Customers adopting standard privacy
protection to buy a bottle of beer
Bottles of alcohol should be tagged so adults buying drink for under-18s can be traced by police, a Labour MSP has said. Under the scheme, bottles would bear a printed barcode enabling authorities to track whether legally bought alcohol has been
given to youngsters.
The scheme, which is already being piloted in areas of Dundee, involves the police seizing alcohol from under-18s and then using the coded bottle labels to trace where the drink was bought from.
Officers then use CCTV from the shop to identify who bought the drink - whether it was an adult or an under-age customer being illegally sold it. Customers are even easier to trace if they use store cards.
Labour's Orwellian sounding 'community safety' spokesman James Kelly wants to roll out the scheme to other parts of the country and says the Scottish Government should encourage licensing boards to sign up to the initiative.
Although the scheme aims to catch shops selling alcohol to under-age customers, it is also used to target proxy purchases - adults buying drink on behalf of minors.
Those caught supplying alcohol to those under the age of 18 would be reported to the procurator-fiscal and could be hit with a fine of up to £5,000 or a prison sentence.
The scheme is understood to cost less than £100 per shop to run and authoritarians claim it would reduce alcohol-fuelled antisocial behaviour in areas with under-age drinking problems.
Labour's ID cards were officially trashed when the Bill to abolish them received Royal Assent.
The few thousand cards that people bought voluntarily will be cancelled within a month.
In addition, the database holding the biographic information and biometric fingerprint data of cardholders, known as the National Identity Register, will be physically destroyed within two months.
The ID card scheme was symbolic of the last administration's obsession with control and nannying. It was put up as a panacea, capable of preventing everything from benefit fraud and illegal immigration to terrorism and organised crime.
Best thing that ever
happened to this country
Last January, Annabel Hayter, chairwoman of Gloucester Cathedral Flower Guild, received an email saying that she and her 60 fellow flower arrangers would have to undergo a CRB check. CRB stands for Criminal Records Bureau,
and a CRB check is a time-consuming, sometimes expensive, pretty much always pointless vetting procedure that you must go through if you work with children or vulnerable adults .
The cathedral authorities expected no resistance. Though the increasing demand for ever tighter safety regulation has become one of the biggest blights on Britain today, we are all strangely supine: frightened not to comply.
Not so Annabel Hayter. I am not going to do it, she said. And her act of rebellion sparked a mini-revolution among the other cathedral flower ladies.
Spokeo.com is a US website linking a phone directory with a search engine to identify people via their personal information.
It draws together your contact details (including your phone number, e-mail and postal address), information about your personal wealth, your spouse and any social networks you might be a member of. In compiling the data, the website searches
databases including phone books, marketing surveys, business databases, ecommerce stores, and other public databases .
Our supported wrote:
I entered my name and saw all this personal information: photos, my wife's name, and the scariest part--a photo of my house from Google Street View! This is certainly unsettling
In light of this, I decided to investigate the profile details of friends. After typing in their names and clicking on the search result for the town in which they live, I was able to find out detailed personal information
about them that I had only learned of after staying with them in their home.
Spokeo was able to tell me that they lived in a single house built in 2004, the estimated value of their home, the fact they have children and both of their star signs. Further to this, I could also find out that they own
an RV (a camper van), have cats, are collectors and enjoy travelling. Alongside all this information was a photograph of the isolated plot of land their home is located on - a clear gift to any burglar looking to research access routes to and
from a home in order to steal the aforementioned collectables and vehicles. Upon payment of a further fee, I could have accessed information about their personal wealth level, political affiliations and religion.
This website is currently only operating in the United States, but it has plans to extend overseas
The Home Office is scrambling to close loopholes in wiretapping law, revealed by the Phorm affair, ahead of a potentially costly court case against the European Commission.
It is proposing new powers that would punish even unintentional illegal interception by communications providers.
Officials in Brussels are suing the government following public complaints about BT's secret trials of Phorm's web interception and profiling technology, and about the failure of British authorities to take any action against either firm.
The government has now issued a consultation document proposing changes to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) that will mean customer consent for interception of their communications must be freely given, specific and informed
, in line with European law. RIPA currently allows interception where there is only reasonable grounds for believing consent is given.
The Home Office
consultation document has been published with an unusually short period for public response closing 7 December.
Google committed a significant breach of data protection laws when its Street View cars mistakenly collected people's email addresses and passwords over unsecured WiFi networks, the Information Commissioner has ruled. However, the
company escaped a fine and was asked only to promise not to do it again.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said Google had broken the law when devices installed on its specialised cars collected the personal data. He told the company to delete the information as soon as it is legally cleared to do so and ordered an audit of its data protection practices.
