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Liberty News

2010: July-Sept

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30th September   

Fingerprinting Slot Machine Players...

Australian PM exceeds her daily limit of gambling away tax payers' money
Link Here

The spending habits of Australian poker machine players would be tracked by their fingerprints and memory sticks under a proposal supposedly tackling gambling addiction.

Clubs are calling to rule out possible technology that would force a finger print scan for pokies players. The radical proposal, known as mandatory pre-commitment , is being considered by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to fulfil her gambling deal with independent Andrew Wilkie.

Ms Gillard has promised to bring in mandatory pre-commitment by 2014 to stop gamblers blowing too much money on the pokies.

Options to implement the scheme include smartcards to police daily limits in all machines - which could be open to cheating - or a more secure system where each gambler would be set a daily limit and a USB memory stick carrying their fingerprint.

The Government has put anti-gambling Senator Nick Xenophon and Wilkie on a parliamentary committee to work out how the regime would be implemented.

Under the scheme, the smart cards or USB sticks would be linked to every club and pub to ensure people didn't pass their daily gambling limit.


30th September   

Fearful Policing...

Police snitched to employer after finding photos of sunbathing neighbour and mini-skirted girls on the street
Link Here

When should the police disclose a person's private sexual practices to his employer?

The high court has just ruled that a detective inspector breached a man's human right to privacy by telling his employer that he had been taking pictures of short-skirted women in the street without their knowledge.

The police had searched this claimant's house whilst investigating a woman's disappearance. During the search, they found adult pornographic pictures and DVDs. He had large telephone bills, some over £1,000, from calling sex chat lines, and had filmed his own masturbation. None of this was illegal.

What concerned the police were voyeuristic photographs found on his mobile phone of a woman sunbathing in the next door garden, as well as pictures and videos of various woman taken in the street seemingly without their consent.

But was this behaviour dangerous? The experienced detective inspector decided that it was. In his view, the claimant's pursuit of sexual gratification was not constrained by the boundaries of morally acceptable behaviour and his behaviour may be capable of escalating into sexual offending as these boundaries are eroded. He was therefore a clear danger to young woman.

The claimant worked in a university and volunteered at Mind, a mental health charity. The detective decided to tell them of his concerns, in order, he claimed, to protect the young women he might come into contact with.

A sued the police, arguing that they had breached his human rights by making the damaging revelations without proper cause.

The high court agreed. The police had been too heavy-handed, and had not taken enough care before deciding to disclose the claimant's sexual practices.


29th September   

Update: Uncle Sam's BlackBerry Jam...

US joins in the global whinge about BlackBerry encrypted communications
Link Here
Full story: BlackBerry Mobile Phones...Winding up countries who can't snoop on users

Developers of email, instant-messaging and voice-over-internet-protocol applications would be forced to redesign their services so their contents can be intercepted by law enforcement agents armed with legal wiretap orders under federal legislation reported by The New York Times.

The legislation would, among other things, require cellphone carriers, websites and other types of service providers to have a way to unscramble encrypted communications traveling over their networks, the report said. It specifically mentions companies such as Research in Motion and Skype, which are popular in part because their cellular communications and VoIP services respectively are widely regarded as offering robust encryption that's impractical if not impossible for government agents to crack.

Under the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act, phone and broadband service providers are required to have the technical means in place to eavesdrop on their subscribers. But it doesn't apply to communication service providers, which often offer strong end-to-end encryption services that make it infeasible for them to intercept traffic even through it travels over their networks.

Under a draft bill expected to be submitted to the US Congress when it convenes next year, such services would have to be redesigned, according to the report. Foreign-based providers that do business inside the US would also have to install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts, it said.


24th September   

Chilling Stories...

Tax inspectors want to know which books people have purchased at Amazon
Link Here

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a brief on behalf of our clients who are challenging the North Carolina Department of Revenue's requests for records regarding customer purchases as part of a tax audit of Amazon.

Those requests would reveal which individuals purchased which books, movies, music, and other private items through Amazon, from August 2003-February 2010. Their purchase records reveal highly personal and intimate details about their lives. For example, people bought books on topics such as cancer, mental health issues, divorce, and atheism. The government has no right to know this kind of personal information, and we're confident that the First Amendment prohibits the government from obtaining that information here.

