Monthly Archives: November 2011


The Identity Project web site reports: On November 17, 2011, US and European Union officials signed a renegotiated proposed agreement (original English version; official German translation) to authorize airlines to forward PNR data (travel reservations) to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As an executive agreement, not a treaty, it doesn’t require any further US approval, but it does require ratification by both by Council of the EU (national governments of EU members) and the European Parliament. The US is mounting an exceptionally intense high-level lobbying and public propaganda campaign on this issue in Brussels. But despite the importance of the issue, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have only been allowed to read the proposed agreement in a sealed room, and have been forbidden to take written notes or speak publicly about what the revised proposal says. To facilitate informed public debate, we are publishing the full text […]

Revised EU-US agreement on PNR data still protects only travel ...


The Identity Project web site reports: On November 17, 2011, US and European Union officials signed a renegotiated proposed agreement (original English version; official German translation) to authorize airlines to forward PNR data (travel reservations) to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As an executive agreement, not a treaty, it doesn’t require any further US approval, but it does require ratification by both by Council of the EU (national governments of EU members) and the European Parliament. The US is mounting an exceptionally intense high-level lobbying and public propaganda campaign on this issue in Brussels. But despite the importance of the issue, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have only been allowed to read the proposed agreement in a sealed room, and have been forbidden to take written notes or speak publicly about what the revised proposal says. To facilitate informed public debate, we are publishing the full text […]

Revised EU-US agreement on PNR data still protects only travel ...


David Millward writes in the Daily Telegraph: The DVLA is looking to cash in on motorists by selling their names and addresses to wheel clampers and private parking companies at a profit. The agency wants to plug a £100m gap in its finances by charging more than the current £2.50 administrative fee. Last year the agency sold details of 1m motorists to more than 150 parking enforcement companies, angering driving groups. However, according to Simon Tse, the DVLA’s chief executive, the current fee only covers administrative costs. Appearing before the Transport Select Committee at Westminster, Mr Tse said the DVLA was in discussions with the Department for Transport about raising the fee.

DVLA wants to cash in on private parking tickets



Jennifer Baker writes in ComputerWorld UK: A leading Member of the European Parliament has said that she will not be silenced on the shortcomings of a new deal to pass European airline traveller information to the United States. Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie In’t Veld made the comments on Friday after the European Commission issued a press release extolling the virtues of the Passenger Name Register (PNR) agreement. Parliamentarians have been banned from talking about the content of the deal or making notes on the document and may only read it in a “sealed room”. In’t Veld believes this is ridiculous. “This is highly unfortunate. MEPs can read it, but citizens should also have access to what is decided about their rights. I don’t feel particularly bound to any confidentiality, especially as the Commission has been making public statements, why should I be quiet about it? The whole situation is not […]

Dutch MEP claims European politicians gagged over US data sharing ...


According to the Hawktalk blog: The last Labour Government did it in spades and now the Coalition has followed suit. What is “it”? Why enacting legislation that grants Ministers wide ranging and unchecked powers concerning the processing of personal data of course. Don’t worry: it’s just our health records. About two weeks ago, a colleague at the British Computer Society asked me a simple question: “Does the Health and Social Care Bill, currently before Parliament, permit medical research without patient consent?”. Having waded through 400 pages of legislation, I think the answer is “yes”; this blog explains why. I also suggest amendments to ensure that the process is subject to a semblance of Parliamentary scrutiny, unpopular though this concept appears to be. This follows David Cameron’s announcement earlier this week that he plans to release personal data about every school-child in the country, to allow parents to do their own […]

Does the Health Care Bill permit medical research without patient ...


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Rob Hastings writes in the Independent: At the very time long passport control queues are being blamed as the root cause of the border control scandal, most registration booths for the technology designed to eliminate such waits have been closed with no sign they are to re-open. Iris recognition scanners have been introduced at several British airports in recent years to allow regular fliers to skip queues and reduce overcrowding at security gates. Yet despite the very public spat between Border Agency boss Brodie Clark and Home Secretary Theresa May over how and why security checks came to be watered down to ease three-hour log jams for passengers this summer, seven of the nine facilities for new applicants to sign up for the fast-track system are not open. Three of four offices at Heathrow are closed, as are both at Manchester airport, the solitary one at Birmingham, and one of […]

Iris-scanning registration booths scaled back



Rebecca Todd writes in eHealth Insider: GP IT expert Dr Paul Cundy has resurrected concerns about threats to patient confidentiality in the draft Health and Social Care Bill. Dr Cundy, who is joint chairman of the BMA and RCGP’s joint IT committee, has written an open letter outlining his concerns about the impact of the new legislation. The letter says the notion of patient confidentiality underpins the doctor patient relationship and this trust is threatened by the draft bill currently before the House of Lords. The Bill establishes the Information Centre as a corporate body and requires doctors to release “any information” that the centre requests of them. “Doctors will find themselves in an impossible position, on the one hand expected by all to protect patient’s information and on the other, subject to a legal requirement to breach that trust,” Dr Cundy’s letter says.

