03-09 June 2016


CA – Federal Photo-Matching Scheme Quietly Singles Out Passport Fraudsters

Federal officials used photo-matching technology to identify 15 high-risk people – all wanted on immigration warrants – who used false identities to apply for travel documents. The Liberal government might make the facial-recognition scheme permanent to help find and arrest people ineligible to remain in Canada due to involvement with terrorism, organized crime or human rights violations. The photo-matching idea emerged from concerns that people wanted by the Canada Border Services Agency might use fake names to obtain genuine Canadian travel documents from the Immigration Department’s passport program, say internal memos released under the Access to Information Act. The privacy commissioner’s office has not been consulted on the project. However, both the border agency and the passport program have shared information about other facial-recognition initiatives with the commissioner. Passport officials have used the image-matching technology for years to see if someone has applied for multiple travel documents in different names. The border agency has quietly been working with other agencies since at least 2011 to gauge the ability of devices to extract usable facial images from video footage. [Source]


CA – Court Rules that Health Records Do Not Require Vetting Prior to Disclosure to Childrens Aid Society

The Court considers a request for a protection application for the production of records from non-parties. The records, containing mental health information of a parent, do not require vetting by counsel for the society or the parent (this approach could give either party an unfair advantage in litigation), or the Court (the mental health records are relevant to whether the parent’s children are in need of protection, and the production order will be structured to preserve the parent’s privacy interests). [Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton v. L.K. – 2016 CanLII 15148 (ONSC) – Superior Court of Justice of Ontario]

CA – BC Appeals Court Finds Senders of Texts and Emails Have a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in the Content of the Message

a review of impact of the BC Court of Appeal’s decision in R. v. Craig. Senders have a reasonable expectation that their text messages will be confidential; senders do not abandon their right to privacy in the content of the message, to the extent that they should be able to count on the recipient’s duty of confidentiality. While there is inherent risk in any human interaction, the risk that a message might be improperly shared (i.e. breach of confidentiality) is not enough to vitiate a reasonable expectation of privacy. ‘[Privacy, technology, and instant messaging – The British Columbia Court of Appeal sends a (instant) message – Dara Jospé, Michael Shortt, and Antoine Guilmain – Fasken Martineau, Montréal]

CA – Other Canada News


US – Survey: A Year After the OPM Hack, Victims Don’t Feel Safer

A Federal News Radio survey on the Office of Personnel Management breach has found that roughly 55% of government employees and contractors don’t feel their personal information is safer a year after the hack. George Mason University’s Jim Jones said one reason for these responses is that many acknowledge that the risks move faster than security efforts. “The threat is so flexible and responsive in the sense that when we do something, we close one hole they simply move on to another one,” he said. Meanwhile, NPR also examines the changes in security practices at the OPM in a subsequent report. [Federal News Radio]


CA – OIPC ON Cautions Against Using Personal Email and Instant Messaging When Doing Public Business

Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Brian Beamish, is calling on the leaders of all public institutions to educate staff and enact policies to strictly control the use of personal email and messaging tools, such as BlackBerry Messenger, to conduct business. All public servants should be aware that records relating to government business are subject to provincial access legislation, even if they are created, sent or received through instant messaging tools or personal email accounts. The use of these tools and accounts can create a number of challenges for institutions in meeting their obligations under Ontario’s access and privacy laws. To avoid these issues, Beamish is asking all Ontario institutions to either strictly control the use of personal email or instant messaging when doing business, and implement clear policies to help public servants meet their legal obligations. If it is necessary to use these tools, institutions must plan for compliance by conducting thorough risk assessments and implementing appropriate administrative and technical measures to ensure that records are saved. A new guide to assist Ontario’s public institutions, Instant Messaging and Personal Email Accounts: Meeting Your Access and Privacy Obligations, is now available. [Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario]

Electronic Records

CA – Alberta OIPC Issues Guidance for EHR Systems

The OIPC of Alberta has published Guidance for Electronic Health Record Systems. This guide was developed to assess the safeguards in electronic health record (EHR) systems. Custodians and their EHR service providers may use this document to support a Privacy Impact Assessment on an EHR system, or to examine whether changes to a system comply with Health Information Act requirements. Two versions of the document are available on our website. A PDF version and an editable Word document:

