Liberty News

 2010: April-June



27th June   

Update: Volunteering Made Difficult...

A Manifesto Club report about child protection vetting
Link Here  full story: Vetting Workers...UK vets all adults to work with kids

volunteering made difficult As many as 4million volunteers have been forced to undergo Criminal Records Bureau checks over the past decade, according to a new report, but many are giving up on their roles because of the red tape involved and the feeling that they are under suspicion.

People who devoted their spare time to helping out in their communities say they found the vetting process thorough insulting while the bureaucracy it entails creates a burden and a bore .

Even people who sell tickets to a botanic garden or offer to write a local newsletter have been told that they must have their backgrounds checked in case they pose a risk to children.

Some children are being prevented from joining Cub packs and Scout troops until their parents have been vetted, while schools are forcing visitors to wear badges displaying their CRB numbers and making teachers accompany them to the lavatory.

The flower guild at Gloucester Cathedral, who make arrangements before services, were told they had to be vetted to prevent paedophiles infiltrating their group, and in case they used the same lavatories as choirboys. Five members have already resigned while a further 20 are threatening to do so.

Since 2002 the CRB, an agency of the Home Office, has carried out 20m detailed background checks on those who work regularly with children or vulnerable adults. Its Enhanced Checks look for convictions or cautions as well as unproven allegations held on file by police.

Although volunteers themselves do not pay to be vetted, their organisations must pay a £20 administration fee while the rest of the cost is borne by CRB checks paid for by companies and public sector bodies.

The new report, Volunteering Made Difficult , discloses that 3.87m volunteers have been vetted over the past eight years a fifth of the total. A further 2m are likely to have to sign up when the Government's new vetting and barring scheme, now on hold pending a review, comes into force.

Josie Appleton of The Manifesto Club, the civil liberties group that compiled the new report, said: The regulation pressed on volunteers is completely out of proportion with the everyday nature of their activities - after all, they are just listening to children read or doing the crosswords with elderly people.

 

27th June   

Update: iWatch...

Apple pressurises its device users to reveal their locations
Link Here  full story: iPhone iCensor...Apple is censorial about apps for iPhone

Big Brother JobsApple's iconic 1984 commercial, in which it depicted itself as the face of freedom, taking down Big Brother has become a little ironic.

In a new announcement, Apple have said that they will be watching idevice owners' every move. It seems unlikely that the accusation that Apple has become Big Brother will go away anytime soon.

The news that Apple would be collecting the precise real-time geographic location of its users' iPhones, iPads and computers was announced this week via the rollout of the company's new privacy policy.

Customers have the option to opt in, but Apple is reportedly punishing those who decline to accept the checkbox sort of privacy agreement. According to the LA Times, Until they agree, they cannot download anything through the [iTunes] store. That means no apps, music, or iBooks (from Apple) for those who opt out.

The company says there's no harm in letting it follow your every move. It says it will largely use the information for internal purpose such as MobileMe, the Find My iPhone app, and targeted advertising. It will also share the info with third-party app-makers who are looking to create location aware apps like social networking services or tweets.

Customers do have the option to prevent third-party apps from collecting location data, which can be found under the Location Services page under Settings-->General on the iPad/iPhone. Still, this does not prevent Apple from collecting and using information internally for its own purposes, including advertising. Given Apple's language it is likely that the company does intend to collect and use this data, even when users disallow apps to access it.

For now, Apple users must face the music and decide whether they want to keep using their products and let Apple track them. As the classic Police song I'll Be Watching You goes, Oh, cant you see; You belong to me... Every move you make... Ill be watching you.

Update: Called to Account

27th June 2010. Based on article from theregister.co.uk

US SenateUS lawmakers are grilling Steve Jobs over recent changes to Apple's privacy policy allowing the company and its partners to collect and share precise location data of all iTunes and App Store customers.

US Representatives Edward J. Markey and Joe Barton, the co-chairs of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, sent a letter to the Apple CEO on Thursday, a few days after the updated privacy policy was reported. In it, they called on Jobs to explain how the new terms don't run afoul of Section 222 of the Federal Communications Act, which prohibits the sharing of customer location information without the permission of the user.

