EU data laws struck down by court ruling

Andrew Rettman and Damien McElroy write in the Daily Telegraph:

The European Union’s Court of Justice said an EU law on data surveillance constitutes a “particularly serious interference” with individual “rights to respect for private life”.

The court said collection of data to combat crime was a legitimate exercise but that the 2006 rules did not limit the scope of information stored.

The ruling marks a victory for privacy campaigners who had argued that the European Union was sanctioning an intrusive regime of snooping across the eurozone. The ruling comes as European leaders face demands for tougher data protection measures following revelations that US spies eavesdropped on continental politicians in revelations leaked by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The court verdict added the existing law’s loose wording means Europeans will feel “their private lives are the subject of constant surveillance” if the measures are left intact.

The 2006 “data retention directive” forces internet and phone companies to store information on who contacts whom, when, how often, and from which locations, for between six months and two years so that government agencies can use it to prevent “serious crime”.

The vast majority of EU countries, including the UK, but not Belgium or Germany, have already transcribed it into national legislation.

Britain alone used the measures to access people’s data 724,751 times in 2012.

An EU court official told The Telegraph member states are free to keep the national measures in place despite the EU annulment. But they risk a flood of legal challenges emboldened by the Luxembourg ruling if they do.

Glyn Moody analyses the ruling on his blog here.

Post-Constitutional America, where innocence is a poor defence

Peter Van Buren writes at Open Democracy about a long-running court case in the United States that illustrates the threat posed by the Database State.

Rahinah Ibrahim is a slight Malaysian woman who attended Stanford University on a US student visa, majoring in architecture. She was not a political person. Despite this, as part of a post-9/11 sweep directed against Muslims, she was investigated by the FBI. In 2004, while she was still in the US but unbeknownst to her, the FBI sent her name to the no-fly list.

Ibrahim was no threat to anyone, innocent of everything, and ended up on that list only due to a government mistake. Nonetheless, she was not allowed to reenter the US to finish her studies or even attend her trial and speak in her own defense. Her life was derailed by the tangle of national security bureaucracy and pointless “anti-terror” measures that have come to define post-Constitutional America. Here’s what happened, and why it may matter to you.

He concludes:

A common trope for those considering the way the National Security Agency spies on almost everyone everywhere all the time is that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. If your cell phone conversations are chit-chats with mom and your emails tend toward forwards of cute cat videos, why should you care if the NSA or anyone else is snooping?

Ask Rahinah Ibrahim about that. She did nothing wrong and so should have had nothing to fear. She even has a court decision declaring that she never was nor is a threat to the United States, yet she remains outside America’s borders. Her mistaken placement on the no-fly list plunged her head first into a nightmarish world that would have been all too recognizable to Franz Kafka. It is a world run by people willing to ignore reality to service their bureaucratic imperatives and whose multiplying lists are largely beyond the reach of the law.

Google pulls out of secret deal to show data on NHS hospitals

Murad Ahmed and Chris Smyth write in The Times:

Google has pulled out of a groundbreaking deal to include NHS data within its search results, blaming a “toxic” backlash against controversial plans to link GP patient records.

The internet company had been in secret talks with health chiefs over showing death rates, waiting times and other information in searches for NHS hospitals, with sources saying it feared that the project would be tarred by association with NHS England’s stalled scheme.

See here.

The future of hangs in the balance

Jane Fae writes for Open Democracy:

The future of hangs in the balance. In the last week, rival proposals from government and by critics, have offered parliament radically different diagnoses – and cures – for the malaise now afflicting the scheme. In the end, though, the question remains: is this all too little, too late? Can recover from here?

First up was a government narrative that differed little from what we have been hearing over the last few months. According to Dr Daniel Poulter, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, the issue was mostly one of public re-assurance. Government had already put in place far greater safeguards over patient data than had existed previously. He blamed poor communication.

However, as part of the process of re-establishing public confidence he was putting forward three amendments to the Care Bill: re-stating the duty to respect and promote the privacy of patients; locking the HSCIC into disseminating information only where this would be for “the provision of health care or adult social care”; and requiring the HSCIC to “have regard to any advice given to it by the committee appointed by the Health Research Authority under paragraph 8(1) of Schedule 7 to the Care Act 2014”. This is the Confidentiality Advisory Group.

Would this be enough to silence the doubters? Probably not.