Friday, October 03, 2008

NHS Connecting for Health (CFH) public consultation

NHS Connecting for Health (CFH) are conducting a public consultation about sharing medical data for research and other purposes. I've filled it in in a bit of a hurry since I'm buried in various things again but I'm hoping the consultation gets a large and informed response.

At several points the survey claims that patients have no legal right to control information they have given the NHS about themselves once it has been anonymised. Thanks to Nicholas Bohm via the ORG list for pointing out that as a matter of law this claim is false. Information given in confidence may not be used or disclosed except for the purpose for which it was supplied unless the person supplying the information gives their consent.

The consultation also contains several underlying questionable assumptions. It talks about data being held in sealed envelopes. AFAIK these electronic sealed envelopes still don't exist and some of the proposed versions of them are not very secure. Richard Clayton and Ross Anderson at Cambridge University would be the people to check that with. The consultation also seems to seriously underestimate the real practical complexities of securing large amounts of medical data across a range of big networked databases.

They are suggesting setting up an office of an "Information Custodian" essentially to manage the sharing of medical data for a variety of purposes and "some of the tasks the Information Cusotdian might do" would be:

• manage the way patient data is anonymised
• link data from different sources using a code and then remove the identifiers
• perform data quality checks
• receive applications from researchers and others who want to use patient data and decide which ones to allow

I noted some concerns about this in my own rushed response:

"The idea of setting up such an office, the purpose of which is to be responsible for making patient data available for uses other than patient care, undermines the whole basis of medical privacy and patient doctor confidentiality. The nature of bureaucracy is also such that were such an office to exist the pressures to open up access to patient data would be difficult to withstand."

Towards the end they asked for suggestions on a list of organisations they should consult about the data sharing plan. I suggested about 25 including FIPR, ORG, Privacy International, the BMA, the Royal College of Nursing, the BCS, the Association of Medical Research Charities.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Universal v RealNetworks

Fred von Lohmann has temporarily posted the complaints and the TRO briefing in Universal v.
RealNetworks on his personal page:

Apple threaten to shut iTunes due to royalty rate increase

From the BBC:

"A veiled threat by Apple to close its iTunes store has emerged 18 months after it was issued and just a day before royalty rates are to be set.

The Copyright Royalty Board meets on Thursday to rule on a requested 66% increase for sales of digital music from 9 cents to 15 cents a track.

A rise would have to be paid by either Apple, the record company or consumer.

Apple opposed the rate hike and has said it is unwilling to raise its 99 cents a song price or absorb a rise."

Update: There's an error in the story (thanks to Paul Saunders via the ORG list for pointing it out). It is not the percentage royalty paid to artists which will change but the percentage paid to composers and songwriters.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Home Office Launch New e-crime unit

It seems that the Home Office has recognised that shutting down the high tech crime unit a couple of years ago was a mistake and they are now launching a new e-crime unit.


New £7m specialist e-crime unit launches

30 September 2008

A new £7M police unit dedicated to tackling electronic crime and internet fraud was announced today.

The new Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU) will provide specialist officer training and coordinate cross-force initiatives to crack down on on-line offences.

E-crime is a global menace. An estimated 80%-90% of crime on the internet (excluding crime relating to children or images of child sexual abuse) is believed to be fraud-related.

The new unit will focus on supporting the new National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC) when it comes into operation in 2009. It will also work closely with other crime-fighting agencies to tackle international and serious organised crime groups operating on the internet.

Based in the Metropolitan Police Service, the PCeU will work with the NFRC and support the development of the police response to e-crime across the country.

Home Office minister's statement

E-crime Minister Vernon Coaker said, 'It is important that we stay one step ahead of criminals who increasingly use sophisticated computer networks and the internet to commit and facilitate crime.

'The new Police Central e-crime Unit will work closely with the National Fraud Reporting Centre to tackle electronic crime reported to it. This will ensure that the National Fraud Reporting Centre has support in this highly specialised area.

'The Police Central e-crime Unit will also play a vital role in helping police forces across the country improve skills and techniques needed to clamp down on e-crime.'

Association of Chief Police Officers' statement

Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) lead for e-crime, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Janet Williams, said, 'I am delighted that the Home Office has confirmed funding for this new unit that ACPO and law enforcement agencies have been developing. We can now work towards creating a national coordination centre to combat e-crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

'It is our aim to improve the police response to victims of e-crime by developing the capability of the Police Service. We will be coordinating the law enforcement approach to all types of e-crime, and providing a national investigative capability for the most serious e-crime incidents.'

Attorney General's statement

Attorney General Baroness Scotland said, 'It is widely recognised that e-crime is the most rapidly expanding form of criminality and knows no borders. The network is a good example of the UK leading on an international initiative which improves our capability to prosecute e-crime.

'The new e-crime unit will work closely with the National Fraud Reporting Centre and National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, both currently in development, recognising the fact the majority of e-crime is fraud-related. I believe this relationship will deliver a strong and emphatic response to fraudsters and help encourage public confidence in electronic services and communication.'"

MPAA to sue RealNetworks over DVD copying software

Via Findlaw: Hollywood aims to block RealNetworks' DVD software

"Hollywood's six major movie studios plan to sue RealNetworks Inc. to prevent it from distributing DVD copying software, The Associated Press has learned.

A person close to the matter, who requested anonymity because the suit had not yet been filed, says the studios will ask for a temporary restraining order in federal court."

From Hollywood Reporter:

"The digital entertainment service was sued Tuesday by the MPAA in Los Angeles federal court over its RealDVD software, which went on sale to the public on the same day.