Google admitted in May that it had collected payload data – information transmitted over a network when users log on – and said it was acutely aware it had failed to earn the public's trust over the incident. In a post
published on its official blog on 22 September, the company admitted that in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords .
Graham said: It is my view that the collection of this information was not fair or lawful and constitutes a significant breach of the first principle of the Data Protection Act: The most appropriate and proportionate regulatory action in these
circumstances is to get written legal assurance from Google that this will not happen again. He added that it would be followed with an Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) audit.
Alex Deane, director of the civil liberties blog Big Brother Watch, said: The Information Commissioner's failure to take action is disgraceful. Ruling that Google has broken the law but taking no action against it shows the Commissioner to be
a paper tiger. The Commissioner is an apologist for the worst offender in his sphere of responsibility, not a policeman of it.
The government has announced that it will be spending up to £2 billion into new ways to snoop on email and web traffic.
This Kafka-esque Intercept Modernisation Plan , was stopped near the end of the last government, but was quietly revived in the 2010 Spending Review. While billions of pounds are being slashed from education, welfare and defence, the
government plans to waste vast sums trying to snoop on our emails and Facebook communications.
We need to tell the government to stop this wasteful, intrusive plan for wholesale snooping on our daily lives.
Cambridge firm Audio Analytic announced that they have developed a new form of audio scanner attached to CCTV cameras which is able to analyse the pitch, tone and intonation of noises and work out if they pose a threat .
While Audio Analytic claim the hardware will only flag-up audible examples of aggression, it must surely follow that for such technology to be effective it must monitor all conversations in its vicinity?
Chris Mitchell, Audio Analytic's boss, on BBC World Service's Digital Planet said that he software goes beyond simply placing microphones onto cameras and listening in. By feeding hundreds of sample sounds into the system, the software can
distinguish different threats from various sounds - and not just based on volume.
We don't work with volume at all in the system because it's so related to how far somebody is from the microphone that it's not a useful metric. Our system picks out the most salient characteristics. These are things related to pitch, tone,
Essentially, Mitchell explained, the software contains hundreds of audio fingerprints, and as soon as a sound resembles a stored sample, the alarm is raised.
Rotterdam City Council have announced the roll-out of facial recognition scanners on their public transport network.
According to DutchNews.nl:
The scanners will record the biometric features of passengers as they enter the tram. If a passenger with a public transport ban is spotted, an alarm will sound in the driver's cabin and the passenger will be removed.. At the moment, drivers
are issued with photos of banned passengers and have to recognise them from these
No doubt the information will also be available to the police and security services too.
For the moment there are no plans yet for Amsterdam so one can still visit the red light area without a permanent entry recording this on your official records.
No doubt it will make interesting reading for the authorities to also record who people are traveling with. There could be a lucrative market for such information from the likes of marital investigators.
Earlier this month the Pentagon announced a new effort to build a system aimed at allowing it to scan billions of communications in order to detect anomalies in people's behavior that will predict who is about to snap and turn into a
homicidal maniac — or, perhaps, leak damaging documents to a reporter.
Citing the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to try to identify, before they happen, malevolent actions
by insiders within the military.
The new project is called ADAMS, for Anomaly Detection at Multiple Scales, and anyone who remembers the battles over the Bush Administration's Total Information Awareness (TIA) program may be experiencing a major flashback right about now.
TIA, also a DARPA project, was based on a vision of pulling together as much information as possible about as many people as possible into an ultra-large-scale database, making that information available to government officials, and
sorting through it to try to identify terrorists. Eventually shut down by Congress, it was probably the closest thing to a truly comprehensive monitor-everyone Big Brother program that has ever been seriously contemplated in the United
States. And many of the problems with TIA are equally present with this ADAMS project.
In a landmark parliamentary debate on internet privacy, Members of Parliament launched a stinging attack on Google for its harvesting of sensitive personal information by its Street View vehicles.
Given the number of contributions this afternoon from Members of Parliament across the political divide, Google must now sit up and take notice of the numerous concerns amongst parliamentarians in relation to the company's reckless approach to
Ed Vaizey MP, the minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with responsibility for internet issues, indicated that he would be speaking to Google as a matter of urgency to convey the concerns of Members.
It is a great shame that the Metropolitan Police have let Google off the hook when it comes to launching a criminal investigation into the company's conduct. The puts the ball very much back into the Information Commissioner's court. Thus far the
Commissioner has been an apologist for the worst offenders in his sphere of responsibility, not a policeman of them. Following on from today's debate, let's hope that he now shows some teeth and punishes Google for their wrongdoing.