Cundy revives confidentiality concerns


David Cameron, writing in the Daily Telegraph, announces that the government will shortly begin releasing data on individual pupils held in the National Pupil database: From June, we will release data about the performance of all pupils from the National Pupil Database. Of course, it will be anonymous, but you will be able to see what happened to individual pupils: where they started, the progress they made and where they ended up. We’ve also made spending data public. All this will allow people to spot the truth and confront failure where it exists. There’s a fair amount of academic research on reversing anonymisation – Bruce Schneier wrote about this for Wired Magazine back in 2007.

We shall shame schools that ‘muddle through’


Nick Pickles writes in LibDem Voice: There is also a broader question that should be asked much more frequently – how much information is needed to provide the service in the first place? Big Brother Watch will be talking much more in future about the tendency of organisations in both the public and private sector to harvest as much information as possible. Simply, the greater the volume of information held, the greater the risk to our privacy. There is one final, legislative step that requires urgent attention. The Justice Select Committee was the latest body to call for prison sentences to be available to judges presiding over cases involving breaches of the Data Protection Act, a move Big Brother Watch had previously said is much needed along with the Information Commissioner. This power has already been legislated; however it remains to be enacted. If the Coalition is serious about civil […]

The Coalition needs to get serious about protecting citizens’ privacy



Mark Say writes in The Guardian: One of the rumbling debates over the past few years, pressed energetically by some privacy activists, has been around potential new models for managing personal data held by government. It was picked up by a few people in the Conservative party before the general election, and has often been attached to warnings about the potential for the state to abuse the existing plethora of databases. With that in mind, it was a surprise last week that the government threw the spotlight onto how the private rather than public sector uses people’s data. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) unveiled its midata initiative, in which a number of companies have agreed to give consumers access to all the data held on them in electronic format. The next step will be the development of online personal data repositories (PDRs) for each customer, which in […]

More carrot and stick needed for open data


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Mark Townsend writes in The Observer: Border agency officials are conducting unlawful passport checks on buses to try to catch illegal immigrants, a previously undisclosed tactic that has infuriated civil liberties campaigners. Documents seen by the Observer reveal that staff from the UK Border Agency have been “regularly” targeting coaches at bus stations “to prevent illegal migrants from making use of the public transport network”. However, the practice appears to be illegal, with officials only authorised to examine passengers at air or sea ports. One bus passenger subjected to the identity checks described them as “harassment” and behaviour that had no place in a democratic society. The revelations follow news that the head of the agency, Brodie Clark, and two senior officials were suspended on Friday amid claims that thousands of passport checks were not carried out during the summer. It is alleged that staff were told to relax identity […]

UK Border Agency officials ‘illegally targeting’ bus passengers


James Slack writes in the Daily Mail: Over the course of 13 long years in power, Labour amassed a massive and frightening array of liberty-sapping powers. A DNA database – the largest in the world – containing the genetic details of one million innocents…The largest number of CCTV cameras on the planet… Laws which banned peaceful protests in the vicinity of Parliament and made it a criminal offence – punished by ten years in prison – to take a picture of a police officers… ID cards… According to the Convention on Modern Liberty, in total ministers awarded themselves and the state an incredible 56 separate freedom destroying powers. Inevitably, it’s hard to pick the one which had the most corrosive effect on wider society – but the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act must certainly be a strong contender. Passed ostensibly to fight terrorism, it awarded surveillance powers to more than […]

Our 1984 culture of spying? Blame New Labour who were ...



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Kelly Fiveash writes in the Register: Google is among 26 companies that have signed up to the government’s latest effort to create a British business sector out of the handling of private data and an individual’s online identity. UK.gov prefers to cast this agenda as part of its push to make the government and private companies more transparent about the information they hold on taxpayers and consumers. The Business, Innovation and Skills department launched “midata”, which is based on a voluntary partnership, today and said that consumers in Blighty would soon be able to access information held by the likes of British Gas, MasterCard and Google via online “personal data inventories” (PDIs). … But the agenda also feeds heavily into the Cabinet Office’s plan to offload identity-handling onto the private sector. “Under the government’s proposed ID assurance scheme, a market for providers of identity services will be created. Individuals will […]

Google and co join gov’s identity marketplace


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Kelly Fiveash writes in The Register: The Cabinet Office’s grand plan to farm out the handling of taxpayers’ online identities to the private sector will almost certainly be subjected to primary legislation, The Register can reveal. Earlier this week, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude earmarked £10m for his department’s ID assurance project. That cash is expected to be spent between now and 2013, during the course of the current Coalition administration. But safeguarding ID will need a new law to regulate its use. “The current legal opinion is that legislation will be required in due course for the full instantiation of the identity assurance model and for purposes of clarity and transparency on how identity data may be used and disclosed,” a Cabinet Office spokesman confirmed to El Reg. “However, at this stage we do not believe legislation is required in the short term for initial instantiations of the model.

UK.gov needs fresh law to protect taxpayers’ ID