Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 19/11/2003You know you're onto something when a PR starts shouting at you. I've never been behind the scenes at St Thetic's Academy for Press Relations -- the top-secret bootcamp where Her Majesty's finest are turned into lean, mean, briefing machines -- but I imagine that showing anger to a journalist is high on the list of unpardonable offences.

Wednesday 19/11/2003
You know you're onto something when a PR starts shouting at you. I've never been behind the scenes at St Thetic's Academy for Press Relations -- the top-secret bootcamp where Her Majesty's finest are turned into lean, mean, briefing machines -- but I imagine that showing anger to a journalist is high on the list of unpardonable offences. As they say about pig-wrestling: you get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.

So when punk princess Jo "Stud-U-Like" Best, reporter with our esteemed colleagues on silicon.com, got a bloke from the Home Office phoning her up and doing a respectable impression of Brian Blessed stubbing his toe, she took it as quite the compliment. This had the beneficial effect of further infuriating our uncivil servant, to the point at which our intrepid hackette was on the verge of threatening to hang up if the shouting didn't stop.

And the cause of this official ire? Jo Best had reported that the government had sneaked through the Order that, despite almost universal disapproval, set out to make ISPs and telcos collect enormous amounts of data on everything their subscribers do, and deliver it on demand to a wide range of officials. So far, so accurate -- but what incensed Mr Shouty was the sentence that: "The government is monitoring every phone call, Web site visit and email." "We're NOT!" he said, "The ISPs are merely collecting data that MIGHT be looked at," "You're making them," said JB, "and you're looking at the data." "Now you're playing with semantics!" shouted the red-faced man from the ministry -- you didn't need a court order to hear his veins pop, even this far from Whitehall.

It's a fair cop. Journalists do indeed think about the meaning of words when they're writing, and may on occasion be guilty of choosing ones that mean what they want to say. It's also a fair bet that the Home Office is desperately hoping that nobody writes too much about the fact that vast swathes of officialdom now have legal access to find out every Web site you visit, every email you send and the details of every phone call you make.

So don't tell anyone, there's a dear. It'll be our little secret. Oh, and that bloke from the Ministry of Gambling who's just read that you've visited ZDNet UK.

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