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Time for surveillance transparency


Today the three heads of Britain's intelligence agencies appear infront of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee in a televised hearing, the first time for such a hearing to be broadcast. Progress, yes, but let's not get ahead of ourselves - the head of the CIA first appeared on TV speaking to congress in 1975, so it's hardly a revolution in oversight. Today we have published new polling by

GCHQ faces legal action over mass surveillance


Today Big Brother Watch, working with the Open Rights Group, English PEN and German internet activist Constanze Kurz, has announced legal papers have been filed alleging that GCHQ has illegally intruded on the privacy of millions of British and European citizens. We allege that by collecting vast amounts of data leaving or entering the UK, including the content of emails and social media messages, the UK’s spy

Patients win choice of sharing medical records


Earlier this year, we led the concern that a new NHS data sharing plan would see every patient's medical records uploaded to a new information system without the right to opt-out. We warned at the time that patient records would be out of patient control. On Friday, the Secretary of State confirmed that this will not be the case. We have worked closely with MedConfidential and Privacy International to ensure

Boom in private investigators risks avoiding surveillance regulation


Our latest report highlights the growing use of private investigators by local and public authorities, particularly the number of times they are used without RIPA authorisation. The law in the UK, particularly the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, is broadly drawn to allow evidence to be introduced in court that in other jurisdictions would not be deemed admissible. Contrasted with the fruit of the poisonous

Home

So what DO they allow..?

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Beach
I've written before about the surprising culture of control in Australia. A correspondent now provides visual proof.

Fun in the sun, eh!?

Of course, we're hardly free from such overbearing signage ourselves…

By Alex Deane

Hat tip: SH

Media Coverage – September 2010

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For all media enquiries please call: 07583 523 807 (24 hrs)

Thursday 30th September

The Guardian – BT in privacy row after sending customer data to ACS:Law

The director of Big Brother Watch, Alex Deane, told the Guardian: “It’s extraordinary that BT – or anyone else – would be so incompetent when handling customers’ personal data. Their failure is all the more pointed because it took place in the course of legal proceedings, in which any fool would know particular care needs to be taken.”

Asian Image – Police criticised for cameras in Muslims areas scheme

Big Brother Watch, which campaigns against excessive CCTV use and intrusions of privacy, said the project was “an expensive and oppressive waste of time that should never have gone ahead”, as it called for those responsible to be held to account. 

Its director, Alex Deane, said: “Vital civil liberties and any basic concept of privacy were both disregarded by this project. The report rightly concludes that the trust and confidence the public have in the police have been significantly undermined by it.”

24dash.com – Police slammed over CCTV scheme in Muslim neighbourhoods 


Wednesday 29th September

Evening Standard – Bikers blow cover of CCTV cars snooping on drivers

Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said: “It is great to see those who snoop on our driving get a taste of their own medicine.”

Spiked – Google’s unhappy twelfth birthday

BBC Radio Humberside – Alex Deane interviewed by Peter Levy on Sarah’s Law

Public Service – Miliband ‘defending twin evils’ of snooping

Ed Miliband’s speech indicates that major change in Labour’s policy on ‘snooping’ is unlikely, Alex Deane director of Big Brother Watch has told Publicservice.co.uk.

British Computer Society – Government intrusion in online privacy issues creates ‘potential tension’

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, argued that while government measures can have a positive impact on online issues, people must also take responsibility for their own online privacy and security.

‘We should all think more about what we share, and with whom, on the internet,’ he said.

 

Tuesday 28th September

BBC Look North – Alex Deane interviewed on Sarah’s Law

Swindon Advertiser – Council uses covert surveillance to snoop on residents

 Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “These figures show that Swindon Council has been abusing anti-terror RIPA powers, placing members of the public under surveillance for nonsense reasons. 

“The coalition Government plans to force councils to get warrants before snooping on us simply doesn’t go far enough. If the offence is serious enough to merit covert surveillance, then it should be in the hands of the police.”

BBC Somerset – Alex Deane interviewed on the database state


Monday 27th September

You at Work – Employees who use social networks offered security advice

According to Alex Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, recent changes to the site have made it easier for cyber-stalkers to follow their victims.

Mr Deane said that social network users must be careful about what they share – and with whom – while on the world wide web.

He added: “Accepting so-called ‘friends’ on Facebook can now allow your cyber-stalker to come and find you in real life. You shouldn’t need the CPS to tell you that.”


