Today, the European Commission is releasing new rules for the use of airport body scanners. The rules are meant to give airline passengers more choices when it comes to submitting to airport security measures before flying.
The new proposals ensure that images from body scanners are not stored or copied and that security staff monitoring the images do so in a separate room. The proposals also means that passengers will be offered the option of an alternative method of screening should they choose. Finally, the proposals ban the use of x-ray technology in response to health concerns rising from frequent exposure. Read more
Lord Baker’s review into UK Extradition Law – all 488 pages of it – has been published today. A major section of the report deals with the working of the European Arrest Warrant, which Big Brother Watch held a fringe meeting on at Conservative conference.
Before the election, Dominic Grieve summed up the situation well. He said: “Our extradition laws are a mess. They’re one-sided. A Conservative government will re-write them.” Nick Clegg was in agreement on the failures of the UK/US Extradition treaty, adding: “I forced a debate on it…and warned the Government then that the treaty would lead to an abuse of people’s rights in this country.”
Nick de Bois MP, who spoke at our fringe event, yesterday outlined what he would like the review to say on the European Arrest Warrant. His view shares the concerns of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, who reported in July this year on the need for reform.
The banning of the burqa is an extremely controversial issue. The arguments for protecting against the subjugation of women or increasing security against Mulism extremists dressed full veil are understandable. But where do we draw the line between discouraging sexism or religious extremism and curbing the rights of individuals to religious freedom and expression?
Belgium’s law coming into force next week banning women from wearing the burqa or niqab makes it the second EU state to bring forward such a law, France’s law having come into force in April this year. And while I have no doubt that people in Belgium, France and the UK (and every other country in Europe) would prefer to see these women feel comfortable walking out of their homes without their faces and hands covered, is it any less degrading to force women who wear the veil out of mainstream society? Is it any less wrong to take away the rights of a woman to practice their religion as they see fit? In the 21st century, is choosing to wear a veil any different than choosing to wear a Christian cross or Jewish kippa? Perhaps, but of course it is not that simple.
I agree, some of the women who wear the burqa or niqab do so under pressure from their families or communities. But these women in burqa are few in number. In France they numbered only an estimated 700 or so, and in Belgium, even fewer still at no more than 300. In the case of those under pressure to adopt such strict dress, is it worth it to further segregate these women simply to make a point? To restrict their rights in Europe to practice their religion freely? To make it impossible for them to leave their homes without fear of persecution from their families, neighbours and strangers alike? To leave them no option but to withdraw from society and become second-class citizens? Do we want to make criminals out of women who are following their cultural traditions? A law requiring people to identify themselves if placed under arrest while wearing any attire that obscures the face is one thing, but I think this may go too far.
For these women it isn’t clear who benefits from restricting adherence to the practice of living behind the veil. Encouraging integration and assimilation into western societies has its value. Discouraging sexist views that promote inequality between men and women is a step forward for western values. But doing so in such a way that limits expression, freedom to practice one’s religion or adhere to one’s cultural practices is dangerous, even if the motives behind it are pure. It’s a slippery slope that may have consequences for freedom of religion or expression more generally or for immigrants and the integration process.
The European Commission launched a consultation today on personal data breach notifications. The EC is seeking feedback from all relevant stakeholders including telecoms, ISPs, EU member states, consumer groups and individuals on what the process should be for notifying people who have had their personal data copied or stolen without their consent.
This consultation comes on the heels of the European-wide implementation date for the revised ePrivacy Directive which was May 25, 2011. With the wheels turning on that implementation across all EU member states, the European Commission is seeking additional information and feedback through related consultations.
Go here read the consultation and submit a response.
Following the publishing of the ICO’s annual report this morning, the European Parliament has approved reforms to the Commission’s Data Protection Directive of 1995. These are designed to give more control to individuals over any information held on them by organisations and companies, as well as placing a responsibility on those bodies to inform people of any data breaches which occur involving their personal information.
Axel Voss, the German MEP, wrote the report for the European Parliament, which had demanded more accountability from businesses with regards to data breaches. E.U. citizens will now be able to delete, correct or block their information easily.
The EU Justice Commisioner, Viviane Reding, claimed: “Putting people back in control of their personal data is a priority for me.”
By the end of the year the European Commission is expected to finalise new legislation to dramatically modernise European data protection rules.
At Big Brother Watch, we have long warned about the pernicious nature of the European Arrest Warrant and how it can be misused to persecute those who have either commuted no crime at all or an offence so minor that international extradition would be inappropriate.