It is our understanding that Apple's consumers cannot use newly-purchased iPads, iPhones, Apple computers or purchase products for existing Apple products from the iTunes music store unless they accept the revised terms and conditions and include agreeing to the collection and sharing of geographical location data, they wrote: Given the limited ability of Apple users to opt out of the revised policy and still be able to take advantage of the features of their Apple products, we are concerned about the impact the collection of such data could have on the privacy of Apple's customers.

 

21st June   

Updated: Big Brother's Long Memory...

Australian government outlines retaining a long history of email and browsed websites
Link Here

Australia Government: Attorney-General's DepartmentAustralian ISPs may soon have to retain subscriber's private web browsing history for law enforcement to examine when requested, a move which has been widely criticised by industry insiders.

The Attorney-General's Department confirmed to ZDNet Australia that it had been in discussions with industry on implementing a data retention regime in Australia. Such a regime would require companies providing internet access to log and retain customer's private web browsing history for a certain period of time for law enforcement to access when needed, according to Australian internet service provider sources.

Currently, companies that provide customers with a connection to the internet don't retain or log subscriber's private web browsing history unless they are given an interception warrant by law enforcement, usually approved by a judge. It is only then that companies can legally begin tapping a customer's internet connection.

In March 2006, the European Union formally adopted its data retention directive, a directive which the Australian Government said it wished to use as an example if it implemented such a regime.

One ISP source told ZDNet Australia that the Australian regime, if implemented, could go as far as recording each URL a customer visited and all emails. That source said such a regime would be scary and very expensive .

They said the regime being considered by the Australian Government could see data held for much longer than EU Directive time of 24 months, it would be more like five or ten years.

Offsite: Inside Australia's data retention proposal

21st June 2010. See article from zdnet.com.au

Australia Government: Attorney-General's DepartmentZDNet Australia broke the news that the Federal Government Attorney-General's Department was considering how it could best implement a data retention regime in Australia.

An industry source told ZDNet Australia it was a little bit cute for the Attorney-General's media advisor to say that the Federal Government wasn't looking at a proposal to require ISPs retain web browsing history .

I think they're being a little bit cute when they say they want the source and the destination IP addresses for internet sessions [while] saying 'we're not really asking for web browsing history', the source said.

Now sure, if you go into Internet Explorer you can go into internet options and you can get your 'history', but you know, carriers don't really use URLs, they use IP addresses, and it's the IP address that translates to a URL and vice versa. They're one and the same.

There was more material in a data set the Attorney-General's Department gave telecommunications companies that the source found a bit frightening . They want allied personal information with that account, including, [the department] said, passport numbers.

Why the hell an ISP would ask anybody for a passport number is beyond me, the source said. And I am not aware of any telephony requirements that ask for passport details.

So they're asking for all details of the customer that we would hold on record, which includes anything, like multiple email addresses.

...Read the full article

 

18th June   

Offsite: Where do you Stop?...

Hysterical jobsworths assumed my 80-year-old assistant was a danger to children
Link Here  full story: Vetting Workers...UK vets all adults to work with kids

tom wrightWhen I became a bishop, I had to fill in a form to say I hadn't been charged with any relevant offences.

This was sent to a central department to be checked and verified. (Sometimes, the computer the Home Office uses can't cope with the flood, and parish appointments are held up for weeks or months. Also, the CRB staff sometimes misread the forms and send them back for more unnecessary information.)

But then, after I arrived in the diocese, I was asked to be patron of a local inter-church youth organisation. This meant I had to fill in another form and be checked again.

And then, when I was invited to speak at a youth rally elsewhere in the country, I had to do the same once more. And because I'm a governor of a school, I had to do yet another.

This is just my own local version of the disease which has gripped us as a nation.

It crept up on us slowly, so we didn't really notice anything was wrong. But once you start checking up on everybody all the time, where do you stop?

Nobody seems to know the answer to that question.

...Read full article

 

16th June   

Update: Working with Children Vetting on Hold...