The government essentially contends that their actions are permissible because they don't intend to use this information for anything other than tax collection. But trust us isn't good enough. Just knowing that the government may be keeping an eye on you is enough for many people to reconsider buying books and other expressive materials online. That's especially true given that the government has a less than stellar track record when it comes to keeping private information safe.

North Carolina admits that they don't need to know who is purchasing which specific books, movies, and music in order to collect taxes. But they still won't destroy the information that Amazon has already given them — showing which titles were purchased — and they continue to ask for customer names and addresses, which would allow them to find out exactly who purchased what.


10th September   

Update: HushHush...

TalkTalk monitor their customers' website visits without informing them
Link Here
Full story: Behavioural Advertising...Serving adverts according to internet snooping

ISP TalkTalk has been reprimanded by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for failing to disclose enough about a trial requiring the collection of the urls of websites visited by customers.

The ICO said the ISP should have told both it and customers about the trial.

In August the ICO received a Freedom of Information request, asking whether it had investigated the system.

It revealed that it had and in correspondence with TalkTalk, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: I am concerned that the trial was undertaken without first informing those affected that it was taking place . He also revealed that TalkTalk had not told the ICO about the trials: In the light of the public reaction to BT's trial of the proposed Webwise service I am disappointed to note that this particular trial was not mentioned to my officials during the latest of our liasion meetings .

BT's Webwise system, devised by ad firm Phorm to track user behaviour in order to serve them more relevant advertisements, proved highly controversial.

TalkTalk defended its trial and the technology. We were simply looking at the urls accessed from our network, we weren't looking at customer behaviour so we didn't feel we were obliged to inform customers, said Mark Schmid, TalkTalk's director of communication. It didn't cross our minds that it would be compared to Phorm, said Schmid.

Schmid explained that the system scans websites and would provide customers with a blacklist of sites that contained malware or viruses. In its tests, some 75,000 websites were found to contain malware. TalkTalk plans to introduce the system at the end of this year.


5th September

 Offsite: Tweet Tweaks...

Link Here
Twitter plans to record all links clicked

See article from


30th August   

Employees Save Face...

Germany bans employers from checking social networking sites of employees
Link Here

Good news for German jobseekers who like to brag about their drinking exploits on Facebook: A new law will stop bosses from checking out potential hires on social networking sites. They will, however, still be allowed to google applicants.

Lying about qualifications. Alcohol and drug use. Racist comments. These are just some of the reasons why potential bosses reject job applicants after looking at their Facebook profiles.

According to a 2009 survey commissioned by the website CareerBuilder, some 45% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. And some 35% of those employers had rejected candidates based on what they found there, such as inappropriate photos, insulting comments about previous employers or boasts about their drug use.

The government has now drafted a new law which will prevent employers from looking at a job applicant's pages on social networking sites during the hiring process. The draft law is set to be approved by the German cabinet on Wednesday, according to the Sddeutsche Zeitung.

Although the new law will reportedly prevent potential bosses from checking out a candidate's Facebook page, it will allow them to look at sites that are expressly intended to help people sell themselves to future employers, such as the business-oriented social networking site LinkedIn. Information about the candidate that is generally available on the Internet is also fair game. In other words, employers are allowed to google potential hires. Companies may not be allowed to use information if it is too old or if the candidate has no control over it, however.

The draft legislation also covers the issue of companies spying on employees. According to Die Welt, the law will expressly forbid firms from video surveillance of workers in personal locations such as bathrooms, changing rooms and break rooms. Video cameras will only be permitted in certain places where they are justified, such as entrance areas, and staff will have to be made aware of their presence.

Similarly, companies will only be able to monitor employees' telephone calls and e-mails under certain conditions, and firms will be obliged to inform their staff about such eavesdropping.


28th August   

Spy Vans...

X-ray vans patrolling US streets
Link Here

Airport security checkpoints aren't the only places where backscatter x-ray vision is being deployed. The same technology, capable of seeing through clothes and walls, has also been rolling out on U.S. streets.