Saturday 25th September

Daily Mail – How’s your sex life? Doctors ‘should quiz patients about intimate relationships’

“Doctors are there to heal us, not to be the sex life stasi. They can keep their opinions about lifestyles to themselves unless we ask about it– after all, we pay the tax which pays for the health service.

“Intrusive questions like these will frighten people away from seeing doctors or from being honest with them – and the recent spate of leaks from medical databases just goes to show how vulnerable this information would be.”

 

Friday 24th September

Channel 4 News – Council tax revaluation ruled out by government

A spokesman for Big Brother Watch, which campaigns against intrusions on privacy, said: “The announcement is welcome and not before time.

“We only hope this is just the first step on the road to removing the prying eyes of the state from our private property.”

Daily Express – Council recruits volunteers to spy on the neighbours

Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch said: “CCTV is ineffective at the best of times, but when poorly trained members of the public are being asked to monitor the cameras it becomes near useless. 

“Recruiting un-vetted volunteers to spy on neighbours has shocking privacy implications. From grudge-bearing coll­eagues to ex-partners, the police are giving people free rein to snoop without repercussions.”

The Guardian – Council tax revaluation ruled out

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “For too long, tax inspectors have been able to intrude into people’s private homes and place their property details on an insecure state database, all in the name of generating extra revenue for the Government coffers.”

 

Thursday 23rd September

Kable – A tale of two cameras

No-one knows how many cameras there are in total, but Freedom of Information requests by campaign group Big Brother Watch last year established that local authorities operate around 60,000 – a fraction of the millions claimed.

 

Wednesday 22nd September

Metro – Google exposes data ‘snooping’ by UK government

Campaign groups voiced fears about internet privacy. Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘This is a very worrying statistic which confirms that the government is becoming increasingly concerned with what we do online.

‘It is also a reminder that the internet is not a private place. Every search made, email sent and page browsed is recorded by someone, somewhere.’

Al Jazeera – Alex Deane interviewed on Facebook and internet privacy

BBC South East Today – Dylan Sharpe interviewed on Operation Crackdown

Leith FM – Alex Deane interviewed by Graeme Logan 

Computerworld UK – Government demands Google release seven citizen data items every day

 

Monday 20th September  

BBC World Service – Alex Deane interviewed on the European Arrest Warrant

Autoblog – Drivers encouraged to report fellow motorists

 

Sunday  19th September

News of the World – Taught on CCTV

Alex Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “It’s disgraceful that schools feel the need to subject their children to camera surveillance throughout the day.

“Research shows that pupils who feel under suspicion are more likely to play up in school.”

 

Saturday 18th September

Daily Mail – ‘Stasi spies’ on the motorways: Big Brother fears as motorists are urged to inform on each other

Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, who uncovered the scheme, said the ‘whole process is based on unfounded accusations by untrained and possibly prejudiced members of the public.

Daily Telegraph – Motorists encouraged to spy on rogue drivers

Dylan Sharpe, of the campaign group Big Brother Watch, warned “This scheme is wide open to abuse, ranging from people with minor grudges against neighbours to busybody drivers who think they know what constitutes bad driving.”

Road.cc – Sussex Police encourage public to report anti social drivers – 20,000 reports later…

 

Friday 17th September

TechEye – Facebook Places raises red flags

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch told TechEye: “Social networking is great – if used properly, and provided responsibly. Facebook Places fails both tests and leaves most Facebook users vulnerable to harassment and stalking. Just when Facebook had made it easier for intrusive marketers to target you regardless of privacy concerns, they go one step further – and let people see where you’re stepping, too.”

 

Thursday 16th September

Metro – Woof justice: Dog owners banned from ‘drink-walking’ pets

Critics, of course, were quick to label the move ‘barking mad’.

‘This is just the latest in a steady stream of potty policies that try to criminalise and fine innocent dog walkers,’ said Dylan Sharpe from Big Brother Watch.

Female First – Drunk dog walkers banned

Brand Republic – The Unions plan to recruit allies for mass campaign against cuts

I will be intrigued to see how groups such as Big Brother Watch react to issues such as means testing of benefits

Flintshire Chronicle – Flintshire County Council trialling lollipop spy cams outside schools

STV.com – Drunk dog walkers banned

 

Tuesday 14th September

Daily Mail – Facebook boss under fire from murder victim’s mother for claiming privacy fears are overblown

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘How can Mark Zuckerberg claim that privacy isn’t being invaded when we are bombarded daily by companies who have stolen our personal details online?

