Surveillance


Maggie Ybarra reports in the Washington Times that FBI agents cannot identify any major terrorism cases they have cracked using the snooping powers in the US Patriot Act. The revelation is interesting given the claims of its supporters that powers provided by the act such a bulk phone data collection, were critical to national security and had to be retained. The Patriot Act expired on Monday (1st June) and some (see here) of its surveillance powers were incorporated into the USA Freedom Act which was approved by Congress on Tuesday (2nd June).  Amongst the powers transferred was the power to enable bulk phone data collection; however, on a positive note this data can now only be accessed with court permission.

FBI Admits That No Major Cases Cracked by Patriot Act ...


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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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Dan Hyde reports in the Daily Telegraph that Home Secretary Theresa May has indicated that a law to allow snooping on personal email accounts and internet browsing, could be pushed through now that the Conservatives have a parliamentary majority. Her comments were made in the early hours of Friday morning as the Conservatives appeared to heading for a majority.  Previously the so-called  Snoopers’ Charter had been blocked by the Conservatives coalition partners the Liberal Democrats. However, with the Conservatives having only a slim majority, Theresa May could potentially still have an up hill struggle to get the controversial measures through.

Theresa May to Resurrect the Snoopers’ Charter



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


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 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


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Ray Massey reports on the This is Money website that nearly 19,000 foreign drivers failed to pay ANPR generated fines for none payment of the Dartford River Crossing toll in December 2014. Toll booths were removed in November 2014 with payment required by internet, phone or account. Vehicles using the crossing are identified by an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system and fines are issued if the £2.50 toll is not paid by midnight the following day. The 19,000 foreign drivers are amongst 130,306 road users sent penalty charge notices in December 2013 of which 73,898 had been settled by the end February.  As many as one in seven drivers using the Dartford River Crossing failed to pay in the schemes first month, which was double the expected non-payment rate of one in 14. Comment from Newsblog Editor: It is worth considering the financial model being employed on the crossing […]

19,000 foreign drivers fail to pay ANPR generated fines


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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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 – ...