American Science & Engineering has sold U.S. and foreign government agencies more than 500 backscatter x-ray scanners mounted in vans that can be driven past neighboring vehicles to see their contents, Joe Reiss, a vice president of marketing at the company told me in an interview. While the biggest buyer of AS&E's machines over the last seven years has been the Department of Defense operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Reiss says law enforcement agencies have also deployed the vans to search for vehicle-based bombs in the U.S.

This product is now the largest selling cargo and vehicle inspection system ever, says Reiss.

The Z Backscatter Vans, or ZBVs, as the company calls them, bounce a narrow stream of x-rays off and through nearby objects, and read which ones come back. Absorbed rays indicate dense material such as steel. Scattered rays indicate less-dense objects that can include explosives, drugs, or human bodies. That capability makes them powerful tools for security, law enforcement, and border control.

AS&E's Reiss counters privacy critics by pointing out that the ZBV scans don't capture nearly as much detail of human bodies as their airport counterparts. The company's marketing materials say that its primary purpose is to image vehicles and their contents, and that the system cannot be used to identify an individual, or the race, sex or age of the person.

But EPIC's Marc Rotenberg says that the scans, like those in the airport, potentially violate the fourth amendment. Without a warrant, the government doesn't have a right to peer beneath your clothes without probable cause, he says. Even airport scans are typically used only as a secondary security measure, he points out. If the scans can only be used in exceptional cases in airports, the idea that they can be used routinely on city streets is a very hard argument to make.


20th August   

On by Default...

Facebook kindly adds a facility to relay your location to busy bodies, stalkers, burglars and state snoopers
Link Here

Facebook Places , which will launch in the US only at first, will allow users to check in at a location

Facebook app Facebook Places is a location based service allowing users to share their location. The new tool is bound to spark criticism from data privacy campaigners.

The feature allows users to check in at locations which will then be shared with their friends and Facebook network but it is likely to raise concerns over safety. Users will also be able to browse shops, clubs and nearby venues to see which friends are nearby, leading to concerns it could put individual's security at risk.

What we see with Facebook is a massive learning curve. Every time they make a change, consumers scramble to figure out the privacy settings, said Rainey Reitman, spokeswoman for Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in the US. Location data is tied to people's safety – if people know where you are, they know where you're not. Your location data is some of the most sensitive data we have. I expect we'll see from the get-go people who don't understand how to control the privacy settings.

The service will launch in the US only at first. Reitman said users should be particularly judicious about who they accept as friends, and be aware that even information shared with an intimate network could be copied and pasted elsewhere. Don't post anything online you wouldn't want to get out publicly to anyone.

Yang said protections include notifying a user as soon as they are tagged at a place, and offering a complete opt-out of places tags. Users under 18 can only share location with their immediate friends network and their real-time location will only be seen by friends at the same location.

Critics will note that once a user decides to check in at a location, the primary location setting is switched on by default, which means any places tags automatically being shared with immediate friends. But the service does offer a range of protections and controls including the option to detag locations, notifications if friends add your location and the option to disable Places entirely.

Widespread smartphone take-up has allowed location services such as Foursquare and Gowalla to flourish. Facebook has been watching the development of these services, which are setting up a steady stream of promotions and prizes with venues and retailers to reward loyal customers who check in regularly.

Initially available as an update to Facebook's app for Apple iPhone, updated apps for BlackBerry, Android and other handsets are expected in the next few months. A version will also launch for the UK.


14th August   

Updated: Credited as a Bad Idea...

Would you trust bounty hunters to enforce the law?
Link Here

The government have proposed the use of credit rating agencies like Experian to catch people committing benefit fraud.

This is a very bad idea. Nobody approves of benefit cheats. But mining private data on a routine basis on the off-chance of catching people out is a disproportionate invasion of privacy.

There's a presumption of innocence in this country, and trawling everyone's credit data and treating us all as suspects brings that into question. Furthermore, there is or should be a bright line between the state and the private sector. Taking powers of legal investigation and enforcement which ought to sit with the state, and granting them to private organisations, blurs that line. Worse still, if profit-making companies are rewarded by the number of people they catch they will have a perverse incentive to sling accusations in any even marginally plausible case - because they'll have nothing to lose and potentially something to gain in the smearing.