‘Privacy online is being invaded in a hundred different ways, and Facebook are at the forefront of that invasion. If the issue weren’t so worrying, Zuckerberg’s hypocrisy would be amusing.’

The Wrexham Leader – Lollipop cameras watch on Flintshire drivers

Yahoo News – Lollipop lady becomes big brother

The York Press – Anger after school CCTV use exposed

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Our campaign against this growing and disturbing phenomenon has triggered many members of the public who got in touch because they were so upset.”

 

Monday 13th September

Surrey Herald – Big brother watch blasts RIPA for public surveillance

Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, which fights for liberty and personal privacy, said: “RIPA legislation empowers local council bureaucrats to spy on their residents for nonsensical and often absurd reasons.

“In the past, people have been followed down the street when walking their dog and snooped-on while dropping off clothes at charity shops.

“Put simply, RIPA is a dangerously wide-ranging and intrusive piece of legislation that councils are frequently abusing.”

Autoblog – Cameras in lollipops to catch inconsiderate drivers

Alex Deane, of pressure group Big Brother Watch said: “Britain is the most watched nation in the world and now they want to start putting CCTV cameras on our friendly neighbourhood lollipop ladies? You have to wonder what’s next for the surveillance state?” 

 

Saturday 11th September

The Times – Carol Midgley: Why I love CCTV

There’s a bit of a to-do in Surrey because the police are using CCTV cameras to catch people who don’t clear up their dogs’ piles of Brad Pitt. I thought this excellent news, but here’s Big Brother Watch to tell me I’m wrong. “Can anyone imagine a better example of our intrusive Big Brother society?” said a spokesman. Sigh.

Corus Radio – Alex Deane interviewed by Roy Green

 

Friday 10th September

Daily Post – North Wales council to hide cameras in traffic lollipops

Campaigners at the Big Brother Watch pressure group hit out at the trial. Director Alex Deane said: “This is an outrageous idea. 

“Britain is the most watched nation in the world and now they want to start putting CCTV cameras on our friendly neighbourhood lollipop ladies? You have to wonder what next for the surveillance state?’

 

Thursday 9th September

Wales Online – Google’s Street View mapping technology

Privacy campaigners have warned that more people are likely to have concerns about what pictures are now appearing online.

Dylan Sharpe, who is campaigns director of Big Brother Watch, said: “What we are concerned about is that people’s privacy is being invaded.”

Surrey Herald – Surrey County Council ranked 13th nationally in use of surveillance powers

Dylan Sharpe, Campaign Director of Big Brother Watch which fights for liberty and personal privacy, said: “RIPA legislation empowers local council bureaucrats to spy on their residents for nonsensical and often absurd reasons. 

“In the past people have been followed down the street when walking their dog and snooped-on while dropping off clothes at charity shops. 

“Put simply, RIPA is a dangerously wide-ranging and intrusive piece of legislation that councils are frequently abusing.”

 

Wednesday 8th September

BBC Kent – Dylan Sharpe interviewed on the Breakfast Show

BBC News Online – Automatic Number Plate Recognition catches criminals

Critics of ANPR technology, such as Big Brother Watch, say it is an intrusion on privacy.

Spokesman Dylan Sharpe said: “We are being tracked from the moment we leave the house, to the moment we return. This sort of sophisticated and intrusive surveillance is more reminiscent of Soviet Russia than 21st Century Britain.”

 

Tuesday 7th September

Daily Mail – More privacy fears over ‘stalker button’

Facebook faces fresh criticism from privacy campaigners after launching a ‘stalker button’ which lets users track a potential victim’s every move.

Big Brother Watch said: ‘This new “stalker button” enables burglars and ex-partners to track people in real life more easily.’

CCTV Core – New research suggests general public support CCTV

CCTV systems representing a substantial IT investment have been under threat from myriad sources; from the Deputy Prime Minister through to Big Brother Watch, a perception has been created that the public does not want public space CCTV systems and that they consider them to be both intrusive and an infringement of civil liberties.

PogoWasRight.org – Would the UK public really support CCTV if they knew more? 

 

Monday 6th September

TechEye – Gordon Brown joins World Wide Web Foundation’s Board of Directors

Big Brother Watch describes Brown’s venture as “laudable” but highlights some of his goings on at New New Labour.

