Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

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wild west character
Your data’s safe with us

The Culture Secretary has vowed to end the Wild West for tech giants amid anger at claims data from Facebook users was harvested to be used by political campaigns.

Matt Hancock warned social media companies that they could be slapped with new rules and regulations to rein them in.

It comes amid fury at claims the Facebook data of around 50 million users was taken without their permission and used by Cambridge Analytica.

The firm played a key role in mapping out the behaviour of voters in the run-up to the 2016 US election and the EU referendum campaign earlier that year.

Tory MP Damian Collins, chairman of the Culture select committee, has said he wants to haul Mark Zuckerberg to Parliament to explain himself.

Hancock said:

Tech companies store the data of billions of people around the world – giving an unparalleled insight into the lives and thoughts of people. And they must do more to show they are storing the data responsibly,

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Your Standard Rip-off…The Digital Policy Alliance, a group of parliamentarians, waxes lyrical about its document purporting to be a code of practice for age verification, and then charges 108 quid to read it

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The Digital Policy Alliance is a cross party group of parliamentarians with associate members from industry and academia.It has led efforts to develop a Publicly Available Specification (PAS 1296) which was published on 19 March.

Crossbench British peer Merlin Hay, the Earl of Erroll, said:

We need to make the UK a safe place to do business, he said. That’s why we’re producing a British PAS… that set out for the age check providers what they should do and what records they keep.

The document is expected to include a discussion on the background to age verification, set out the rules in accordance with the Digital Economy Act, and give a detailed look at the technology, with annexes on anonymity and how the system should work.

This PAS will sit alongside data protection and privacy rules set out in the General Data Protection Regulation and in the UK’s Data Protection Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament. Hay explained:

We can’t put rules about data protection into the PAS206 That is in the Data Protection Bill, he said. So we refer to them, but we can’t mandate them inside this PAS 203 but it’s in there as ‘you must obey the law’… [perhaps] that’s been too subtle for the organisations that have been trying to take a swing at it.

What Hay didn’t mention though was that all of this ‘help’ for British industry would come with a hefty £ 108 price tag for a 60 page document.

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open rights group 2016 logo The Open Rights Group, Myles Jackman and Pandora Blake have done a magnificent job in highlighting the dangers of mandating that porn companies verify the age of their customers.Worst case scenario

In the worst case scenario, foreign porn companies will demand official ID from porn viewers and then be able to maintain a database of the complete browsing history of those officially identified viewers.

And surely much to the alarm of the government and the newly appointed internet porn censors at the BBFC, then this worst case scenario seems to be the clear favourite to get implemented. In particular Mindgeek, with a near monopoly on free porn tube sites, is taking the lead with its Age ID scheme.

Now for some bizarre reason, the government saw no need for its age verification to offer any specific protection for porn viewers, beyond that offered by existing and upcoming data protection laws. Given some of the things that Google and Facebook do with personal data then it suggests that these laws are woefully inadequate for the context of porn viewing.  For safety and national security reasons, data identifying porn users should be kept under total lock and key, and not used for any commercial reason whatsoever.

A big flaw

But there in lies the flaw of the law. The government is mandating that all websites, including those based abroad, should verify their users without specifying any data protection requirements beyond the law of the land. The flaw is that foreign websites are simply not obliged to respect British data protection laws.

So as a topical example, there would be nothing to prevent a Russian porn site (maybe not identifying itself as Russian) from requiring ID and then passing the ID and subsequent porn browsing history straight over to its dirty tricks department.

Anyway the government has made a total pigs ear of the concept with its conservative ‘leave it to industry to find a solution’ approach’. The porn industry simply does not have the safety and security of its customers at heart. Perhaps the government should have invested in its own solution first, at least the national security implications may have pushed it into at least considering user safety and security.

Where we are at

As mentioned above campaigners have done a fine job in identifying the dangers of the government plan and these have been picked up by practically all newspapers. These seem to have chimed with readers and the entire idea seems to be accepted as dangerous. In fact I haven’t spotted anyone, not even ‘the think of the children’ charities pushing for ‘let’s just get on with it’. And so now its over to the authorities to try and convince people that they have a safe solution somewhere.

The Digital Policy Alliance

digital policy alliance logoPerhaps as part of a propaganda campaign to win over the people, parliament’s Digital Policy Alliance are just about to publish guidance on age verification policies. The alliance is a cross party group that includes, Merlin Hay, the Earl of Erroll, who made some good points about privacy concerns whilst the bill was being forced through the House of Lords.

