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Liberty News

2011: Oct-Dec

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16th December   

Update: Stasi Spies...

Bill in British parliament seeks to enable council jobsworths to demand people's names and addresses so that they can be fined
Link Here
Full story: Playboy Brand...Playboy's ever shifting logo and brand

The MP for North East Somerset, Jacob Rees-Mogg said that those council officials with the power to issue fines for minor infractions should have to wear blower hats to be easily identified, and avoided, by the public. This is in response to a plan under way in the London boroughs which may grant town hall officials the power to force offenders of minor misdemeanours to turn over their personal details so that they can be charged a fine.

At the moment, council officials can already issue these fines, but there is no requirement for the accused to hand over their personal details, leaving officials with no means of following up. A bill in Parliament, the London Local Authorities Bill, would make it a criminal offence for the accused to refuse to hand over their information when stopped by these officials.

This bill is a blatant snub of civil liberties. Policing should be left to the police, and Big Brother Watch has said repeatedly that granting police powers to civilians is shaky at best. They show a worrying disregard for due process and the quick, cheap and dirty training many of these officials receive fails to give them a clear knowledge and understanding of the law (or very minor offences) they so vigorously enforce on the streets of their communities.

And are there ramifications for misusing or abusing these powers? In reality, aside from clear guidance and strict training, there is very little that can protect the public from abuses of these powers.


14th December   

Update: Taxi Snooping...

Southampton Council found to be human rights abusers over mandatory CCTV with microphones in taxis
Link Here
Full story: Listening CCTV...CCTVs with microphones

A ruling by Southampton Crown Court has sent a clear message to local authorities across the country, a policy of mandatory audio recording in taxis is unlawful, being both disproportionate and a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case, Southampton City Council v Kevin May, is the first challenge against mandatory audio recording and comes weeks after Oxford council said it planned to introduce the policy. The judgement said:

It was not reasonably necessary to install audio cameras on a permanent basis in all taxis in Southampton to pursue the council aims of preventing crime and disorder and improving safety.

The case evaluated the arguments put forward in favour of a system and comprehensively found Southampton Council was acting in breach of the law to enforce the policy.

At paragraph 71 of the ruling, the court reaffirms this point, saying:

The condition does not correspond to a pressing social need, is not proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and is not necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

However, the court ruled that it did not have the power to overturn the policy, and that it would require a judicial review to force the council to abandon it.

Big Brother Watch is calling for Southampton, Oxford and any other local authority considering this issue to abandon a policy which has now been established as disproportionate and a violation of Article 8? by a Court: We have written to Oxford City Council calling for them to abandon their policy without delay on the basis of this decision.


13th December   

Update: And If You Don't Comply Your Visiting Rights will be Taken Away...

Visitors of London council tenants told to sign in with ID to the Stasi spy at the concierge desk
Link Here
Full story: Playboy Brand...Playboy's ever shifting logo and brand

Housing chiefs have been branded sex snoopers after ordering council tenants to sign in ALL visitors to their flats.

Guests, including those who sleep over, are being denied access to 30 tower blocks unless their name is logged.

Town hall chiefs claim the register will combat yobs and ensure fire safety. But residents of one block, College Point in Newham, East London, refused to comply, calling it an appalling breach of privacy .

Tenants in the 123 flats say they got just 18 hours' notice from Labour-run Newham Council that guests would have to be signed in by a concierge.

Their fury was echoed by Local Government Minister Grant Shapps, who said: This is an outrageous invasion of privacy by town hall sex snoopers.

And Nick Pickles of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch added: It's the sort of rule you'd expect in East Germany, not East London.


2nd December   

Carrier IQ...

Software discovered that transmits user activity on US smart phones to a central database with a lame explanation about who uses the data and why
Link Here

An Android app developer has published what he says is conclusive proof that millions of smartphones are secretly monitoring the key presses, geographic locations, webs browsing and received messages of its users.

