privacy


The Round Up: Pilot Contact Tracing and a Points-Based Immigration Bill

18 May 2020 by

This afternoon, health secretary Matt Hancock made a statement in the Commons updating the house on the government’s response to the crisis.

The health secretary announced that anyone in the UK aged five and over who has coronavirus symptoms will be eligible for a test. From today, recognised symptoms include the loss of smell and taste, as well a persistent cough and a high temperature. Hancock confirmed for the first time that the government has recruited over 21,000 contact tracers, including 7,500 health care professionals, to manually trace and get in contact with anyone who has tested positive.

In addition, he offered a degree of clarification in relation to the government’s new contact tracing app. The function of the app is to alert people of the need to self-isolate if they have come into proximity with an individual who reported coronavirus symptoms.


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The Use of Live Facial Recognition Technology in Scotland: A New North-South Divide?

25 February 2020 by

Earlier this month, the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing published a report which concluded that live facial recognition technology is currently “not fit” for use by Police Scotland. 

Police Scotland had initially planned to introduce live facial recognition technology (“the technology”) in 2026. However, this has now been called into question as a result of the report’s findings – that the technology is extremely inaccurate, discriminatory, and ineffective. Not only that, but it also noted that the technology would be a “radical departure” from Police Scotland’s fundamental principle of policing by consent.  

In light of the above, the Sub-Committee concluded that there would be “no justifiable basis” for Police Scotland to invest in the technology.  

Police Scotland agreed – at least for the time being – and confirmed in the report that they will not introduce the technology at this time. Instead, they will engage in a wider debate with various stakeholders to ensure that the necessary safeguards are in place before introducing it. The Sub-Committee believed that such a debate was essential in order to assess the necessity and accuracy of the technology, as well as the potential impact it could have on people and communities. 

The report is undoubtedly significant as it reaffirms that the current state of the technology is ineffective. It therefore strengthens the argument that we should have a much wider debate about the technology before we ever introduce it onto our streets. This is important not only on a practical level but also from a human rights perspective, especially set against the backdrop of the technology’s controversial use elsewhere.  


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ALBA Conference 2019: A Review (Part 3)

24 October 2019 by

This post, and those that follow it, summarises some of the main points of interest arising from the ALBA Conference 2019.

‘The Constitutionality of Ouster Clauses’ – Chair: Lord Justice Leggatt; Speakers: Professor Alison Young, Professor David Feldman, Professor Stephen Bailey

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Earlier this year, the Supreme Court gave its judgement in R (on the application of Privacy International) (Appellant) v Investigatory Powers Tribunal and others (Respondents). The case concerned the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (‘IPT’), a specialist tribunal which was established by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (‘RIPA’). The IPT hears complaints about certain public bodies, particularly concerning the Security Services.

s.67(8) of RIPA contains a so-called ‘ouster clause’, which held that “determinations, awards and other decisions of the Tribunal (including decisions as to whether they have jurisdiction) shall not be subject to appeal or be liable to be questioned in any court”.

The issue in Privacy International was whether decisions made by the IPT were judicially reviewable. A majority of the Supreme Court held that s.67(8) did not, in fact, oust the jurisdiction of the court. The panel analysed this crucial case in more detail.


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Can you draw a line between this case and Anisminic?

25 November 2017 by

Privacy International v. Investigatory Powers Tribunal [2017] EWHC EWCA Civ 1868, Court of Appeal, 23 November 2017

Introduction

As all lawyers know, the great case about courts confronting a no-go area for them is the late 1960’s case of Anisminic.

A statutory Commission was given the job of deciding whether compensation should be awarded for property sequestrated, in the particular case as a result of the 1956 Suez crisis. The Act empowering it said that the

determination by the Commission of any application made to them under this Act shall not be called in question in any court of law.

The House of Lords, blasting aside arcane distinctions, said that this provision was not enough to oust judicial review for error of law.

Fast forward 50 years, and another Act which says

determinations, awards, orders and other decisions of the Tribunal (including decisions as to whether they have jurisdiction) shall not be subject to appeal or be liable to be questioned in any court.

The Court of Appeal has just decided that, unlike Anisminic, this Act does exclude any judicial review.

Why?

