Database state

Articles in favour of identity cards


Two recent news articles highlight issues with the database state and the fallacy of the “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” argument so often used to claim surveillance is not something the law abiding should be worried about. The first was a report in the Guardian that 17 people had been mistakenly arrested, due to incorrect telephone information or Internet records being provided to the Police or other public bodies investigating crime. The other was an article resulting from a Daily Mail investigation concerning people having county court judgements awarded against them, without them even knowing that proceedings had been issued against them or anything about the court case. In both these cases information has been processed on individuals without their knowledge and with not even basic checks on the accuracy of the information being made by the Police, security or court services.  This in itself scandalous given the serious […]

Data is There to be Processed – But as Cheaply ...


NO2ID have recently picked up on a worrying new strategic data sharing initiative in Greater Manchester.  It is called GM-Connect and it was initiated in January 2016, but we have only become aware of it recently because there hasn’t been much publicity about it.  Official information is limited to a press release and a report summarising the aims of the GM-Connect project. The aim of GM-Connect is to allow the sharing of the personal data of residents across Greater Manchester, with a longer-term aim to create a ‘common residents index’ of everyone living in Greater Manchester.   Although the report focuses on the use of GM-Connect in improving social and health care, the ultimate intention is clearly that access to many other public services will be covered. GM-Connect will not actually store the data but will use a federated data sharing model (Essentially a series of separate databases which can be […]

GM-Connect: A New Data Sharing Initiative for Greater Manchester


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Nikolaj Nielsen reports in the EU Observer that France is proposing that all travelling EU nationals should be required to give their fingerprints and possibly also have their faces scanned as part of the Smart Borders programme. Smart Borders was proposed in 2013 by the EU Commission to allow management of the external borders of the Schengen Member States.  Biometric scanning of visiting non-EU nationals was also included in the scheme.  It has been on hold for a while due to cost concerns; however, an updated plan for the scheme is expected before the end of the year. In a document submitted by the French delegation it is claimed that an expanded Smart Borders scheme is required to address terrorist threats and gives examples such as the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and the recent attack on an Amsterdam to Paris train to justify their proposal.  Further justifications include dealing […]

France Wants all Travelling EU Nationals Fingerprinted



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The creepy extent to which folk at GCHQ have been monitoring and spying on all web users has been revealed in leaked documents on operation ‘Karma Police’. The documents published by The Intercept demonstrate that the UK government’s listening service GCHQ was building a “web browsing profile for every visible user on the internet”. James Baker NO2ID Campaigns Manager said: “Sensitive meta data can be used to build up a profile of the websites you visit. If you’ve ever sought marriage guidance, googled medical conditions or viewed pornography then chances are this programme will have used that information to build up a profile about you. “This is out of control surveillance which demonstrates that ,more than ever, we need independent judicial oversight of government surveillance powers.” These surveillance powers are a typical example of a database state, which is the term we use to describe the tendency of governments to […]

GCHQ surveillance powers – less ‘Karma Police’ and more ’Creep’


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Last month we learnt that government officials were planning a digital ‘vault’. Entirely unlike the National Identity Register the ‘vault’ would store people’s addresses, phone numbers, tax details, where they are registered to vote, driving records and benefit claims, as well as information about their mortgages, pensions and bank accounts. The scheme would be voluntary, although probably in about the same way as agreeing to a credit check is voluntary e.g. not if you ever want a financial service again. An on-line poll hosted by the Telegraph says that 82% of people wouldn’t sign up to such a service.  Of course we all know on-line polls are not really that representative of public opinion, but it isn’t surprising that people might have some issue with all their financial details being stored in a single place. Even those in the ‘nothing to hide’ camp who don’t grasp the dangers of surveillance will have […]

Telegraph poll – 82% of people wouldn’t sign up ...


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The BBC News website reports that UK Police made 733,237 requests to view communications data over a three-year period according to a report by Big Brother Watch, equivalent to an access request every two minutes. Police Officers wanting to gain access to communications data have to be internally approved by a senior member of the relevant force and on average 96% of such requests are approved. Big Brother Watch wants more transparency about how such requests are authorised and the crimes the data is used to fight.  The group also wants judicial involvement as a final step in the approval process. The actual Big Brother Watch Report can be found here.

UK Police Seek Data Access ‘every two minutes’



The campaign group Big Brother Watch has prepared a briefing note on privacy and other issues with the European Union’s eCall system which the European Parliament voted on 28th April 2015 to make compulsory in all new cars. Although eCall is promoted as an EU-wide emergency alert system to help ambulance crews get to road accidents faster, it raises significant privacy and snooping concerns because it works in partnership with an Event Data Recorder (EDR).  The EDR records for 20 seconds before an accident and 10 seconds afterwards; however, as the briefing note points out this means it must be recording and erasing continuously. Currently it is not intended that eCall should transmit data continuously, but it could do so and this opens up the possibility of mission creep such as the system being used to track motorists, as the EDR has the ability to record a vehicles exact location. […]

Big Brother Watch Briefing Note on EU Car Tracking eCall ...


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


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Gareth Corfield reports on the Register website that a Supreme court ruling has effectively given carte blanche to police forces to retain personal data they have collected for virtually any purpose and hold it as long as they like – even when the people targeted are not violent and have committed no crime. The case involved John Catt from Brighton who had lodged a legal claim against the police for keeping records about his attendance at various political protests going back a decade.  In 2013 the Court of Appeal ruled that it was illegal for the Police to retain such records; however, the police appealed to the Supreme court. A particular concern highlighted in the article with the judgment, is the argument put forward by the court that the retention of data for “police purposes” is inherently lawful, albeit with the proviso that it is “regularly reviewed” for deletion (although […]

UK Supreme Court waves through indiscriminate police surveillance



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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


Severin Carrell reports in the Guardian that the UK Information Commissioner says proposals to put every Scottish citizen on a central database accessible to 120 public bodies, risks breaching data protection laws and privacy standards. The Scottish SNP Government wants a single central identity database known as “Myaccount”, which public bodies would use to allow users to access services.  However, the scheme is similar to the UK ID card and national identity register that was rejected on civil liberties grounds by the UK government in 2010. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) said ministers had failed to carry out the necessary privacy impact assessment before drafting proposals, and had failed to explicitly set out the reasons why the new national database was needed.  It also said that Scottish ministers were unwise to reject the much more privacy-friendly system for accessing public services now being considered by the Cabinet Office, where an […]

Scotland-wide ID database risks personal privacy and civil liberties – ...


“The current proposals which are being consulted on represent a bigger threat to Scottish privacy than the UK wide Identity Card system proposed by the last government in Westminster.” – Guy Herbert, General Secretary, NO2ID What’s the issue? Currently the Scottish Government and National Records of Scotland (NRS) are consulting on proposals to change regulations that govern what personal information is stored on the National Health Service Central Register (“the NHSCR”), and who that information can be shared with. This consultation is entitled “Consultation on proposed amendments to the National Health Service Central Register (Scotland) Regulations 2006” . What’s the Problem with this? The consultation proposes increasing the information held on the NHSCR to include more detailed postcode and address information. It also proposes to allow a whole host of Scottish public bodies (around 120) access to this information. Examples of the bodies who would have access to this information include […]

Parliamentary briefing – Creation of a Scottish National Identity Register



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


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 ...


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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