In a YouTube video, Trevor Eckhart showed how software from a Silicon Valley company known as Carrier IQ recorded in real time the keys he pressed into a stock EVO handset, which he had reset to factory settings just prior to the demonstration. Using a packet sniffer while his device was in airplane mode, he demonstrated how each numeric tap and every received text message is logged by the software.

Eckhart then connected the device to a Wi-Fi network and pointed his browser at Google. Even though he denied the option to share his physical location, the Carrier IQ software recorded it. The secret app then recorded the precise input of his search query, hello world, even though he typed it into a page that uses the SSL, or secure sockets layer, protocol to encrypt data sent between the device and the servers.

In an interview last week, Carrier IQ VP of Marketing Andrew Coward rejected claims the software posed a privacy threat because it never captured key presses. Our technology is not real time, he claimed at the time. It's not constantly reporting back. It's gathering information up and is usually transmitted in small doses. Coward went on to claim that Carrier IQ was a diagnostic tool designed to give network carriers and device manufacturers detailed information about the causes of dropped calls and other performance issues.

Carrier IQ and Your Phone: Everything You Need to Know

See  article from

Is the software only on smartphones? Carrier IQ says its software is on feature phones, smartphones, and tablets.

Is it on my phone? Carrier IQ is running on 141 million devices in the U.S., according to InformationWeek. Among the major carriers, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T have confirmed that they use it, and Verizon Wireless told Mashable that it doesn't.

On the manufacturer side, both RIM and Nokia made statements that said it doesn't install or authorize its carrier partners to install Carrier IQ on phones. Nokia similarly denied installing Carrier IQ on its products. If you're an iPhone owner, Apple told AllThingsD that it removed Carrier IQ in most of its products when it released iOS 5, with plans to remove it completely in a future software update.

How do I get rid of Carrier IQ? If you have an Android phone, you can find out whether or not Carrier IQ is installed by using Eckhart's Logging Test App, and you can use the app to remove the software for the cost of a dollar. The app requires rooting your phone, however, so proceed with caution and be warned: Some reports say it's not always successful.

On an iPhone, it may already be absent from your iOS 5 device, according to Apple, but if you want to be 100% safe, TechCrunch says you should open your settings, go to Diagnostics & Usage, and select Don't Send.

How likely is it that data collected by Carrier IQ could be accessed by a third party such as the security agemcies? ...

Update: Under Investigation in the US

6th December 2011.  See  article from

US senator Al Franken has asked software maker Carrier IQ to respond to claims by an independent security researcher that its products collect and transmit potentially sensitive data about millions of mobile phone users.

Update: Under Investigation in Europe

7th December 2011.  See  article from

Watchdog groups and governments in Europe are taking a closer look at Carrier IQ's tracking software, to make sure those mobile phone vendors and operators who use it are not violating users' privacy or the law. The Bavarian State Office for Data Protection recently sent a letter to Apple asking it how it uses Carrier IQ's software.

The most important thing to me is that users know how their data is used, and if that isn't the case there is a problem, said Thomas Kranig, president of the Bavarian data protection office. Kranig did not comment on the letter's contents, but tells PC World that he expects an answer from Apple within about two weeks.

Update: Law Suit

10th December 2011.  See  article from

A class action lawsuit, spotted by Ars Technica, was filed in Delaware late Friday against Apple, AT&T, Carrier IQ, HTC, Motorola Mobility, Sprint Nextel, Samsung, and T-Mobile USA.

Filed on behalf of four plaintiffs who use smartphones, the suit claims the installation and use of Carrier IQ violates the Federal Wiretap Act, Stored Electronic Communications Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It demands financial compensation, as well as a court order to prevent the companies from installing such potentially privacy-busting software in future.


19th November   

Big Brother's Listening in Oxford Cabs...

Oxford mandates CCTV with audio for cabs and buses
Link Here
Full story: Listening CCTV...CCTVs with microphones

Be careful what you say if you decide to take a taxi or the bus in Oxford -- every word will be recorded.

