Archive | UK

UK: Tax authorities (and others) to get access to everybody’s surf history

The Investigatory Powers Bill, which was all but passed into law this week, forces internet providers to keep a full list of internet connection records (ICRs) for a year and to make them available to the Government if asked. Those ICRs in effect serve as a full list of every website that people have visited, rather than collecting which specific pages are visited or what’s done on them.

ICRs will be made available to a wide range of government bodies. Those include expected law enforcement organisations such as the police, the military and the secret service, but also includes bodies such as the Food Standards Agency, the Gambling Commission, councils and the Welsh Ambulance Services National Health Service Trust.

The Independent: Everyone who can now see your entire internet history, including the taxman, DWP and Food Standards Agency »


Orwell would be horrified

Jim Killock, the executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy. The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyse UK citizens’ communications regardless of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity.”

The Guardian: ‘Extreme surveillance’ becomes UK law with barely a whimper »


Big Brother in UK schools

According to a report by Big Brother Watch, “classroom management software” is running on over 800,000 computers, laptops, and mobile phones found in 1,000 secondary schools across England and Wales. (…)

Classroom management software allows the screens of an entire class to be monitored from a teacher’s desktop, and for both the historical and real-time Web activity of a pupil to be accessed. Keystrokes can be watched, and alerts created to flag up “inappropriate” words. More generally, the systems can try to spot “bad” behaviour online, including signs of “extremism and radicalisation.”

Ars Technica: Spyware routinely installed by UK schools to snoop on kids’ Web habits »


Showdown in the Assange case?

The normally so media shy Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny today held a press conference about the Assange case. Nothing new was presented, the prosecutor’s office repeated its talking points and there was mention of yet another half-hearted attempt to interview Mr. Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. (Something Ms. Ny have avoided to do for years, thereby keeping the investigation open and Mr. Assange at bay.)

It might have been her last chance to play the media by her rules. On prime time Swedish national television tonight, the investigative team at SVT Uppdrag Granskning had an hour-long special about the Assange case. (The program in Swedish » | A summary of some of the findings in English ») It is pretty obvious that Swedish authorities are very interested in getting Mr. Assange to Sweden – even though it has been and still is possible to interview him in London in person, online or over the phone.

Here we should keep in mind that Mr. Assange has not been charged with any crime. It’s all about interviewing him in order do determine if there is a case against him – in a rather thin case of suspected sexual misconduct in Sweden. Basically, this is total judicial overkill and »special treatment« just because he is a rebel, truth teller and a threat to important people in power.

Even a UN human right panel has voiced protests about the way Mr. Assange is treated, being tucked away in the Ecuadorean embassy year after year.

This Next Friday a Swedish regional high court will – once again – look into the issue of Mr. Assanges’ arrest warrant. The last time, they upheld the decision, as Ms. Ny then was instructed to get the interview done and over with. Again, she didn’t. This coming Friday, the court may not show the same patience. Or it may, as there are powerful interests involved.

Finally, the reason that Wikileaks editor in chief Julian Assange does not want to go to Sweden for an interview is a fear that he might be extradited to the US. Todays’ tv special made it clear that there might be good reasons to fear such a development. (Even though the UK might also hand him over to the US Justice department, but at a very high political price.)

The general impression is that things might start to move in the Assange case. But I wouldn’t hold my breath…



The Assange case – time for the next step?

There are signals from Ecuador suggesting that Swedish prosecutors soon might interview Wikileaks editor in chief Julian Assange, in the country’s embassy in London – where he has been taking refuge for some four years.

From the Swedish prosecutor’s office (where everyone important seems to be on summer retreat) there are only vague comments. There are reasons to believe that the Swedes are in no hurry to get this done and over with.

As the case has dragged out in time, there seems to be some confusion in medias reports. To refresh our memory…

The Swedish case about sexual misconduct against Assange is very thin. There are reasons to believe that the case will be dropped altogether as soon as an interview has been conducted.

Julian Assange has not been charged with any crime in Sweden. This is all about interviewing him. That process has dragged out for years, to the point where a UN human rights panel has raised protests.

Before leaving Sweden, Assange cooperated fully with Swedish authorities. Everybody was OK with him leaving Sweden for the UK. The entire case has already been dropped by Swedish prosecutors once – but re-opened by a prosecutor specialized in “development of sex crime charges”.

Assange does not want to go to Sweden, as he fears he will be extradited from there to the US and charged for e.g. the leaked embassy cables. (Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower who provided Wikileaks with this material has already been sentenced to 35 years in US prison.) The risk for extradition is, however, at least as substantial in the UK as in Sweden.

My speculation is that Sweden, the UK, and the US are rather satisfied having Julian Assange confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London – where his actions are rather restricted. So, sadly I think this affair will drag out in time even more.