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A cyber scene of crime – in everybody’s home

1 November 2016 by

cybercrime-100534917-primary-idgeThis blog has covered a number of claims for damages arising out of the misuse of private information. The Mirror Group phone hacking case is one example (see my post here and the appeal decision here), and the fall-out from the hapless Home Office official who put private information about asylum-seekers on the Internet, being another – (Gideon Barth’s post on TLT here). See also below for related posts.

But this post is to give a bit of context, via the wider and scarier cyber crime which is going on all around us. It threatens the livelihoods of individuals and businesses the globe over – and has given and will undoubtedly give rise to complex spin-off litigation.

So let’s just start with the other week. On 21 October 2016, it seems nearly half the Internet was hit by a massive DDoS attack affecting a company, Dyn, which provides internet services infrastructure for a host of  websites. Twitter, Reddit, Netflix, WIRED, Spotify and the New York Times were affected. DDoS, for cyber virgins, is Distributed Denial of Service, i.e. an overloading of servers via a flood of malicious requests, in this case from tens of millions of IP addresses. No firm culprits so far, but a botnet called Mirai seems to be in the frame. It is thought that non-secure items like cars, fridges and cameras connected to the Internet (the Internet of Things) may be the conscripted foot soldiers in such attacks.

And now to the sorts of cases which have hit the headlines in this country to date.

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Court of Protection orders continued reporting restrictions after death

27 April 2016 by

why_we_need_kidney_dialysis_1904_xIn the matter of proceedings brought by Kings College NHS Foundation Trust concerning C (who died on 28 November 2015) v The Applicant and Associated Newspapers Ltd and others [2016] EWCOP21 – read judgment

The Court of Protection has just ruled that where a court has restricted the publication of information during proceedings that were in existence during a person’s lifetime, it has not only the right but the duty to consider, when requested to do so, whether that information should continue to be protected following the person’s death.

I posted last year on the case of a woman who had suffered kidney failure as a result of a suicide attempt has been allowed to refuse continuing dialysis. The Court of Protection rejected the hospital’s argument that such refusal disclosed a state of mind that rendered her incapable under the Mental Capacity Act.  An adult patient who suffers from no mental incapacity has an absolute right to choose whether to consent to medical treatment (King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v C and another  [2015] EWCOP 80).
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Surveillance of Internet usage in the workplace

14 January 2016 by

Social Media button on a keyboard with speech bubbles.

Social Media button on a keyboard with speech bubbles.

Barbulescu v Romania, 12 January 2016 – read judgment

In December 2015, the European Court of Human Rights, by 6 votes to 1, dismissed a Romanian national’s appeal against his employer’s decision to terminate his contract for using a professional Yahoo Messenger account to send personal messages to his fiancé and brother.

Mr Barbulescu contended that his employer had breached his Article 8 right to respect for his private life and correspondence, and that the domestic courts had failed to protect his right. The Court found that there had been no such violation because the monitoring of the account by his employer had been limited and proportionate.

Background facts

Mr Barbulescu’s employers asked him to create a Yahoo Messenger account for responding to client enquiries and informed him that these communications had been monitored. The records showed that he had used the Internet for personal purposes, contrary to internal regulations. The employer’s regulations explicitly prohibited all personal use of company facilities, including computers and Internet access. The employer had accessed the Yahoo Messenger account in the belief that it had contained professional messages.
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Suing Facebook is no easy matter

9 November 2015 by

facebook_logoRichardson v Facebook [2015] EWHC 3154 (2 November 2015) – read judgment

An action in defamation and under the right to privacy against Facebook has been dismissed in the High Court. The Facebook entity named as defendant did not “control” the publication so as to allow liability; and even if it did, no claim under the Human Rights Act could lie against FB as it could not be described as any sort of a public authority for the purposes of Section 6 of the Act.

The claimant, acting as a litigant in person, sought damages in respect of the publication in 2013 and 2014 of a Facebook profile and a posting on the Google Blogger service. The Profile and the Blogpost each purported to have been created by the claimant, but she complained that each was a fake, created by an impostor. She claimed that each was defamatory of her, and infringed her right to respect for her private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
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The private lives of child rioters

8 July 2015 by

Derry riotsIn the matter of an application by JR38 for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) [2015] UKSC 42

Does the publication of photographs of a child taken during a riot fall within the scope of Article 8 ECHR?

