Goodle (that is, the UK’s ICO) is friendly with Google. You can see that in its behaviour over Street View (the collection, inadvertent or otherwise, of personal wifi data while driving round the streets of the world). Germany fined Google over it. Goodle just said stop it, don’t do it again, and get rid of what you’ve got.
When Google didn’t get rid of it, Goodle had to get really tough, and say get rid of it now, because we really, really mean it this time!
But back to Article 29. Problematically, Goodle, it is one of six EU member states chosen to take enforcement action against Google. CNIL, the French regulator, has already completed its task. It has instructed Google in exactly what it must do to come into conformance with French laws. Google has three months to comply before CNIL levies a fine.
Spain is likely to be next. The Spanish regulator announced on Thursday that it has “found evidence of five serious privacy law breaches — each punishable with fines of up to 300,000 euros ($395,000).” (AFP) An enforcement notice with threats will likely follow shortly.
Germany is hardly likely to take a softer line – generally speaking it is tougher than most other EU nations on matters of personal privacy (some can remember Nazi Germany, and most can remember Stasi Germany).
Then we have Italy, the Netherlands, and of course Goodle. My bet is that Italy and the Netherlands do the same as France and Spain. But what then? What about the UK? What’s a good Goodle to do if all the other nations slap Google as hard as they can? It’s a difficult position for a loyal Google Poodle.
I’ve never been convinced on the value of the UK’s data protection regulator, the ICO. There are numerous reasons for this. Firstly, the Data Protection Act is a law. Upholding the law is a job for the police and courts, not a government-controlled quango. Secondly, to uphold the law you need a grounding in the law: the ICO should be a lawyer not a marketer. And thirdly, the whole premise of the Data Protection Act is absurd. The way it is established means that proof of compliance is not getting hacked, while proof of non-compliance is getting hacked. And getting hacked is a lottery that has little relationship to security spend.
But I think I lost all respect when the ICO published an ‘independent’ report on the GDPR last month. It was undertaken by London Economics and is reliant on statistics (a survey of 506 data protection professionals working in UK companies). Statistics always reflect the bias of the author, so they’re always pretty meaningless. But that’s not the issue. It was what the ICO said about it:
Today’s report is the latest contribution from the ICO to this debate. We’d urge the European Commission to take on board what it says, and to refocus on the importance of developing legislation that delivers real protections for consumers without damaging business or hobbling regulators.
This is gobbledygook. ‘Without damaging business or hobbling regulators’ is rather confused since it is protecting business that hobbles regulators. He claims to want ‘real protections for consumers’ when what he is advocating limits the genuinely real protections for consumers proposed by the EC.
But above all, what is the Information Commissioner doing in advocating for business rights? His mission, in his own words, “is to uphold information rights in the public interest.” Yet here he is trying to uphold business rights to the detriment of the public interest. Lobbying against the GDPR on behalf of business is none of his concern, and a betrayal of the people he is supposed to protect.
He is, however, toeing the UK government line; which in turn is toeing the US government and US corporate line. PRISM shows us that the US government cannot be trusted with our personal data. GCHQ’s involvement with PRISM and the MPs’ call to get the Snoopers’ Charter back on course show that UK politicians cannot be trusted with our personal data.
And where is the ICO on PRISM? God knows. He has published no statement, and posted no blog on the subject. Instead, he is lobbying on behalf of business to make the transfer of our personal data (via Google, Facebook, Microsoft et al) to the NSA all the easier.
It’s time for the ICO to be abolished and replaced by something more meaningful, and someone more willing to fight for the people rather than lobby for business at the behest of government.
Compliance – at least European regulatory compliance – bothers me. Whenever I speak to a security expert, those concerns are allayed for just so long as we talk; and then they come back again.
The problem is that Europe passes principle-based legislation (the US is more likely to pass rule-based legislation). The former tells you what must be achieved (the principle), while the latter tells you how it must be done (the rules).
The European Data Protection Directive is a perfect example of principle-based legislation. It says that personal information must be held securely; but it doesn’t tell you how it should be done.
Here’s my problem. Data that hasn’t been lost or stolen has, de facto, been held securely and the company is in compliance – even if it spends nothing on compliance. Data that has been lost or stolen has not, de jure, been held securely and the company fails compliance even if it has spent many ££millions on compliance. The existence or lack of infosecurity defences is irrelevant: if you lose that data, then you are in breach of the act; if you do not lose the data then you are not in breach of the act.