Alex Deane, a representative for the organisation, told us: “Wanting to help Africans get online is laudable. But given the enormous intrusions into privacy and freedom over which Gordon Brown presided whilst Prime Minister, he’s about the worst person to “help” new internet users. Less “education for all” – more “snooping for those who can’t escape it”.

Thursday 2nd September

4FM Ireland – Alex Deane interviewed on internet privacy

Lancashire Evening Post – Big Brother is Watching You

According to pressure group Big Brother Watch, the city has 136 cameras in public places. In comparison, West Lancashire has 52 cameras, Chorley has 44, South Ribble 41, the Ribble Valley 30 and Fylde 28.

 

Wednesday 1st September

BBC Radio Humberside – Dylan Sharpe interviewed on councils illegally using DVLA database

And we thought we had it bad

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The picture below was sent in to Big Brother Watch overnight. The photo was taken by a supporter who had spotted the board at the cashiers of a Starbucks in Oregon.

I'm almost lost for words.

Starbucks

By Dylan Sharpe

Your Privacy

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Big Brother Watch takes your privacy very seriously!

This page explains the Big Brother Watch privacy policy and how it will use and protect any information about you that you give when you visit this website.

The Data Protection Act

Under the Data Protection Act, we have a legal duty to protect any information collected from you (as does anyone else that accumulates information about you – which is worth remembering). We use leading technologies and encryption software to safeguard your data, and keep strict security standards to prevent any unauthorised access to it.

What information does Big Brother Watch collect?

We collect four kinds of information from visitors to the website:

  • Mailing list subscribers
  • Feedback (through visitors emailing us)
  • Comments (on posts)
  • Site usage information

Mailing list

If you want to receive our newsletter, you can sign up to receive it. We will (i) never add you if you haven’t asked to go onto the list, (ii) never share the list with anyone else and (iii) never use it for any other purpose. You can unsubscribe from the list very easily at any time.

Feedback

We welcome your feedback.

Should you send an email to us making a point, seeking advice or asking for information, your email will NOT be passed on to anyone outside Big Brother Watch without your express permission.

Comments

We only edit comments for extreme profanity, and delete spam comments. You will note that you are required by the engine we use to put in an e-mail address – please feel free to use a false one.

Site usage information

Cookies

Cookies are pieces of data that are often created when you visit a website, and which are stored in the cookies directory of your computer. Cookies are created when you visit us.

The cookies do not contain any personal information about you, and they cannot be used to identify an individual user. You can delete them yourself of course and you can set your browser not to accept cookies.

Traffic

We use the engine on which this page is designed to tell us about how much traffic we have. This data is wholly anonymised.

We use JavaScript to aggregate and analyse usage on all pages on our site. This provides data on usability and behaviour. This does not collect any personal or identifiable information about users.

What happens when I link to another site?

The Big Brother Watch website contains links to other websites, both of government departments and of other organisations. This privacy policy applies only to the Big Brother Watch site, so you should always be aware when you are moving to another site and read the privacy statement of any other site(s) which collect personal information about you.

What happens when I access the Big Brother Watch site through another site?

Where you are directed to the Big Brother Watch site from another site you may be conveying to that other site personal information relating to you from the other site(s). You should read the privacy policies applicable to such sites as these will govern the use of any personal information that you provide when accessing such sites. Big Brother Watch accumulates no such information about you.

Access to your information and contacting Big Brother Watch

If you wish to see the Big Brother Watch records of any correspondence with you, or if you have a query or complaint about this privacy policy or about the site, you can contact us using this email address:

[email protected]

Changes to this privacy policy

If this privacy policy changes in any way, an updated version will be placed on this page.

This is version 1 of our privacy policy. It was posted on 26th August 2010.

Fixed Penalty Notices

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Scales As many readers will know, Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) have been handed out like confetti by our police forces in recent times, in lieu of proper investigation of allegations.

The Court of Appeal has today made it clear that Fixed Penalty Notices are

not a conviction, admission of guilt, proof that a crime had been committed, or a stain on the defendant's character, and therefore could not be regarded as evidence which impugned the character of the defendant or defendant or admitted as such.

Prior to this I discussed FPNs on Radio 4, when I made it clear that FPNs are a way of disposing of a case without any admission of fault on the part of the person who takes them and no criminal record of any kind. Nevertheless, anecdotally I gather that they have wrongly been treated as such in our criminal courts when it comes to good character directions in trials and so forth.