Government vetting procedure weeds out bad database
Link Here  full story: Vetting Workers...UK vets all adults to work with kids

rejectedPlans for a database of adults who want to work with children have been halted following a wave of criticism.

Ministers feared the Vetting and Barring scheme, designed to protect children from paedophiles and which was due to be introduced in England and Wales next month, would drive a wedge between adults and children.

Nine million people who wanted to work with children or vulnerable adults would have had to register on the database, or face a £5,000 fine.

The plan was heavily criticised by nurses, teachers and actors such as Sir Ian McKellen, who said the measures were excessive.

It would also have affected parents who signed up for school driving rotas for weekly sports events or clubs.

Last night, 66,000 employers, charities and voluntary groups were being informed of the sudden change of plan.

Home Secretary Theresa May will say that the scheme is being halted to allow the Government to remodel the scheme back to proportionate, common sense levels . The safety of children and vulnerable adults is of paramount importance to the new Government. However, it is also vital that we take a measured approach in these matters. We've listened to the criticisms and will respond with a scheme that has been fundamentally remodelled.  Vulnerable groups must be properly protected in a way that is proportionate and sensible.''

Tim Loughton, the children's minister, will say he was worried that the scheme would have driven a wedge between children and well-meaning adults, including people coming forward to volunteer with young people : Such individuals should be welcomed, encouraged, and helped as much as possible, unless it can be shown that children would not be safe in their care.

Civil liberties campaigners welcomed the news. Dylan Sharpe, the Campaign Director for Big Brother Watch, said: While the new Government's tackling of vetting and barring is welcome, this cannot be just a temporary halt.

 

11th June   

Taking Care of the Nurses...

RCN to launch judical review of career endangering vetting and barring scheme
Link Here

toyal college of nursing logoThe Royal College of Nursing is launching a judicial review of a vetting scheme it fears will breach nurses' human rights and have catastrophic consequences for their careers, Nursing Times can reveal.

The RCN believes the scheme breaches nurses' rights to a fair trial and to privacy

The move also follows concerns the controversial vetting and barring scheme would make nurses overly cautious about comforting or being left alone with patients.

The scheme, introduced last October, is aimed at protecting children and vulnerable adults and will eventually require all nurses to register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority.

The RCN is taking action to help members who face being struck off by the ISA for 10 years without a fair hearing or a right to appeal, after committing relatively minor offences.

RCN general secretary and chief executive Peter Carter said: Of course, nursing staff recognise that the protection of children and vulnerable people is of the utmost importance. Having had exhaustive discussions with the previous government over the inclusion of appropriate procedural safeguards for our members and having taken extensive legal advice, the RCN firmly believes that the vetting and barring scheme is unfair.

He has written to Home Secretary Theresa May giving her formal notice of their legal challenge. The Home Office is expected to respond on Wednesday.

RCN director of policy development and implementation Howard Catton said the scheme could have ultimately catastrophic results for nurses' careers and could potentially change their relationships with patients. He said: Nurses might be scared something as simple as putting a hand on a patient's arm will be misinterpreted. Or they could become more conscious about talking to patients on their own. If people are acting in a defensive way it might hold back their practice.

The vetting and barring scheme is already under review after the government announced last month it wanted to scale it back to common sense levels .

This followed claims that nurses could be struck off for one-off mistakes or even after they had been cleared by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Staff could also potentially be removed from the register if they had lifestyles perceived as unstable or were felt to be suffering from severe emotional loneliness .

 

6th June   

Searching for Dirt...

MEPs calling for Google search data to be added to retained communication data
Link Here

European Parliament logoMore than 300 MEPs are calling for laws to require Google to retain more search data.

They have signed a written declaration urging that the European Data Retention Directive - which mandates that ISPs should retain basic session data for up to two years - is extended to cover web search providers. Their aim is supposedly to set up an early warning system for paedophiles and sex offenders .

Written declarations are the European Parliament's equivalent of the the Commons' Early Day Motion system, whereby MPs sign up to causes in the hope of drawing attention to or action on their cause.

Sponsored by Italian MEP Tiziano Motti and Slovak MEP Anna Záborská, written declaration 29 is close to being adopted by the Parliament. It has 324 of of the requisite 369 MEPs' signatures required so that it gets sent to the European Commission for consideration.