Despite being in clear breach of the guidance issued by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) and a gross invasion of privacy, Oxford Council has decided to make it a condition for all licensed black cabs in the city to record both audio and video.

The audio will be available to council officers and the police, and will cover any time the taxi's engine is running and the 30 minutes after the engine has been switched off.

The Oxford Times has the story, which also uncovered that audio recording is curently in use on Oxford Bus Company buses and Stagecoach's Oxford Tube bus.

The Information Commissioner's Office has a code of practice for the use of CCTV and it's clear on the issue of audio recording.

CCTV must not be used to record conversations between members of the public as this is highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified. You should choose a system without this facility if possible. If your system comes equipped with a sound recording facility then you should turn this off or disable it in some other way.

However, the Council has taken a rather different approach. Oxford City Council's Taxi Licensing Pack states that:

the equipment must be:

4. Capable of providing voice recording
5. The recording must be event activated (e.g. door or ignition) and continue to record 30 minutes after the ignition is switched off.

It remains to be seen if the Council even has the legal authority to do this.

Update: Cabbies now speaking out

21st March 2012. See  article from

When the policy was first proposed, it was (according to the council) supported by taxi drivers, and the policy was backed publicly by Alan Woodward, secretary of The City of Oxford Licensed Taxi Cab Association. However, since our intervention -- which saw the policy receive international media coverage as far afield as Fox News and Russia Today -- Woodward has been forced to resign, and now the city's taxi drivers are speaking out.


17th November   

Update: Stasi Britain...

Councils employ neighbourhood snitches to spy on residents
Link Here
Full story: Stasi Britain...Recruiting an army of snitches and snoopers

Councils across Britain have recruited thousands of citizen snoopers to report what their propaganda calls environmental crime .

According to the PR they target dog foulers, litter louts and neighbours who fail to sort their rubbish properly. The volunteers spy on their neighbours and are encouraged to take photos of environmental crime and send them in with location details for a rapid response.

They are given hand-held GPS computers for the task or phone cards to cover the cost of using their own devices. Evidence gathered this way is sometimes used in criminal prosecutions.

There are already 9,831 snoopers signed up, a 17% increase on the number two years ago. A further 1,310 are set to be recruited and trained as part of schemes run by 18 councils.

Volunteers often apply to become what councils euphemistically call street champions through council websites, but many have also been lured by recruitment drives in local newspapers.

Nick Pickles, director of the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said:

It should be deeply troubling for us all that councils seem not content with their own snooping and are now recruiting members of the public to assist them. If a crime is committed, it is the police who should be involved, not local residents given hi-tech gadgets by councils, many of whom rarely pass up an opportunity to invade our privacy or hand out spurious fines.

These individuals operate with little or no training, and there is no evidence to suggest it helps combat environmental crime. Councils seem to be unable to tell the difference between asking the public for help and getting the public to do their snooping for them.

Hillingdon Council in London boasts the biggest street champions scheme with 4,850 volunteers, who record an average of 1,000 incidents a month.


8th November

 Offsite: Rings of Steel...

Link Here
Full story: Travel on CCTV...UK network of roadside traffic logging CCTVs
Police number plate reading CCTV network

See article from


7th November   

Update: Ubiquitous Surveillance...

Report outlines 3 million instances of snooping by British authorities
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

The astonishing extent of Britain's surveillance society has been revealed for the first time. Three million snooping operations have been carried out over the past decade under controversial RIPA laws allowing widespread electronic snooping.

The campaign group Justice is demanding the hugely controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, under which all the operations were authorised, be scrapped altogether.

The group's report, titled Freedom from Suspicion , says: The UK has, in the space of 40 years, gone from a society in which mass surveillance was largely a theoretical possibility to one in which it has become not only ubiquitous but routine.

RIPA, billed as anti-terror legislation , was passed by Labour in 2000 supposedly to regulate snooping by public bodies. But Justice, which has campaigned on privacy matters for decades, says the result has been a huge increase in intrusive surveillance.

