Privacy


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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



Neil McAllister reports on The Register website that an audit of the TrueCrypt disk-encryption software has been completed and confirms that it is secure and there is no evidence of back-doors, or serious design flaws in its code. Attention became focused on the ongoing audit of TrueCrypt after the anonymous developers of the software mysteriously abandoned its ongoing development in May 2014. The potential loss of TrueCrypt was an issue for people who rely on encryption to protect their data such as Journalists. However, a number of other disk encryption systems are under development based on the TrueCrypt source code such as CipherShed and VeraCrypt. The actual report on the audit of TrueCrypt can be found Here.

Audit Confirms TrueCrypt is Secure


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 Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has issued a report into surveillance by the security services in the United Kingdom.  The report titled “Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework” is the result of a review started by the ISC in 2013, following revelations by the former US Intelligence contractor Edward Snowdon about the extent of surveillance by UK and US intelligence services. The report considers whether current legislation provides sufficient oversight and accountability and the impact of surveillance on privacy.  It concludes that there is a lack of transparency around surveillance which is not in the public interest.  This has come about due to the way the legal framework has developed in a piecemeal fashion. The key recommendation of the report is that the current legal framework should be replaced by a single new Act of Parliament governing the intelligence and security agencies. The report can be […]

The Intelligence and security Committee (ISC) Report into Surveillance in ...



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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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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



“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


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 ...



Craig Timberg reports in the Washington Post, that German researchers have discovered that phone calls and text messages between mobile phones are vulnerable to hackers and Government surveillance agencies located anywhere in the world, due to flawed infrastructure designed in the 1980s. The flaws are in the “SS7” protocol (Signalling System 7) used by mobile phone networks worldwide and are actually functions built into the system for other purposes, such as to allow mobile phones to switch between mobile phone base stations. Phone calls are vulnerable to interception even on networks using strong encryption, for example one type of attack involves recording an encrypted phone call and then requesting through SS7 that the caller’s carrier releases a temporary encryption key to unlock the communication after it has been recorded. Tobias Engel, one of the German researchers who discovered the flaws which will presented at the Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg […]

Mobile phones ‘wide open’ to global hackers