California considers a new law to require a warrant for the search of electronic devices

Shaun Nichols reports on the Register website that California State Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, has put forward a bill that would make police searches of electronic devices subject to the same controls as filing cabinets, drawers and other physical objects.

The bill would require the authorities to obtain a search warrant before they can pull information off computers, Smartphone or other electronic devices.

In introducing his bill Leno said,

The personal files in your desk drawer at home cannot be seized without a warrant, but the digital files on your Smartphone and tablet, no matter how sensitive, do not have the same protection.  This bill strikes the right balance between safeguarding Californians against improper government intrusion of their electronic data and protecting the right of law enforcement to use technology when it is needed to protect public safety.”

If the law is passed, California will join a list of over a dozen other US states that have passed laws providing greater protection for electronic information.

A link to the bill can be found here.


Shallow response from MSPs shows heads in sand over Scottish ID Database

Open Rights Group (ORG) report that many ORG supporters who have contacted SNP members of the Scottish Parliament about Scottish Government’s proposed Identity Database, have received a standard letter in reply.  The letter is almost certainly drafted by civil servants and fails to address the key concerns with the proposed Identity Database.

ORG  have provided a detailed response to each point raised in the letter highlighting the flaws in the statements made.  The ORG response can be found here.

BBC could get powers to access people’s private data

Steven Swinford reports in the Daily Telegraph that an independent consultation has suggested that the BBC could be given access to people’s private data to help make collection of the licence fee more efficient.

The consultation prepared by David Perry QC, suggests that as well as people’s publicly available records, access could also be granted to information from banks, utility companies and other sources. The data would be added into the TV licensing Authority’s database of 31 million households to allow more effective identification of licence fee evaders.


Footnote from Newsblog Editor: The review also suggests that new legislation could be introduced to prosecute anyone who fails to inform authorities that they don’t have a television.  This would be very much an implementation of the strict liability principle which in itself is a worrying development. Strict liability is becoming an increasing feature in UK law and assumes automatic guilt with few, or often no options for a defence.  Strict liability benefits the State because it avoids the need to prove a case, only that an event happened; however, in doing so it undermines the fundamental principle of English law and natural justice that a citizen is innocent until proven guilty.

Police ask for the names and addresses of people who bought Charlie Hebdo magazine

Josh Halliday and Shiv Malik report in the Guardian that several UK Police forces have visited newsagents asking for the names and addresses of people who had purchased the special edition of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, published in the wake of the terrorist attack on the magazines headquarters in Paris.

The first incident occurred in Wiltshire and was thought to be a one-off due to an overzealous Police officer; however, it has since emerged that Police in Wales and Cheshire have also visited newsagents and asked for details of purchasers.

The revelations have alarmed many privacy campaigners due to the invasion of privacy and ultimately the potential to stifle free speech by making people fearful of purchasing certain material.

In an article covering the same story in the Mail Online, Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, said:

‘The Charlie Hebdo attack brought millions of people worldwide together to condemn those who seek to silence free speech through threats of intimidation and violence.

This move by the police is entirely unacceptable. This sort of investigation would be understandable if a crime was being committed, but the fact is that they have requested information about people who have purchased a perfectly legal publication.

It is far from clear why the police thought it was acceptable to request this information or what it is that they actually intend to do with it. Considering the comments made in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris by world leaders, that free speech should be celebrated and encouraged, the moves by the police in the UK completely undermine that.”