The campaign group Big Brother Watch has prepared a briefing note on privacy and other issues with the European Union’s eCall system which the European Parliament voted on 28th April 2015 to make compulsory in all new cars.
Although eCall is promoted as an EU-wide emergency alert system to help ambulance crews get to road accidents faster, it raises significant privacy and snooping concerns because it works in partnership with an Event Data Recorder (EDR). The EDR records for 20 seconds before an accident and 10 seconds afterwards; however, as the briefing note points out this means it must be recording and erasing continuously.
Currently it is not intended that eCall should transmit data continuously, but it could do so and this opens up the possibility of mission creep such as the system being used to track motorists, as the EDR has the ability to record a vehicles exact location. There are also concerns about the system being a target for hackers.
The eCall system has already been used by the Police to track motorists according to a article in the Sunday Times which states:
Interpol, which coordinates police intelligence across 190 countries confirmed that some of its members are using the eCall system for surveillance operations, though it refused to say whether British police were using the technology in this way.
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.
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.
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.