EU Developments

US – US and EU Officially Ink Umbrella Agreement

Officials from the EU and U.S. officially signed the so-called Umbrella Agreement, which sets privacy protections on European citizens’ personal data when transferred to the U.S. for law enforcement purposes. It will give EU citizens judicial redress in U.S. courts — something the EU already provides for U.S. citizens. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Dutch Minister Ard van der Steur, and EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová signed the deal Thursday. Privacy advocates, however, have expressed concern about the deal. Access Now’s Estelle Massé said the new rules are “toothless” and that it “should absolutely be brought back to the drawing board.” [Ars Technica]

EU – British Lawmakers Pass New Digital Surveillance Law

The House of Commons passed the controversial Investigatory Powers Bill, which would provide security agencies with stronger monitoring abilities. The bill was approved 444-69. Interior Minister Theresa May said the new law will help “keep us safe in an uncertain world.” While May noted the scrutiny of the Investigatory Powers Bill was “unprecedented,” a new privacy clause has been added requiring agencies to contemplate less intrusive ways to surveil, while also offering special protections for lawmakers, journalists and lawyers. “It provides far greater transparency, overhauled safeguards and adds protections for privacy and introduces a new and world-leading oversight regime,” May said. The bill now moves to the upper house of Parliament, the House of Lords. [Reuters]

EU – European Commission Creates Code of Conduct for Mobile Health Apps

The European Commission has formally submitted a code of conduct to the Article 29 Working Party to increase privacy capabilities on mobile health apps. The code has been handed in for comments, and once approved, app developers can voluntarily commit to them. The European Commission code is based on EU data protection legislation, and aims to raise awareness for all parties, including small and medium enterprises as well as individual developers who may not have legal teams on hand, and “increase compliance at the EU level for app developers.” The code covers numerous issues, including user consent, purpose limitation, privacy by design and default, and data security. The European Commission also covered advertising within mHealth apps, disclosing data to third parties, children’s privacy, and data transfers. [Telecompaper] [Press Release] [Public Consultation]

EU – EDPS Announces New Accountability Initiative

European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli announced a new accountability initiative to help EU bodies transition to the General Data Protection Regulation. The EDPS started working on a project to enhance accountability in data processing in 2015, when the agency examined itself as an institution. “We developed a specific tool to ensure and demonstrate our accountability as an organisation, to plan and to keep track of related actions. This document consists of a set of questions for the supervisors, the director, the staff responsible for managing processing operations and our data protection officer,” Buttarelli wrote in a blog post. “This year, we aim to visit — and have already started — small, medium, and large EU bodies to explain the new obligations,” he continued, adding, “As part of our efforts … we will recommend our accountability document during these visits and suggest that they tailor it to suit their specific needs.” [EDPS Blog Post]


WW – Facebook is Using Your Phone to Listen to Everything You Say: Professor

Facebook admits to using people’s microphones to listen to what they say, but they claim this is somehow a good thing. Kelli Burns, mass communication professor at the University of South Florida claims to have tested devices running the Facebook mobile app, and found that all of them are listening to everything you say, providing customized ads based on what you are saying. “I’m really interested in going on an African safari. I think it’d be wonderful to ride in one of those jeeps,” she said out loud with her phone in hand. According to the NBC report, less than a minute later, the first story in her Facebook feed was about a safari. And a car ad soon appeared on her page – go figure. Of course, this is not scientific evidence at this point, but Burns is not one to shun. Before becoming an academic, she spent seven years in corporate marketing and is a well-known figure in social media circles. Facebook didn’t deny the claims. Instead, it admitted that it picks up sounds from users, but said that it only does this to recommend they post things on Facebook. It’s not the first time Facebook has come under fire for something like this. Last years it was also accused of the same thing, and they said at the time that users had to turn their microphone on in order for this to work. But now, the microphone is on by default, so this does seem to confirm that Facebook is listening to you. [zmescience.com]


CA – Ontario Health Ministry Ordered to Disclose Names on OHIP Billings

Ontario’s privacy watchdog has ordered the province to publish the names of the 100 doctors whose billings to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan are highest. An adjudicator, ruling on an access-to-information request from the Toronto Star, said the billings are “not personal information” and, even if they were, it would be in the public interest to reveal them. The Ontario Medical Association, which represents the province’s 28,000 physicians, opposed release of the data, saying it could be misconstrued. (Billings are not salaries but gross payments from which doctors must pay office overhead, benefits and pension.) The OMA has not yet decided if it will appeal the ruling. If it does not, the data will be made public on July 8. [Source] [IPC Decision] [54-page order] [Ontario Doctors’ Billings: Transparency is the Best Medicine] [End the secrecy over doctors’ billings: Editorial]

