An interesting (and very entertaining judging by the reviews) take on Sir Stuart Bell - aka Britain’s laziest MP and the man who doesn’t see the point in constituency surgeries.
BAFTA nominated film-maker and Labour voter John Walsh was selected as the Conservative Candidate to take on Bell during the general election. According to Walsh, what he uncovers is a place where intimidation and neglect have scarred a town that politics has forgotten.
You can catch the film on Monday nightat the Frontline club (by Paddington Tube), at 7pm. Details here.
Slowly, we are waking up to the enormous risk to personal privacy posed by the misuse of personal information.
Big Brother Watch’s report into the data protection breaches in the NHS highlighted a number of harrowing individual cases. However, the wider cultural question is the one which should be of greatest concern.
In an age when ever more personal information is collected as a matter of routine by both the public and private sector, how that information is held and protected is of critical importance. When that information is of the kind of sensitive details found in medical records, lax attitudes towards confidentiality and privacy are unacceptable.
Despite the much publicised decision to scrap the last Government’s NHS IT boondoggle, one element was quietly retained – the Summary Care Record.
As highlighted by our report ‘Broken Records’, this system will allow more than 100,000 non-medical staff access to patient information, with no requirement or check that they have any need to see the contents of a record.
There are clear steps that can be taken. Proper audit trails of who accesses records – assigned to individuals, not terminals – will add accountability, and much more robust training about the importance of privacy.
This kind of measures will help develop a more rigorous and respectful culture around personal information. Equally important is the work being done by a range of groups to highlight the incidents that would otherwise go unreported and to keep up the pressure for more attention to be paid to the problem.
Furthermore, there are two fundamental changes that are of a more serious nature. Firstly, infringing the privacy of someone – be they a patient, customer or marketing database entry – should be treated far more seriously. Verbal warnings and counselling appear frequently in the research we conduct, and only in a small proportion is employment terminated.
Secondly, the penalties under the Data Protection Act are clearly inadequate. The corporate penalty is of insignificance to the large organisations that hold the most information, while individuals are likely to escape with a small fine.
There is also a broader question that should be asked much more frequently – how much information is needed to provide the service in the first place? Big Brother Watch will be talking much more in future about the tendency of organisations in both the public and private sector to harvest as much information as possible. Simply, the greater the volume of information held, the greater the risk to our privacy.
There is one final, legislative step that requires urgent attention. The Justice Select Committee was the latest body to call for prison sentences to be available to judges presiding over cases involving breaches of the Data Protection Act, a move Big Brother Watch had previously said is much needed along with the Information Commissioner.
This power has already been legislated; however it remains to be enacted.
If the Coalition is serious about civil liberties and protecting privacy, delaying further on giving courts the tools to protect our personal information is unforgivable.
Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) may sound like something you definitely don’t want to hear your GP say, but the reality is arguably far worse.
The legal action against file sharing site Newzbin2 was the first large-scale legal action of its kind, and resulted in a legal order mandating BT to block its customers from accessing the site.
There are various ways of achieving this, from simply blocking the web address to more complex technical methods. But the question of key concern is whether BT should be able to inspect everything you see and do online to ensure that you’re not looking at a website.
In other words, is the price for copyright enforcement our privacy?
According to the Honourable Mr Justice Arnold, BT not only should be able to see every detail of what we do online, but the court expects it to look.
In section 6 of his ruling of the 26 October, Arnold says BT’s Cleanfeed technology should be used to stop users accessing the site, believing Cleanfeed involves “a two-stage system of IP address re-routing and DPI-based URL blocking.”
In human-speak, this means looking at the digital address of the website you want to look at, not just the www name, but also that BT should look at the individual ‘packets’ of data your PC transmits to make absolutely sure you’re not looking at that website. To use a well-worn analogy, it’s like the Royal Mail opening every letter you write to check one of them doesn’t include a copied CD.
Let’s be clear, there is no law, and this court order does not make it illegal, to view the contents of Newzbin2. Cleanfeed was developed to block images and sites connected to child abuse, and it’s suitability for this kind of enforcement is far from clear.
It’s also unlawful in the UK for a private company to intercept communications without the prior consent of both the sender and recipient. So, it would appear a UK judge has just ordered BT to break the criminal law, in the name of copyright enforcement – which remains a civil matter.
This kind of uncertainty and contradiction is not new; it has been at the heart of policy formulation in the UK for several years, and is evident in the hand-wringing around the Digital Economy Act and its enforcement.
However, this ruling does have a wider impact - it brings into question the way in which individual privacy is protected online and the regard with which it is held.
It should not be forgotten that no UK regulator took action against BT when it used deep packet inspection as part of its advertising business development. The UK’s attitude to privacy online has been one of a badly blurred human right, a data protection regime created before Google existed and mismatched legislation that authorises investigations into suspected terrorists.
There is little discussion of how online privacy can be protected, with most of the debate focused on whether privacy comes at too great a cost to society. This cannot be a healthy situation for a society that is democratic.
As the legal question of protecting intellectual property and enforcing the criminal law becomes blurred with the moral questions posed by the likes of Claire Perry, the future of British access – private access – to a free internet becomes ever less certain.
This week, the great and the good of the internet world gathered in London to discuss the impending doom that an explosion in cybercrime entails.
Yet perhaps the greatest threat lies from within, and with a perfect storm of security, child protection and sexualisation and copyright enforcement we may be sleepwalking into the end of freedom online as we know it.
“it is not possible to determine the damage and corresponding compensation due to loss of benefits to the rightsholder, for the simple reason that customers of pirated copies of music and movies, when making the purchase of pirated copies, externalize their decision not to be customers of music and movies as originals, so there is no profit that could have been gained. In other words, those customers either buy a pirated copy at a low price or they don’t buy an original at a price between 15 and 20 Euros.
In any case, reversing the legal argument, it is conceivable that a customer, after hearing or viewing the pirated copy, may decide to purchase the original, finding it to their taste, so that the sale of pirated copies, far from harming, benefits the market for original items.”