Feeds

Jacqui calls Vodafone man to run massive snoop database

Parachuted in to Whitehall bunfight

High performance access to file storage

Exclusive A senior Vodafone network architecture specialist has been appointed by Jacqui Smith to draw up proposals for a multibillion pound central silo of communications data, amid a Whitehall row about the future of the project, The Register has learned.

The Home Office team responsible for the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) have been told to make the case for the expansion of state surveillance it would involve again, according to insiders.

Tim Hayward

The plans were originally put forward by intelligence chiefs to "maintain capability" to intercept communications as use of internet-based technology - such as BT's new 21CN backbone - grows. Opponents have labelled such claims the "keep running to stand still" strategy, a satirical reference to Alice Through the Looking Glass.

In response to the civil service controversy over IMP, Jacqui Smith announced in October that the Communications Data Bill - the legislation that would mandate the project - would not come before Parliament during the current session. It began on December 3 and runs until the end of October 2009. Instead she said there will be a public consultation beginning in January.

Sources said the several dozen officials working on IMP recently moved away from the "hot house" atmosphere surrounding it in the Home Office to occupy government offices at Great George Street (known as GOGGS), off Parliament Square. The Home Office also recently created a director-level position to take charge of the project and installed the Vodafone man.

Tim Hayward, erstwhile senior programme manager at the UK's second largest mobile operator, was appointed IMP director in August. While at Vodafone he was responsible for 3G network architecture, according to careers information posted on the web.

A Home Office spokesman told The Register: "We only comment on the appointment of senior members of the Home Office board. We're unable to comment on Tim Hayward's appointment."

A Vodafone spokeswoman said she could provide no details of Hayward's previous role at the firm.

Until June the IMP team worked under a lower level civil servant, who it's understood is no longer associated with the project.

Sources also confirmed that Vodafone, along with BT, has signed on for a £1bn IMP pilot project. It's planned the "black box" data harvesters that the electronic surveillance agency GCHQ wants to deploy throughout the UK communications infastructure will be inserted in Vodafone and BT's networks initially. A Vodafone spokeswoman said: "We are not involved in any pilot programme."

GOGGS

The probes would populate a pilot central database with details of who communicates with whom, when and where. The content of communications would not be fed to the database, but storing data about the communications of "people of interest" to law enforcement and the intelligence services, together with the black boxes, then would make wiretaps much easier to implement.

But now, industry sources sceptical about the wisdom and feasibility of IMP said its officials are effectively "fighting for their jobs" ahead of the consultation. When she decided to open a public consultation, Jacqui Smith ordered them to consider all options, including the possibility that no new system will be authorised.

Officials continue to meet industry executives responsible for cooperation with the intelligence services and law enforcement, but no significant details of the potential system have been revealed since the consultation was announced.

Indeed, in recent discussions with the ISP and telecoms industries, IMP officials have admitted they still have no accurate idea of how much a ubiquitous communications database would cost. A figure of £12bn has been widely reported, but according to Register sources "all they know is that the number would end in 'billion'".

If the Brown government does not approve IMP during this Parliament, however, it seems unlikely that intelligence chiefs will give up on the idea. They circulated documents suggesting a central communications "data warehouse" more than eight years ago. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.