I’m not interested in claims that proof you spent money on security will make the ICO (a marketing man, mark you – not a lawyer) go easy on you. That’s just marketing dross to hide the underlying contradiction.
What I want to know is quite simple. How can it possibly be right to frame a law that states someone who tries to comply can fail compliance, while someone who ignores compliance can be compliant? The result is that there is no logical reason to spend money on securing personal data – just hope you don’t get hacked. This is aggravated by the common and growing perception that if you get targeted, you will get breached. So if you get targeted, you will have failed compliance whether you try to comply or not. Why bother?
Have I mentioned that the ICO is a waste of both space and money? Well, if you ever doubted me, doubt no more. It has been treated with utter contempt by Google, and there’s not a damn thing it can do.
Do you remember Spy-Fi, when Google engaged in its very own version of drive-by downloading? Well the ICO said, “No! Stop it. Don’t do it again. And delete what you’ve got.” And Google said, ever-so politely, yes sir – we will. Only it didn’t. “Google has recently confirmed that it still has in its possession a small portion of payload data collected by our Street View vehicles in the UK.” It says it was an error and will work with the ICO to remedy the situation.
But how does the ICO know? How does the ICO know what Google has done with that payload data, what it may do with that payload data, or how many copies of that payload exist in what parts of Google’s vast and nebulous cloud? It wrote back, even more politely, asking for Google to store the data securely for examination before being told what to do with it.
But how does the ICO know, and what can it do? Nothing, except take the word of big business.
Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, has no doubt on what should happen:
The Information Commissioner is hampered by a woeful lack of powers and is forced to trust organisations to tell the truth. Given Google’s behaviour has called into question if that really is a proper way to protect our personal data, it must be right to now demand a proper regulator with the powers and punishments to fully protect British people’s privacy.
It’s time to get rid of the self-congratulatory lap dog and replace it with an angry pit bull.
Anyone who heard Christopher Graham launching the ICO’s annual report last week must wonder just how many planets there are in this solar system. In his own words:
…the ICO is well up to the task.
…the ICO has bared its teeth…
It’s a case of ‘wake up and smell the CMP!’
…the regulator is getting results.
This reads like a marketing department bigging-up a poor product. The simple fact is, based on irrefutable empirical evidence, the ICO is failing: corporate and government loss of personal data is certainly not diminishing. Graham is wrong.
But there are two things in his speech that I particularly wish to consider. At one point he says:
The ICO has received precious little credit for having been the first to blow the whistle on Fleet Street practices in our 2006 publications ‘What Price Privacy?’ and ‘What Price Privacy Now?’… Meanwhile, we have been facilitating ‘fast track’ subject access from the so-called Motorman Files for any concerned citizen…
Compare this view of the ICO with that of its own Motorman investigator at the time, Alexander Owens:
“Despite our protests we were told this was the decision of Richard Thomas [then IC] and that he would deal with the press involvement by way of the Press Complaints Council. It was at this moment we knew no journalist could or ever would be prosecuted in relation to our investigation.”
Something rotten in the state of the Information Commissioner’s Office – will Leveson act?
The reason the ICO got precious little credit is because it deserves none whatsoever – in fact, on the basis of this testimony, it was effectively complicit in what amounts to a cover-up.
My second concern is over the Information Commissioner’s closing comments. Specifically, he said:
Well, the ICO can expect to remain in the news as we engage with two further Government initiatives on the information rights agenda – the Draft Communications Data Bill and the drive for Open Data. We are working to ensure necessary limitations and safeguards for personal information and we want to enable appropriate data sharing and encourage openness provided it complies with the law.
Could somebody please tell me what this means? I want to ‘safeguard’ personal information provided it complies with the law? I want to ‘enable appropriate data sharing’ that complies with the law? The law is whatever the government makes the law. The government is in the process of making a new communications law that will give them huge volumes of our personal data. But that’s alright because our privacy protector will make sure that government complies with the law that it makes.
What a waste of time. What a waste of space. What a waste of taxpayers’ money.
It was bank holiday Monday yesterday, so I didn’t spend all day in front of the computer. But I got a file from the Ministry of Lulz – it was the TangoDown http://www.justice.gov.uk graphic.
When and why, I asked; and was pointed at Saturday’s Anonymous message of support for Julian Assange.
I also received a copy of legal counsel concerning the Information Commissioner – so I started work on an article.
But it was bank holiday Monday; so I didn’t rush – and got overtaken by events. In the early evening I got another message from the Ministry of Lulz: ‘justice.gov.uk is down for last 2 hours’.
