Privacy News Roundup: Mass surveillance at UK festivals | Privacy International vs. GCHQ | Germany scraps Wi-Fi liability | Data retention in Europe | Apple vs. FBI

Mass surveillance at UK festivals

Music festival organizers in the UK have been gathering huge data-sets from festival-goers in what is being described as mass data surveillance.

It was revealed a few weeks ago that organizers have used facial recognition technology at festivals to identify wanted criminals, though they haven’t sought the consent of those affected and there is little known about how the data is treated.

Last year, Leicestershire police scanned the faces of 90,000 festival attendees at Download Festival using the NeoFace technology, marking the first time the technology was used at an outdoor event. The revelation has angered digital rights advocates, who are calling for greater transparency concerning how the data is used, stored and shared.

mass surveillance - uk festivals
UK police have begun using facial recognition technology to blanket screen festival-goers. Source: Wikipedia

Privacy International challenge GCHQ

In other UK news regarding surveillance, the digital rights NGO Privacy International have challenged the Investigatory Powers Tribunal’s (IPT) decision to issue general hacking warrants. The case has been filed with the UK’s High Court and brings into question the mass surveillance of devices currently carried out by GCHQ.

Privacy International
Digital rights group Privacy International have legally disputed mass surveillance carried out by the UK’s intelligence and security organization GCHQ. Source: Privacy International

Germany abolish Wi-Fi liability

The coalition government in Germany have decided to abolish liability for users’ copyright infringements when using an open Wi-Fi network.

Up until recently, open network operators have been legally responsible for any user activity that breaches copyright.

The German Pirate Party activist Tobias McFadden has helped force through the change by taking the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The new law is set to come in as early as this Autumn.


Data retention rulings in Europe

There have been two important data retention rulings by the ECJ that have thrown mass surveillance across Europe into contention.

In April, the ECJ concluded that the European Data Retention Directive breaches individual rights to privacy and personal data protection, which is protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Judges also outlined the failure of the directive to set limits on access to data by national authorities, including prior judicial review by an independent administrative authority.

Data retention was brought in hurriedly across Europe following terror attacks in Madrid in 2004. Governments in the UK, France, Sweden, and Ireland sought to make it fundamental to European law, leading to the creation of the directive in 2005.

Preliminary findings of both ECJ rulings will be made available to the public on July 19, though experts believe that mass data surveillance across Europe is facing its most serious challenge yet.

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has ruled against the Europe-wide data retention directive in recent months.
The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has ruled against the Europe-wide Data Retention Directive in recent months. Source: Wiki Commons

Apple vs. the FBI

There have been several high-profile cases surrounding data encryption in the last few months, including a recent court ruling in a long-standing dispute between Apple and the FBI, which began in 2015.

Since then, the global tech giant has challenged several orders from U.S state district courts compelling the company to write new software that would provide backdoor access to locked phones to assist criminal investigations.

The most recent of these cases came to a head in April when a magistrate judge in Brooklyn sided with Apple, ruling that the All Writs Act, a 227 year-old law, invoked by the government did not compel the tech company to unlock its iPhones. Following an appeal, the government was given the correct passcode for the phone in question and the case was dropped.

Despite this, some experts believe that the government will continue to seek litigation to decrypt phone data involved in criminal cases. Supporters of Apple’s refusal to write new software argue that allowing the government access to locked data could easily fall into the wrong hands, thus putting the security of all Apple customers at serious risk.

Check out the following video to find out more about Apple’s argument for rejecting the FBI’s case:

Mozilla Firefox vs. FBI

There has also been a legal dispute between the FBI and Mozilla – the company behind popular web browser Mozilla Firefox.

An investigation by the federal agency into the Tor browser, which shares much of its code with Firefox, may have led to the discovery of vulnerabilities in the browser, which the Firefox team are concerned have not been disclosed.

Glancing back at the curve.

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