FPNs have been handed out to people in relation to an array of allegations, many of them precisely the kind of things BBW is concerned about – non-crimes and trivial allegations like littering and so forth. People often feel that they have to take them, because they can avoid getting a criminal record if they do so, but run the risk of such a record (and heftier punishments) down the line if they don't. Rightly, the Metropolitan Police have now abandoned these "time-wasting" fines (their words) for many offences – but even if other police forces follow their example (and many have not and show no signs of doing so), many people will have been wrongly disadvantaged by them in the intervening period.

Have you have received an FPN, and have you have been mistreated by the justice system as a result?

By Alex Deane

Look what I found at the bus stop

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Cracked CD …a CD containing the scans of 112 patient records taken from the Intensive Care Unit of New Cross Hospital’s Heart and Lung Unit in Wolverhampton.

No, seriously.

The press release from the Information Commissioner's Office is perhaps even more damning:

Investigations by the Trust and the ICO were unable to ascertain exactly why or how the CD was ever made, although it was established that there were areas of weakness in the Trust’s data protection procedures. This included a lack of timeliness in recalling patients’ charts that had been released to consultants.

We are almost getting tired of saying this (and dealt with it in more detail in our report Broken Records available here), but it really is about time that hospitals started treating our personal medical records with the appropriate care.

By Dylan Sharpe

Big Brother Watch reports to become Government policy?

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Postcard (half) Of course, since our creation around 12 months ago we have campaigned for the scrapping of ID cards and ContactPoint (two pledges that the Government has so far honoured); and we are but one organisation in a field of several fine campaigning groups who are having real influence on Coalition policy.

But, of the five major reports we have produced to date, at least three have been specifically aimed at protecting yourselves and your homes from council officers and government inspectors.

In focussing on the dizzying number of powers of entry provided to town hall bureaucrats (our Barging In report is available here), the proliferation of microchips being placed in our rubbish bins (our Lifting the Lid report is available here) and the gross exploitation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (The Grim RIPA report is available here) – we were hoping to push those in power into making the right decision and scale back (and in, some cases, remove) the enormous ease that the state had to snoop, stalk and intrude on our privacy.

So, the article entitled 'Tories call time on town hall snoops' which appeared in the Sunday Times yesterday, comes as an enormous vindication of our hard work and your support:

(you will forgive me for printing a substantial section of the article as it is currently hidden behind a paywall)

Town Hall snoopers who use anti-terrorist legislation to spy on law-abiding local residents are to have their surveillance powers removed in a rollingback of the Big Brother state. Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government, has accused the previous Labour government of creating "a modern day Stasi" and said he was putting an end to the abuse of civil liberties by officials.

The minister also plans to stop council officials using spy satellite images to monitor home improvements when assessing properties for council tax. He also intends to curb the powers of council tax valuers to enter people's homes.

A "Freedom Bill" being drafted by civil servants will also prevent local government snoopers from going through bins to check whether households have disposed of their rubbish properly.

Ministers are also considering stopping councils from using microchips on bins to monitor the amount of rubbish people throw away.

"It used to be the case that an Englishman's home was his castle – but no longer. Our new coalition will stand up for the privacy and liberty of lawabiding citizens. We are calling time on this modern-day Stasi."

Under the reform proposals, councils will be banned from using the Ripa surveillance powers except to tackle serious criminal offences that would lead to a custodial sentence, if the person was convicted. The coalition government will also require a magistrate to authorise use of the act to provide another check on abuse.

The Labour government created more than 500 new powers allowing officials, including bailiffs, to enter people's homes. Pickles is planning to scrap a law introduced by Labour that allows bailiffs to force entry into houses to collect civil debts.

One government source said: "A series of policy measures are under active consideration. Big Brother snoopers will be curtailed."

Big Brother Watch exists to expose the worst excesses of our surveillance state and through media, on-the-ground and online campaigning; lobby and, where necessary, shame decision-makers into rolling-back the intrusive powers they would otherwise cling to.

Of course, we are not planning the victory parade yet, and will have to wait and see how this promised "Freedom Bill" arrives, but the early announcements are very promising and we want to thank you for all your support in helping us to bring these issues to the fore.

By Dylan Sharpe

The council won’t let you sell your own car

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Medway Council are at it again. In a week in which I thought the bullying autocrats at Sandwell Council were going to be the focus of my ire, Medway have sprung from nowhere to be Britain's most overbearing authority.