So in some senses my draft story became irrelevant – but I’m pasting it below anyway. Now, however, it is an explanation for downing the Ministry of Justice – and perhaps a warning for the Information Commissioner. Here it is…
The voice behind The Ministry of Lulz is Winston Smith (named after the hero of Orwell’s 1984). The problem with this association is that the fictional Winston Smith was lured into joining a secret organization determined to bring down the Big Brother government. That secret organization clearly translates to Anonymous. But the fictional recruiter (O’Brien in the novel) turns out to be a government agent (Fed) – and Smith is betrayed. In real life, Smith was ‘recruited’ into Anonymous by ‘XX’. Smith must hope that life doesn’t mirror fiction too closely.
The Ministry of Lulz would appear to have two immediate targets in the UK: the Ministry of Justice and the Information Commissioner. Smith sent me a ‘TangoDown’ graphic. It names ‘www.justice.gov.uk’. Asked why, he pointed to the Anonymous video that was posted to YouTube on Saturday. It’s a message of solidarity with Julian Assange following the failure of his High Court plea to prevent extradition to Sweden – from where, suggests Anonymous, there is little doubt that he will rapidly be extradited to the USA.
This second extradition would seem particularly likely following the recent publication of Parmy Olson’s new book, ‘We are Anonymous’. A small section of this book is reproduced on John Young’s Cryptome site (it seems to be the subject of a takedown notice from the DtecNet Anti-Piracy Team but was still available at the time of writing this). In this book, Olson (the London bureau chief for Forbes) states very clearly that “Assange and q appeared to want LulzSec to try to grab the e-mail service of government sites, then look for evidence of corruption or at least evidence that the government was targeting WikiLeaks.” While proof of nothing, especially since FBI-informant Sabu was involved, the suggestion of involvement in a conspiracy to attack government sites merely makes the probability of extradition from Sweden to the USA more likely.
With the tango down graphic I also received copy of a legal opinion on the ICO. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office is likely to be targeted for what the Ministry of Lulz considers to be corruption. The legal opinion related to a case where personal medical records were passed to the subject’s (now ex) wife’s solicitors without his permission. The subject also claimed they were incorrect. He complained to the GMC, who ruled that his GP’s action had ‘fallen below the standards expected from a medical practitioner in processing and disclosing information.’ He then complained to the Information Commissioner who rejected his complaint, ruling amongst other things that the accuracy of personal information is not an issue if he (the IC) considers it to be lawfully disclosed. Consider that for a moment: if disclosure is allowed, you can spread lies without hinderance from the ICO.
The subject then took legal counsel (which is what was sent to me). Counsel concludes that “there is a 60-65% prospect of success in an application for permission to apply for judicial review against the IC…” It goes on to say that “the IC is interpreting the justification provisions in the [DPA] 1998 very widely and in a way which is not compatible with guidance and codes from professional organisations such as the GMC and also not in tune with comments from the courts,” and that “issues of wider public interest are raised by the case, namely the correct scope of the justifications in s35 DPA 1998 and the schedules to the Act, especially when seen in the light of the right to respect for private life in Art 8 ECHR.”
That, perhaps, is what you get when you put a marketing man rather than a legal man in charge of the ICO. But given the experience of the Ministry of Justice yesterday, he should look to his defences for the future.
My news stories on Infosecurity Magazine from Tuesday 10 April until Friday 13 April, and Monday 16 April until Wednesday 18 April
NHS needs a security czar to prevent continuous data walkabout
While the South London Healthcare NHS Trust signs a Data Protection Undertaking, the security industry wonders why we have learnt nothing in the last two years – and calls for a new NHS data protection czar.
18 April 2012
PwC 2012 Information Security Breaches Survey: Preliminary findings report continued mobile insecurity
New statistics show that while many companies appear to understand the business threat from BYOD, many others are taking no precautions whatsoever.
18 April 2012
(ISC)² launches its new EMEA advisory board
In a move designed to offer genuine hands-on security experience to EMEA’s different security initiatives, professional body (ISC)² has launched a new Advisory Board for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EAB).
18 April 2012
Google co-founder worries about the future of the internet
In an interview with the Guardian, the co-founder of Google lists the threats facing the future vitality of the internet.
17 April 2012
Shadowserver uncovers campaign against Vietnam in Hardcore Charlie’s file dump
An analysis of the hacked files dumped by hacker Hardcore Charlie fails to prove Chinese culpability, but finds evidence of ‘yet another cyber espionage campaign against Vietnam.’