Ultimately, it's probably not in the interests of the companies either. People will be far less likely to comply with their requirements in the future if it's known that one risks such intrusion in doing so. Credit agencies should think carefully about effectively becoming enforcers for the state, compromising private information they've accumulated about people.

Update: No Fishing

14th August 2010. Based on article from

The Information Commissioner has asked coalition ministers to explain their plans to use credit reference agencies to gather evidence of benefit fraud, citing privacy concerns.

Christopher Graham said he has requested a meeting with the welfare minister Lord Freud. He urged caution: I hope the Government is going to hold to the good practice of considering the data protection implications of policies at the earliest stage.

A common sense approach should be applied to information sharing. This includes letting people know how their information will be processed. Most organisations make it clear that should they need to they will share details with authorities for the prevention and detection of crime.

Graham indicated that he believes it is proportionate to share credit reference data where fraud is suspected. It is reasonable to expect that if you are committing benefit fraud your details will be shared with the appropriate authorities dealing with this, he said.


13th August   

Update: Street Wise...

South Korea police raid Google offices over Street View data
Link Here
Full story: Mapping Routers...Google correlates routers with street address

Police in South Korea have raided Google's headquarters in Seoul.

A police statement said they suspected Google has been collecting and storing data on unspecified internet users from wi-fi networks .

The firm recently admitted that its Street View cars had been collecting information over unencrypted wi-fi networks, claiming it to be a mistake . However there now seems to be a database that correlates routers to street addresses with data gathered by the Street View cars.

[We] have been investigating Google Korea on suspicion of unauthorised collection and storage of data on unspecified Internet users from wi-fi networks, the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) said in a statement.

Korean media reported that 19 KNPA agents raided the office, seizing hard drives and related documents. Authorities said they plan to summon Google officials for investigation once analysis on the confiscated items is complete.


11th August   

Update: Good Riddance...

ContactPoint database closed
Link Here
Full story: ContactPoint Database...Logging childhood brushes with the authorities

At noon on Friday 6th August the ContactPoint database was switched off.

A £224 million system that contained the names, ages, addresses, schools, GPs and several other private and personal details of 11 million children in the UK, disappeared at the flick of a button.

In advance of the move, Children's Minister Tim Loughton voiced a number of our stated concerns when speaking to the BBC:

We don't think that spreading very thinly a resource which contains details of all 11million children in the entire country, more than 90% of whom will never come into contact with children's services, is the best way of safeguarding children. This is a surrogate ID card scheme for children, by the back door, and we just don't think it's necessary.

The only thing worse than an unwieldy state database that opens up the personal details of millions of children, is one that is deeply flawed and dangerously unstable. Good riddance to ContactPoint.


9th August   

Letter of the Law...

US government propose internet snooping without needing court approval
Link Here

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual's Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

The administration wants to add just four words -- electronic communication transactional records -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history.

But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret.

The use of the national security letters to obtain personal data on Americans has prompted concern. The Justice Department issued 192,500 national security letters from 2003 to 2006, according to a 2008 inspector general report, which did not indicate how many were demands for Internet records.


7th August   

Update: Mapping Routers...

So that's what Google were up to with their Wi-Fi monitoring
Link Here
Full story: Mapping Routers...Google correlates routers with street address

One visit to a specially configured website could direct attackers to a person's home, a security expert has shown.

The attack, thought up by hacker Samy Kamkar, exploits shortcomings in many routers to find out a key identification number.

It uses this number and widely available net tools to find out where a router is located.

Many people go online via a router and typically only the computer directly connected to the device can interrogate it for ID information. However, Kamkar found a way to code a webpage via a browser so the request for the ID information looks like it is coming from the PC on which that page is being viewed.

He then coupled the ID information, known as a MAC address, with a geo-location feature of the Firefox web browser. This interrogates a Google database created when its cars were carrying out surveys for its Street View service.

This database links Mac addresses of routers with GPS co-ordinates to help locate them. During the demonstration, Kamkar showed how straightforward it was to use the attack to identify someone's location to within a few metres.

