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This page provides occasional items, linked to the original articles, as we attempt to keep up with the rapidly changing situation on civil liberties.
Archive of old news service:
2002 - 2004

1st Jan to 9th Sept 2005


Entertainment business wants data retention to be used to track copyright infringement

Posted by James Hammerton @ 8:23 pm on 3 December, 2005.
Categories privacy and surveillance, democracy and the rule of law.
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The Register reports that the Creative Media and Business Alliance have written to MEPs asking for retained communications data to be used to enforce copyright, and other intellectual property rights:

The entertainment industry is trying to commandeer the proposed European directive on data retention to help it prosecute filesharers in the European Union, it has emerged.

The newly-formed Creative and Media Business Alliance (CMBA), an informal grouping (it says) of companies including Sony BMG, Disney, EMI, IFPI, MPA and Universal Music International, says it wants the data protection directive to be modified specifically so that it can be used to go after pirates.

In a letter to all MEPs, the CMBA said:

“We would appreciate your support in ensuring that this becomes an effective instrument in the fight against piracy”.

It went on to ask MEPs to amend the directive so that it covers all criminal offences, not just the “serious” ones of organised crime and terrorism, and that law enforcement’s access to the data should not be limited.

When it voted on Wednesday, the European parliamentary committee on civil liberties did keep the word “serious”, but only as defined in the European arrest warrant, which includes piracy.

According to Suw Charman, founder of the Open Rights Group, this means the door is officially open for the entertainment industry to use legislation designed to protect European citizens from terrorists to prosecute them instead.

The push for the retention of communications data has hitherto been justified as a means of fighting terrorism and organised crime. Now we see the entertainment industry are pushing for it to be used to investigate copyright infringement. This is a pattern one can often see in government, where legal powers introduced for one purpose are later extended for other purposes, i.e. function creep.

The Open Rights Group note how this proposal ties in with another proposal to make copyright infringement a criminal offence (it is currently merely a civil offence):

Now tie this in with IPRED2, another nasty bit of legislation which criminalises all “intellectual property” infringement on a commercial scale and “aiding and abetting such infringement”, with very thin definitions of what “commercial scale” or “intellectual property” means. The two directives together become even more alarming.

IPRED2 mandates that the police work with rightsholders to pursue suspected cases of IP infringement - including patent infringements - or merely vocal encouragement of infringement. And the Data Retention directive provides them with reams of data they can mine for evidence against these suspected infringers.

At the latest IPRED2 hearing, that’s exactly what the CBMA’s parent organisation, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), demanded.

This opens up a very ugly can of worms where entire industries can get unparalleled powers of investigation, provided at the taxpayer’s expense.

Moreover, if the CMBA get their way, the number of data retention enquiries that the telcos and ISPs will have to process will be far higher than if restricted to terrorism and serious crime. This will put far more pressure on the telcos and ISPs who will not only have to bear the cost of storing the data, but also of providing access to the information to the authorities.

They also point out that:

Both Data Retention and IPRED2 are being frogmarched through the European Parliament at an alarming speed. Votes are being held by three committees over the next few days on Data Retention, with secret meetings going on in the background between the Council, the Commission and the Parliament, with the aim of reaching a tacit agreement on what this legislation should look like.

On 13 December 2005, the Parliament votes on the Data Retention directive. Usually, they get two stabs at it, with the Council having a say in between. This time, they get just one vote.

This time, MEPs will have just a few days between being presented with the proposed legislation as drawn up in the secret meetings and being expected to come to an informed, considered decision on whether it should become law.

DVLA data for sale

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:55 pm on 1 December, 2005.
Categories privacy and surveillance.
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Samizdata have higlighted the following article from The Times, about the DVLA’s selling of information about drivers to all sorts of businesses:

What is happening is this: requests come in from businesses that have relevance to parking — clampers, car park managers, even a financial services company that happens to have a car park in which, notionally, people might leave their cars without permission. The DVLA charges a few thousand pounds for a link to its database, and thereafter the commercial company has only to tap in any registration number to be sent the owner’s name and address. If crooked, it could collect car numbers from anywhere in the country, enter them and thereafter know when you are away from home. Or it could send you threatening letters, of extortion or blackmail, citing your car details and claiming a violation.

But the DVLA wouldn’t deal with such people, would it? Yep. It does. It has been forced to hand over its list of the 157 companies registered to buy personal information about drivers — the list includes bailiffs, debt collection agencies and financial services companies. DVLA bleats that it is obliged — under an undebated Statutory Instrument of 2002 — to sell the information to anyone with “reasonable cause”. Well, almost anyone can claim that a car might park in their space. Thus a credit company, which bombards us all with mailshots offering loans, is on the list because it’s got a company car park. Nor does DVLA check that it is not selling the list to people with criminal records: it deals with Aquarius Security — clampers whose management were found guilty of blackmail at Bristol Crown Court and given prison sentences. One of them was already on an ASBO after being accused of driving his truck into a 60-year-old man, breaking his knee. They clamped one young woman’s car in the middle of a three-point turn. But the DVLA saw nothing wrong in selling that company addresses for £2.50 each so that they could find other citizens to harass.

Other people who can get your address just by noting down your registration number include a car park management company, which without issuing tickets or reproofs sends bills for £170 to people it has secretly photographed overstaying the free limit in supermarket car parks, and another which notoriously forced an Olympic athlete to pay £335 to retrieve a clamped car in Swindon.

This situation illustrates an important point.

We cannot trust the government with our personal data.

Therefore we should minimise the data the government collects on us to only that which is necessary for it to carry out its functions, and it should be illegal for the government to use this data for purposes other than those for which it was collected or to share it with others, without our consent.

The police should only be allowed to get hold of such data, for the purposes of criminal investigation, only if they get a warrant from a judge and only if the person concerned is subsequently informed about it once the investigation is over or once charges are brought against that person.

Unfortunately the government has been reducing the barriers to the sharing of personal data, and is recording more and more data about us.

A final point regarding the identity cards bill. The government has been trying to sell the use of the national identity register to businesses, e.g. see:

Given the DVLA’s selling of information to businesses and the govt’s desire for businesses to make use of the ID cards and national identity register, can we trust the data held on the NIR not to find its way into the hands of advertisers, crooks and others who’d abuse it?


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