CA – OIPC NFLD Expects Redaction to be Used Sparingly

The Office of the Newfoundland and Labrador Information and Privacy Commissioner provided its expectations for Public Body Coordinators on handling non-responsive information in an access request, pursuant to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Redact non-responsive information only where necessary and appropriate; best practices include, releasing the information if it is just as easy as claiming non-responsive (this will save time-consuming consultations and time weighing discretionary exceptions), avoid breaking the flow of information (do not claim non-responsive within sentences or paragraphs), and explain what non-responsive means in the final response to the Applicant, and that information has been redacted on this basis. [Newfoundland and Labrador OIPC – Practice Bulletin – Redacting Non-Responsive Information in a Responsive Document]

US – Snowden Questioned NSA’s ‘Interpretation of Legal Authorities’ Before Leak

Former government contractor Edward Snowden attempted to contact the NSA about its surveillance programs before exposing a trove of documents to the public. In response to a “long-running” Freedom-of-Information-Act lawsuit, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released more than 800 pages of communications to Vice News revealing Snowden tried to ask questions about the “interpretation of legal authorities” related to the programs. The documents also reveal Snowden’s face-to-face interaction with an official, details about Snowden’s work with the agency, and efforts by the NSA, the White House and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to discredit Snowden. [Full Story]


US – Biden Unveils Launch of Major, Open-Access Database to Advance Cancer Research

Vice President Joe Biden will unveil a 12,000-patient, open-access cancer research database called the Genomic Data Commons today. The database will include “raw genomic and clinical data” as well as information regarding patients’ treatment types and their bodies’ response to it, the report states. “This is good news in the fight against cancer,” Biden said. “Increasing the pool of researchers who can access data and decreasing the time it takes for them to review and find new patterns in that data is critical to speeding up development of lifesaving treatments for patients.” The GDC will have privacy protections in place, with representatives from cancer centers drafting a model consent form, the report adds. [Washington Post] See also: [Canada: Genetic Discrimination And Canadian Law] and [How new DNA testing is cracking open long-stalled cold cases]

Health / Medical

US – OCR: Sharing Electronic Patient Data Crucial, Requires Cooperation

A slew of breakthroughs will put the pressure on health care leaders to start becoming more transparent with data. Deputy Director of Health Information Privacy in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights Deven McGraw highlighted this during the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s annual meeting in Washington, where she said cooperation will be key for successfully sharing patient data. “I can enforce people to comply with the law, but the culture change that makes a difference is not because the government is going to force it down people’s throat,” said McGraw. “It’s going to happen because people want it and demand it.” McGraw said providers should release electronic patient data at their request. “Whatever the patient wants to do with that information, it’s her right to have it and to have it in the form or format that she wants it,” McGraw said. [Healthcare IT News]

Horror Stories

WW – 32M Twitter Passwords Held at Ransom

A hacker with purported ties to the LinkedIn, Myspace, and Tumblr breaches is now claiming to have a database of 32 million Twitter login credentials at ransom. “The explanation for this is that tens of millions of people have become infected by malware, and the malware sent every saved username and password from browsers like Chrome and Firefox back to the hackers from all websites including Twitter,” said a statement from breach-notification company LeakedSource, which analyzed the database and was able to verify accounts. The company added that the passwords taken were most likely in plain text with no hashing. “The lesson here? It’s not just companies that can be hacked, users need to be careful too,” the statement said. [ZDNet]

EU – Dutch DPA Receives More Than 1,500 Breach Notifications in First 4 Months

Review of the first 4 months of new breach notification requirements in the Netherlands shows that, in approximately two-thirds of breaches, the DPA had reason to more closely examine the circumstances of the breach or it opened formal investigations; subsequent action was taken against about 70 organisations. DPA’s classification of breaches found that 3 of the four categories related to inadvertent disclosures by the organisation (e.g. loss of unencrypted devices, insecure disposal, or insecure transfers); the remaining category related to malicious access to databases and ransomware. [130 days, 1,500 notifications: Does Dutch breach rule foreshadow GDPR? – Lokke Moerel and Alex van der Wolk, Morrison & Foerster LLP]