This is geo-location gone terrible, said Kamkar during his presentation. Privacy is dead, people. I'm sorry.

Mikko Hypponen, senior researcher at security firm F Secure, attended the presentation and said it was very interesting research . The fact that databases like Google Streetview's Mac-to-Location database or the Skyhook database can be used in these attacks just underlines how much responsibility companies that collect such data have to safeguard it correctly .


22nd July   

Rubbish Councils...

Council snoops in Britain sift through people's rubbish
Link Here

Councils are secretly rifling through thousands of dustbins to find out about families' race and wealth.

Waste audits allow officials and private contractors to check supermarket labels, types of unwanted food - and even examine the contents of discarded mail.

The local authorities are using social profiling techniques to match different types of rubbish to different ethnic groups or wealthy and poor households, as part of a recycling drive initiated by the last Government.

Critics condemned the move as highly intrusive . Most homeowners have no idea that their rubbish is being searched or that data collected could be used to prosecute those who place rubbish in the wrong bin.

At least 90 councils ran covert bin-rifling operations last year, according to Freedom of Information requests. They targeted a total of more than 10,000 families and argue that Government guidance suggested all checks on bins should be done without the knowledge of householders.

Councils in Leeds, Poole, Kensington and Chelsea, Swindon and Cheshire East all used some form of social profiling to target homes for bin searches.

Councils cited little-known guidance from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for secret searches. Enfield Council, in North London, said: In line with Defra guidance we took the view that householders would not be notified in order to avoid prejudicing the results. When waste is placed out for collection by the householder the law regards this as being discarded, ie: not wanted or owned by the householder. When collected by the local authority the waste falls into their ownership.'


19th July   

Update: Foreign Big Brother...

UK government is considering allowing EU police powers to investigate in the UK
Link Here

The UK has already suffered EU wide extradition and arrest powers whereby British people have been arrested in the UK and extradited to Europe and particularly Poland for totally trivial crimes. Also people have been arrested in Britain for things that are not even against the law here, like holocaust denial.

But now it seems that such cross-border policing powers will be extended to crime investigations.

The proposed power would allow officers from an EU country to demand information on anyone they suspect of an offence, no matter how minor or whether it is even criminal in the UK.

The directive would see UK police almost powerless to prevent the handing over of personal details such as DNA, bank account or even telephone records. They could even be ordered to carry out investigations and live surveillance for their EU counterparts, despite already stretched resources.

The European Investigation Order (EIO), which is already backed by countries such as Spain, Bulgaria, Estonia and Slovenia, would also allow foreign police to investigate alleged crimes themselves directly on UK soil.

Critics warned it could lead to serious breaches of fundamental rights and called on the UK Government not to sign up to the directive. Fair Trials International (FTI) said it could result in disproportionate requests, such as demands for the DNA of plane loads of British holidaymakers following a murder in their resort.

It could also see British officers chasing crimes that are not even covered by UK law such as criminal defamation.

Police would not be able to argue that the request or alleged offence being investigated is disproportionate.

Dominic Raab, Tory MP for Esher and Walton, who raised the issue in the House of Commons said: Britain should not opt into this half-baked measure. It would allow European police to order British officers to embark on wild-goose chases. It would force our police to hand over personal information on British citizens, even if they are not suspects and the conduct under investigation is not a crime in this country. And it gives foreign police law enforcement authority on British soil.

The FTI report added the directive is far from satisfactory in terms of guaranteeing fundamental rights and ensuring proportionality .

The Home Office has until July 28 to decide whether to opt in to the order or not.


15th July   

Bonfire of the Labour Vanities...

UK government to scale back draconian anti-terror laws
Link Here

A bonfire of draconian anti-terror laws was promised by Theresa May to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties by Labour ministers.

The Home Secretary said powers that could be scrapped or scaled back include 28-day detention without charge, control orders, stop and search and Big Brother snooping by town halls.

She also pledged a sweeping review of laws that allow the arrest of people who take pictures of police officers or hold peaceful protests without permission outside Parliament.