Since the Act was passed, there have been:

  • More than 20,000 warrants for the interception of phone calls, emails and internet use;

  • At least 2.7million requests for communication data, including phone bills and location information;

  • More than 4,000 authorisations for intrusive surveillance, such as planting a bug in a person's house;

  • At least 186,133 authorisations for directed (covert) surveillance by law enforcement agencies;

  • 61,317 directed surveillance operations by other public bodies, including councils;

  • 43,391 authorisations for covert human intelligence sources .

In total, the report says there have been around three million decisions taken by state bodies under RIPA, not including blanket authorisations given to the security and intelligence services. The report comments:

RIPA has not only failed to check a great deal of plainly excessive surveillance by public bodies over the last decade but, in many cases, inadvertently encouraged it.

Its poor drafting has allowed councils to snoop, phone hacking to flourish, privileged conversations to be illegally recorded and CCTV to spread. It is also badly out of date.

The Coalition's Protection of Freedoms Bill will reform RIPA by forcing councils to get authorisation from a magistrate before they can go on spying missions. But Justice says the new safeguards are insufficient and RIPA should be scrapped. It calls for an entirely new regime to be put in place.  Justice's Angela Patrick said: The time has come for Parliament to undertake root-and-branch reform of Britain's surveillance powers and provide genuinely effective safeguards against abuse.


29th October   

Facebook Walls Have Ears...

Sweden considers infiltrating internet forums so as to detect terrorism and 'serious' crime
Link Here

Swedish security service Sapo and national police investigators want to see new legislation that will make it easier for them to snoop on the internet.

Both Sapo and the National Bureau of Investigation (Rikskriminalpolisen) claim they want to be better able to reveal terror plans and other 'serious' crimes.

Options under discussion are the ability to infiltrate discussion groups and carry out surveillance using false identities, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports. Sapo head Anders Danielsson said:

After Anders Behring Breivik's and Taimour Abdulwahab's terror attacks, we have to ask the question if the virtual world can trigger people to commit heinous crimes. If it can, we have to be there. We have to patrol the net.

Should the police be on Facebook so that people can turn there in the same way they can approach a police officer on the street? Someone may want to say something about talk of strange or unpleasant things in a Facebook group. How can we create that possibility? Should we infiltrate the internet? Then we're into legal questions? Can we do that?

Both attacks have prompted Swedish police and Sapo to review their surveillance methods so they can more easily identify individuals who lack an economic motive and have no criminal history, yet are nevertheless prepared to commit violent acts.

An inquiry into possible changes is expected to be completed by the end of the year and may result in Sapo asking the government to update Swedish legislation.


20th October   

Update: Get a Shredder...

Council snoopers went through the bins of 30,000 households in 2010
Link Here

Council snoopers went through the bins of more than 30,000 families last year.

The figure was double that of the previous year, despite a government pledge to stamp out the intrusive practice.

It was revealed in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Daily Mail. We can reveal that inspectors are building up a disturbingly detailed profile of families' lives by rifling through their rubbish in secret.

In some cases, they divide the contents into 13 main categories and 52 sub-categories of waste. The audits, which are held on a database, can reveal an extraordinarily sophisticated portrait from what sort of foods are eaten and what kind of goods are bought in a particular street.

Inspectors, often hired in from the private sector, check supermarket labels, types of unwanted food, and of course examine the contents of discarded mail.

Nick Pickles, director of the privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said:

Councils need to come clean with what they are doing with the results of these surveys.

It would be unacceptable for details to be kept of the contents of individual households bins, or any link to be made with other council records.'

In 2010 a total of 40 local authorities in England either carried out their own survey or commissioned researchers to do it for them.


17th October   

Update: State Spyware Revealed by Hackers...

Politicians see that trojan spyware used by the German state is unconstitutional and could be used to plant or interfere with evidence
Link Here

Germany's Pirate Party and the Free Democratic Party have declared that they believe the use of state spyware to track criminals was unconstitutional.

