Monthly Archives: July 2011


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Angus Batey writes in The Guardian: Royston has a medieval cave apparently used by the Knights Templar, a twice-weekly market and a football team that finished third in the Molten Spartan South Midlands Premier League. But one thing it does not have is much of a crime problem. A small Hertfordshire town of just 15,000 people, close to where the county meets Cambridgeshire and Essex, it is home to chemicals company Johnson Matthey and luxury confectioners Hotel Chocolat. It is an overwhelmingly law-abiding community – there was a murder last year and a bank cash machine was ramraided, and there is the odd report of antisocial street behaviour, but there is little else to give residents a sleepless night. Yet in March a local newspaper revealed that Royston was about to become the first town in the country to have a sophisticated set of police cameras installed on every road […]

Welcome to Royston … you’re under surveillance


Wendy M Grossman reviews Becky Hogge’s new book Barefoot Into Cyberspace for ZDnet: Can we keep the internet open and free, a democratic medium for the rest of us? In studying this question, Becky Hogge’s flash-published Barefoot Into Cyberspace joins Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet — and How to Stop It (2009) and Tim Wu’s The Master Switch (and, to some extent, my own 1997 book, net.wars). A significant difference: Wu and Zittrain are both academic lawyers. Hogge, by contrast, is a journalist and former director of the Open Rights Group. Where Wu and Zittrain look at the forces gathering to control the Net, Hogge goes questing for the radical hackers who might block them. Her first and last stops are the Chaos Computer Club’s annual conferences in 2009 and 2010. In between, while charting the disruptive emergence of Wikileaks, she interviews many sources, including Wikileaker-in-chief Julian Assange […]

Barefoot Into Cyberspace


Eric Doyle writes in eWeek Europe: Towards the end of the last Labour government’s tenure, The Independent newspaper reported that IT projects had wasted over £25 billion. The money was squandered on schemes that either ran over budget, suffered delays, or had been scrapped. The paper added that the cost of Labour’s 10 worst IT failures more than equalled half of Britain’s schools budget for 2009. Comments from the National Audit Office, the parliamentary spending watchdog, stated that the projects were “fundamentally flawed” and that the ministers in charge were guilty of “stupendous incompetence”. The new Government and IT – “A Recipe for Rip-offs”: Time for a New Approach report is equally critical. Jenkin said, “The government has said that it is overly reliant on an ‘oligopoly’ of suppliers; some witnesses went further and described the situation as a ‘cartel’. Whatever we call the situation it has led to an […]

Government Recipe For IT Rip Offs Laid Bare



According to Travel Weekly: An academic leading research into the impact of advance passenger-data gathering on the travel industry says the government has left the sector to bear the burden of a policy called into question by MPs. Dr Kirstie Ball, a specialist in surveillance and organisation at the Open University Business School, said: “The impact of this scheme is being felt across the entire travel sector. “The government has placed a lot of pressure on the sector to comply with e-borders. The industry is being asked to change processes and systems when it is questionable the government is keeping its side of the bargain.” The e-Borders system and the Advance Passenger Information System (Apis) requests that go with it have imposed multi-million pound costs on the industry. Yet the Home Affairs Select Committee of MPs concluded in its last report, released at the end of May: “We remain deeply […]

Apis costs questioned by experts and MPs


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Christopher Hope, and Robert Winnett write in The Daily Telegraph: The DNA of more than one million innocent people will not be wiped from police records, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. Instead the police will retain DNA profiles in anonymised form, leaving open the possibility of connecting them up with people’s names, ministers have admitted. The admission appears to break a Coalition commitment to delete all innocent profiles, apart from those accused of violent or sex crimes, from police databases. Civil liberties groups accused the Government of a “disgraceful U-turn” and a “breach of promise” to destroy innocent people’s DNA. In an editorial comment, the paper says: This was supposed to be a coalition that could at least agree on the sinister implications of mass supervision; hence the ditching of ID cards. But the effect of that liberating decision is rather cancelled out by this setback for liberty. We urge […]

Innocent people’s DNA profiles won’t be deleted after all, minister ...


Neil Watson, Head of Service Operations at wholesale voice and data communications provider Entanet, writes on the company’s blog: The IMP (Interception Modernisation Programme) was a highly controversial plan from the then Labour government which planned to intercept and store immense amounts of communications data in a bid to fight cybercrime and terrorism. It would have been the world’s largest surveillance system and was expected to cost a whopping £2billion but, with the change of government and in the face of constant criticism, it looked like the IMP had been scrapped. In fact in the new government’s original coalition agreement they pledge “An end to storing Internet and email records without good reason”. That was until the Home Secretary Theresa May announced its reincarnation, albeit under a new name, earlier this month. The IMP, now known as the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP), will be included in the Government’s Counter […]

Big brother returns with a new name



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R. Ramakumar, Associate Professor with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, writes in The Hindu comparing India’s ID card project with the last Labour governments’: Two countries. Two pet projects of the respective Prime Ministers. Unmistakable parallels in the discourse. “The case for ID cards is a case not about liberty, but about the modern world,” wrote Tony Blair in November 2006, as he was mobilising support for his Identity Cards Bill, 2004. “Aadhaar…is symbolic of the new and modern India,” said Manmohan Singh in September 2010, as he distributed the first Aadhaar number in Nandurbar. “What we are trying to do with identity cards is make use of the modern technology,” said Mr. Blair. “Aadhaar project would use today’s latest and modern technology,” said Dr. Singh. The similarities are endless. Mr. Blair’s celebrated push for identity cards ended in a political disaster for Labour. The British people […]