There will be a new drive to kick out foreign terror suspects who currently enjoy protection from the Human Rights Act to avoid deportation, and an investigation into allowing intercept evidence in court. There will be a drive to secure agreements to deport foreign suspects placed under the orders by reaching deals with their homelands that they will not be ill-treated. This would stop courts blocking their removal on human rights grounds.

Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions and an outspoken critic of the last government's legislative record, will lead the review.

In a statement to MPs, May said she wanted to correct mistakes made by Labour, which was allowed to ride roughshod over Britain's hard-won freedoms.

She added: National security is the first duty of government but we are also committed to reversing the substantial erosion of civil liberties. I want a counter-terrorism regime that is proportionate, focused and transparent. We must ensure that in protecting public safety, the powers which we need to deal with terrorism are in keeping with Britain's traditions of freedom and fairness.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, used by town halls to spy on dog foulers and people suspected of cheating school catchment area rules, is likely to be scaled back. Councils will have to seek permission from a magistrate to use it, and only for serious crimes.

The stop and search of people without reasonable suspicion, which is already under an interim ban, is likely to be ditched.

The right to protest close to the House of Commons without prior police permission -restricted by the last government, is likely to be restored.


11th July   

iPhone Snitch App...

Highlighting some of the privacy dangers
Link Here

As Apple's iPhone grows in popularity, technology experts and US law enforcement agencies are devoting increasing efforts to understanding their potential for forensics investigators. While police have always tracked mobile users by locating their position via conventional mobile phone towers, iPhones offer far more information, say experts.

There are a lot of security issues in the design of the iPhone that lend themselves to retaining more personal information than any other device, said Jonathan Zdziarski, who teaches US law enforcers how to retrieve data from mobile phones.

Zdziarski told The Daily Telegraph he suspected that security had been neglected on the iPhone as it had been intended as a consumer product rather than a business one like rivals such as the Blackberry.

An example was the iPhone's keyboard logging cache, which was designed to correct spelling but meant that an expert could retrieve anything typed on the keyboard over the past three to 12 months, he said.

In addition, every time an iPhone's internal mapping system is closed down, the device snaps a screenshot of the phone's last position and stores it.

Investigators could access several hundred such images from the iPhone and so establish its user's whereabouts at certain times, he said.

In a further design feature that can also help detectives, iPhone photos include so-called geotags so that, if posted online, they indicate precisely where a picture was taken and the serial number of the phone that took it.


9th July   

Update: Liberty Wins...

UK police told to stop illegal stop and searches
Link Here

Police are to be stripped of the power to stop and search anyone for no reason, the Home Secretary has announced.

Theresa May told the Commons she will immediately limit Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 so members of public can only be stopped if officers reasonably suspect they are terrorists. The threshold of suspicion will bring the Act into line with traditional stop and search powers.

The move follows defeat for the UK government in January at the European Court of Human Rights. The court found that Section 44 violated the right to respect for private life; article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights.

May said: The Government cannot appeal this judgment although we would not have done so had we been able. I can therefore tell the House that I will not allow the continued use of Section 44 in contravention of the European Court's ruling and, more importantly, in contravention of our civil liberties.

Police use of Section 44 to stop individuals will no longer be allowed, although it will still apply to vehicles.

The legal challenge against Section 44 was brought by Liberty, the human rights charity, following the stop and search of a peace protestor and a journalist who were planning to attend a demonstration against a large arms fair in London in 2003.

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti hailed the withdrawal of the power today. It is a blanket and secretive power that has been used against school kids, journalists, peace protesters and a disproportionate number of young black men, she said: To our knowledge, it has never helped catch a single terrorist. This is a very important day for personal privacy, protest rights and race equality in Britain.


8th July   

Keeping Track...

Home Office consider regulation of CCTV
Link Here

Home Secretary Theresa May is calling for the police network of automatic number plate recognition cameras to be put under some form of regulation.

ANPR is used by all local police forces as well as Customs and Excise, SOCA and the MoD.

Some 4,045 fixed and mobile cameras contribute 10 million reports of motorist movements every day from England and Wales.

The database supports data mining for detailed tracking information.

