Category: UK

Rights Group Sues UK Privacy Regulator in Landmark Case

By Robert Bateman

A digital-rights organization, the Open Rights Group (ORG), is taking the U.K.’s privacy regulator to court over allegations that it has failed to address illegal practices in the digital advertising technology — adtech — industry.

The claim, filed Oct. 21 with the U.K.’s Information Rights Tribunal, follows a complaint first filed with the regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), by ORG Executive Director Jim Killock in September 2018.

The complaint alleged that Google and other tech companies were using people’s personal data illegally, via a process called “real-time bidding” (RTB).

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Officials Urge Tech Firms to Help Them Access User Data

By Robert Bateman

Governments across the world are calling on technology firms to allow agencies access to private communications, claiming that end-to-end encryption that shuts out law enforcement presents a “severe risk to public safety.”

In a statement, signed Oct. 11, the governments of the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and Japan argued that software developers should “engage in consultation with governments and other stakeholders” to “embed the safety of the public in system design.”

But experts told Digital Privacy News that the proposals presented an unacceptable risk to individual privacy.

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‘Basis of a Lie’

Facebook Begins Controversial Integration of Messenger, Instagram

By Robert Bateman

Facebook has begun the long-planned integration of its Messenger and Instagram platforms, as governments and regulators show increasing concern about its market dominance.

The change will allow Facebook and Instagram users to send private messages to one another between platforms. Facebook also plans to include its WhatsApp platform in the integration.

Antitrust regulators in the U.S. and European Union have scrutinized Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. Some experts told Digital Privacy News that Facebook’s plans might be designed to disrupt regulators’ activities.

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UK’s Privacy Law Overhaul Could Damage Post-Brexit Economy

By Robert Bateman

The U.K. government is planning a significant overhaul of its privacy laws in a move that experts told Digital Privacy News risked damaging the country’s economy and relations with the European Union.

The government’s national data strategy, published last month, says that the U.K. “will control its own data protection laws and regulations in line with its interests” after the country’s transition out of the EU.

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European Court Spurns Challenge to UK Government Surveillance

By Robert Bateman

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) struck a severe blow to privacy advocates this month when it rejected a legal challenge to the U.K. government’s surveillance activities on procedural grounds.

The case was brought by advocacy groups, who argued that the government’s cellphone-hacking and surveillance violated European human-rights law.

The court ruled Sept. 3 that the case was inadmissible because the advocates had not exhausted the U.K.’s domestic legal procedures.

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Google Faces $2.5B Lawsuit Over YouTube and Children’s Data

By Robert Bateman

Google faces a $2.5 billion class-action lawsuit in the U.K., over allegations that its YouTube video-sharing platform is “breaching millions of young peoples’ privacy and data rights.” 

The case is on behalf of an estimated 5 million children under 13 across England and Wales, according to a Sept.14 news release from the case’s legal team.

If successful, it would be the first class-action lawsuit against a tech company in Europe. 

Google, which acquired YouTube in 2006, is accused of violating U.K. law, which states that children under 13 are unable to consent to the collection of their personal information.

“They’re using this data to capture the attention of our children,” Duncan McCann, the representative claimant in the case, told Digital Privacy News. 

He has three children aged 13 or under, and McCann said he was concerned about how Google used their personal information on YouTube.

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UK Officials Reveal Proposals for Digital Identity Framework

By Robert Bateman

The U.K. government is developing a nationwide “digital identity” framework that would enable it to identify individuals across various public services.

Several news outlets have characterized the scheme as a plan to assign a so-called “digital ID card” to every citizen, a move that would concern many privacy advocates.

The U.K.’s proposals are still unclear, but they do not appear to involve a physical ID card. The government claims the framework would reduce fraud and check individual identities more easily.

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UK Politicians Demand Privacy Regulator Enforce Law Against Government

By Robert Bateman

The U.K. government has shown “scant regard to both privacy concerns and data protection duties” — and the country’s privacy regulator has failed to protect the public’s personal information, according to a letter from 22 opposition politicians.

The Aug. 21 letter, signed by 22 members of Parliament from four political parties, was addressed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) — the “data protection authority” responsible for enforcing privacy law in the U.K.

The office is headed by Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

The government has been accused of breaching privacy law on numerous occasions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including in July, when it admitted that it had not assessed the privacy risks involved in its “test and trace” program properly.

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UK Pays AI Firm to Trawl Voters’ Twitter Data

By Robert Bateman

The U.K. government paid the artificial intelligence firm Faculty $524,000 to trawl and analyze the Twitter activity of the nation’s voters, according to an investigation by the campaign group Big Brother Watch.

The probe, disclosed by The Guardian on Aug. 10, revealed that Faculty was contracted to provide “topic analysis of social media” and gauge public response to the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

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UK Court Spurns Police in First Legal Test of Face Recognition

By Robert Bateman

A landmark legal challenge to the use of facial-recognition technology has succeeded, with the U.K.’s Court of Appeal ruling this month that police in South Wales used automated facial recognition in violation of fundamental human rights.

Edward Bridges, a Cardiff resident supported by a human-rights group, Liberty, argued that the police had not adequately assessed how facial-recognition technology could violate individual “rights and freedoms” nor considered how the technology could be biased along racial and gender lines.

The Court of Appeal made its unanimous ruling Aug. 11. The South Wales Police has accepted the verdict and will not appeal to the Supreme Court.

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