17 April 2012
Iranian software manager hacks and dumps card details of 3m Iranians
Khosrow Zarefarid found and reported a flaw in the Iranian POS system. He reported it, but was ignored – so he used it and hacked 3 million Iranian debit card details.
17 April 2012
Dutch Pirate Party forced to take its Pirate Bay proxy off-line
In a move that will be monitored by the UK’s music industry association (BPI), its Dutch equivalent BREIN (translates as ‘Brain’) has obtained a court injunction forcing the political party, the Pirate Party, to take down the proxy site that was allowing users to continue using the blocked Pirate Bay (TPB).
16 April 2012
Is ACTA dead in the water, or is it resurfacing via the G8?
David Martin, European Parliament’s rapporteur on the ACTA treaty, is expected to recommend that parliament should reject ACTA. Does this mean the end for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement?
16 April 2012
Commotion Wireless: an open source censorship buster
The great contradiction in modern techno-politics is the need for democracies to promulgate free speech in other countries while controlling it in their own.
16 April 2012
Boston police release unredacted Facebook data of ‘Craigslist killer’
The complete Facebook account of Philip Markoff, in hard copy and including friend IDs, was given by the Boston Police to the Boston Phoenix newspaper.
13 April 2012
EC asks how we would want the internet of things to be controlled
The European Commission (EC) has issued an online ‘consultation’ document: How would you envisage ‘governance’ of the ‘Internet of Things’?
13 April 2012
City trader fined £450,000 by the FSA
“For the reasons given in this Notice…”, says an FSA Decision Notice, “…the FSA has decided to impose on Mr Ian Charles Hannam a financial penalty of £450,000.”
13 April 2012
MPAA’s attempted takedown of Hotfile gets more and more difficult
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater says Google; and there’s more baby than bathwater suggests Prof. James Boyle.
12 April 2012
UK private members bill designed to censor pornography on the internet
Baroness Howe of Ildicote has introduced the Online Safety Act 2012, designed to force ISPs to install and operate pornography filters.
12 April 2012
Financial services the target in massive DDoS increase
A new analysis from Prolexic shows a huge increase in DDoS attacks, largely sourced in Asia and primarily attacking financial institutions.
12 April 2012
Smartphones are still firmly ‘enterprise-unready’
Research from by Altimeter Group, Bloor Research and Trend Micro shows that the ‘consumer marketing’ legacy of many smartphones makes them ill-equipped to meet enterprise security demands.
11 April 2012
EU trade committee’s draft opinion on ACTA: Don’t ratify
The European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy committee for the Committee on International Trade has published its draft opinion on ACTA. Don’t ratify, it tells parliament.
11 April 2012
DHS gets California company to hack game consoles
In a project that started from law enforcement agencies’ request to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which was then farmed out to the US Navy, Obscure Technologies of California has been awarded a contract to find ways of hacking game consoles.
11 April 2012
Real-time data mining comes to Twitter
Twitter is usually described as a micro-blogging social network. To many who monitor its ‘trending topics’ it is also an early warning news service, frequently pointing users to breaking news before the traditional news media reports it.
10 April 2012
Iran bids farewell to the internet; welcomes its own halal intranet
Iran’s answer to ‘criminality’ on the internet is not to fight criminality, but to block the internet. In the future, Iranians will have access to only the official national intranet and a whitelist of acceptable foreign sites.
10 April 2012
What an Englishman does in bed
Companies that monitor the end point behavior of their remote workers will have to start monitoring their (internet) behavior in bed. That at least is the inference to be drawn from a new street survey conducted by Infosecurity Europe.
10 April 2012
The news stories written for Infosecurity Magazine last week are:
- Law Society tougher than the ICO on Andrew Crossley
- Mixed but depressing findings in European corporate governance recruitment
- Ransomware pretending to be law enforcement
- Olympic security dossier left on London train
- Voice biometrics will be the authentication of choice, says Opus Research
- SP Toolkit illustrates the dangers inherent in many security audit tools
- HMRC’s failure to recruit security staff shows education must change
- Ten years of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing initiative: Has it delivered?
- A road-map towards meaningful security data sharing
- Research by Sophos reveals the gang behind Koobface
- Children’s online games used to distribute malware
- AXA global insurance company adopts data analytics to reduce fraud
- Health Software firm develops Android app while NHS warns on tablet security
- New version of Sykipot malware targets DoD smart cards
- How DarkCoderSC reveals SFX files methodology