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Articles neither for or against identity cards


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Today is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, a document which has very much changed the world, being the first document of its kind to protect the rights and freedoms of society and establish that the king was subject to the law.  Of course there is an argument that at the time of its signing, the Magna Carta was not as significant as it has become, but that really isn’t the point, it is what it now stands for that matters. Amongst the many events that have been held to celebrate the anniversary the British Library has revealed the current top 10 clauses people would like to see in a “Magna Carta for the digital age”.  This was the result of a British Library’s project conceived to encourage particularly young people to think about privacy, internet access and freedom in the digital age. See the British […]

Digital Magna Carta ‘Top 10’ Clauses Revealed


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David Barrett reports in the Daily Telegraph that telephone masts which can listen to mobile phone conversations without the owner’s permission are being operated in Britain. The devices, technically known as IMSI catchers, but also referred to stingrays, trick handsets into thinking they are genuine mobile phone towers in order to monitor calls and other data including texts and emails.  They have been used in a number of foreign countries to target the communications of criminals, but are difficult to use in a targeted manner and will also hoover up data from innocent people’s mobile phones. Police have refused to discuss whether they are behind the installation of the masts, at least 20 of which were uncovered in London in an investigation by the Sky News television channel.

Fake Mobile Phone Masts Spy on your Calls


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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’



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Leo Kelion reports on the BBC news website that Google has looked into making internet-connected toys that control smart home appliances. A Google patent describes devices that would turn their heads towards users and listen to what they were saying, before sending commands to remote computer servers to control other devices.  The three-year old patent was spotted recently by the legal technology firm SmartUp.  It described the proposal as: “One of Google’s creepiest patents yet”. The Google patent suggests that the devices could be made into toys to encourage young children to interact with them.  However, campaigners have highlighted the privacy concerns with such devices which rather like Smart TVs send data back to remote servers, data which could potentially include private conversations. Google was unable to confirm if they might go on to develop the devices.

Google Patents ‘Creepy’ Internet Toys to Run the Home


John Leyden reports on the Register website that South Wales Police have been fined £160,000 for losing DVDs of an interview with a sex abuse victim and not reporting the loss for nearly two years. The unencrypted DVDs were left in a desk drawer and the loss was discovered after an office move in October 2011.  It emerged during the investigation that South Wales Police had no specific force-wide policy for the safe storage of victim and witness interviews. Commenting on the case Anne Jones, ICO Assistant Commissioner for Wales said: “Without any doubt we would expect a professional police force, in a position of trust, dealing with this type of highly sensitive information from victims and witnesses on a daily basis, to have robust procedures to keep track of the personal data in their care.”  

Welsh Police Force Fined £160,000 after Losing Sensitive Video Interview




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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’


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Alex Matthews-King reports in Pulse that the NHS is overriding 700,000 patient opt-outs to GP data being shared. The Health and Social Care Information Centre has said that 700,000 patients registered an objection to their identifiable information being passed from the HSCIC to a third-party before the aborted roll-out of care.data in March 2014.  However, it admitted that it doesn’t currently have the resources to deal with this volume of objections and thus it has not been possible to implement the patient opt-outs. Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, who leads on care.data for the General Practitioners Committee, told Pulse: ‘Obviously, if there are technical difficulties that HSCIC are experiencing, they must be resolved, and it is their responsibility to make sure patients are protected. But basically it’s a mess.’

NHS overriding 700,000 patient opt-outs


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 Airbus says it will file a criminal complaint over allegations that German intelligence helped the US carry out industrial espionage on the company. German media reports suggest that the country’s spy agency BND collected data on European firms at the behest of the US National Security Agency.  Airbus said it had asked for more information from the German government and said in a statement: “We are aware that large companies in the sector, like ours, are targets of espionage,” …… “However, in this case we are alarmed because there is concrete suspicion.” Airbus was named by the German press as one of the firms that was targeted by the spying operation.  It is believed that BND eavesdropped on online, phone and other communications in order to gather information.

Airbus to sue over US National Security Agency Spying


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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 ...



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Fred Pearce reports in New Scientist magazine that many people in the UK are worried about having smart meters in their homes because they fear that data about their personal energy use will be shared. The online survey of more than 2400 people in the UK was conducted by Alexa Spence of Nottingham University.  Commenting on the findings that people are worried about what might happen to their energy use data Spence said: “People are becoming increasingly aware of the value of their personal data and privacy, and they often err on the side of caution.”

UK People Wary of Smart Meters


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


Yasha Levine reports on the PandoDaily website on how the U.S. Government has and continues to fund internet tools that provide anonymity and privacy such as Tor, CryptoCat and Open Whisper Systems. The article provides an interesting insight into the activities and history of the blandly named Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which has its origins in the cold war, and the way money passes through BBG controlled Radio Free Asia and the stations Open Technology Fund, to groups and individuals developing various privacy technologies. Although the author questions whether privacy activists should be accepting funding from the US Government, a probably more important question is why the US Government would want provide funding to organisations and individuals to develop technology that provides protection from surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s GCHQ etc.  This is a question very rarely discussed by privacy campaigners or journalists, […]

Internet Privacy Funded by Spooks: A Brief history of the ...