Metalshark UK Information, available at your Fin(ger) Tips

2Jul/090

A Better Deal for Consumers: Delivering Real Help Now and Change for the Future

HMG have published a new consumer white paper, with a discussion of some initiatives and a few new decisions. Following are some important findings of the report.

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.

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.

The full announcement can be found on www.bis.gov.uk.

18Jun/090

Original German Street View images, removed on request

Google Inc. is willing to concede to German demands the company erase photos for its panoramic mapping service after they have been processed, a data protection official said Wednesday.
Johannes Caspar, the head of the Hamburg regional office for data protection, said Google had 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.
In other countries, like the US, Google does blur the faces and license plates and so on in the output seen on the website – but they’re still keeping that unblurred photo internally. The crucial difference here is that in that case, the government (if laws permit it etc.) could ask Google for certain content, and Google may be handing it out to them. (Whether that would be that bad after all – it’s usually stuff taken in perfectly public spaces anyway – is yet another discussion.)
Should this catch on then there’s a couple of downsides to this from Google’s perspective. For one thing, Google can’t fully reprocess the blurred parts, e.g. should they find a better way to blur faces or license plates. Plus, in the future they can’t fully check on aggregate data of blurred parts, say to calculate the amount of Dutch cars driving around in Hamburg. However, the original photos are only going to be erased on user request, as the AP says, so that probably won’t make a big difference overall.

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.

16Jun/090

Digital Britain Report

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 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.
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.
Targeted advertising is a new business model and, properly handled, could bean important revenue earner.Targeted advertising is a new business model and, properly handled, could be an important revenue earner.
The forthcoming Consumer White Paper, to be published later this Summer, will outline how UK enforcers including the Office of Fair Trading, Trading Standards and the Police, as well as business, could work together on national issues regarding online fraud and other consumer protection crime in order to gather intelligence and tackle them effectively.

The final version of  the Digital Britain Report has just been released. To mark the event Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw delivered a statement in Parliment. Here is a brief summary of the findings:

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.

      12Jun/090

      Street View Data Retention

      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.

      5Jun/090

      ICO launches an updated guide for privacy impact assessments

      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.

      22May/090

      A UK version of data.gov

      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).

      13May/090

      Tower 2009 – Putting Citizens and Businesses in Control

      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.

      12May/090

      ICO calls for EU Data Protection Directive modernisation

       

      RAND's,  ICO commissioned,  Review of the  European Data Protection Directive has identified several flaws in the current text. Using provactive terms and no actual implementation details, it has caused discourse and rejection from European counterparts. A  summary of findings is also available.

      1May/090

      ICO allows UK personal info to travel outside the EU

      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.

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