Alex Deane, a member of the Big Brother Watch Advisory Council has written to the Home Secretary in order to seek clarifications from her surrounding the case of Dr Migel-Angel Meizoso, a Spanish national whose extradition is currently being sought by his home nation:
“I am writing to draw your attention to the case of Dr. Miguel-Angel Meizoso, the Spanish citizen who has claimed political asylum on 27 June 2011. It is, of course, very unusual for an EU national to claim asylum; especially for someone who, like Dr. Meizoso, has lived in this country for the past 20 years. Furthermore, it is an EU mechanism – the European Arrest Warrant – that he is asking protection from.
“We at Big Brother Watch are gravely concerned about the EAW regime and other threats to civil liberties arising from the European Union. We welcome the fact that the government has recognised that EAW system is open to abuse and commissioned the independent review led by Sir Scott Baker.
“In these circumstances, it is my view that Dr. Meizoso’s case raises issues of great public importance, and the Big Brother Watch intends to follow it closely. We are confident that you will give his asylum claim a fair and careful consideration.”
We will keep you in touch with this case, including the response we receive from the Home Secretary Theresa May MP.
Over at Public Service, there's an article drawing our attention to comments made by Europol Director Rob Wainwright about the future of DNA record sharing across Europe.
Speaking to the website, Wainwright said:
"I am not sure a major European DNA database for every citizen would be the right balance, it would be disproportionate so it's not something that is going to happen in the short term, I am sure".
While it is encouraging that such a database has been ruled out in the short term, his comment is hardly a forceful rejection of the principle of such a database.
We will be pushing Home Secretary Theresa May to confirm, if such a scheme is mooted, that she has no such plans for the UK to cooperate with such a scheme. Watch this space…
It is expected that the EU data protection watchdogs will tell the European Commission that the location data stored by mobile phones should be considered personal data, and therefore receive a high level of protection. If accepted by the Commission, it is highly likely that provisions will be written into the Data Protection Directive later on in the year for the protection of location-based data.
This advice follows worrying reports that mobiles such as the iPhone and those containing Google’s Android interface store location data in an unencrypted manner, allowing potential hackers to see all your movements for the preceding months or even years.
The New York Times has reported that the Article 29 working party will explain its findings this Friday, where it is highly likely their report will contain opinions about geographic locations. This body contains regulators of data protection from all 27 member countries, operating independently of the Commission to avoid any conflict of interest.
Matthew Newman, a spokesman for the Commission's vice president Viviane Reding, said that protecting personal data obtained through new technologies was a priority for the Commission. Reding is leading a review of European privacy laws. Newman said:
"The Commission is currently analysing all forms of new technology and we will take into consideration social network sites and the rise of data-sharing like photos and the use of cloud computing and behavioural advertising when we reform the Data Protection Directive later this year.
"The technology has moved on in leaps and bounds since the Directive came into force more than 15 years ago, so what we want to do is see how people are using the technologies and how that relates to personal data to make sure that people's fundamental rights are protected.”
Location data from your mobile phone is self evidently personal data and should be treated as such in law. It's just a shame it's the EU, not Westminster who are stepping up to take action on this issue.
May 11, 2011
Posted in CCTV, Control Orders, Databases, DNA database, Europe, ID cards, Legal Action, Mastering the Internet, Online privacy, Privacy
Big Brother Watch has today (11th May) released a research paper outlining the progress the Coalition Government has made on civil liberties issues during its first year in office.
The paper concludes that, while real progress has been made, many of the Coalition's promises to roll back the power of the state remain unfulfilled.
Click here to download the report
Commenting on the report, Big Brother Watch Director Daniel Hamilton said:
"The Coalition has some real achievements to speak off.
"Ministers should be congratulated for taking steps to scrap ID cards and remove the profiles of the one million innocent people held on the national DNA database. They should also be praised for doing away with the ContactPoint database of children’s details and reforming the criminal record check regime.
"They do, however, have more work to do.
"Police stop and search powers remain in place, Control Orders remain virtually unreformed and there has been no opt-out from the European Arrest Warrant. When it comes to E-Borders, the Summary Care Record and Intercept Modernisation Programme, they have continued to implement the previous government’s policies – warts and all."
By Michael Heaver
In a potentially worrying new development EU counter-terrorism director Oliver Luyckx has called for a new EU-wide intelligence agency, aimed at becoming a “one-stop shop for information sharing”.
The EU already has instruments such as the European Arrest Warrant that demand compulsory extradition, with Baroness Ashton acting as the EU’s High Representative for Security Policy and Foreign Affairs.
Luyckz’s demand for a new powerful EU terrorism division would see the creation of a massive new agency, forcing Britain’s MI5 and MI6 to share its information on citizens with this new EU counterpart that would see the merger of EU security bodies including Frontex, Europol, Eurojust and Cosi. It could become the largest and most powerful counter-terrorism unit ever since in Europe, with information on British citizens being easier to access by foreign security agencies than ever before.