile operator are backed by £1bn.
And in one of the very few public pronouncements on IMP, Home Office minister Lord West made it clear in July that contractors would benefit from the outset: "The private sector is likely to play a major role in this work [the feasibility pilot] and the programme will be conducting a competitive tender and entering commercial negotiations to commission its services".
Detica will very likely be among the first to profit from the IMP bonanza. Based in Guildford, it might warrant the title of The Most Important IT Company Most People Have Never Heard Of. According to sources with knowledge of systems that have long allowed GCHQ to eavesdrop on phone calls, Detica owns and operates the current "black box" infrastructure under contracts funded by the secret intelligence budget.
In contrast to that arrangement, the proposed central communications database would not target the content of calls, emails, texts and other communications; rather, MI6 and GCHQ want to retain the powerful, searchable data detailing who contacted whom. Trust trumps everything in this field, and Detica is a shoo-in to deploy and operate new probes that will be needed in all the major fixed line and mobile communications operators.
Detica's representatives declined to discuss IMP.
Next page: BAE Systems and the friends of Detica
@ The Other Steve
Oh, well done. You've successfully taken my comment, broken it down and responded to each point in turn while completely missing the fact that it was a response to the paranoid comments above.
quote> We're told. But you've missed yet another pint, although you're by no means alone in that, the name of the project is the "interception _MODERNISATION_ program", which rather suggests an upgrade of present capabilities. If you think that present interception capabilities don't extend to content monitoring than you're living in la la land.
"it's going to map the connections between people. Only the most naive terrorist would send an email containing such obvious trigger words as "bomb" and "assassination" and those emails would doubtless be flagged and filed..."
You have just contradicted yourself, postulating here that content will indeed be scanned. <end quote
Thanks for showing how quoting out of context can change a message. I pointed out that there are plenty of interception systems already so it's hardly a contradiction.
quote> There have already been high profile cases where people were detained and charged based on such things, or don't you watch the news at all ? <end quote
I'm aware of cases such as you mention but I don't recall any of them coming about from an email about the weekend's football results that has "BOMB" at the end to "game the database" (for the sake of an example).
quote> They can do that already, got software for it and everything, real time even. Why spend £12bn quid to reimplement an existing, and effective, system ? <end quote
Because it's easier to have it all in one place rather than demand access to logs from multiple ISPs, perhaps?
quote> So it's OK as long as no one protests is it ? And again, you miss the point entirely, an expectation of personal privacy has fuck all to do with objections to this project. <end quote
Out of context again but what the hell, you're on a roll.
quote> "It's exactly the same type of data gathering as carried out by supermarkets through loyalty cards or Phorm targeted advertising that's been reported by El Reg recently.
Knowing how people move about, communicate or even idly surf is now valuable data for mining."
Either you are a troll, or you are magnificently clueless. That argument is so stupid that I can barely bring my myself to refute it, but just in case you actually believe it, and in no particular order : You seem to have missed the fact that people aren't happy about phorm, this is about as far from targeted advertising as sheep are from nuclear physics research, supermarket loyalty cards don't track peoples movements or intercept their communications, and you seem to be confusing commercial marketing activities with mass surveillance by the state, which suggests some rather serious mental distress on your part. <end quote
I used Phorm and loyalty cards as an example of tracking data, not as a comparison to a major government project - you drew that conclusion all by yourself, which suggests you have an agenda to pursue here but like most people who respond through vitriol you are unwilling to discuss the issues with anyone who might disagree with you
quote> "To bastardise the Marshall McLuhan quote, the medium has become the message."
If, by "bastardise" you mean "take completely out of context, misunderstand, change and then use in a way that renders it totally meaningless and makes makes you look like an utter knob", then yes, otherwise, no. It's very clear from that statement that you haven't actually read McLuhan, who had nothing whatever to say about mass interception of communications. Do you even know who McLuhan was ? Prat. <end quote
If I'm able to quote him, I must be aware who McLuhan was, mustn't I? Or did you think I just got lucky on a random quote search?
Of course McLuhan wasn't talking about mass interception of communications, that's why I flagged the quote as bastardised. The point of my comment was that the actual movements of people has become valuable data, not just for governments but for search engines, social networking, studies of public response, the list goes on. Any use of the internet leaves a trail of IP addresses that is useful for all sorts of purposes as touched on in both our comments.
I know you won't agree with anything I've written here, chances are you're probably away hugging yourself at just how clever you are. Well done - you got angry on the internet. Have a sweetie.
@This is sorting, not collection
I agree with every word. Any attempt to be obstructive will just cost more money.
I don't think it's a difficult thing to do this matching though, as I designed a similar system a few years back. You don't know what you've got, but you know what there is, so you have a tower of reference data, and you do recursive offline matching to the known, with hundreds of appended foreign keys (some of them hierarchical in nature,) in your dirty data.
This isn't rocket science. Any stupid moron could design it.
snooped on the streets and now online
Are all you BRITS now happier that everything you do is being snooped :)
Has this made this miserable island any happier :)
UK SUCKS it really really sucks Its turning out to be the worst cuntry to live in
Whens the riots ?