Aadhaar: on a platform of myths


James Baker writes on the LibDem Voice web page: Amongst the frenzy of the phone hacking scandal Philip Virgo has recalled operation Motorman. This investigation by the Information Commissioner and follow-up report What Price Privacy Now studies and provides details of the illegal trade in personal private information. Rather than being limited to the phone hacking scandal, the report suggests this trade was widespread between newspapers, private investigators and corrupt officials. This report was presented to the previous government that failed to act upon it and halt the illegal trade in personal information. It is with unfortunate irony that members of that previous government including Lord Prescott and Gordon Brown themselves became victims of these practices. Amazingly the Information Commissioners Office stated that they knew 305 journalists who had used private investigators 3,757 times to obtain personal information illegally. Page 9 of the report has a table of all the […]

The Independent View: The bigger picture on privacy


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Ed West writes in his blog on the Telegraph web site: But the reason for Murdoch’s trouble is ironic. His papers breached people’s privacy. First off, coke-snorting celebs, who are mostly unsympathetic figures, indeed almost as repulsive as journalists. But then, it turned out, they were also doing it to murder victims and even to the families of fallen servicemen. That’s pretty low. But then Gordon Brown turns up and, you know what, I have difficulties with seeing him as the victim. For whatever my sympathy for him as a parent, and whether or not the Sun used underhand means to find out about his child’s illness, for the leaders of New Labour to start getting on the privacy bandwagon now is a touch galling. One of Brown’s great projects, let’s not forget, was the Identity Cards Act, which included the creation of a national identity register, which would have […]

Gordon Brown and other Labour figures complaining about privacy is ...



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David Leigh and Nick Davies write in The Guardian: An unexpected ruling by a judge six years ago effectively covered up the chance to publicly expose evidence of the illegal targeting of Gordon Brown, which had been unearthed by a startled team of provincial detectives. Operation Reproof, by Plymouth police, revealed the first of what became many systematic attempts to gain illegal confidential information on the prime minister and his family, but their findings were suppressed. The Guardian has now been able to document the facts. Files buried in police archives detail the discovery of an extraordinary nationwide network of private investigators, whom a corrupt local police officer was feeding with information filched from the police national computer (PNC). To the detectives’ surprise, the targets included the then chancellor of the exchequer, listed by his full name, James Gordon Brown and date of birth, as well as two other Labour […]

Evidence of illegal data checks on Gordon Brown buried by ...


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According to eGov monitor: Police officers have abused their position and accessed sensitive information from official databases, a new report from privacy campaigners Big Brother Watch has claimed. According to the report, over 900 officers have made unauthorised access and “abused” databases between 2007 and 2010. 904 officers have been disciplined and in some cases there have been criminal convictions. At a time, when confidence in police has eroded over the corrupt practices by some officers in the phone hacking case, it is worrying that that this Big Brother report found some police officers were forwarding information criminal gangs and drug dealers. The Information Commissioner’s office is not pleased with the revelations and issued a strong warning for police authorities to ensure the privacy and security of the data they hold. The BBW report is available here.

Privacy: Information Commissioner Warns Police About Accessing & Abusing Sensitive ...


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Karl Flinders writes in Computer Weekly: The National Audit Office says it expects the cost of implementing smart meters across the UK to exceed the current budget and questions how a critical change in consumer behaviour will be stimulated, in a report. Putting 50 million smart meters in domestic and non-domestic premises by 2019 is part of the government’s plans for a smart energy grid. It is part of the UK’s strategy to cut carbon emissions by helping consumers and businesses better control their energy usage. Smart meters communicate with a central system at regular intervals. This can give consumers accurate information on their usage and enable them to make cuts. He notes: The smart grid will utilise high-speed networks to transport large volumes of data. As a result, security is an important priority. The planning will require a coordinated focus on cybersecurity as communication networks play a key role, […]

National Audit Office casts doubt on smart meter roll-out cost



SA Mathieson writes in Guardian Professional about the reports of the Interception and Intelligence Services commissioners: Overall, Kennedy reported that public authorities submitted 552,550 requests for communications data during 2010, and the number is increasing by about 5% a year. He could not give a precise reason for the growth, but said “it is indicative of the growth in communications technology,” with “certain police forces” increasing their use. Nearly two-thirds of requests for communications data, about communications rather than contents, were for subscriber data. This was usually part of an attempt to find the owner of a mobile phone. About a quarter of requests were for traffic data. Sir Peter Gibson, the intelligence services commissioner, also published his annual report. Having been granted powers under the Identity Cards Act to monitor use of the National Identity Register by intelligence services, he reported that he is “not aware of any acquisition, […]

MI5 makes 1,061 bugging errors


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Christopher Hope and Andrew Porter write in the Daily Telegraph: Every Briton will be asked to give their National Insurance number and date of birth to register to vote. The Government has announced that it will bring forward a new individual electoral registration system by a year to 2014 to cut down on electoral fraud and save money. It will replace the current system under which an adult at an address fills in names and nationalities of all adults who live there. Everyone will be asked to provide “personal identifiers” such as their NI number and date of birth when they register to vote. The new information will not be added to electoral registers and only used by councils to verify voters’ identity, the Government said. The scheme was due to start on a voluntary basis in 2014. However now it will be introduced compulsorily, saving £74million. No voters will […]

Hand over your NI number and date of birth if ...