Monthly Archives: February 2015


Mark Aitken reports in the Daily Record that civil liberties campaigners have condemned plans by the Scottish SNP Government to share NHS patients’ data with HM Revenue and Customs. The plan to share NHS patient data would involve opening up the NHS electronic database of everyone born in Scotland and/or registered with a GP in Scotland to 120 public bodies, ranging from Quality Meat Scotland to the Forestry Commission, in addition to HMRC. According to the Scottish Government, sharing the NHS data will help HMRC identify who would be liable to pay new Scottish income tax rates. James Baker, Campaigns Manager for privacy 
campaign group NO2ID, said about the plans: “If the Scottish Government wants to make this big change, it should make it a law so MSPs can debate it in Parliament.  If it wants to create a surveillance society, it should do it by law rather than through […]

Campaigners attack plans to share patient data with the taxman


Kyle Ellison reports on the WeLiveSecurity website that Russian authorities have indicated that VPNs and the online anonymising software Tor, could be banned for the country’s 143.5 million residents. Speaking on 5th February, Leonid Levin, the head of the Duma Committee on Information Policy, said: “One of the factors in the formation of the Internet environment in our country has become the authority for the pre-trial blocking of websites. It allows us to block sites banned in Russia quickly enough. At the same time the pre-trial blocking of anonymising services deserves attention, such as access to the anonymous network Tor.” Shortly after Levin’s speech, Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor came out in support of the Tor and VPN ban.

Russia seeks VPN and Tor ban


Jane Wakefield reports on the BBC News website that researchers have identified a threat to browser security from software designed to block advertisements. PrivDog, a tool designed to block ads and replace them with ones from “trusted sources” has been found to compromise a layer of the internet known as Secure Socket Layer (SSL) which is used to safeguard online transactions.  It follows the discovery of a similar problem with Superfish software pre-installed on some Lenovo computers. PrivDog said in a statement issued on 23rd Feb 2015: The potential issue is not present in the PrivDog plug-in that is distributed with Comodo Browsers and Comodo has not distributed this version to its users.  There are potentially a maximum of 6,294 users in the USA and 57,568 users globally that this could potentially impact. “The potential issue has already been corrected. There will be an update tomorrow, which will automatically update […]

Ad-blocking software is ‘worse than Superfish’



The Daily Telegraph reports that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart GCHQ obtained encryption keys of the global SIM manufacturer Gemalto, by hacking into the company’s computer systems. Gemalto which is based in the Netherlands is the world’s largest manufacturer of SIM cards.  Access to the encryption keys would give the NSA and GCHQ a hugely expanded surveillance capability as encrypted voice calls could be easily decrypted. The revelations came from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The story was originally broken by the investigative website Intercept and the original story can be found here.

GCHQ and NSA stole SIM encryption keys


Shaun Nichols reports on the Register website that California State Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, has put forward a bill that would make police searches of electronic devices subject to the same controls as filing cabinets, drawers and other physical objects. The bill would require the authorities to obtain a search warrant before they can pull information off computers, Smartphone or other electronic devices. In introducing his bill Leno said, “The personal files in your desk drawer at home cannot be seized without a warrant, but the digital files on your Smartphone and tablet, no matter how sensitive, do not have the same protection.  This bill strikes the right balance between safeguarding Californians against improper government intrusion of their electronic data and protecting the right of law enforcement to use technology when it is needed to protect public safety.” If the law is passed, California will join a list of […]

California considers a new law to require a warrant for ...


Open Rights Group (ORG) report that many ORG supporters who have contacted SNP members of the Scottish Parliament about Scottish Government’s proposed Identity Database, have received a standard letter in reply.  The letter is almost certainly drafted by civil servants and fails to address the key concerns with the proposed Identity Database. ORG  have provided a detailed response to each point raised in the letter highlighting the flaws in the statements made.  The ORG response can be found here.

Shallow response from MSPs shows heads in sand over Scottish ...



Steven Swinford reports in the Daily Telegraph that an independent consultation has suggested that the BBC could be given access to people’s private data to help make collection of the licence fee more efficient. The consultation prepared by David Perry QC, suggests that as well as people’s publicly available records, access could also be granted to information from banks, utility companies and other sources. The data would be added into the TV licensing Authority’s database of 31 million households to allow more effective identification of licence fee evaders.   Footnote from Newsblog Editor: The review also suggests that new legislation could be introduced to prosecute anyone who fails to inform authorities that they don’t have a television.  This would be very much an implementation of the strict liability principle which in itself is a worrying development. Strict liability is becoming an increasing feature in UK law and assumes automatic guilt […]

BBC could get powers to access people’s private data


Josh Halliday and Shiv Malik report in the Guardian that several UK Police forces have visited newsagents asking for the names and addresses of people who had purchased the special edition of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, published in the wake of the terrorist attack on the magazines headquarters in Paris. The first incident occurred in Wiltshire and was thought to be a one-off due to an overzealous Police officer; however, it has since emerged that Police in Wales and Cheshire have also visited newsagents and asked for details of purchasers. The revelations have alarmed many privacy campaigners due to the invasion of privacy and ultimately the potential to stifle free speech by making people fearful of purchasing certain material. In an article covering the same story in the Mail Online, Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘The Charlie Hebdo attack brought millions of people worldwide together to condemn […]

Police ask for the names and addresses of people who ...


Open Rights Group Scotland are holding a series of meetings in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow to organise a campaign against plans by the Scottish Government for a National Identity Database.  Further details of these meetings can be found by following the links below: Aberdeen: http://www.meetup.com/ORG-Aberdeen/events/220351969/ Edinburgh: http://www.meetup.com/ORG-Edinburgh/events/220346840/ Glasgow: http://www.meetup.com/ORG-Glasgow/events/220395960/ The Scottish Government’s plan to introduce a centralised national identity register was highlighted on the Newsblog in January and can be found here.

Open Rights Group meetings to oppose a Scottish National Identity ...



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Nick Hopkins and Jake Morris report on the BBC News website that Police forces in England and Wales have uploaded up to 18 million “mugshots” to a facial recognition database, without Home Office approval and despite a court ruling that it could be unlawful. In addition, the photos of hundreds of thousands of innocent people could be on the database according to the Alastair MacGregor QC the Biometrics Commissioner, who admitted during an interview on the BBC Newsnight programme, that the Police had not informed him about the image uploads. There are now calls for the database to be properly regulated to ensure the privacy and civil liberties aspects are addressed. David Davis MP, the former Conservative shadow Home Secretary said: “Police always want more powers, but I’m afraid the courts and parliament say there are limits.  You cannot treat innocent people the same way you treat guilty people.”

Thousands of innocent people on police photos database


Ben Riley-Smith reports in the Daily Telegraph that Tony Porter the Surveillance Commissioner, has said that there are too many “useless and ineffective” CCTV cameras in Britain. He made the statement during a BBC Radio Five Live when asked if he thought there were too many “useless” cameras in Britain to which he replied: “I think undoubtedly there are because we know that for a fact.” Mr Porter said the public does not realise the true extent of surveillance in Britain and lacks the understanding to be able to consent what is happening.  Later in the interview he said: “There needs to be a public debate.  If you compare our CCTV capacity to Europe we are significantly higher.  We have millions of cameras in this country and Europeans look at us askanced, to be perfectly honest, and are surprised that our society actually accepts the volume of surveillance cameras that […]

Too many ‘useless and ineffective’ CCTV cameras in Britain, says ...