Identity Issues

WW – Search Queries Could Leave Medical Clues: Study

A Microsoft study published June 7 has found that by analyzing large sets of anonymized search engine queries, scientists may be able to detect those internet searchers with pancreatic cancer before an official diagnosis. “We asked ourselves, ‘If we heard the whispers of people online, would it provide strong evidence or a clue that something’s going on?’” researcher Dr. Eric Horvitz said. He acknowledged that using data in this way was uncharted territory for the health care industry. Regardless, “We’re hoping that this stimulates quite a bit of interesting conversation,” he said. [The New York Times]

WW – Inventor of the Web Creates Identity on Bitcoin Blockchain

Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, an english computer scientist and the inventor of the World Wide Web has created his first Bitcoin blockchain ID on June 9, through the popular blockstack-based platform Onename. Built on the decentralized, privacy-centric, and Bitcoin blockchain-secured database Blockstack, Onename is an open source platform which enables users to register their social media accounts and IDs through the Bitcoin blockchain network. The concept of embedding an account on the Bitcoin blockchain is fairly simple. Each Bitcoin transaction has a feature which allows users to store data apart from the core transaction information, creating space for anyone to embed small pieces of data in accordance with transaction data in a full transaction. Through the Blockstack nodes, Onename then verifies and authenticates various social media accounts, linking it to their network and enabling users to identify others through the account. “With the Blockstack software, a network of computers collectively maintain a global registry of identities, public keys and names. When you run a Blockstack node, you join this network, which is more secure by design than traditional identity, naming, and digital registry systems,” explains the Blockstack team. [Source]

Law Enforcement

CA – BC Police Act Violates Charter (sec.8), Suspended Vic Chief Says

Suspended Victoria Police Chief Frank Elsner is asking the courts to declare that sections of B.C.’s Police Act violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ search and seizure provisions and are therefore not enforceable. Under the act, independent investigators with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner are not required to obtain warrants to search police premises, equipment and records when looking into allegations of misconduct at municipal departments. Those provisions violate Section 8 of the charter, because they relate to matters to which there is a high expectation of privacy, Elsner says. Section 8 protects against unreasonable search and seizure. [The Victoria Times Colonist]

Online Privacy

US – Android Users Seek Class-Action in Privacy Battle Over App Purchases

Android users are requesting to go forward with a class-action lawsuit against Google’s app store for allegedly disclosing personal information to developers. The lawsuit, started by Illinois resident Alice Svenson in 2013, is on behalf of numerous Android users who made purchases on the Google app store. “Casting aside the express promises made in their own terms of use, for years, defendants have routinely and systematically disclosed to third-parties, their buyers’ personal contact and billing information — including, names and email addresses — which they now admit was not necessary to complete the transactions or otherwise authorized for disclosure,” the users’ lawyers wrote in the motion. Svenson’s initial lawsuit was thrown out, but after revising her complaint by saying the disclosure lessened the value of her personal data, it was allowed to proceed. Last year, U.S. District Court Magistrate Paul Grewal in San Jose dismissed a separate lawsuit that also alleged Google violated app purchasers’ privacy by sending their names to developers. [MediaPost]

EU – Researchers Re-identify 40% of RTBF Subjects

One of the world’s most widespread efforts to protect people’s privacy online —RTBF— may not be as effective as many policymakers think, according to research by computer scientists based, in part, at New York University. The academic team said that in roughly a third of the cases examined, the researchers were able to discover the names of people who had asked for links to be removed. Those results, based on the researchers’ use of basic coding, came despite the individuals’ expressed efforts to remove their names from searches. The research paper raises questions about how successful Europe’s “right to be forgotten” can be if the identities can still be found with just a few clicks of a mouse. The paper says such breaches undermine “the spirit” of the right to be forgotten. The research also will add increased pressure on some European authorities, particularly the French privacy regulator, who would like Google and other online search engines like Microsoft’s Bing to extend the reach of the right to be forgotten across all of the companies’ global domains, including Google.com in the United States. “This poses a threat to whether the ‘right to be forgotten’ can be maintained in the long-term,” said Keith Ross, dean of engineering and computer science at NYU Shanghai, who led the project and who said he had contacted Google with his research. “If a hacker can easily find 30 or 40% of people’s names from delisted articles, what is the point?” he said. [New York Times]

Privacy (US)