Home Office minister James Brokenshire told the Observer: Both CCTV and ANPR can be essential tools in combating crime, but the growth in their use has been outside of a suitable governance regime. To ensure that these important technologies continue to command the support and confidence of the public and are used effectively, we believe that further regulation is required.

Options for regulation include:

  • Establishing the lawful right to collect and retain ANPR data for policing
  • Defining exactly how this information can be used for policing purposes
  • Limiting by whom and for how long ANPR data can be stored
  • Establishing who can have access to ANPR data and for what purposes
  • Enabling the bulk transfer of data between agencies and between the private sector and the police for agreed purposes
  • Making ANPR cameras transparent to the public, except when they're being used for covert surveillance
  • Establishing a means of redress around the use of ANPR data

Birmingham muslim spy camera scheme abandoned

Based on article from

There is quite rightly an ongoing furore in Birmingham over Project Champion - the network of spy cameras that has been installed there. 218 cameras ring a community, covering every route into a residential area, set up to automatically monitor those who enter and leave. A further 72 covert cameras are installed in the same area (a number which has grown significantly after Freedom of Information requests forced the authorities to come clean).

You will not be surprised to learn that the people who live in that community are mostly Muslim. In the form of Project Champion, hundreds of households are being singled out by the state for surveillance on the basis of (i) where they live and (ii) the god to whom they pray. Fortunately for us, the good people of Birmingham are not taking this lying down. They have protested and protested, and they have been heard.

The scheme has now been suspended pending a review. The authorities claimed that they suspended the scheme because they retrospectively realised that they should have held a local consultation. This is not true, of course. Local residents are never consulted on the erection of cameras in their areas (although as outlined in our manifesto, we believe that they should be). The scheme was stopped only because local residents made them stop.


7th July   

Land of the Not So Free...

Travel Passes Required in the USA
Link Here

At the Long Beach, California, airport, a 28 year-old married student, Halime Sat, tried to board a plane to Oakland. She was denied access. Ms. Sat, a resident of Corona, California, has suddenly been put on the government's no-fly list. She has no criminal record nor affiliation with any outlawed organization anywhere in the world. The only crime committed by this young German citizen, who is married to an American: Flying while Muslim.

Ms. Sat is one of a ten plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleging that thousands of people have been added to the no-fly list and barred from commercial travel, without any opportunity to learn about or refute the basis for their inclusion on the list. Plaintiffs in the case include a disabled U.S. Marine Corps veteran stranded in Egypt and a U.S. Army veteran stuck in Colombia.

Ms. Sat was only trying to fly from one place to another in the state where she is a permanent resident. Denying people such fundamental rights in complete secrecy and without due process is unconstitutional and un-American. They become pariahs, deemed unworthy to fly — but no one says why.

While Muslim residents like Ms. Sat are being kept off our nation's airlines, Latinos in the Southwest are worried about what might happen to them on the Arizona highways. The ACLU of Southern California is so concerned about what the Arizona police that they have issued a travel alert to educate Latinos (but not just Latinos) about the dangers of driving to Arizona.

The ACLU is distributing a cardboard pocket guide in Spanish and English, explaining what to do if people are stopped by the police in Arizona. I should say, our guide is for Latinos and those who look as if they might be Latino — because Arizona's new law gives police broad powers. They are required to investigate the immigration status of every person they come across whom they have reasonable suspicion to believe is in the country unlawfully. To avoid arrest, citizens and immigrants will effectively have to carry their papers at all times. The law also makes it a state crime for immigrants to willfully fail to register with the Department of Homeland Security and carry registration documents.

These powers are so broad, they've created a new Arizona-specific crime: Driving while Latino.


6th July   

Big Brother Obama...

US propose an (inevitably mandatory) ID token for online access
Link Here
Full story: Internet ID in USA...Snooping made easy

The White House has outlined a national strategy for trusted digital identities that could ultimately eliminate the username-and-password model and lay the groundwork for a nationwide federated identity infrastructure.

Howard Schmidt, cybersecurity coordinator and special assistant to the president, unveiled the administration's strategy for what he called an identity ecosystem for users and organizations to conduct online transactions securely and privately such that identities of all parties are trusted.

