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At the request of the Civil Initiative on Internet Policy, a Kyrgyz public foundation, Privacy International participated in an international conference on Internet and Law in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

The event was organized in response to proposals for a new data retention law and content regulation of the Internet and was attended by government officials, journalists, legal experts, and representatives of the telecommunications industry.

Kyrgyzstan adopted a data protection law only in April 2008. Given that this privacy legislation is relatively recent and has not yet been fully tested, there is a growing public concern that additional regulatory intervention, such as the introduction of data retention law, might be premature and inappropriate. This conference thus aimed to provide a platform for an open public debate. Relevant international practices were also discussed in order to inform the debate.

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Two months ago, the UK Borders Agency began fingerprinting foreign children over six years old, from outside the European Economic Area and resident in Britain. At the time Jacqui Smith was congratulated for her tough line on issuing identity cards to foreign residents and no one, not even parliament, noticed that the biometric requirements applied to children of six. And parliament didn't know because it was never asked to approve the policy.

Nowhere in the world are you more powerless than at a border. As a foreigner you also enjoy far fewer rights than locals. Do you think these children or their parents dare to speak up against the bureaucracy of the UK Borders Agency? In fact, no one has called the Borders Agency to account. Home Office officials I have talked to outside the agency were shocked that official government policy is now to fingerprint children.

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Under the Terrorism Act 2000, police agencies in the UK have the power to stop and search within ‘security zones’ as established under order by the Home Secretary. Since February 2001, London has been designated as a security zone.

When this power was used in 2003 at a London protest against the arms trade, the protestors appealed to the courts on privacy grounds. The UK House of Lords ruled that although a stop and search in public was possibly an interference under Article 8(1) of the ECHR, it was proportionate when seeking to counter the 'great danger of terrorism'1 and in search of items in connection with terrorism. The only safeguard imagined by the Justices was that the officers are 'trained appropriately'.

The ECtHR reiterated that stop and search was an interference with the right to privacy under Article 8 of the ECHR. But it completely disagreed with the UK Government and with the House of Lords judgement.

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Privacy International's recent complaint to the UK Information Commissioner has threatened to bring to a halt an imminent plan to fingerprint all domestic and international passengers departing from Heathrow's Terminal 1 and Terminal 5, due to begin on March 27th. The British media is reporting that in response to PI's complaint, the Information Commissioner has advised that passengers should only accept fingerprinting "under protest" until our complaint is resolved.

The prospect of a complete shutdown of two Heathrow terminals has emerged since Privacy International's complaint about passenger fingerprinting. The complaint, lodged with the UK Information Commissioner on March 9th 2008, argues that the scheme breaches the fundamental tests of necessity and proportionality under the UK Data Protection Act.

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Privacy International has briefed the UK House of Commons Treasury subcommittee on the risks to UK census data if a company with a US data centre is called on to run the census. Under weak US laws on safeguarding personal information, the UK census data could be abused without any knowledge of the UK government.

We filed a letter with the subcommittee to respond to the government minister's claims to the Commons that the government had no concerns about the US government gaining access to the personal records of UK citizens because there were adequate legal arrangements in place. This position contradicts years of evidence showing otherwise.

In our Memorandum, drafted with our partner organisation the American Civil Liberties Union, we answered the following question: "How secure is the personal information of UK citizens in light of the USA PATRIOT Act and the limited privacy protections of the United States?".

A summary of our conclusions is available below, while the full analysis is available here.

The security of British personal information is generally based on where it is located and who controls it.

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The European Commission is about to announce the compulsory fingerprinting of all visitors to the EU, both visa holders and non-visa holders, along with automated border checks of EU nationals through the analysis of fingerprints and facial scans.

The Communication from December 2007, available here on the PI site, outlines the plans. Below we summarise the plans. Also see PI's commentary in the Guardian CommentisFree section from February 11, 2008.

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Together with a coalition with 18 Japanese rights groups, Privacy International today delivered a letter to the Japanese Minister of Justice to protest against the implementation of a fingerprinting system and face-scanning system at its borders. All visitors and many foreign residents to Japan will be fingerprinted under this plan. Our letter to the Minister is endorsed by 68 organisations from 30 countries. In our letter, we show that there are numerous problems with the government's plans. On top of infringing the rights to privacy of all visitors to Japan, the Japanese will run the risk of repeating the mistakes encountered by the US government in its border management systems that have lead to serious technology and management failures. We call on the Minister to reconsider their plans for treating business visitors and tourists as though they are terrorists.

 

Dear Minister Hatoyama

Regarding plans to fingerprint and face-scan all visitors to Japan

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Privacy International and the American Civil Liberties Union have appealed to the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, the European Parliament, and privacy commissioners in 31 countries across Europe to repeal the agreement between the EU and the US on passenger data transfers. We argue that, with the recent disclosure of the 'Automated Targeting System' being used by the US Department of Homeland Security, the US has violated both American law and the agreement with the EU by using European passenger data for creating a 'risk assessment score', and retaining this data for 40 years.

Background on 'ATS'

According to recently disclosed documentation from the Department of Homeland Security and its Customs and Border Protection branch (CBP), see

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At its last session on November 21st and 22nd 2006, the Article 29 Working Party has again been dealing with the SWIFT case and has unanimously adopted Opinion 128 on its findings in this case.

In this Opinion, the Article 29 Working Party emphasizes that even in the fight against terrorism and crime fundamental rights must remain guaranteed. The Article 29 Working Party insists therefore on the respect of global data protection principles.

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Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., a prominent defence and intelligence consulting and engineering firm, has been hired as an outside "independent" auditor of the CIA and Treasury Department's Terrorist Finance Tracking Program ("TFTP"), which monitors banking transactions made through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). Though Booz Allen's role is to verify that the access to the SWIFT data is not abused, its relationship with the U.S. Government calls its objectivity significantly into question. Booz Allen is one of the largest U.S. Government contractors, with hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. Government contracts awarded each year. Booz Allen has a history of working closely with U.S. Government agencies on electronic surveillance, including the Total Information Awareness program. Among Booz Allen's senior consulting staff are several former members of the intelligence community, including a former Director of the C.I.A. and a former director of the N.S.A.

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