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Watched from a waste bin: UK pulls plug on ‘spy’ trash cans

RT | August 12, 2013

The City of London has demanded that an advertising firm cease its ‘spy bin’ program which uses high-tech trash cans to track people walking through the city’s financial district. The bins follow Wi-Fi signals and capture smartphone serial numbers.

Renew installed 200 bomb-proof bins with built-in Wi-Fi and digital screens inside London’s Square Mile during and after the 2012 Olympic Games. The firm initially offered to place advertisements and financial information on its “pods.” But in June, the agency started testing the bins’ wireless potential, subsequently launching a smartphone-tracking campaign.

The company’s ‘ORB’ technology scanned the streets for smartphones, indentifying the manufacturer of every device through unique media access control (MAC) addresses. It also detected the owner’s “proximity, speed and duration” of stay. Renew had hoped the program would attract advertisers and help companies in their marketing campaigns.

“The technology enables clients to accumulate data readings that will aid in compounding statistical analysis on trending demographics in high profile locations (and particularly a client’s own market share within the City relative to peers in the handheld manufacturing example),” the website’s press release said at the start of the ‘Renew ORB’ beta-testing.

The captured data – which encompassed 4,009,676 devices in just one week of testing – was to be sold to advertisers in “raw form.” Shop owners, for example, could find it very useful for analyzing their customers’ visit time and loyalty.

Instead, the program triggered a media storm, building on ‘spy bins’ hype. This was followed by public outrage and an official ban. Questions were raised regarding whether the scheme was completely legal.

Responding to the turbulent reaction, Renew’s ORB technology CEO attempted to downplay the trash bins’ data collection capabilities.

“I’m afraid that in the interest of a good headline and story there has been an emphasis on style over substance that makes our technology trial slightly more interesting than it is,” Kaveh Memari said in a Monday statement published on Renew’s website. He added that “none” of the proposed capabilities “are workable right now.”

Memari also assured that the MAC addresses collected during the pods’ beta-testing were totally “anonymized and aggregated.” He stressed that no personal details could be devised from analyzing such data, comparing the process to the work of a website counter.

Earlier, Renew promised the technology would enable it to “cookie the street.” The comment was in reference to internet cookies – tiny files created by websites to track an individual’s activity.

A City of London spokesman took a different position on the matter, saying, “Irrespective of what’s technically possible, anything that happens like this on the streets needs to be done carefully, with the backing of an informed public.”

According to the spokesman, the issue has been taken to the Information Commissioner’s Office – a UK public body dealing with data protection and freedom of information.

Renew appeared to be ready both for public discussion and for a legal battle, saying that “the law has not yet fully developed and it is our firm intention to discuss any such progressions publicly first and especially collaborate with privacy groups…to make sure we lead the charge on this as we are with the implementation of the technology.”

However, the firm admitted that such technology required “the future levels of protection” and “people being comfortable with interactive technology.”

Meanwhile, Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch – a civil liberties and privacy pressure group – said that questions need to be asked “about how such a blatant attack on people’s privacy was able to occur.”

August 13, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Watched from a waste bin: UK pulls plug on ‘spy’ trash cans

UK: Woolwich attack sparks Labour calls for snooper’s charter

Press TV – May 23, 2013

Labour peers have urged British Deputy Prime Minister and Lib-Dems leader Nick Clegg to stop opposing the Communications Data Bill, dubbed the snooper’s charter by the opponents, in the wake of the Woolwich attack.

Former Labour home secretary Lord Reid and former security minister Lord West urged Clegg to drop his opposition to the legislation after a soldier was beheaded by the knife-wielding attackers in Woolwich, southeast London.

Appearing on BBC’s Newsnight, Lord Reid said the police and intelligence services should have tools they need to prevent these kinds of attacks.

Privacy watchdog Big Brother Watch, however, said it was “wholly wrong for [Lord Reid] to be arguing for a change of policy before the details of what has happened in Woolwich are clear.”

The snooper’s charter, if passed, would allow bulk, warrantless, unaccountable examination of all online activities by government agencies in the country, which according to critics would harm Britons’ freedom and privacy.

The so-called snooper’s charter was proposed by Home Secretary Theresa May, despite the coalition government’s agreement in 2010 to end the storing of emails and Internet records “without good reason”.

May 24, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Comments Off on UK: Woolwich attack sparks Labour calls for snooper’s charter

Britons’ phone calls spied on routinely by UK police: Report

Press TV – April 20, 2013

British police forces are making as many as 250,000 requests to snoop on people’s email and phone call details every year, a new report reveals.

According to a survey, which was carried out by civil liberties and privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, 25 police forces across Britain made 506,720 requests for people’s “communications data” over the past three years, The Telegraph reported.

The survey released under the freedom of information laws found that the number of requests for Britons’ phone or email records has risen from 158,677 in 2009-10 to 178,985 in 2011-12. However, the figure could be increased to up to 250,000 including estimates for the forces that failed to reply to the research.

This comes as the UK government is seeking more snooping powers through the controversial Communications Data Bill, which is due to be published in the summer.

The draft bill is dubbed as the Snooper’s Charter, because it is considered as a significant threat to British citizens’ privacy.

The measures mark a serious increase in the powers the British government has to order any communications provider to collect, store and provide access to information about emails, online conversations and texts.

Former British shadow home secretary David Davis said, “It is frankly not good enough that the government is considering introducing a snoopers’ charter without even being able to tell us what they have used communications data for in the past.”

April 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Comments Off on Britons’ phone calls spied on routinely by UK police: Report