Confused about data retention? You won’t be after reading this

Cameron box 2By Simon Davies

The UK government has introduced emergency legislation called the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill. It is a thoroughly confusing piece of law, highly dangerous to privacy and a blatant abuse of democratic process. To help explain what it’s all about here’s a conversation between David Cameron and the ambulance service. We’re sure this will clear up all your questions.


David Cameron: Hello, is that the emergency ambulance service?

Voice: Yes sir, how can we assist you?

David Cameron: I’m a Neighborhood Watch coordinator and I have an emergency. I need a big box constructed in my front yard – urgently.

Voice: A big box?

David Cameron: "My box is too small"

David Cameron: “My box is too small”

David Cameron: Yes, a big box, so everyone can put a copy of their mail in there whenever they walk past, and I’ll then have something to read when I’m worried or bored. And then I’ll keep it all for at least a year in case it’s needed.

Voice: That’s not an emergency sir.

David Cameron: Oh yes it is. What if someone were to write something that was bad, or someone bad wrote something bad to someone else who was bad. I need to know these things. Last year some bastard wrote a letter complaining about my willow roots and the next thing I knew, this commo from the council came around asking insolent questions about drainage. I can’t afford to be taken by surprise in such matters.

Voice: Why the rush? Wouldn’t it be better to take your time and consult your neighbours? You might not need such a big box then.

David Cameron: Look, I want a big box and I’m going to have a big box. It’s going to be biggest box in Europe, and black and metal – with spikes. And a nasty looking dog.

Voice: But what if people decided not to walk past your big box. Maybe they’ll choose to walk via another street?

David Cameron: Well I have friends in the local council and we’ve agreed to make a rule that if you want to walk another way then we can force approved residents to get a copy of your mail in secret and bring it over to my big box. And if they don’t do that then we’ll threaten them with my nasty looking dog. That’ll show them.

This is the sort of Box David Cameron dreams about

This is the sort of Box David Cameron dreams about

Voice: Isn’t that illegal?

David Cameron: Of course it’s illegal, but how else can I be expected to command respect and compliance around here if I don’t put my foot down? There’ll be rampant crime and anarchy and terrorist plots in every schoolyard if something isn’t done. And anyway, we’ll say it’s an emergency and that the big box will be there for just a couple of years. Then we’ll plant a couple of lovely lilac trees to oversee it. That should shut up the dissidents.

Voice: I doubt you’ll get support for this idea sir.

David Cameron: Oh really, well that just shows how little you know. My neighbours Ed and Nick said they’ll help me this time, but I’ll have to weed their flowerbeds in return sometime, and I hate weeding flowerbeds. Anyway, they’re useless at building anything. Or – in Nick’s case – useless at building anything that doesn’t fall down overnight.

Voice: I’m confused. What if people decided to send letters to each other completely away from your neighbourhood?

David Cameron: Oh we have that one sorted. We built a secret facility in the basement of my house that can read the mail without anyone knowing. Pretty cool eh.

Voice: That’s brilliant sir.. I’ll send an emergency vehicle over immediately.