For example, no longer should individuals have to remember an ever-expanding and potentially insecure list of usernames and passwords to login into various online services. Through the strategy we seek to enable a future where individuals can voluntarily choose to obtain a secure, interoperable, and privacy-enhancing credential (e.g., a smart identity card, a digital certificate on their cell phone, etc) from a variety of service providers -- both public and private -- to authenticate themselves online for different types of transactions (e.g., online banking, accessing electronic health records, sending email, etc.), Schmidt blogged late last week.

The new National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace [pdf] (NSTIC) draft paper is open for public comment and input until July 19.

The paper, a product of the White House's cybersecurity policy review last year, was created with input from government agencies, business leaders, and privacy advocates. Among other things, it calls for designating a federal agency to lead the public-private sector efforts to implement the blueprint, and for the federal government to lead the way in the adoption of secure digital identities.

The Holy Grail of trusted online authentication -- a so-called high-assurance authentication vouching for the identity of a banking customer conducting a transaction online, for example -- has yet to take off. No one has stepped up to the plate to vouch for identities ... a Bank of America or a high-assurance provider to make all of this work, says Gartner's Avivah Litan, adding we may never get systems in the U.S. to say an online user is who he or she says he is, she adds. They may not want to assume the liability and pay you if they are wrong, she says.


4th July   

Update: Police Won't Stop...

UK police to continue making illegal stop and searches
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A Big Brother stop and search power which has been used by police to harass hundreds of thousands of innocent people will remain in force despite being ruled illegal.

The news that police may continue to search members of the public without having any reasonable grounds for suspicion provoked fury among civil liberties campaigners.

The power - section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 - has been ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights.

The Home Office now has no remaining grounds for appeal. But, despite the crushing Strasbourg defeat, officials say they will not stop the police from using the power for months or even a year or more.

In the meantime, tourists, photographers and other members of the public will continue to be subjected to the humiliating searches - of which 256,000 were carried out last year, without catching a single terrorist.

Isabella Sankey, policy director for the campaign group Liberty, said: The objectionable policy of broad stop and search without suspicion was wrong in principle and divisive and counterproductive in practice.

The Lib Dems and Tories now say that they want to wait until a review of all Labour's draconian anti-terror laws has been completed before deciding what to do next. Ministers are given a period of grace by the European court to implement its ruling which, based on previous examples, can last for up to a year, or even longer. Enlarge High-profile victims of terror legislation


1st July   

Update: Haw Law...

Boris Johnson inflicts considerable damage on British freedom
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The High Court has triggered sharp criticism from civil liberties campaigners by approving the eviction of peaceful demonstrators from Parliament Square. The ruling follows a legal challenge brought by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Green Party politician Jenny Jones, a member of the Greater London Assembly said that the eviction was at the cost of democracy .

The Christian activist Brian Haw has camped outside Parliament since 2001, when he began to campaign against the war in Afghanistan. Other peace activists have joined the camp since then, with the numbers rising this year. The site has become known as Democracy Village .

The judge, Griffith Williams, ruled that the protesters must leave the Square by 4.00pm on Friday (3 July). The terms of his ruling mean that Brian Haw may continue to use a tent there, but only with the Mayor's permission. The judge warned Johnson that he is expected at least to consider Haw's request before enforcing his removal.

Johnson claims that the campaigners have caused considerable damage . But Jenny Jones insisted that, The lack of police presence showed that the protesters were not causing a problem .


1st July   

Update: Still Illegal...

UK Government appeal against stop and search European Court decision denied
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The European court of human rights has rejected an attempt by the UK government to appeal a judgment over its stop-and-search powers.

The decision means that a January 2010 court judgement which found section 44 of the Terrorism Act to be illegal is final.

This appeal was always doomed, said Isabella Sankey, director of policy for Liberty: The objectionable policy of broad stop and search without suspicion was wrong in principle and has proven divisive and counterproductive in practice.

The original court judgement in the case of Gillan and Quinton v the United Kingdom found that section 44 violated the right to respect for private life guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights.

In April 2010 the government requested that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber - a request which has now been denied.

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