He said that a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) numbered 1296 is due to be published on 19 March. This will set out for the age check providers what they should do and what records they keep.

The document is expected to include a discussion on the background to age verification, set out the rules in accordance with the Digital Economy Act, and give a detailed look at the technology, with annexes on anonymity and how the system should work.

However the document will carry no authority and is not set to become an official British standard. He explained:

We can’t put rules about data protection into the PAS… That is in the Data Protection Bill, he said. So we refer to them, but we can’t mandate them inside this PAS — but it’s in there as ‘you must obey the law’…

But of course Hay did not mention that Russian websites don’t have to obey British data protection law.

And next the BBFC will have a crack at reducing people’s fears

Elsewhere in the discussion, Hay suggested the British Board of Film and Internet Censorship could mandate that each site had to offer more than one age-verification provider, which would give consumers more choice.

Next the BBFC will have a crack at minimising people’s fears about age verification. It will publish its own guidance document towards the end of the month, and launch a public consultation about it.

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DCMS logoIn a press release the DCMS describes its digital strategy including a delayed introduction of internet porn censorship. The press release states:

The Strategy also reflects the Government’s ambition to make the internet safer for children by requiring age verification for access to commercial pornographic websites in the UK. In February, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) was formally designated as the age verification regulator.

Our priority is to make the internet safer for children and we believe this is best achieved by taking time to get the implementation of the policy right. We will therefore allow time for the BBFC as regulator to undertake a public consultation on its draft guidance which will be launched later this month.

For the public and the industry to prepare for and comply with age verification, the Government will also ensure a period of up to three months after the BBFC guidance has been cleared by Parliament before the law comes into force. It is anticipated age verification will be enforceable by the end of the year.

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facebook-ads-small-businessGoogle and Facebook accused of supposedly profiting from pop-up brothels and sex clubs sweeping Britain

Ministers are reportedly considering new laws to make internet giants liable when sex workers use their sites to organise business.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) are supporting the propaganda and claim Google and Facebook are making profits from sex trafficking, according to the Times.

Pop up sex clubs have been discovered in Cornwall, Cambridge, Swindon and holiday cottages in the Peak District. Will Kerr, the NCA’s ‘head of vulnerabilities’, claimed:

People are using the internet and social media sites to enable sexual exploitation and trafficking. It is clear that the internet platforms which host and make a profit out of this type of material need to do more to identify and stop these forms of exploitation.

Government figures want internet giants like Facebook to be held accountable, eying new US laws that are set to overturn more than 20 years of blanket immunity for sites for content posted by users. It will make firms liable if they knowingly assist, support or facilitate content that leads to trafficking.

Downing Street and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said they are looking at whether and how to replicate the action in the UK.

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babylon bee logo Facebook has revealed just how shoddy its ‘fake news’ and censorship process is when it censored an obvious joke after it passed through the censorship system without anyone at Facebook noticing how stupid they were being.thefederalist.com explains:

The Babylon Bee set off Facebook’s alarm bells by publishing a satirical piece stating that CNN had purchased an industrial-size washing machine to spin news before publication. This is obviously a joke and is clearly marked satire and is published on a site entirely devoted to satire.

But the uptight jerks over at Snopes decided to fact check the Bee’s claim, to ensure that no one actually thought that CNN made a significant investment in heavy machinery.

The article was duly confirmed as fake news resulting in Facebook saying that it would censor The Babylon Bee by denying them monetisation.

And as per the normal procedure, when alerted about stupid censorship, Facebook admitted it was a ghastly mistake and apologised profusely. Fair enough, but in passing it still shows exactly how shoddy the process is behind the scenes.

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matt hancockThe UK’s digital and culture secretary, Matt Hancock, has ruled out creating a new internet censor targeting social media such as Facebook and Twitter.In an interview on the BBC’s Media Show , Hancock said he was not inclined in that direction and instead wanted to ensure existing regulation is fit for purpose. He said:

If you tried to bring in a new regulator you’d end up having to regulate everything. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to make sure that the regulations ensure that markets work properly and people are protected.

Meanwhile the Electoral Commission and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee are now investigating whether Russian groups used the platforms to interfere in the Brexit referendum in 2016. The DCMS select committee is in the US this week to grill tech executives about their role in spreading fake news. In a committee hearing in Washington yesterday, YouTube’s policy chief said the site had found no evidence of Russian-linked accounts purchasing ads to interfere in the Brexit referendum.