Attorneys on Monday accused Google of intentionally divulging millions of users' search queries to third parties in violation of federal law and its own terms of service.
The complaint, filed in federal court in San Jose, California, challenges Google's longstanding practice of including search terms in HTTP referrer headers, which are easily readable by websites that users click on. It claims Google has
repeatedly experimented with systems that keep search terms private but has has never rolled them out because it has a vested interest in sharing the information with third parties, including search engine optimization services.
Lists that identify the titles of books, music, and movies purchased by Amazon.com customers are protected by Free Speech rights guaranteed by the US Constitution, a federal judge has ruled.
The landmark ruling by US District Judge Marsha J. Pechman of Seattle, was a sharp rebuke of North Carolina's DOR, or Department of Revenue, which in December ordered Amazon to turn over sales data for all customers with a shipping address within
the state who made purchases from 2003 to 2010. Amazon, which says it has conducted almost 50 million transactions with North Carolina residents during that time, filed suit in April arguing that request threatened anyone who may have bought
controversial or sensitive titles.
Judge Pechman agreed: The First Amendment protects a buyer from having the expressive content of her purchase of books, music, and audiovisual materials disclosed to the government, she wrote in a ruling: Citizens are entitled to
receive information and ideas through books, films, and other expressive materials anonymously. The fear of government tracking and censoring one's reading, listening, and viewing choices chills the exercise of First Amendment rights.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which joined the case on behalf of several Amazon customers, hailed the decision: This ruling is a victory for privacy and free speech on the internet, a legal director for the organization said in a
statement. The court has emphasized what other courts have found before – that government officials cannot watch over our shoulders to see what we are buying and reading.
There's been a great deal of coverage in the last day or so of Firesheep, a plugin for Firefox that lets you take over the Facebook and Twitter accounts of others on your local network. If you use Firesheep, you can pick one of the people on,
say, the same open wireless at your nearby cafe, and then easily view, delete, and add comments using their name on these sites.
As Firesheep illustrates, the degree of network trust may be a poor assumption when you're sitting in a café full of strangers. But for many journalists working in authoritarian regimes, trusting potential listeners is a poor assumption at any
time, even when you're using a private Internet connection or a mobile phone. The phone company or Internet service provider you use may have close links to parties with an interest in monitoring or masquerading as you. They may well have far
more sophisticated tools than Firesheep in their repertoire.
British police have apologized for a counterterrorism project that installed surveillance cameras in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods, saying that although the cameras had never been switched on, the program had damaged trust and caused anger
in the community.
The surveillance program, which saw more than 200 CCTV cameras and number plate recognition devices put up in parts of Birmingham, was conceived in 2007 after a series of terrorist plots were uncovered in the city.
Residents complained that they were not consulted about the program, and civil liberties groups protested that the measures were heavy-handed.
An independent review conducted by Thames Valley Police, in southern England, criticized police in central England for the camera program. The review found little evidence of thought being given to compliance with the legal or regulatory
framework before the cameras were put up.
West Midlands Police constable Chris Sims said authorities had made a mistake in not considering the impact of the cameras in intruding into people's privacy: I am sorry that we got such an important issue so wrong and deeply sorry that it has
had such a negative impact on our communities .
West Midlands Police is facing legal action if it does not remove all cameras controversially put up in largely Muslim areas of Birmingham.
More than 200 covert and overt cameras were installed in Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, paid for with government money to tackle terrorism.
The force made unlikely sounding claims that the covert ones had been removed after uproar from residents.
Liberty plans to start a judicial review if there is no commitment made to remove the rest within two weeks.
The £3m scheme, called Project Champion, saw cameras being put up by the Safer Birmingham Project (SBP), made up of the city council, police and agencies in the Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook districts. They can record pictures and number plates
of every car that goes in or out of the areas.
Last month Chief Constable Chris Sims apologised after an independent report into what happened said the force showed little evidence of thought being given to compliance with the legal or regulatory framework before the cameras were put
up. Sims said none of cameras had ever been used and the remaining cameras had been covered with bags until after discussion with a new project board with a strong community representation .
But Liberty said it wanted assurances all the cameras would be removed otherwise it would pursue legal proceedings in the High Court. Corinna Ferguson, legal officer with Liberty, said: It is baffling that West Midlands Police are still trying
to salvage this unlawful discriminatory scheme. These cameras are useless for everyday policing and must be removed immediately if badly damaged relations are to be repaired.