It's unclear from the declaration itself how legally-mandated retention of web searches would help create an early warning system . Quite possibly though, Motti and Záborská envisage sifting through logs for questionable search terms, linking them to individuals via stored IP addresses.

 

28th May   

Update: Expiry Date...

UK ID cards set for an early demise
Link Here  full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

UK ID cardID cards will be history within 100 days, the government said as it published laws to destroy the scheme.

The Home Office, for years tasked with promotion of the project under Labour, said it aims to pass the Identity Documents Bill before the Parliamentary recess starts in August.

It is the first legislation introduced by the ConDem coalition. Both parties campaigned against the scheme at the election.

The National Identity Register, the database that was set to centrally store an array of personal information about every British citizen, will also be consigned to the political dustbin. The next generation of biometric passports, which would also have fed the National Identity Register, will be scrapped in separate legislation.

The wasteful, bureaucratic and intrusive ID card scheme represents everything that has been wrong with government in recent years, said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg: By taking swift action to scrap it, we are making it clear that this government won't sacrifice people's liberty for the sake of Ministers' pet projects.

A separate ID cards scheme for foreign nationals will go ahead.

 

19th May   

Scary Shite...

Home inspections proposed to check on 'safety' for kids
Link Here

nice logoParents of children under five are to get home checks to supposedly ensure they are keeping their youngsters safe.

Inspectors will check whether families have installed smoke alarms, stair gates, locks on medicine cupboards, windows and ovens, and fitted temperature controls to stop bath water getting too hot and no doubt be on the lookout for other unstated 'dangers'

The draft guidelines issued yesterday call for all families to have the option of home safety inspections by trained staff from the NHS or local councils. Health and safety organisations are told to identify homes where children are thought to be most at risk of accidents and offer home risk assessments .

In some cases, the offer will come after GPs or school nurses have raised the alarm because a child has been to hospital repeatedly for emergency treatment.

Mike Kelly, Nice's public health excellence centre director, said: Our aim is not to promote a nanny state ...[BUT]... It's a normal part of growing up for children to sometimes hurt themselves in day-to-day life, but we also need to prevent serious injuries from happening. These can have a profound effect on a young child right through to adult life, as they could be permanently disabled.

Simon Davies of the Privacy International pressure group said he was particularly concerned over the additional powers that would go to state officials. He added: This is a landmark expansion of government intervention in home life. It must be regarded with great concern. If the database identifies you but you are unco-operative or you refuse to comply, the next step will be your door broken down at five in the morning. That will happen as surely as night follows day.

A spokesman for NICE said all parents could take advantage of the scheme. She added: It's optional, it's not mandatory. Even if your GP suggests a home inspection because there have been a number of unintentional injuries, it must take place with consent.

 

16th May   

Foul Play...

Lincolnshire police support nutter scheme to log every adult purchase of alcohol against an ID card
Link Here

fair play for children logoPolice in North Lincolnshire support a big brother style swipe-card proposal that, if devised, could force adults to use it to purchase alcohol.

Nutters of Fair Play for Children are campaigning for a new scheme to be introduced to make it more difficult for underage children to get their hands on alcohol and deter adults from buying it for youngsters.

The swipe-card device would record details of every item purchased, date, place and time.

Also each can or bottle would have a strip which would contain details of where it was purchased, date and so on.

Any child found in possession of bottles or cans would therefore carry the evidence of the identity of the provider and where that person purchased it.

Sgt James Main, lead officer on the North Lincolnshire Respect scheme, said: We would welcome any scheme that would help to control the sale of alcohol to minors.

 

16th May   

Googling for Why?...

Google Street View cars have been hoovering up data on open wi-fi networks
Link Here  full story: Mapping Routers...Google correlates routers with street address

Google maps logoGoogle has admitted that for the past three years it has wrongly collected information people have sent over unencrypted wi-fi networks.

The issue came to light after German authorities asked to audit the data the company's Street View cars gathered as they took photos viewed on Google maps.

