Monthly Archives: May 2012

Dan Glaister writes in The Observer: The government’s prosecution of census objectors is in jeopardy after a Birmingham man was granted a judicial review to challenge the legality of the act that makes it an offence not to complete the 10-yearly survey. Privacy campaigner Nigel Simons, who did not fill out the census, argues that section 8 of the 1920 Census Act conflicts with his right to privacy guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. The granting of a judicial review comes days after two census objectors saw their prosecutions unexpectedly dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service. One of them, John Marjoram, who is mayor of the Cotswolds town of Stroud, said he thought the CPS had dropped his case rather than face the prospect of having the issues around privacy aired in a public trial. “Given the pervasive culture of citizen surveillance and the erosion of individual liberties […]

Census objector granted leave to challenge Census Act

The Register reports: Staff at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were disciplined a total of 992 times for unlawfully or inappropriately accessing individuals’ social security records between April 2011 and January this year. The figures were obtained following a freedom of information (FOI) request to DWP by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme. Last week Dispatches reported on the ‘blagging’ of personal data by private detectives and reported on the number of data offences recorded by DWP. The FOI figures also revealed that in the past year the Department of Health had recorded 158 instances of unlawful accessing of medical records, according to a report by the Daily Telegraph. DoH said not every such instance is recorded though.

Dole Office staff snooped into private data 992 times in ...

According to Eurctiv: The European Commission is set to launch a substantial review of rules governing personal documents with the aim of making electronic identities take off across the EU. But the proposal faces likely opposition from civil rights groups and member states where identity cards do not exist. Neelie Kroes, the EU’s Digital Agenda Commissioner, will present by the beginning of June a new legislative proposal which aims “to facilitate cross-border electronic transactions” through the adoption of harmonised e-signatures, e-identities and electronic authentication services (eIAS) across EU member states, according to an internal document seen by EurActiv. “A clear regulatory environment for eIAS would boost user convenience, trust and confidence in the digital world,” reads the paper. “This will increase the availability of cross-border and cross-sector eIAS and stimulate the take up of cross-border electronic transactions in all sectors.” Brussels has long been trying to facilitate the emergence of […]

Brussels wants e-identities for EU citizens

Ben Woods writes for ZDnet: Entanet, which delivers data connectivity, IP telephony and telecoms services through resellers, said that the government’s £2bn scheme would fail to deliver on its snooping goals as cybercriminals will simply find ways around being tracked. “It is our belief this whole Bill is pointless. The true criminals will simply circumnavigate such surveillance by using VPNs and proxy servers,” Neil Watson, head of service operations at Entanet, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. “Why would they incriminate themselves when they know they’re being monitored? Instead it will be the innocent general public that will take the brunt.” At present, technical implementation of the plans has not been revealed — only that ISPs will be responsible for maintaining a “local log” of online activity, Watson said, adding that clarification over who will be responsible for paying for the extra measures has not been communicated by the […]

ISP brands UK internet spying plans ‘pointless’

According to Public Servant magazine: Schools are being forced to gain parental permission if they want to use pupils’ fingerprints or other biometric data, the government has confirmed. Some schools and colleges have already been using facial scanning and fingerprint identification to record attendance and allow pupils to access facilities like the school library. But under new rules schools will be required to gain written permission from parents who will be given the right to veto the use of such sensitive data. “I have heard from many angry parents after they have learned that their children’s personal data was being used by schools without their knowledge,” said schools minister Nick Gibb. “The new legislation gives the power back to parents, as it requires parental consent before the information can be collected. The new rules are out for consultation: visit the consultation page here to read them and have your say.

Pupils and parents to deny schools biometric data

Cahal Milmo writes in The Independent: Medical and social security records kept by public bodies are being unlawfully or inappropriately accessed dozens of times a month and hundreds of civil servants disciplined for data offences, according to Government records. Staff at the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) are being reprimanded at a rate of nearly five per day for breach of the rules governing its vast database – thought to be the largest of its kind in Europe – while the Department of Health (DoH) last year recorded 13 cases a month of unlawful access to medical records. The statistics, obtained by Channel 4’s Dispatches under the Freedom of Information Act, will increase concern about the security of personal data and the ease with which private investigators are selling access to personal and confidential information, much of which is held on state computer systems and is illegal to obtain […]

Medical and social security records being stored unlawfully and inappropriately ...