More than 200 cameras targeted at Muslim suburbs of Birmingham as part of a secret counter-terrorism initiative are to be dismantled.
The West Midlands police chief constable, Chris Sims, said he believed all cameras installed as part of the £3m surveillance initiative should be taken down to rebuild trust with local Muslims.
The scheme, Project Champion, was shelved less than six months ago when an investigation by the Guardian revealed police had misled residents into believing the cameras were to be used to combat vehicle crime and antisocial behaviour.
In fact, the CCTV and automatic number plate reading (ANPR) cameras were installed as part of a programme run by the force's counter-terrorism unit with the consent of the Home Office and MI5.
Police failed to obtain statutory clearance for around a third of the cameras, which were covert.
In a statement, Sims said: I believe that the support and the confidence of local communities in West Midlands police is the most important thing for us in the fight against crime and terrorism. We can fight crime and the threat posed by
terrorism far more effectively by working hand in hand with local people, rather than alienating them through a technological solution which does not have broad community support.
Sims made no reference to the legal action he would have faced if he let the scheme continue. The civil rights organisation Liberty wrote to the force last week, threatening to commence judicial review proceedings at the high court unless the
force agreed within 14 days to dismantle the full surveillance infrastructure .
Today's recommendation was backed by the police authority and will not be put to a project board set up in August to take over management of the cameras. The board, which was recently told almost all members of its advisory group wanted the
cameras dismantled, is unlikely to object when it meets on Thursday.
A Birmingham council scrutiny committee has released its own report, finding senior police officers guilty of deliberately misleading councillors over the purpose of the scheme.
One of the longest running campaigns of Big Brother Watch came to a conclusion this week as the final camera of the ill-fated Project Champion was removed in Birmingham.
Big Brother Watch have been following this story for over a year now, ever since the 218 camera network was installed in Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, predominantly Muslim areas of the city. There were constant suspicions that the project was
based on racial profiling and the financial backing came from the counter-terrorism unit.
Google's collection of personal data as part of its Street View project has been branded a serious violation of privacy laws.
The Canadian privacy commissioner found that the incident was the result of an engineer's careless error , which saw rogue code accidentally added to Street View software.
It has called on Google to tighten up its privacy rules by February or face further action.
Google apologised: We are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted networks .
As soon as we realised what had happened, we stopped collecting all wi-fi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities.
It follows the conclusion of an investigation by the Canadian privacy commissioner, Jenny Stoddart: Our investigation shows that Google did capture personal information - and, in some cases, highly sensitive personal information such as
complete e-mails, e-mail addresses, usernames and passwords. This incident was a serious violation of Canadians' privacy rights .
The snooping code was incorporated in the Google Street View cars when the firm decided to collect information about the location of public wi-fi spots in order to feed this information into its location-based services database.
The Commissioner recommended that Google enhance its privacy training among all employees. It also called on Google to ensure that it has the necessary procedures to protect privacy before products are launched. It must also delete all the
Canadian data it collected. If Google complies with these demands, it will face no further action, Ms Stoddart said.
Hugely controversial Big Brother plans to store details of every internet click, email and telephone call that we make are being revived by the Coalition, it has emerged.
Police, security services and other public bodies would be able to find out which websites a person had visited, and when, where and to whom a text or call was made.
The plan – which was kicked into the long grass by Labour amid a public outcry – will put the Government on a collision course with civil liberties groups.
They argue it is a snooper's charter which will allow the state to spy on millions of innocent citizens.
So far ministers have insisted they want to provide a correction in favour of liberty when it comes to the powers required to protect the public. But this is sounding pretty weak now ministers have been persuaded of the case to give the
police and security officials enhanced rights to access the public's communications.
Firm plans will be published later this year on how the personal information should be stored.
Skim through the photos on Flickr or Photobucket, and you'll find pictures of holiday conquests and illicit fun.
Dig a little deeper, and you can unearth the exact locations of many of those places, embedded in data within the pictures.
Images often contain a bundle of information and various traces left by phone cameras, digital cameras or photo manipulation software.
This data, called Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) details whether the photographer used a flash, which digital effects were applied to a picture and when the photo was taken.
EXIF can also contain the precise GPS coordinates for where a photo was taken. This information is readily accessible and can be plugged into software such as Google Maps -- leading some security and photography experts to express concerns about
amateurs unknowingly disclosing private information, such as the location of their home.
Thomas Hawk, an active Flickr user and the former chief executive of competing photo site Zooomr, said: I think it's a huge concern. I think a lot of people don't realize or recognize what's in all of the EXIF data that they're publishing.