The studios, including Fox, Sony, Disney, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Universal, claim the software circumvents the copyright protections on DVDs, allowing users to make multiple copies and distribute them to others. The MPAA claims such software is a violation of the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act and seeks a temporary restraining order to stop RealDVD from distributing the software.

Meanwhile, RealNetworks filed suit in federal court in Northern California, asking it to rule that Real is in full compliance with the DVD Copy Control Assn.'s license agreement.

When RealDVD was announced in early September, the studios appeared receptive to the idea, largely because of RealNetworks' claim that the software would leave Content Scramble System encryption intact and that it was targeting consumers with large DVD collections who were looking for a way to store and access purchased content without the hassle of "constantly removing and inserting new discs," the company said.

Three high-ranking home entertainment executives from the studios expressed interest, with one saying he "might consider" a licensing deal should the copy-protection turn out to be rock solid."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Conservatives promise to scrap ContactPoint

The Conservative Party has promised to scrap the big ContactPoint children's database if they get elected. Terri Dowty is pleased.


Here’s a headline that makes our last 5 years of hard slog feel more than worthwhile:

Conservatives would scrap controversial ContactPoint child database

A flagship database of every child living in England, which is due to be launched by the government next year, will be shutdown by a Conservative government.

I’ve just unearthed a briefing I wrote as a policy adviser to CRAE in 2003, when the plans for a giant database were first announced. It’s only available in archives now. The only response I received was a request from one of CRAE’s member orgs that a disclaimer was added to make it clear that the concerns it raised were not shared by all of the membership. The Guardian asked for an op-ed piece but I was forbidden to submit it. So I jumped ship and picked up the baton within ARCH.

Fortunately, I met the excellent Eileen Munro and we put on our first conference at LSE in April 2004: ‘Tracking Children’. A lot of people thought we were crazy and it was hard to get the media to take the problem seriously. We ploughed on.

Can you understand why I jumped up and down yelling like an idiot when I read that headline?"

Government sets up online child safety watchdog

The Government's new online child safety watchdog was all over the news yesterday.

"The Government has established a body to advise it on how it can increase the protection from dangers posed by the internet.

The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) will police websites containing inappropriate content, write industry codes of practice for publishers and advertise to children about how to stay safe online.

UKCCIS said that it would tell the publishers of sites which accept material from the public for publication how quickly they must take down content once they have been told that it is inappropriate."

Norwegian test case to open iTunes drm

Via Findlaw: Apple faces iTunes test case in Norway

"Norway's top consumer advocate said Monday he is taking Apple Inc. to the government's Market Council in a test case seeking to force the American company to open its iTunes music store to digital players other than its own iPod.

Norway is leading a European campaign that began two years ago to get Apple to make its iTunes online store compatible with rivals' digital music players."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Clinton's press secretary v neutral net

According to David Reed, Bill Clinton's erstwhile press secretary is now running a company making it their business to sell the idea that net neutrality is a bad idea.

"The hottest new faux-digerati lobby firm in DC in the communications field is Mike McCurry’s new firm Arts+Labs. McCurry is an old political hand, Bill Clinton’s press secretary, looking for a second career after the Clintons. Apparently there’s no big cash to be had protecting our freedom of speech, but Cisco and AT&T are happy to fund him to run a firm to defend ISP’s right to do “deep packet inspection” (DPI).

Only Arts+Labs doesn’t dare call it DPI, which sounds just a bit scary and Big Brotherish. Instead they call it the “intelligent network” that will smooth our experience, cleansing it of all those uneven experiences. Those of us who are as old as I am - 56 - might remember that the term “Intelligent Network” was a Bell Labs idea that failed due to the success of the Internet. As David Isenberg told it, the Internet was the “Rise of the Stupid Network“."


I spent a couple of days last week at one of my favorite workshops, GikIII, organised this year by Ian Brown at the Oxford Internet Institute, Lilian Edwards, now of Sheffield University and Andres Guadamuz and the good folk at SCRIPT Law and Technology Centre at the University of Edinburgh.

I had the honour of closing the first day with the tale of Fighter Command's information system, immediately in the wake of the perennially impossibly entertaining Fernando Barrio. Just to make my task of being the final barrier between a bunch of geeks and lawyers and their drink even more precarious, Fernando had been contemplating the possibility of 'Love, sex and rape in a world of autonomous robots.'

My favorite papers in the ever eclectic and stimulating mix over the two days were Burkhard Schafer's The “Eyre Affair” revisited - Jasper Fforde and the ontological foundations of IP in a digital world, (having just discovered Fforde myself earlier this year), Miranda Mowbray's Sherlock Holmes inspired The Fog over the Grimpen Mire: Cloud Computing Services and the Law, and Peter Yu's Legal Transplants in the Digital Age. Though to pick just three does a disservice to all of the presenters at the workshop who, without exception, produced hugely interesting and thought provoking talks.

I could spend the rest of the week on the ideas that came up but sadly day job commitments preclude that possibility. I would just say one thing about Burkhard Schafer's exploration of the possibilities of using logic based AI systems to aid the assessment of copyright infringement in works of fiction. It would appear that neither first order nor second order logic would come anywhere close to being able to determine whether a work infringed the copyright of another. It seems, therefore, that the natural conclusion of his investigations would be that copyright law (and possibly intellectual property law more generally) defies [all?] logic.

Well done to all the participants and a big thank you to everyone involved in the organisation.