HMRC Plans to Monitor internet Sites and Transactions for Tax Collection Purposes

The BBC News website reports that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) wants to collect information from internet companies to allow it to identify companies and individuals who have not declared income from online sales.

The planned powers would cover sites that carry advertising, App stores such as those for Apple and Google, booking intermediaries like Airbnb and also e-commerce sites such as Ebay.  The plan does raise obvious concerns about the potential for fishing expeditions by HMRC, as they plan to cross-reference this third-party information against other records they hold and information supplied by taxpayers themselves, in order to identify individuals and businesses evading tax.

HMRC have issued consultation document on the plans which can be found here.

Comment from the Newsblog Editor:

These proposed powers are interesting in the context of past attempts to increase HMRC surveillance powers.  HMRC was to be one of the chief beneficiaries of the surveillance powers proposed in the now defunct Communications Data Bill and no doubt they will be a beneficiary of the surveillance powers proposed in the upcoming Investigatory Powers Bill.

It is a reminder that the surveillance powers proposed in these bills have very little to do with fighting terrorism or protecting national security, rather, they are intended to extend to other government organisations, surveillance powers that up to now have been the preserve of the security services.

Eastern England Councils in Slew of Data Breach Errors

Karl Thomas reports on the Welivesecurity website that local authorities in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk have suffered more than 160 data breaches in the past year.

Most incidents were the result of human error, such as e-mails and letters being misaddressed. However, in one astonishing case a filing cabinet containing sensitive files was sold following an office move, although the files were subsequently recovered from the buyer.

Innocent People Treated as Paedophiles after Snooping Blunders

Tom Whitehead reports in the Daily Telegraph that an Interception of Communications Commissioner report has highlighted that five people have had their homes searched and computers seized after they were wrongly identified as paedophiles, with one person being arrested.  Additionally, information on dozens of other innocent people was wrongfully disclosed to the officers investigating child sex abuse or pornography due to errors with the requests.

Commenting on the errors Joanna Cavan, the head of commissioner’s office, said:

“Although the numbers are small, the consequences are significant and they can be devastating.”

The failures did not only mean that innocent people were investigated but that some genuine suspects escaped investigation because by the time it was realised that the wrong people were being investigated, the records of the suspects had been deleted by their internet service providers.

The report also reveals that 998 errors were made in communications data requests in 2014 and that the Police and public bodies made 517,208 applications to monitor e-mails, internet and phones records which is the equivalent of one request every minute.

MPs Win Surveillance Powers Legal Challenge, but Government to Appeal

In a land mark case two MPs, David Davis and Tom Watson, have won a High Court judgement that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) is incompatible with human rights (see this BBC News article here).

Legislation is normally subject to significant Parliamentary scrutiny, but the MPs claimed that because DRIPA was rushed through in days, there was no time for proper parliamentary scrutiny, hence the need for the unusual step of judicial review.   The MPs argued before the court that DRIPA was incompatible with the right to a private and family life, and data protection, under both the Human Rights Act and the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights.  An argument that the court accepted.

In the judgement the court has ruled that the unlawful sections of DRIPA can stay in force until the end of March 2016, to allow time for the government to compose new legislation.  However,  the Government is planning an appeal against the judgement according to a report on The Register website.