Google said during a review it found it had been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open networks . It is now asking for a third party to review the software that caused the problem and examine precisely what data had been gathered.

Maintaining people's trust is crucial to everything we do, and in this case we fell short, wrote Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research.

Update: Let Off

31st July 2010. Based on article from arstechnica.com

ICO logoThe Information Commissioner's Office has said that Google did not grab significant amounts of personal data when photographing the UK with its StreetView cars, and that the information captured is unlikely to include meaningful personal details or information that could be linked to an identifiable person.

In its statement, the ICO said that Google was wrong to collect the information, but that ultimately, there was no evidence that the data collected could cause any individual detriment.

 

13th May   

Big Brother Printers...

Be warned that photocopiers retain every image on an internal hard drive.
Link Here

photocopierMost people don't know that photocopiers save an image of every scan or copy ever made.

I'd say that the general public has absolutely no clue that the high-end copiers have a hard drive inside them, said Clayton Moline, a data retrieval specialist with Data Doctors.

CBS 5 News asked him to grab four hard drives of random copiers that were scheduled to be recycled and analyze them to see what kind of information would pop up.

After just 15 to 20 minutes, we got the hard drives from those machines and started to analyze them on site, said Moline.

He found page after page of sensitive payroll data from the Scottsdale Tommy Bahamas restaurant. Names, Social Security numbers, even copies of payroll and traveler's checks were found after the first few clicks, but the hard drives often contain hundreds of thousands of documents.

These copiers are all over the place. Many people do not recycle them or they are being sold by a third party, whether it be a used computer shop or it could be something on Craigslist, said Moline.

For a few hundred dollars, identity thieves can get their hands on personal information, like medical and immunization records from a local health care facility that CBS 5 found during the survey.

No doubt the facility has been included for law enforcement purposes so that police can follow up on what their suspects have been up to.

 

6th May   

Pants ASBOs...

Anti-Saggy Baggy Orders
Link Here

saggy pantsIn a victory for skaters, hoodies and owners of oversized trousers everywhere, a teenager has won the right to wear his tracksuit bottoms halfway down his backside.

Ellis Drummond, 18, faced an antisocial behaviour order (ASBO) that included a ban on wearing trousers so low beneath the waistline that members of the public are able to see his underwear . It also prohibited him from wearing in public any clothing with the hood up .

But the bans were withdrawn after a discussion before a hearing at Bedford Magistrates' Court in which District Judge Nicholas Leigh-Smith said: Some of the requirements proposed struck me as contrary to the Human Rights Act.

Drummond instead was given a four-year ASBO prohibiting him from using threatening behaviour, begging or entering the grounds of Bedford College.

 

3rd May   

IDed as Repressive...

UAE introduce ID cards to track people's internet use
Link Here

id card uaePeople will be barred from accessing the internet publicly in the UAE without a national identity card under an initiative by the Interior Ministry to supposedly crack down on cyber crime and child sex abuse, UAE daily Emarat al-Youm reported.

The initiative will allow authorities to monitor everyone who accesses the internet from public locations such as internet cafes, coffee shops and malls, the Arabic newspaper said.

The newspaper said the restrictions would be come into force soon , without being more specific.

The UAE aims to issue mandatory national ID cards its citizens and expatriates by the end of 2010 under a population registration programme. The single card is expected to later replace other forms of identification in the UAE such as labor permit, health card and driving license.

Major General Nasser Lakhraibani-Naimi, Interior Ministry secretary-general, claimed the initiative would develop levels of awareness and protection of children against the potential risks from the use of the internet .

 

1st May   

Erased by Censors...

Erasing David surveillance documentary cut for a 12A
Link Here

Erasing David DVD Bond Erasing David is a 2009 UK documentary by David Bond & Melinda McDougall

The BBFC passed the 2010 cinema release 12A with the comment: During post-production, the distributor sought and was given advice on how to secure the desired classification. Following this advice, certain changes were made prior to submission.

The BBFC explained their 12A rating:

Erasing David is a documentary about one man's attempts to escape from what he sees as the increasingly intrusive nature of public surveillance and data collection. It has been passed 12A for strong language.

