Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Prompting Ofcom re BBC HD DRM freedom of information request

I'm still waiting to hear from Ofcom on their internal review of my freedom of information request regarding DRM on HD Freeview signal.  On 29 October Mauzima Bhamji at Ofcom wrote to explain that they hoped to be able to provide a substantive response by 23 November. Nothing has been forthcoming so far, so I've just sent a prompt this morning.
To: Information Requests
Subject: Re: Internal Review - 1-158150870 - Content management on the HD Freeview platform
Dear Ms Bhamji,

Freedom of Information: Right to know request 1-155429914

I'm writing to check on the status of the Ofcom internal review of
my freedom of information request relating to content management on
the HD Freeview platform. Your note of 28 October 2010 suggested
you hoped to be in a position to respond on the issue by 23
November 2010.

I do understand that Ofcom staff are under considerable pressure at
the moment and don't wish to add unnecessarily to that but your
early attention to this overdue response would be appreciated.

Yours sincerely,

Ray Corrigan

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Privacy International Euro privacy report 2010

Privacy International released their 2010 report on European Privacy and Human Rights last week, rather timely with the UK Supreme Court hearing the DNA retention case yesterday.

Data from Privacy International on Vimeo.

Key findings:
"Europe is the world's leader in privacy rights. But with leadership like this, we worry about the future. The Directive on Data Protection has been implemented across EU member states and beyond, but inconsistencies remain. Surveillance harmonisation that was once threatened is now in disarray. Yet there are so many loopholes and exemptions that it is increasingly challenging to get a full understanding of the privacy situations in European countries. The cloak of 'national security' enshrouds many practices, minimises authorisation safeguards and prevents oversight.The primary conclusion? The situation is mixed. And for a world leader, this is unconvincing and untenable.


  • European democracies are in generally good health, with the majority of countries having constitutional protections.
  • Surveillance policies have faced obstacles across Europe, including political challenges, policy implementation problems, and resistane from regulators, civil society, the general public and industry.
  • European regulators are getting more and more complaints, which we take as a sign of increased awareness of privacy issues and awareness of the regulators' duties.
  • Notification requirements for those placed under secret surveillance. (Luxembourg, Switzerland, Czech Republic)


  • Greece: in 2007 there was a collective resignation from the regulator in protest to the government's insistence of repurposing the Olympics' surveillance system.
  • Germany: groups mounted a campaign against communications data retention where 34,000 people filed a case at the Constitutional Court appealing against the law.
  • Netherlands: policy on mandatory smart meters had to be withdrawn after opposition.
  • UK: NGOs mounted policy campaigns against the surveillance policies of the previous government, resulting in policy repeal on issues ranging from ID cards and biometric passports, to DNA practices, and large databases.


  • Many of the ambitious surveillance proposals have failed in implementation.
  • Deployment of biometric passports and data retention is fragmented.
  • Cutbacks have affected regulators' abilities to do their jobs, e.g. Latvia, Romania
  • Ministerial warrants still exist in too many countries, i.e. Ireland, Malta, UK
  • Access to financial data is on the rise, e.g. Belgiu, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovenia
  • Failed oversight mechanisms, e.g. Sweden's commissioner over covert surveillance powers resigned in protest


  • Inability to build safeguards into processes to gain access to information over new services, e.g. France, Germany, Switzerland seeking powers to conduct secret searches fo computers, Ireland's ambiguous powers for unwarrranted interception of VoIP; Italy building 'backdoors' into systems; Bulgaria's 'black boxes' at ISPs
  • France: Attempt to ignore constitutional amendment proposals to include an explicit constitutional right to privacy.
  • eHealth systems with security faults and/or centralised registries (France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands)
  • Biometric registries and databases emerging and with more coming (Estonia, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands,
  • Few protections and safeguards for government access to data. (most countries)
  • Illegal and warantless surveillance still occurs.
  • Journalists and dissident groups are under surveillance. (Lithuania, FYRM, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey)


  • Direct access to information held by third parties without warrants or oversight, conducted by unaccountable bodies. (e.g. Bulgaria, Croatia, )
  • Inability to audit and review the actions of security services. (e.g. Lithuania, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Sweden)
  • Medical databases are emerging with centralised registries. (e.g. Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, UK)."
The raw data underpinning the report will be made available imminently.

Monday, January 31, 2011

DNA retention before the UK Supreme Court

The UK Supreme Court is hearing the case of R (on the application of C) (FC) (Appellant) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (Respondent) on
Whether the continued retention of the DNA, fingerprints and a photograph of GC and of the DNA, fingerprints and information on the police national computer in respect of C, violates their rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It's significant because the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2008, in the case of S. and Marper v UK, that the systematic blanket indefinite retention, by the police, of the DNA of people not charged or convicted of a crime, was in breach of of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights relating to respect for privacy.

In the wake of the decision the New Labour UK government essentially decided to ignore the judgement, repeatedly procrastinating and supporting the continuence of the illegal practice of retention. The Association of Chief Police Officers, reportedly told chief constables to ignore the ruling.  The Labour government also made various attempts to spin stories to the effect that they were doing something to address the ruling whilst going to what some would consider extraordinary lengths to avoid doing so. Comedian Mark Thomas has been one of the few who has managed to arrange to have his DNA and fingerprints removed from police records, since the S. and Marper decision.

The coalition goverment came in on the promise of directly quashing many of the liberty bashing laws and behaviours of their immediate predecessors but as Terri Dowty, amongst others, has recently pointed out, action in relation to those promises has been slow in manifesting itself.  The Metropolitan Police's likely defeat on the issue before the UK Supreme Court and the government's response to that will be another indicator of whether or not they have the strength to follow through on promises easily made whilst in opposition.

I'd recommend also Eoin O'Dell's commentary on the same.