UK citizens may soon be able to access their credit references online:
Improve consumers’ access to and understanding of their credit reference files. The Government wants to ensure all consumers have access to the right tools to help them better understand their credit reference files, protect themselves against identity fraud and, if necessary, take legitimate steps to improve their credit rating. Currently, consumers have a statutory right to write to any credit reference agency and request a paper copy of their credit reference file for a £2 fee. We will work with industry to look at improving people’s access to (and understanding of) their file, including whether files can be made available online under the existing statutory scheme.
Several actions are to be taken from the Consumer Law Review carried out by BERR (Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) in 2008. These range from the sensible:
Developing rules on new “digital” products to ensure the core principles of consumer protection apply
to the vague:
Reforming consumer law and simplifying weights and measures legislation without diluting consumer protection
Those renting will be pleased to hear that:
We will introduce new legislation at the next opportunity to fill a gap in legal protection for private tenants whose landlords are repossessed. This will ensure that those tenants receive adequate notice to vacate the property, regardless of whether their tenancy has been authorised by the landlord’s lender.
quite why the opportunity hasn't presented itself already is yet to be explained, especially as Scotland has only just announced its plans for home owner policy changes.
In between the vacuous promises there were very few details of any changes which have actually been agreed, yet the terminology used seems to suggest that HMG are heading in the right direction.
Hamburg’s data protection commissioner Johannes Caspar, demanded Google give a written guarantee that the Street View service comply with German privacy laws by 10 AM yesterday (Wednesday, 17th June 2009).
Google has now agreed to erase the raw footage of faces, house numbers, license plates and individuals in Germany who have told authorities they do not want their information used in the service. Said footage will only be erased once processed.
This move will prevent German authorities gaining access to the original photographs on demand and will prevent Google using the images for other purposes.
Guidance regarding personal data will have to wait for the Personal Information Online: code of practice, due May 2010:
Personal data is the new currency of the digital world. Privacy and security of that data is an increasingly critical issue. The Information Commissioner is developing a new Code of Practice “Personal Information Online” for publication later this year. The Prime Minister has appointed Sir Tim Berners-Lee to form a panel of experts to deliver better use of public data. Effective self-regulation is also vital. The Internet Advertising Bureau’s good practice principles for providers who collect and use data for behavioural advertising mirror best practice in the USA adapted for the E.U.’s data protection framework.
The Government seems to acknowledge that content is now a distributed affair:
The digital economy is changing the nature of business, so business models need to adapt to remain competitive. New methods to extract revenue from content and services are needed, in a world where direct communication between users allows copyright protection to be bypassed and content to move without central control.
It goes on to say:
To ensure that the UK economy and UK taxpayers gain the benefits of our ability to gather and use data, while retaining confidence that proper protections are in place, Government needs to play a leading role in the debate.
Before ending with nod towards Phorm.
Targeted advertising is a new business model and, properly handled, could be an important revenue earner.
It is unclear whether the Government itself will try use such techniques for revenue generation.
Members of the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party have requested Google "make a few additional modifications to address local specificities to ensure Street View better aligns to local interpretations of privacy requirements across the whole of Europe." It has been asked that the original "unblurred" images only be kept for as long as necessary. Google has suggested this will affect the quality of Google Maps, admitly using weak arguments in the face of privacy advocates:
it'd be pretty annoying if you couldn't find the phone number of that little deli across town where you think you might have left your purse, because our software mistook the phone number for a license plate.
Google's latest article refers to a statement issued when the service was originally launched. It explains that US law regarding "public spaces" differs wildly to the rest of the world. With the focus now on data retention, it will be interested to note the results. It may open the door for more "public space" data acquisitions, and subsequent retentions, on a street near you.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is urging organisations to always consider the impact on individuals’ privacy before developing new IT systems or changing the way they handle personal information. The call comes as the ICO today launches the latest version of the Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) handbook. The user friendly handbook is designed to help organisations address the risks to personal privacy before implementing new initiatives and technologies.
The US has led the way in making government information free and open, with the launch of it's data.gov website.
If there has been a clear demonstrator of the advantages, providing government information for free presents, it has been Hans Rosling. His gapminder website has proven many a misconception incorrect.
It hasn't taken long for Google to join in too.
Back in the UK though, the Power of Information Task Force flagged up that one of the main problems with UK government information is finding out what has been published, what form it is in, and how it can be used; the Cabinet Office is looking at how they might do this.
Any solution must support open standards and would ideally be open source, but there are a couple of other questions we are pondering at the moment:
- What characteristics would be most useful to you – feeds (ATOM or RSS) or bulk download by e.g. FTP, etc?
- Should this be an index or a repository?
- Should this serve particular types of data e.g. XML, JSON or RDF?
- What examples should we be looking at (beyond data.gov e.g. http://ideas.welcomebackstage.com/data)?
- Does this need its own domain, or should it sit on an existing supersite (e.g. http://direct.gov.uk)
Please let the Cabinet Office Digital Engagement team know any and all thoughts – they will pick up twitter comments with #poit or #opendata. In the meantime, you can find some of the government's published data sources on this data wiki (thanks to Rewired State).
The Cabinet Office Digital Engagement team look to be thin on the ground today as they head to Tower 2009 - a joint Cabinet Office/Intellect conference on Government IT.
The theme for Tower 09 is 'Putting Citizens and Businesses in Control':
- empowering citizens in the digital age
- frontline engagement
- focus on the consumer/customer/user of public services to businesses
- innovation and efficiency
- public service reform
The opening keynote is from Tom Watson, with a noteworthy line up to follow.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has recently authorised the transfer of personal information from the UK by the Accenture group of companies and the Atmel group of companies to other entities within their own corporate groups who operate outside of the European Economic Area.