The BBFC Guidelines at 12A state that the use of strong language (for example, 'fuck') must be infrequent . The film contains four uses of strong language, all of which are spoken by the film's director and subject, David Bond, in moments of extreme frustration. He is alone on each occasion and speaks only for the benefit of the camera. They are not, therefore, directed at any other person.

There are two mild sex references in the film. The first occurs when one of the witnesses used by Bond talks about how his credit card details had been stolen and used to visit pornographic websites, including some containing indecent images of children. The other occurs when Bond's wife, examining the extent to which her family's personal details had been stored by a number of organisations, says I feel like I've been data raped. The Guidelines at 12A state that sex references should not go beyond what is suitable for young teenagers . In the context of this serious documentary the sex references would have been permissible at PG .

 

22nd April   

Euro Snoops...

Labour sign up to allow EU countries to spy on Brits accused of trivial offences
Link Here

EU flagLabour is supporting plans for a dramatic expansion in the powers available to fellow member states who accuse UK nationals of committing even the most minor crimes while visiting.

Under the plans, other countries could get the right to demand surveillance on a UK resident who has returned home, and access to his or her bank records.

They could also be entitled to demand British police take a suspect's DNA or other samples.

Civil liberties groups across the continent are furious at the proposals, designed to support the controversial new European Evidence Warrant - a partner to the deeply controversial European Arrest Warrant.

Cases to which the arrest warrant has been applied include a man accused of the theft of a dessert in a Polish restaurant. Under the proposed new regime, such a person could be placed under surveillance or have his bank records accessed to check that he had paid for the dessert, critics say.

Minutes of a parliamentary committee show Labour is quietly backing the idea. Home office minister Meg Hillier said: We would in principle support a new and comprehensive instrument based on mutual recognition that covers all types of evidence .

Last night Tory justice spokesman Dominic Grieve said: Giving states which do not afford citizens the same legal protections as the UK the right to demand DNA samples, intercept communications or snoop on the personal data of British citizens is a worrying development. In supporting this proposal, Labour is yet again showing its relish for surveillance and disdain for civil liberties .

Concerns about the proposal are based on the way the European Arrest Warrant has been abused. The campaign group Fair Trials International said it had led to people from all over Europe being sent to other EU states for the most minor offences, or jailed after unfair trials.

 

21st April   

SpeedSpike...

Long distance traffic surveillance and speed enforcement
Link Here

speedspikeSpeed cameras which communicate with each other by satellite are being secretly tested on British roads.

The hi-tech devices can follow drivers' progress for miles to calculate whether they have broken speed limits.

Combining number plate recognition technology with global positioning satellites, they can be set up in a network to monitor tens of thousands of cars over huge areas.

Known as SpeedSpike, the system uses similar methods of recognition as the cameras which enforce the congestion charge in London, and allow two cameras to talk to each other if a vehicle appears to have travelled too far in too short a space of time.

After a covert national trial which has not been publicised until now, authorities hope the new cameras will enable them to re-create the system used on motorway contraflows. The Home Office is currently testing them at two sites - one in Southwark in London and another on the A374 between Antony and Torpoint in Cornwall.

Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox, whose Devon constituency is close to the Cornish test site, said fundamental questions had to be addressed before such an alarming level of surveillance was extended: You always have to ask if it is really necessary to watch over people, to spy on them and film them. We will get to a point where it becomes routine and it should never be a matter of routine that the state spies on its citizens.

In the company's evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee, it boasted of number plate capture in all weather conditions, 24 hours a day as well as pointing out the system's low cost and ease of installation. The company believes the cameras can be used for main road enforcement for congestion reduction and speed enforcement , can help to eliminate rat-runs and cut speeds outside schools.

 

19th April   

Spy School...

US school spies on pupils at home via camera in loaned laptop
Link Here

laptop spy cmera Investigators looking into a school district in Pennsylvania that lent out laptops have discovered thousands of secret photographs were taken of students in their homes.

The pictures were made possible by tracking software that was installed on laptops by the Lower Merion School District (LMSD) to allow them to locate the computers in the event of them being lost or stolen.

