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Benny Evangelista and Peter Fimrite report on the SFGATE website that a bill is to be put forward in the Californian Assembly to force smart TV makers to give customers the ability to opt out of features that could monitor their conversations. The bill is being put forward by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who amongst other things is concerned about the ability of smart TV’s to be turned into tools that determine what kind of adverts viewers see.  Gatto said: “It’s not just that you could be sent bankruptcy ads after you talk with your wife about financial problems while watching television, it’s what happens if someone hacks it.” He also highlights the privacy issues if a smart TV is listening in a room where a couple are getting intimate. “Those sounds, if you had your voice recognition on, is what would be included,” Gatto said. “That’s what’s disturbing about this.” […]

Bill seeks ban on Smart Televisions becoming ‘Big Brother’


David Kravets reports on the Ars Technica website that the US National Security Agency’s bulk telephone metadata collection program is illegal, but not unconstitutional according to a federal appeals court ruling. The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and sets aside a judgement by a lower court that metadata collection was permissible. According to the article, the court noted that the Patriot Act gives the government wide powers to acquire all types of private records on Americans as long as they are “relevant” to an investigation.  But the government is going too far when it comes to acquiring, via a subpoena, the metadata of every telephone call made to and from the United States. The legal authority allowing the NSA to collect telephone metadata expires on 1st June 2015 and will need renewing by Congress if it is to continue.  It is not clear how the ruling […]

US Court Rules NSA Phone Metadata Collection is Illegal


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The Law Gazette reports that professional bodies representing lawyers and other legal professionals are calling for statutory protection for professional privilege. It follows a landmark ruling by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ordering the intelligence agency GCHQ to destroy illegally intercepted communications between Libyans subjected to renditions and their lawyers in the UK. However, despite the ruling both the Law Society and the bar have said the ruling does not sufficiently protect lawyer-client communications.  Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society commenting on the current situation said: ‘The current legislative framework remains unsuitable and we hope that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act will be amended or replaced to include explicit protection of legal professional privilege.’

Legal bodies call for statutory protection for professional privilege following ...



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The This is Money website reports that insurance customers who swear or use racist language on websites such as Twitter or Facebook could soon find themselves missing out on cheaper insurance deals. California-based Social Intelligence Corp is in talks with UK insurers about introducing software to analyse social media accounts and will allow insurers to decide if someone should be given a special offer. The firm claims that someone with 200 LinkedIn connections, an email address in use for five years and a Facebook profile, is a better risk than someone who doesn’t meet these criteria.  In contrast, insurance customers who swear or use racist language on websites such as Twitter or Facebook could find themselves missing out on cheaper insurance deals.

Insurers on the Lookout for Swearing or Racist Language on ...


The Mail Online reports that e-reader devices can track users and report back to e-book stores information such which books you are reading, the amount of time spent on a particular passage and what time you put the e-reader device down to go to sleep. Michael Tamblyn, of Kobo, which supplies e-readers to WHSmith, John Lewis and Tesco, said it collects information from users to recommend new books and boost sales.  Amazon’s Kindle also collects similar information. Commenting on the revelation Renate Samson, of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘That these products feel the need to monitor more than just what we read, but to actively store data on what page we might linger on or more worryingly what time of day or night we choose to read seems disproportionately intrusive on what is to most of us a moment of personal quiet time.’

Your e-reader is Watching You


Samual Gibbs reports in the Guardian that Facebook has admitted that it has tracked users who do not have an account with the social network, but this only happened because of a software bug that is being fixed. Facebook was responding to a report commissioned by the Belgian data protection authority, which found Facebook in breach of European data protection laws.  In a press release called “Setting the Record Straight on a Belgian Academic Report” (which can be found Here) Facebook claims that: “The report gets it wrong multiple times in asserting how Facebook uses information to provide our service to more than a billion people around the world.” Facebook has come under increasing pressure recently about how it uses data and its privacy policies, with the European Commission saying EU citizens should close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep information private from US security services, as the […]

Facebook admits it tracks non-users, but denies claims it breaches ...



The BBC News website reports that the Conservatives say that if they win the general election they will introduce legislation requiring pornography websites to adopt age-restriction controls, or face closure. Both UK-based and overseas websites will be targeted and foreign websites that do not comply will be blocked.  The system would be overseen by an independent regulator with the power to force internet service providers to block sites and issue fines to any which did not comply. The decision follows a recent call by the UK Video on demand watchdog to require age verification on pornography sites. Comment from Newsblog Editor: What is concerning about this proposal versus a web filter approach, is that any age verification system inevitably means that the authorities can track at least some of a citizen’s web habits.  If, as is more than likely, the policy undergoes mission creep and is extended to other types […]

Porn sites must have age checks, say Conservatives


The Open Rights Group (ORG) in association with some other NGOs is organising a series of general election hustings in Brighton, Bristol and Manchester.  Details of the hustings are on the following meet Up pages: Brighton : http://www.meetup.com/ORG-Brighton/events/221341373/ Bristol: http://www.meetup.com/ORG-Bristol/events/221436815/ Manchester: http://www.meetup.com/ORG-Manchester/events/221281329/

Open Rights Group General Election Hustings


Neal Keeling reports in the Manchester Evening News that an investigation has been launched after scores of hospital staff at Salford Royal Hospital allegedly broke data protection rules to look at a colleague’s medical records. The person’s records were accessed via the Electronic Patients Record system which was installed two years ago.  Some 7,000 health care professionals have access to the system which is supposed to have a high level of security control, with users receiving formal training in information governance on an annual basis. The member of staff whose records were viewed had been admitted to the hospital for treatment a few months ago and is now believed to have commenced legal action against the hospital.

Hospital staff breached rules to view colleague’s medical records



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Kevin Rawlinson reports on the BBC news website that the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), has issued a report which states that banning online anonymity networks such as Tor, would not be technologically feasible. POST, which provides analysis and advice to MPs on public policy issues related to science and technology also stated that there was: “widespread agreement that banning online anonymity systems altogether is not seen as an acceptable policy option in the UK”. The report highlights that anonymity often had legal and socially useful benefits such as protection of whistleblowers. While trying to block such sites would present significant technical challenges, as demonstrated by the difficulties the Chinese government is having with trying to block access to Tor in order to enforce bans on unauthorised websites. The report contradicts the view of Prime Minister David Cameron, who earlier this year said that law enforcement should be […]

Banning Tor unwise and not feasible, MPs told


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Libby Brooks reports in the Guardian that MSPs have voted narrowly in favour of plans by the SNP Scottish government for a new identity database. A proposal by the Scottish Liberal Democrats to treat the proposals for the database as primary legislation, which would require them to be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny was rejected.  However, the Scottish government has agreed to wait for the results of the consultation on the proposed database before moving forward.

Holyrood backs Scottish identity database


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



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


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 ...