US – Federal Appeals Court Says No Warrant Needed for Stingray Use

The Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court verdict that ruled law enforcement must obtain warrants before using cell-site simulators to determine a suspect’s location. According to the ruling, obtaining the information does not violate a suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights because the information is already being shared with the suspect’s wireless carrier” “Whenever [an individual] expects his phone to work, he is permitting – indeed, requesting – the service provider to establish a connection between his phone and a nearby cell tower.” [ZDNet]

US – Yahoo Publishes National Security Letters

Yahoo has published three National Security letters it has received from the federal government. National Security Letters allow federal law enforcement officers to demand customer records and transaction information from communication companies without the need for a warrant. The letters also carried a gag order that until recently never expired – anyone or organization receiving an NSL was not permitted to disclose its contents or even its existence. The USA Freedom Act, which became law last year, changed those requirements. The FBI must now review gag orders once the investigation is closed or three years after it was opened, to determine if lifting the order will or will not be detrimental to the investigation. Yahoo’s disclosure is the first since the USA Freedom Act passed. [Wired] [eWeek] [Redacted letters] [Yahoo’s position]

US – NTIA Issues Best Practices for Operators of Commercial and Private Drones

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration released its best practices for use of drones by operators for private and commercial uses. Public comments were sought in 2015. Operators should making a reasonable effort to provide prior notice to individuals of the general timeframe and area in which they intend to operate a drone to collect data; provide a publicly available privacy policy that includes the purposes of collection, the types of data the drone will collect, the operator’s data retention and de-identification practices, the types of entities with which data will be shared, how to submit privacy/security complaints or concerns, and a description of response practices to law enforcement requests. [National Telecommunications and Information Administration – Voluntary Best Practices for UAS Privacy, Transparency, and Accountability]

US – Snowden Questioned NSA’s ‘Interpretation of Legal Authorities’ Before Leak

Former government contractor Edward Snowden attempted to contact the NSA about its surveillance programs before exposing a trove of documents to the public. In response to a “long-running” Freedom-of-Information-Act lawsuit, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released more than 800 pages of communications revealing Snowden tried to ask questions about the “interpretation of legal authorities” related to the programs. The documents also reveal Snowden’s face-to-face interaction with an official, details about Snowden’s work with the agency, and efforts by the NSA, the White House and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to discredit Snowden. [Vice News] [Snowden and the NSA Gets Curiouser and Curiouser]

US – Court Certifies Class Action Alleging Social Networking Site Unlawfully Scanned Users’ Private Messages

A US Court has considered a motion for class certification of a complaint alleging Facebook violates users’ privacy by scanning their private messages. The Court accepted the Plaintiffs’ argument that injunctive relief is appropriate for the class as a whole because Facebook has utilized a uniform system architecture and source code to intercept and catalog its users’ private message content; the Court rejects the social networking site’s argument that individual proof will show that many class members impliedly consented to the challenged practices. [Matthew Campbell et al. v. Facebook, Inc. – 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66267 – United States District Court For The Northern District Of California]

US – Electronic Health Records Company Settles FTC Charges It Deceived Consumers About Privacy of Doctor Reviews

The FTC announced electronic health records company Practice Fusion has settled with the agency over claims it mislead customers by asking for reviews of its doctors without telling customers the reviews would be made public, resulting in the disclosure of sensitive medical data. “Practice Fusion’s actions led consumers to share incredibly sensitive health information without realizing it would be made public,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies that collect personal health information must be clear about how they will use it — especially before posting such information publicly on the internet.” In its settlement with the FTC, Practice Fusion is prohibited from making deceptive statements about the privacy and confidentiality of consumer information it collects, while requiring consumer opt-in before disclosing any information in the future. [Full Story]


US – Three Bills Approved To Boost Security for California’s IT systems

California lawmakers passed three bills designed to strengthen the security of the state’s information technology systems. One of the bills would mandate a statewide response plan for cybersecurity threats on critical infrastructure by July 1, 2017. “Ensuring that these preparations are made for cybersecurity will make our state networks more resilient, improve response coordination, reduce recovery time and costs and ultimately limit the damage that is done,” said bill author Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks. Another bill requiring state agencies to create detailed data breach response plans was unanimously approved by the California Senate, along with legislation making it illegal to knowingly put ransomware on a computer’s system, network or data. [Techwire]