A lawsuit filed by the parents of one of the pupils, 15-year-old Blake Robbins of Harriton High School in Rosemont, claims that the tracking system captured more than 400 images via his school-issued laptop over the course of two weeks last autumn and that thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots have been taken of numerous other students in their homes.

A minute camera mounted on the computer took snaps of the unwitting teenager and his relatives including pictures of Blake partially undressed and of Blake sleeping, as part of a system designed to take a new picture every 15 minutes while it was switched on, they claim.

He and his family only became aware that they were being secretly spied on when Blake was called in by the assistant principal at his school to be quizzed about one of the images. It showed the boy sifting through a handful of sweets, which school officials had wrongly presumed to be illegal drugs.

The school district has claimed that it activated the secret camera in Blake's computer because his parents had not paid the necessary insurance fee that allowed him to take it home.

Federal investigators are examining whether the spy programme was illegal.

Update: Confirmation

8th May 2010. Based on article from bigbrotherwatch.org.uk

An independent report has been released about it today. In essence, it confirms that the story was true and blames the IT personnel.

According to the report... conducted by a local law firm, the IT staff not only failed to inform school officials and administrators of the tracking capabilities of the LANrev software, but argued that telling students about the software's ability to remotely trigger notebook Webcams would defeat its purpose as a way to recover lost or stolen computers.

Update: Secret Webcams Banned

20th May 2010. Based on article from bigbrotherwatch.org.uk

A judge has permanently banned a suburban Philadelphia school district from secretly monitoring students with webcams on their school-issued laptops.

The Lower Merion School District acknowledges capturing 56,000 screen shots and webcam images supposedly so it could locate missing laptops.

The new ruling says Lower Merion can use other kinds of technology to find laptops but only if parents and students agree to it.

The order also requires school officials to arrange for the nearly 40 high school students who were unknowingly photographed by their laptops to see the images.

Update: Criminal Prosecution Avoided

22nd August 2010. See article from theregister.co.uk

Philadelphia school administrators involved in a webcam spying episode will escape criminal prosecution, federal authorities have decided after concluding there was no criminal intent in the alleged surveillance.

I have concluded that bringing criminal charges is not warranted in this matter, Zane David Memeger, US attorney for the Easter District of Pennsylvania said in a statement, Wired reports.

For the government to prosecute a criminal case, it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged acted with criminal intent. We have not found evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone involved had criminal intent.

The civil lawsuit - which has a much lower burden of proof - is unaffected by the decision not to bring charges against the school administrators involved in the episode. Mark Haltzman, a lawyer suing the district, told Wired that the prosecutor's ruling in the case highlighted the need for tougher privacy-protecting legislation.

Update: Schools coughs up but lawyers get most of it

22nd August 2010. See article from telegraph.co.uk

A school authority has agreed to pay out $610,000 (£385,000) after admitting it spied on pupils in their homes through the cameras on their laptop computers.

About 56,000 pictures of more than 40 pupils were taken by a remote tracking system controlled by officials from the Lower Merion School District in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Blake Robbins, a pupil of Harriton High School who was then 15, was awarded $175,000 (£110,000), which is to be placed in a trust.

Blake discovered through evidence unearthed when he sued the school authority in February that he was photographed 400 times over two weeks. He was alerted to the practice when the vice principal of his school told him he had been seen engaging in improper behaviour . Blake said this meant that sweets he was eating were mistaken for drugs.

Jalil Hassan, a second pupil who filed a lawsuit against the school authority, was awarded $10,000 (£6,300). He has since graduated from Lower Merion High School.

The lion's share of $425,000 (£268,000) of the settlement will be paid to the boys' lawyer, Mark Haltzman, for his work on the case.

 

17th April   

Constitution Doesn't Count as it is Read Already...

US government attempt to read emails without search warrant
Link Here

Yahoo logoA coalition of civil liberties groups has joined Yahoo! in its bid to block a US government attempt to read messages in a Yahoo! email account without a search warrant.