According to hackers from the Chaos Computer Club, who hacked the police viruses last weekend, the so-called state-trojans can be used not only as surveillance but to completely control computers remotely. The German constitutional court has previously declared this unconstitutional.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has now advised the individual German states not to use the software in question.

Sebastian Nerz, chairman of the Pirate Party, who have campaigned for internet freedoms, said, It is absolutely impossible to install a trojan that meets legal requirements. He added that because of the state trojans, a judge would never be able to tell whether evidence allegedly found on the computer of someone under surveillance had not been altered or fabricated later.

The FDP, junior coalition partner to Merkel's governing coalition, has also joined the growing political furor against police spyware. FDP legal spokesman Marco Buschmann told the Neue Osnabru cker Zeitung, The newly uncovered state-trojan feeds substantial doubts that the use of spy software is possible under the German constitution.


16th October   

Big Data...

US funds research projects to analyse vast swathes of internet data to predict social and economic crises
Link Here

US social scientists are trying to analyse the vast resources of the Internet including web searches, tweets, Facebook, blog posts, cellphone location and communications.

The most optimistic researchers believe that these storehouses of big data will for the first time reveal sociological laws of human behavior, enabling them to predict political crises, revolutions and other forms of social and economic instability.

This is a significant step forward, said Thomas Malone, the director of the Center for Collective Intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We have vastly more detailed and richer kinds of data available as well as predictive algorithms to use, and that makes possible a kind of prediction that would have never been possible before.

The government is showing interest in the idea. This summer a little-known intelligence agency began seeking ideas from academic social scientists and corporations for ways to automatically scan the Internet in 21 Latin American countries for big data, according to a research proposal being circulated by the agency. The three-year experiment, to begin in April, is being financed by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or Iarpa, part of the office of the director of national intelligence.

A similar project by their military sister organization, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, aims to automatically identify insurgent social networks in Afghanistan. In its most recent budget proposal, the defense agency argues that its analysis can expose terrorist cells and other stateless groups by tracking their meetings, rehearsals and sharing of material and money transfers.

So far there have been only scattered examples of the potential of mining social media. For example last year HP Labs researchers used Twitter data to accurately predict box office revenues of Hollywood movies.


13th October   

Angling for Police Support...

Californian governor vetoes bill to prevent police going on fishing trips through the mobile phones of arrestees
Link Here

A bill that would have required Californian policemen to obtain search warrant before examining the contents of a person's cell phone was vetoed by Governor Brown.

Approval of the bill SB 914 would have overturned a decision issued by the California Supreme Court in January that said law enforcement officers could legally search the cell phones of people they arrest.

Senator Mark Leno introduced SB 914 in February after the case, People v. Diaz, was brought to the Supreme Court. Leno explained in a document:

Law enforcement need not obtain a warrant or judicial oversight to search the personal data of cell phones in incident to a custodial arrest .

Cell phones (are getting) smarter and contain nearly all the same information as our personal home computers, Leno said in a press release. This legislation (SB 914) will help ensure that a simple arrest -- which may or may not lead to criminal charges -- is not used as a fishing expedition to obtain a person's confidential information.

The California Senate passed a bill on Sept. 1 saying police officers could no longer search cell phones without a warrant. But this was vetoed by the Governor.


10th October   

Where Art Thou Romeo?...

US mandates that all mobile phones should incorporate GPS tracking by 2018
Link Here

The US telecoms censor, the FCC ,has ruled that all telephone service providers, including VoIP services, must offer only GPS-capable handsets by 2018 to better aid in pin-pointing the location of users.

Phones without GPS require the carrier to triangulate the caller's location from cell towers, which is less efficient than the phone's GPS simply relaying location data back.

The FCC estimates that with or without the new rules, 85% of cell phone owners will have GPS-equipped devices by 2018 anyway.

The GPS mandate is supposedly to better locate callers in the case of 911 emergency calls.


6th October

 Offsite: Invasion of the Body Scanners...

Link Here
Full story: Stop and Search...Ever more checks without justification
Mobile body scanner used to search passengers arriving at Bath railway station

See article from

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