Chris Pounder writes on the HawkTlk blog: Should you be fined if you failed to register with the local police, the national security agencies, any Government Department or a Credit Reference Agency? Should the national security agencies, for instance, be entitled to create a population register, the core of which could be similar to that of associated with the ill-fated ID Card (much beloved by the previous Government)? Surprised by these questions? Both these outcomes are possible, courtesy of the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill just published following last week’s Queen’s Speech. This Bill allows for individual electoral registration; this means that each elector must apply individually to be registered to vote. To ensure that all voters are registered, the Bill permits extensive data matching powers to verify applications, to check existing entries in electoral registers against other sources of data, and to hunt for individuals who do not currently […]

Fines for non-registration with the police? Reforms permit enhanced secondary ...

Tom Whitehead writes in the Daily Telegraph: An attempt by Theresa May to defend proposed new snooping powers backfired yesterday when she was contradicted by her own child exploitation experts. The Home Secretary told MPs that nine members of a 41-strong international paedophile ring had never been traced because necessary internet data on them was not available. She used the case as a reason why the Government plans to force communications providers to retain all phone and internet activity by its users, which can then be accessed by the police and security services. But within hours of her warning, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) revealed the case was five years old and may have had a different outcome today, regardless of any new powers. The reason officers were unable to trace nine of the suspected paedophiles in the 2007 case was because records then were only retained […]

Case for snooping powers backfires for Theresa May

Dr Joss Wright writes in detail on the LSE Politics blog about CCDP. He concludes: While the above arguments have focused to some extent on technology and the risks that come with its misguided application. A more important and fundamental argument, however, is that the proposed approach follows and accelerates a worrying trend towards blanket and unwarranted surveillance of the population in the hope of identifying those who may commit crimes. With the wealth of information revealed by communications data, the appeal to a Home Secretary of an algorithmic black box that can magically identify terrorists is, perhaps, understandable, at least to those unfamiliar with the concept of the base rate fallacy; such a view, however, violates the basic principle that individuals for whom there is no evidence or suspicion of wrongdoing should not be targeted. Without this principle, where does the surveillance and intrusion into our lives end? There […]

The government’s proposal for data communications surveillance will be invasive ...

Graeme Burton writes in Computing about the recently enacted Protection of Freedoms Act: Perhaps the most contentious measures involve the retention of DNA and fingerprint evidence, which is taken as a matter of routine by police from anyone they arrest and, in some circumstances, detain for questioning. Prior to the Act, police forces up and down the country were building a de facto DNA database, given that when someone was arrested but not charged with an offence, their DNA and finger print data would automatically be retained indefinitely. Under the new Act, such evidence can still be retained indefinitely if suspects have previously been found guilty of a serious crime, but will be destroyed for suspects with no previous convictions – albeit after a three-year period. On top of that, if someone – in the judgement of the chief constable – is arrested unlawfully, their DNA and fingerprints can also […]

The Protection of Freedoms Act: how it affects data

Alan Travis writes in The Guardian: Having probably queued to get into Britain, thousands of overseas residents, including senior business people and academics, now face the prospect of being unable to leave the country, possibly for weeks, because a key UK border agency computer system has crashed. Hundreds of people queueing at UKBA’s public inquiry office in Croydon, applying to extend or renew biometric residence permits, were told to go home on Thursday because the computer system could not cope. The details of more than 600,000 foreign nationals living in Britain have been logged on the biometric residents’ identity card database since it was set up four years ago. But it has suffered repeated failures in recent weeks which culminated in a complete breakdown on Thursday. All afternoon appointments have now been cancelled for the next two weeks.

UK Border Agency computer failure leaves thousands unable to travel

Graeme Burton writes in Computing: Cabinet Office plans to increase data sharing among government departments and other public-sector bodies will require a new “consent exemption” to legalise the sharing of sensitive personal data. That is the view of Kathryn Wynn, a data protection law specialist and senior associate at law firm Pinsent Masons. Even with such an exception, she warns, public-sector bodies might still have difficulty justifying sharing sensitive personal data under the Data Protection Act, without first notifying the individuals concerned. It follows revelations that Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude is planning new laws that would provide the public sector with a “fast-track mechanism” to enable personal data collected by one government department or public-sector organisation to be used by others for purposes other than those originally intended. According to the reports, even data collected by doctors or the police could be shared with other bodies without individuals’ consent […]

Government data sharing plans may breach Data Protection Act