August 08, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Gina Ford vs the Web

If someone defames you, most people support your right to stop that person from doing it again, and to pursue legal remedies. If a small number of customers in a pub were making defamatory comments about you, and you tried to close the pub down, most people would think this was over-reacting.

Why am I talking about people in pubs? To give an analogy for people who do not spend all their time on the Internet.

Miss Ford claims messages posted by users of amount to defamation and wants the site taken off the Internet.

Unless she has a last-minute change of heart, the website, which is used by 250,000 mothers each month to swop ideas and experiences, will have to close because it cannot afford a costly court battle.

The row centres on about 30 'postings' - comments made on the website's electronic discussion boards - which have contained allegedly abusive comments about her.

The baby guru who threw her bottle out of the pram - Daily Mail

The web site took down the postings when they were pointed out to them and they have now asked all their users not to talk about Ms Ford to avoid further legal problems. Mumsnet’s lawyers say that Ms Ford’s solicitors have objected to about 30 postings on the website since February, during which time the site has received an average of 10,000 postings a day.

Ms Ford and Mumsnet have been embroiled in the dispute for several months, according to the website. In January, the author asked for the transcript of an interview to be removed. After Mumsnet rejected the request, a lawyer’s letter followed, complaining of “vicious libels,” but suggested that if the interview were removed, the matter would end.

Mumsnet agreed to remove the interview in April, but Foot Anstey solicitors wrote another letter, asking for postings to be monitored and deleted if derogatory, and for damages. Mumsnet refused to pay, but said it was willing to agree to Ms Ford’s other demands. The lawyers wrote again to DSC on July 21. That letter listed three examples of allegedly defamatory postings, and demanded that the company act to “disable the website with immediate effect”.

Childcare guru goes to war over website - The Times

DSC are the web hosts for Mumnet. This approach could be used to shut down any web site that is popular and allows user comments. Shutting down a website because of a handful of postings, that the site took down when they were notified, sets a very disturbing precedent.

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August 04, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

ID card - Inconsistent approach to scientific evidence

The Select Committee on Science and Technology recently published a report entitled Identity Card Technologies: Scientific Advice, Risk and Evidence. Many quotable phrases from this report reflect what NO2ID have been saying about the ID card scheme. We are disappointed that two years after the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into identity cards the problems regarding clarity have not been resolved. We urge the Home Office to address these issues immediately. (Para 47), confusion ... inconsistent use of it as evidence (Para 88), We are surprised and concerned that the Home Office has already chosen the biometrics that it intends to use before finishing the process of gathering evidence. (Para 93), We are sceptical about the validity of costs produced at this early stage. (Para 105), It is important that the impact of a politically-imposed deadline will not override the impact of scientific advice or evidence on the readiness of the scheme and we seek reassurance from the Government on this point. (Para 120), an inconsistent approach to scientific advice and evidence. (Para 144),

We have also identified weaknesses in the use of scientific advice and evidence. We are disappointed with the lack of transparency surrounding the incorporation of scientific advice, the procurement process and the ICT system. Potential suppliers are confused about the extent to which the scheme will be prescriptive and when technical specifications will be released. Whilst the Home Office has attempted to consult the wider community, stakeholders have complained that consultations have been unduly limited in scope and their objectives have been unclear. As a result, the wider community does not have the level of confidence in the scheme that could reasonably be expected at this stage. Whilst the Home Office has determined some aspects of the scheme such as the biometrics, it has left other aspects such as the structure of the database undetermined. Its decisions demonstrate an inconsistent approach to scientific evidence and we are concerned that choices regarding biometric technology have preceded trials. Given that extensive trialling is still to take place, we are sceptical about the validity of costs produced at this stage. We note the danger of cost ceilings driving the choice of technology and call for the Home Office to publish a breakdown of the technology costs following the procurement process.

Select Committee on Science and Technology - Sixth Report - Summary

As always the place to go for the full story on the ID Cards and the database state is NO2ID

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August 04, 2006 | Michael Holloway

Next ORG networking event - 14th August

Scrambling for Safety 8 is taking place on the 14th August at University College, London, where the focus will be on the Home Office's access to keys and communications data code of practice consultations.

Those unable to make the main event are invited to the Jeremy Bentham pub on University St., WC1, to join attendees and speakers from the conference. We'll have a room in the pub from 1730 til close.

Hope to see you there.

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August 01, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Content Online Consultation

The European Commission have launched a consultation titled "Content Online". Topics that are asked about include DRM, network neutrality, privacy online, lack of interoperability, protection of public interests, competitiveness, P2P and piracy. Input to this consultation will help shape a Commission Communication on Content Online, due to be adopted at the end of the year. The deadline for replies is 13 October 2006.

