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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 ...


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 ...


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


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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 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



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Following a series of high-profile losses of customer’s personal data suffered by major companies such as Sony, Home Depot and Target, Erik Sherman considers on the CBS Moneywatch website why companies do not improve IT security and safeguards for customer data. The answer is that although the cost of remediation and fixes following such data leaks looks enormous to the average person, the financial impact on companies is negligible.  For example, when Target lost 40 million credit card numbers and 70 million other records, the cost after deductions was 105 million dollars which is less than 0.1 percent of the company’s revenue. Even the reputational damage to companies from huge data losses seems relatively short-lived.  Following a major breach of Sony’s network the Ponemon Institute polled consumers every 48 hours to check the company’s reputation.  After less than six months the Sony’s reputation had recovered its place to where it […]

The reasons companies don’t fix cyber security


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


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