Many smartphones, such as those from Apple and Google's Android system, let users employ this location feature. Apple's and Google's systems ask each user once or a few times for permission to access their location in order to provide additional
services. If they click OK on that popup, every photo they take is tagged with GPS coordinates.
Judging by the abundance of pictures in Flickr's database that include geolocation data in the EXIF, some smartphone owners aren't thinking twice about opting into their devices' GPS feature. Doing so can facilitate useful tools. For example,
software like iPhoto and Picasa can group images by location and display them on a map.
But amateur photographers may not realize that this info stays with the image when it's uploaded to Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa Web Albums and some other photo-sharing services. (Facebook says it strips the EXIF data from all photos to protect
its users' privacy.)
Users who don't want their photos tagged with GPS data can either disable the option on their cameras or run the images through software, such as Photoshop, that can remove the EXIF.
Censorship by photo-copier is here. Canon's new Uniflow 5 software can prevent users from printing, scanning, faxing, or copying documents containing specific words, such as project names or client names.
The system naturally requires a Uniflow print server and Uniflow-enabled Canon imaging devices. In addition to blocking the function, the print server will email the administrator a PDF copy of the document in question, as well as optionally
sending the end user an email informing him that his job has been blocked. It will not, however, identify the keyword causing the fault, which keeps the list of blocked keywords secret.
A website that pays the public to monitor live commercial CCTV footage has been criticised by civil liberties campaigners.
Internet Eyes says it offers up to £1,000 to online subscribers who can spot crimes as they happen and click an alert button to notify the business owner.
All too often criminals get away with crime because, although their activity is monitored by CCTV, it is not observed at the time of the offence but only later on reviewing the footage when it is too late to stop commission of the crime, said a spokesman for the company.
Any company wanting to have its CCTV systems wired up to the site will have to pay a subscription and viewers who sign up can see the images on their screens. More than 13,000 people have indicated their interest and more are expected to join
once it has launched. The cameras are based in stores across the UK, but the rewards are open to anyone from the EU.
However, civil liberties campaigners say the idea encourages people to spy on each other. They urged anyone affected to contact us with a view to legal action .
Charles Farrier, of No CCTV, said: This is the privatisation of the surveillance society - a private company asking private individuals to spy on each other using private cameras connected to the internet. Internet Eyes must be challenged.
He said he feared people would upload copies of the live stream to file-sharing networks.
The government is considering bringing back a version of the controversial ContactPoint children's database, just months after the original project was halted.
The ContactPoint database project was launched by the previous Labour government, but the Tories vowed to scrap it if they won power, on the grounds that it was a potential security risk to children.
After the election the coalition government announced it was pulling the plugs on the project, but now a parliamentary written answer, indicates they are having second thoughts and are considering a streamlined version of the database.
Tim Loughton, junior minister for children and families, admitted, We are exploring the practicality of an alternative national signposting service which would help practitioners find out whether a colleague elsewhere is
working, or has previously worked, with the same vulnerable child. The approach would particularly take account of the needs of children who move between local authority areas or who access services in more than one local authority.
Social workers in particular, and potentially other key services like the police or accident and emergency departments, may need this information very quickly. Any new approach would seek to strengthen communication between
Loughton said it was important that information held on the new database was kept to a minimum, to allow effective identification of the individuals involved.
The European Commission is suing the UK government over authorities' failure to take any action in response to BT's secret trials of Phorm's behavioural advertising technology.
The Commission alleges the UK is failing to meet its obligations under the Data Protection Directive and the ePrivacy Directive.
The action follows 18 months of letters back and forth between Whitehall and Brussels. The Commssion demanded changes to UK law that have not been made, so it has now referred the case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
Specifically, European officials firstly charge that contrary to the ePrivacy Directive there is no UK authority to regulate interception of communications by private companies.
Secondly, the European Commission says the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which sanctions commercial interception when a company has reasonable grounds for believing consent has been given, does not offer strong enough
protection to the public. The City of London police dropped their investigation of the Phorm trial, claiming BT had reasonable grounds to believe it had customers' consent.
European law says consent for interception must be freely given, specific and informed indication of a person's wishes . BT did not obtain, or attempt to obtain, such consent to include customers' internet traffic in its testing.
Finally, the Commission says the provisions of RIPA that outlaw only intentional interception are also inadequate. EU law requires Members States to prohibit and to ensure sanctions against any unlawful interception regardless of
whether committed intentionally or not, it said.
If the government loses the case, it faces fines of millions of pounds per day until it brings UK law in line with European law.