As always ORG has a wiki page that we are encouraging people to edit Public Consultation on Content Online in the Single Market.

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July 29, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Personal Internet Security

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has established a Sub-Committee, under the Chairmanship of the Lord Broers, to examine Personal Internet Security in the UK. A call for evidence and a press release were issued today.

Areas the Committee will consider include:

  • What is the nature of the security threat to private individuals and what is the scale of the problem?

  • How well do the public understand the nature of the threat they face?

  • What can be done to provide greater personal internet security?

  • How much does this depend on software and hardware manufacturers?

  • Is the regulatory framework for internet services adequate?

  • How well equipped is Government to combat cyber crime?

  • Is the legislative framework in UK criminal law adequate to meet this growing challenge?

If you would like participate but don't feel like witting a full response by your self, ORG has a wiki page that we are encouraging people to edit Personal Internet Security Consultation.

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July 27, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Tapping VoIP

We have seen attempts to add more legislation to voice over IP in America so I guess it was only a matter of time.

"The Guardian has learned that police and security agencies have been lobbying ministers and senior officials, expressing fears about the potential for voice-over-internet-protocol technologies to hide a caller's identity. Their aim? To get VoIP providers to monitor calls and find ways to identify who is calling whom - and even record them."

Lifting the veil on internet voices - The Guardian

The proposed requirement for all VoIP services to have to provide 999 services would kill any free VoIP service, unless the government is offering to cover the costs. If they want to log and trace VoIP why not Instant Messages? If they want to log and trace IM then what about email… (You get the idea)

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July 27, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Consultation on penalties for breaching the DPA

Baroness Ashton has published a consultation paper on proposed custodial penalties for breaches of Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998, which deals with unlawful obtaining of personal data. The main questions asked are should the maximum fine be raised? and is a jail sentence of up to 2 years the right length?.

“I have today published a consultation paper on proposed custodial penalties for breaches of Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. In an environment where concerns about identity fraud are growing and where the widespread use and exchange of data are increasingly important to the economy and to society as a whole, it is essential for people to be confident that their personal data will not be wilfully or recklessly abused. We are determined that the regulatory regime properly reflects the risks that come with greater data use. The aim of this proposal is to provide an appropriate and effective level of deterrent for those who seek to profit from the illegal trade in personal information. We welcome the recent report by the Information Commissioner, What price privacy? The unlawful trade in confidential personal information, which has been an extremely valuable contribution on this issue and we are responding positively to the report's recommendations. We are seeking views on whether the proposed sanctions would act as an effective deterrent to those who deliberately or recklessly misuse personal information. Copies have been placed in the Printed Paper Office, Vote Office and Libraries of both Houses."

Baroness Ashton of Upholland (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs)Office

The questions are non-technical and easy for anyone to understand. If you would like participate, ORG has a wiki page that we are encouraging people to edit Data Protection Act Consultation.

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July 21, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Public meeting on RIPA consultations

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act Part III gives law enforcement the power to serve notices requiring that encrypted material be "put into an intelligible form" (or as everyone else would say, decrypted). Under some circumstances the notices can require that encryption keys are handed over. At present Part III is not in force, but the Home Office are consulting on a Code of Practice for its operation and it must be expected to come into force in early 2007.

The eighth Scrambling for Safety meeting on the Home Office's access to keys and communications data code of practice consultations is being held from 2-5pm on Monday 14 August 2006, at the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, South Wing, UCL, Gower St, London WC1 [campus map].

Admission is free but space is limited, so if you wish to attend please subscribe to the meeting mailing list. Please e-mail with requests for any other information.

The agenda as follows:

1400WelcomeDr Ian Brown, UCL Computer Science
1405The Home Office consultationsSimon Watkin, Home Office
1420Government access to communications dataDr Richard Clayton, Cambridge University Computer Laboratory
1435Government access to decryption keysCaspar Bowden, ex-director, FIPR
1505Risks to safety and securityDr Brian Gladman, MoD and NATO (retired)
1520Errors of judgment and integrity in presenting computer-based evidenceDuncan Campbell, expert witness and investigative journalist
1545Parliamentary scrutiny of RIPA and its OrdersThe Earl of Erroll, House of Lords (crossbencher)
1615Compatibility with human rights lawProf. Douwe Korff, London Metropolitan University
1630Do the police need longer detention periods to investigate encrypted evidence?Prof. Ross Anderson, Cambridge University Computer Laboratory
1645The changing public mood on privacyLord Phillips of Sudbury, House of Lords (Liberal Democrat)
1655Questions and conclusionsSimon Davies, Privacy International and LSE

Useful background information is at Privacy International's wiretap page and FIPR's "Surveillance and security" pages.

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