Porn sites must have age checks, say Conservatives

The BBC News website reports that the Conservatives say that if they win the general election they will introduce legislation requiring pornography websites to adopt age-restriction controls, or face closure.

Both UK-based and overseas websites will be targeted and foreign websites that do not comply will be blocked.  The system would be overseen by an independent regulator with the power to force internet service providers to block sites and issue fines to any which did not comply.

The decision follows a recent call by the UK Video on demand watchdog to require age verification on pornography sites.

Comment from Newsblog Editor:

What is concerning about this proposal versus a web filter approach, is that any age verification system inevitably means that the authorities can track at least some of a citizen’s web habits.  If, as is more than likely, the policy undergoes mission creep and is extended to other types of sites deemed unsuitable for viewing by a certain age group, then the scope for tracking will increase.

UK Supreme Court waves through indiscriminate police surveillance

Gareth Corfield reports on the Register website that a Supreme court ruling has effectively given carte blanche to police forces to retain personal data they have collected for virtually any purpose and hold it as long as they like – even when the people targeted are not violent and have committed no crime.

The case involved John Catt from Brighton who had lodged a legal claim against the police for keeping records about his attendance at various political protests going back a decade.  In 2013 the Court of Appeal ruled that it was illegal for the Police to retain such records; however, the police appealed to the Supreme court.

A particular concern highlighted in the article with the judgment, is the argument put forward by the court that the retention of data for “police purposes” is inherently lawful, albeit with the proviso that it is “regularly reviewed” for deletion (although with no actual requirement to delete it, or establish criteria for deletion).  This sets a dangerous precedence as it establishes a legal basis for indiscriminate mass surveillance by the police.

Holyrood backs Scottish identity database

Libby Brooks reports in the Guardian that MSPs have voted narrowly in favour of plans by the SNP Scottish government for a new identity database.

A proposal by the Scottish Liberal Democrats to treat the proposals for the database as primary legislation, which would require them to be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny was rejected.  However, the Scottish government has agreed to wait for the results of the consultation on the proposed database before moving forward.

Scotland-wide ID database risks personal privacy and civil liberties – UK Information Commissioner

Severin Carrell reports in the Guardian that the UK Information Commissioner says proposals to put every Scottish citizen on a central database accessible to 120 public bodies, risks breaching data protection laws and privacy standards.

The Scottish SNP Government wants a single central identity database known as “Myaccount”, which public bodies would use to allow users to access services.  However, the scheme is similar to the UK ID card and national identity register that was rejected on civil liberties grounds by the UK government in 2010.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) said ministers had failed to carry out the necessary privacy impact assessment before drafting proposals, and had failed to explicitly set out the reasons why the new national database was needed.  It also said that Scottish ministers were unwise to reject the much more privacy-friendly system for accessing public services now being considered by the Cabinet Office, where an independent third-party body verifies someone’s identity.

In a letter to Scottish ministers, Ken Macdonald, the ICO’s assistant commissioner, said:

“If we are to have a national identity number this should be the subject of proper debate and be accompanied by suitable safeguards. It should not just happen by default.”