Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hypocrites closing the curtains

As some of you know, I'm cagey about using my full name on this blog. Why? Because I know it will bite me on the ass some day, after all, I know some of the managers at work read this.
However I try at least to protect myself slightly. After all I can't be fired for saying X if I don't bring work in to it. Right?

But what if "who you are" and "what you do" are interlinked? Say a minister? This has nothing to do with Bertiegate. This has to with the proposed privacy bill and Data Retention.

In the case of data retention (or to give it it's birth name; Directive 95/46/EC; the transposition of which into national law was the intended objective of the Data Protection (Amendment) Act 2003)), the act will potentially blast apart protections from the Data Protection Act as it allows years of data to be collected on you, just in case you commit a crime. Yes it came up at Barcamp.

A large database of your data already exists? Admittedly in separate databases. Your tracker in your pocket, your mobile phone, records locations and calls. Your billing information (who you called and when for how long) are held in the telecoms company or your payment. Deep in the database is what towers the call (or text or MM thingy) was transmitted through (sometimes with signal strength) so you position can be calculated. Newer networks record your location in much finer detail.

This information has been used legally in the case of bombers. It's been used, technically illegally by a defendant buying his data to prove he was not in a certain location at a certain time. It has of course been used illegally by the authorities to discredit people.

You IP information is also available. Not Intellectual Property (aka copyright, which I also have to post about) but Internet Protocol... what e-mail you received and sent. What blogs you read. What you bought on your credit card, or using your value club card. Lots of information.

SO of course you should be notified if this information is leaked or the security of the database is broken? Ah, no. A provision in the law which requires companies to warn customers whose data has been compromised (similar to the Californian law) does not exist.

So the privacy bill is a good thing?

No. It doesn't protect the public. It's designed to protect the celebrities and the powerful from the public and the media. Say for example one of Ireland’s leading broadcasters was drunk on Grafton Street on Saturday night, regaling his ‘audience’ gathered nearby with a few songs after taking a microphone from a busker. And it was recorded and uploaded to something like YouTube. Under the proposed law you could be sued.

"Those with the money, the inclination and lawyers at their beck and call will be able to frustrate and injunct journalists who probe into their lives, and will be able to do so behind closed doors. Journalists, at the very early stage of story, working on a hunch or a tip-off and with no concrete idea of where the tale will lead them, will have to convince a judge that their story is important enough to merit an invasion of their target’s privacy. How will they know?"

For example, say a journalist get a leak from a tribunal about unusual payments in to a politicians bank account. Even a leak backed up with phone call records. They can be sued for a breach of privacy even if it's true. (Defamation is if the story is false, privacy can be used to sue of its true).

So it's one law for the rich and powerful, and one law for the rest of us.


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Anonymous Mark said...

A law for the rich and for everyone else has been true for as long as there have been laws.
And compared to the laws everyone else used to have we're doing quite well.

5:30 p.m., October 04, 2006  

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