The Department of Justice is seeking the documents in a case that is under seal, and apparently, the agency hasn't notified the account holder of the request, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the groups opposing the move. The groups argue that federal law and the Constitution's Fourth Amendment clearly require the government to get a search warrant that's based on probable cause a crime has been committed.

Government attorneys, meanwhile, have clained a warrant isn't needed because the emails have already been read. They've also claimed that the unidentified user has no expectation that his emails are private because Yahoo has the technical ability to access them.

The mere fact that a service provider has the ability to access email messages does not defeat the user's expectation of privacy in their contents, just as the fact that telephone wires lead outside the home does not extinguish the Fourth Amendment rights of those talking over the telephone lines, and just as the fact that one has a roommate or is renting a room does not defeat Fourth Amendment protection in one's home or hotel room, the groups wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief.

According to the brief, the government claims that under the Stored Communications Act, the emails don't count as electronic storage and therefore receive less privacy protection than do unread messages. Yahoo! is fighting the search request.

 

10th April   

'Law Abiding Customers have Nothing to Fear'...

Police initiate scheme to take thumb prints of sellers at 2nd hand shops
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fingerprintsCustomers who sell second-hand goods at pawnbrokers or cash shops are being asked to leave a thumbprint by police.

Police launched the scheme in Norwich in a bid to stop criminals making money out of stolen items.

Six shops in the city have agreed to take part, including three Cash Converter outlets – a modern day version of a pawnbroker, where customers can sell their jewellery or electronic gadgets in return for cash. The items are then usually sold on to the public.

Under the initiative, customers will be asked to press their thumb on an inkless touch pad, leaving their print with the shop. There is no central database of thumbprints and the only time anyone will have access to them will be if an item is believed to be stolen.

Second hand shops will continue to get a daily list of stolen items from the police and, if any match up, the police will be able to trace the person who has sold it on.

Inspector Lisa Hooper said the idea was to deter thieves from trying to sell stolen property in second-hand shops: The scheme will deter criminals from even trying to sell property to the shops who have signed up to the scheme, it will not affect law-abiding customers so they need not (have) fear of their thumbprint being obtained, said Inspector Hooper. We hope that customers will support the scheme and voluntarily allow for their thumbprint to be taken.

 

5th April   

Number Plate Spies...

Liberty to challenge UK's mass traffic surveillance
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anpr cameraUK Police chiefs are facing the threat of a High Court privacy action over a nationwide network of cameras that is being used to take up to 14m photographs of motorists every day.

The images are being stored daily on a huge Big Brother database linked to automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) technology to track vehicles' movements.

The records not only include details of car registrations, but often photographs of drivers and front-seat passengers, a police document has revealed.

They are being held on a database in Hendon, north London, for at least two years without drivers' knowledge or permission.

This weekend Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, the civil rights group, said it planned to launch the first legal challenge to the surveillance system: It's bad enough that images and movements of millions of innocent motorists are being stored for years on end, she said. That the police are doing this with no legislative basis shows a contempt for parliament, personal privacy and the law. Yet another bloated database is crying out for legal challenge and we will happily oblige.

Liberty is seeking a motorist of good character who objects to having their daily movements stored on the ANPR database to bring a test case.

The ANPR network has expanded unchecked by parliament since police first decided to develop a national system in 2006. It is now linked to more than 10,000 CCTV cameras discreetly placed on motorways, main roads and in petrol stations. It has also been integrated with the cameras originally set up in 2003 to enforce the congestion charge in London.

Software being developed for the system will eventually allow police to track the movements of up to 100m vehicles at any time — more than double the number currently on the road. The database can also be mined to track the past movements of specific vehicles.

Liberty says there has been a massive expansion of ANPR in the past 18 months. New police figures show that the number of images stored from vehicles in the Milton Keynes area alone has risen from almost 1.8m in 2008 to 8.9m last year.

Acpo said that between 10m and 14m images were being stored nationally each day. A spokesman pointed out that on one day last month, police made 249 arrests and seized 431 vehicles as a result of ANPR.

Deputy Chief Constable Simon Byrne, the head of Acpo's national user group on ANPR, said: By denying criminals use of the roads, the police will be better able to enforce the law and prevent and detect crime.