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Nigel Waters's picture

Nigel Waters has previously represented Privacy International at APEC Data Privacy Subgroup meetings, on one occasion with PI having official guest status, otherwise indirectly through membership of the Australian delegation. On this occasion, expenses were paid by USAid for participation in the technical assistance seminar, and this allowed attendance at the other meetings.

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Dr Gus Hosein's picture

Not since the 1990s has the internet been so exciting. With its use by political activists and journalists around the world, we can now again entertain the discussions that the internet brings freedom. Digital data traverses routers with little regard to national boundaries and so traditional constraints not longer apply. So it is no surprise that protestors on the streets of Tehran or Cairo are using the internet to organise. We like to believe in the freedom of the internet again, after the rush of "freedom" in the 1990s was replaced with "free downloads" provided by file-sharing and "free services" provided by internet companies.

Our dreamy thoughts of freedom are roughly awoken when these political activists and journalists are hunted down by their governments, imprisoned or worse. Could this wonderful internet actually make these political movements vulnerable? Indeed, it does and it is our fault. Our technologies are intentionally designed with vulnerabilities embedded within, as we design our technologies for ease of use rather than caution and protection.

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Dr Gus Hosein's picture

For the past couple of months we have been discussing with Google their transparency plans regarding governments accessing data held by Google. Last week Google released initial data on how many requests for data were coming from which governments.

We congratulate Google on this first step, and we believe that by seeking answers to some additional questions, greater clarity may yet emerge. Of course we have many more questions. We hope that this is the first step in an ongoing dialogue with Google on these matters, and we hope that other companies disclose useful information to the public.

Q: Why are you doing this?

A: We have been thinking about doing this sort of reporting for some time. We believe that transparency will give people insight into these kinds of government requests. Historically, information like this has not been broadly available. We hope this tool will be helpful in discussions about the appropriate scope and authority of government requests and that other companies will make similar disclosures.

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Privacy International's picture

Last week the German Federal Constitutional Court overturned a law on the retention of telecommunications data for law enforcement purposes, stating that it posed a "grave intrusion" to personal privacy and must be revised. In their ruling the judges found that the law stands in contradiction to the basic right of private correspondence and does not protect the principle of proportionality, as it fails to balance the need to provide security with the right to privacy. All data on telephone calls, email and internet traffic as well as on the location of mobile phones that have so far been stored by telecommunication providers have to be deleted immediately.

According to the Federal Constitutional Court the communications retention law does not provide adequate protection of personal data and it does not make sufficiently clear what it would be used for. The case was originally brought to the court in 2008, by a record number of almost 35.000 people, including the current Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser –Schnarrenberger.

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Privacy International's picture

Privacy International and EPIC praised a vote today in the European Parliament today that rejected the transfer of finacial records to the United States under an interim agreement. A resolution to reject the deal passed 378-16, with 31 abstentions. Members of the parliament stated the proposed agreement lacked adequate privacy safeguards, and was a disproportionat response to US concerns about terrorism that also lacked reciprocity.

Simon Davies, Director General of Privacy International in London, said that the vote offered hope that political insitutions could respond effectively to new privacy challanges.

"It has taken several years to gather the political will to stop this massive violation of privacy in Europe. But today is a very good day, a milestone in the long history of privacy campaigning.

Mr. Davies acknowledged the leading role of European Parliament Member and rapporteur Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert. In recommending that the proposal negotiated by the European Council be rejected, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert stated, "Council has not been tough enough on data protection."

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Dr Gus Hosein's picture

The Active Millimeter Wave body scanners that airport security officials plan to use in greater numbers after a failed attempt to explode a bomb in a plane over Detroit raise troubling questions about passenger privacy, and ultimately the technology’s utility as a security measure.

While Privacy International supports the adoption of measures that will genuinely protect the security of passengers, we are deeply concerned that airport and security authorities increasingly deploy fashionable and unproven technology or intrusive measures on the basis of one-off security breaches. Allowing our security to be determined by knee-jerk responses is dangerous and counter-productive.

The jury is still out on whether this technology has any overall security value. A four-year trial at London’s Heathrow Airport that ended last year resulted in a decision to discontinue using the scanners.

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Privacy International's picture

Following an extensive campaign by Privacy International and our network of groups in the United Kingdom, the UK Government has decided to abandon its current plans for data sharing legislation.

The government has announced that it will immediately abandon clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill, following on from an open letter that Privacy International sent to the Justice Secretary earlier this week.

As the Sunday Telegraph observed, the eloquence of the letter together with the remarkable diversity of signatories was central to the government’s U-turn.

A number of organisations, including Privacy International, held discussions with senior advisers to Jack Straw in the latter half of last week, culminating in the government’s decision.

Of course the reversal is likely to be temporary as the Government considers how to consult and reintroduce its plans in future legislation.

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Privacy International's picture

Many of Britain's leading professional bodies have joined Privacy International and colleague NGOs to call for the complete withdrawal of the controversial clause 152 data-sharing powers. An open letter signed by thirty organisations ranging from Liberty, to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, to the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association condemns the new powers as a dangerous threat to privacy, and has demanded the removal of the clause from the Coroners & Justice Bill. The text of the letter is below.
 

Dear Mr Straw,

We are writing with regard to clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill that provides for amendment of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) to enable ‘information sharing’ of data if approved by an Order made by a Minister.

This new power is without precedent, and carries substantial implications for data protection and for the rights of individuals. We wish to set out our concerns and to seek answers to a number of troubling questions.

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Privacy International's picture

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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Dr Gus Hosein's picture

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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