CA – New Conference Board Centre to Focus on Cyber Security Policy

A new Conference Board of Canada research Centre is working to tackle cyber security issues that affect all Canadian citizens, starting with the critical issue of personal data privacy in the digital world. The first research from the Centre aims to get decision-makers and Canadians up-to-speed on privacy regulations and capable of making smart decisions. The report, Private Matters: Regulating Privacy in Canada, the European Union and the United States, highlights key trends that firms should address in order to maintain proactive privacy compliance. They include:

  • Consent—The broad concepts of informed and implied consent are no longer sufficient. Regulators are increasingly demanding that consent be active, explicit, and easily understood.
  • Breach notification—Enhanced regulations require organizations to report privacy breaches in a timely, comprehensive way. Failure to do so can result in steep fines and costs to a firm’s reputation.
  • Territoriality—Privacy will have to balance the rights of national citizens against the borderless nature of e-commerce. The new EU-U.S. Privacy Shield will have an impact on this debate. If EU demands prevail, EU citizens’ right to privacy will travel with their data.
  • Individual rights after consent—As regulators and industry get closer to figuring out how to get consent right, they will need begin enumerating the rights of individuals who have consented to data collection. They will also need to determine the appropriate remedies when those rights are violated.
  • Answering public demands—As the pace and pervasiveness of technology continue to accelerate, regulators will have to strike a balance between protecting the public and insisting the public more meaningfully contributes to its own protection.

The Conference Board of Canada’s new Cyber Security Centre examines the evolving nature of cyber security at the strategic and policy level, in order to meet the needs of senior executives and board members across all sectors and industries. [Conference Board of Canada News Release]


CA – BlackBerry Hands Over User Data to Help Police ‘Kick Ass,’ Insider Says

A specialized unit inside mobile firm BlackBerry has for years enthusiastically helped intercept user data — including BBM messages — to help in hundreds of police investigations in dozens of countries, a CBC News investigation reveals. CBC News has gained a rare glimpse inside the struggling smartphone maker’s Public Safety Operations team, which at one point numbered 15 people, and has long kept its handling of warrants and police requests for taps on user information confidential. A number of insiders, none of whom were authorized to speak, say that behind the scenes the company has been actively assisting police in a wide range of high profile investigations. But unlike many other technology companies, which regularly publish transparency reports, it is not clear how many requests BlackBerry receives each year, nor the number of requests it has fulfilled. [Source] See also: [More Canadian telcos should detail police data requests: Privacy commissioner]

US – Google Wants Privacy Lawsuit Dismissed, Cites Spokeo Case

Citing the Supreme Court’s decision in the Spokeo case, Google is asking a U.S. district judge to dismiss claims it disregards privacy laws. Google filed court papers in response to allegations it violates federal and state privacy laws by scanning emails in order to serve ads. A lawsuit from San Francisco resident Dan Matera claims Google illegally “intercepts” email messages, which forced him to interact with Gmail users, even though he did not have a Gmail account. Thanks to the result of the Spokeo case, Google wants Matera’s case thrown out, saying he cannot show a concrete injury, the report states. “Plaintiff does not allege, for example, that the alleged violations led to the disclosure of his confidential information to third parties, or that he suffered any other purported harm from the alleged ‘interceptions’ of his emails,” Google wrote in the papers. [MediaPost]

UK – Spies Circumvented Surveillance Laws With No ‘Meaningful’ Oversight

Privacy International has released previously confidential government documents that shed light on how British spy agencies circumvented legal restraints on their surveillance powers, with little interference from the commissioner charged with overseeing them. The documents detail correspondence carried out in 2004 between lawyers for two UK spy agencies — the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and MI5 — and Sir Swinton Thomas, the Interception of Communications Commissioner at the time. Thomas was responsible for overseeing the two agencies, but Privacy International, a London-based watchdog organization, says his correspondence with the GCHQ and MI5 “exposes the lack of meaningful restraint of the agencies’ over-reaching and intrusive powers.” The release of the document comes ahead of a Parliamentary debate on the controversial Investigatory Powers (IP) Bill. Introduced last year, the bill aims to provide a legal framework for bulk data collection, while increasing transparency and strengthening oversight for British spy agencies. But privacy advocates, internet service providers, and major technology companies have expressed alarm over the law — referred to by critics as the “snooper’s charter” — arguing that it gives police and intelligence agencies broad surveillance powers under vaguely defined terms. Privacy International says that the correspondence released today demonstrates the flimsiness of existing oversight mechanisms. [The Verge] [UK: Official correspondence reveals lack of scrutiny of MI5’s data collection]



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