For sale<br />
car sign” class=”asset asset-image at-xid-6a0120a57e35a3970b0133f331b6db970b<br />
” src=”http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/.a/6a0120a57e35a3970b0133f331b6db970b-250wi” style=”width: 220px; margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;” title=”For sale car sign” /></a>Their other misdemeanours are chronicled <a href=here, but the latest one probably takes the biscuit.

Medway Council's Environment Enforcement team have forbidden anyone to place a 'for sale' sign on their own car and park it outside their own house, on their street.

As the Kent Chronicle explains:

Trainee plumber Pete Dolling stuck no more than a sheet of paper inside his windscreen advertising his R-reg Ford Escort outside his mum's house in Hempstead.

Soon after, he got a notice slapped on the window from the council's Environment Enforcement Team telling him he had to get their permission to sell his car and then shift it within week four weeks, or risk having it forcibly removed.

The notice said: "The vehicle to which this notice is attached is being offered for sale without consent from Medway Council."

The notice demanded Pete, 32, wrote to the council to prove ownership of the car, that he was not a trader and that it was not causing a nuisance where it was parked, otherwise it would be removed and he would be charged for the cost.

That's right, Pete should have written to the council to ask if he could sell his car. But since when did councils have any sort of jurisdiction over the sale of private property?

If they really wanted to establish he wasn't a trader (although – as a commenter on the Kent website points out – in order to be done as a trader he would have to be advertising in "two or more motor vehicles parked within 500 metres of each other") then they could simply leave a note asking him to call and confirm.

But no, they would rather threaten, demand foreknowledge, and finally give a time limit before they send one of their jobsworths round to tow his car.

The hand-written note in the back window is officially banned.

By Dylan Sharpe

When the boot is on the other foot

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Police speed gun Have you ever been caught speeding by a speed gun? Wanted to challenge the reading given but knew your argument wouldn't stack up against the police's sophisticated technology?

It helps to have some insider knowledge…

From the Daily Mail:

A senior policewoman clocked speeding is challenging the charge by claiming that the speed gun used by her own force was not accurate.

If she wins, it could open the floodgates to thousands of appeals from motorists across the country who have been caught using the devices.

Superintendent Helen Chamberlain, 43, was recorded driving at 79mph on a road with a 50mph limit.

She was given a verbal warning by the officer who stopped her. But a more senior officer disagreed with the decision and asked the Crown Prosecution Service to review the case.

If she's proven correct, potentially thousands of people around the country will have cause for case reviews and compensation.

And if she's proven wrong, she should be fired immediately for getting our hopes up behaving in such an unprofessional manner.

By Dylan Sharpe

Facebook “Places”

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Facey b Over at the Guardian, Jemima Kiss (real name) has a piece about a new Facebook function:

Facebook risks a privacy backlash today when it launches a feature that automatically shares information on the location of users with their online friends.

The feature allows mugs users to "check in" at locations which will then be shared with burglars their friends and Facebook network.

Users will also be able to browse to see which "friends" are nearby. Nice to be able to help out stalkers, eh?

"What we see with Facebook is a massive learning curve. Every time they make a change, consumers scramble to figure out the privacy settings," said Rainey Reitman, spokeswoman for Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in the US. "Location data is tied to people's safety – if people know where you are, they know where you're not. Your location data is some of the most sensitive data we have. I expect we'll see from the get-go people who don't understand how to control the privacy settings."

Doesn't affect us, yet. The service will launch in the US only at first.

Users are now being advised to be particularly judicious about who they accept as friends – but of course, that doesn't much help if you've been accepting every Tom, Dick and Harry until now…

One should of course also be aware that even information shared with an intimate network could be copied and pasted elsewhere. Don't post anything online you wouldn't want to get out publicly to anyone.

As always with FaceyB, the default settings are wrong. The primary location setting is switched on by default, which means any "places" tags are automatically being shared with immediate friends.

In time a version will launch in the UK, where research by Ofcom found that 45% of web browsing time on UK mobiles is spent on Facebook. Nearly one-third of Facebook's 500 million users access the site by mobile, it claims.

Anyone who spots problems/stories about this app, please let BBW know…

By Alex Deane

Hat tip: DL, SD

**UPDATE** This piece is well worth reading – a guide to the app, which covers all the issues around "Places"