It depends, says a Supreme Court majority, specifically on whether there was a reasonable expectation of privacy. Either way, the Court in J38 agreed that whether or not the 14 year-old Appellant’s right to respect for private life was in play, the publication of police photographs of him was justified in the circumstances.

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Phone hacking: massive privacy damages

22 May 2015 by

_83144843_hackingcompGulati v. MGN Ltd [2015] EWHC 1482 (Ch), Mann J – judgment here

For some years in the early and mid 2000s, a routine form of news-gathering in the Mirror Group was phone hacking – listening to voicemails left for celebrities by their friends, and then dishing up revelations in their papers.  And this judgment amounts to a comprehensive pay-back time for the years of distress and upset sustained by those celebrities, as the ins and outs of their private lives were played out for the Mirror Group’s profit. The damages awarded well exceeded those previously payable, as justified in the tour de force of a judgment by Mann J. 

Warning – the judgment, compelling though it is, runs to 712 paragraphs. It concerns the assessment of damages in eight cases. The Mirror Group belatedly admitted liability and apologised, not before denying any wrongdoing to the Leveson inquiry. Other claims rest in the wings pending this trial. But with awards between £72,500 and £260,250, the bar has been set high by Mann J.

The claimants (with one exception) were the classic subjects of tabloid columns, namely EastEnders and Corrie stars (or those unfortunate to be married to them), the sometime air hostess girlfriend of Rio Ferdinand, Jude Law’s former wife, Sadie Frost, and, inevitably, Gazza. Seven sued because the hacking led to repeated articles about them. The eighth, Alan Yentob, Creative Director of the BBC, was hacked because of the information derived from the famous people who had left voicemails for him.

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Birth certificate cannot be retrospectively changed to reflect father’s gender reassignment

23 April 2015 by

birthcertificate300x203_4fba822944823JK, R(on the application of) v Secretary of State for Home Department and another [2015] EWHC 990 (Admin) 20 April 2015 – read judgment

This case concerned the rights of transgender women, and their families, in particular the right to keep private the fact that they are transgender.

The Court heard a challenge to the requirement in the UK’s birth registration system that men who had changed gender from male to female should be listed as the “father” on the birth certificates of their biological children. Having decided that this did engage the claimant’s privacy rights under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, in conjunction with the right not to be discriminated against under Article 14, the Court concluded that the interference was justified.

Factual and legal background

The clamant JK had been born male. She was married to a woman, KK, and the couple had two naturally conceived children. After the birth of the first child in 2012, JK was diagnosed with gender identity disorder and concomitant gender dysphoria. In October 2012, she started a course of feminising hormone treatment. The treatment pathway requires two years living as a female before consideration is given for referral for gender reassignment surgery. Before the claimant started feminising hormone therapy, KK fell pregnant a second time, again conceiving naturally by the claimant.
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“Cold Calling” company fined £75K for breach of privacy

17 April 2015 by

iStock_000018110696XSmallReactiv Media Limited v The Information Commissioner (Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations  (2003) [2015] UKFTT 2014_0213 (GRC) (13 April 2015) – read judgment

Although an individual’s right to privacy is usually thought of in the context of state intrusion in one form or another, in reality the real threat of intrusion in a society such as ours comes from unsolicited marketing calls.

What many people may not be aware of is that if an individual has registered with the Telephone Preference Service, these calls are unlawful and the company responsible may be fined. It is therefore worth making a complaint, even if one instinctively feels that taking such a step will invite more intrusion. This case is a nice illustration of privacy being upheld and the rules enforced against an unscrupulous and persistent offender.

TPS is operated on behalf of the direct marketing industry by the Direct Marketing Association (DPA) and subscribers’ rights not to receive such calls may be enforced under Regulation 21 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003
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The Tale of the Black Spider: The Supreme Court speaks

27 March 2015 by

Photo credit: The Guardian

Matthew Flinn

And so, the long legal saga of the Black Spider Letters finally comes to a close.

I last blogged about this case back in October 2012. At that time, the Attorney General had ignited controversy by invoking a little-known power under section 53 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

Under that provision, he issued a certificate which effectively vetoed a decision of the Upper Tribunal that a number of items of correspondence sent by Prince Charles to seven Government Departments (characterised as “advocacy correspondence” as opposed to personal letters) had to be disclosed to Mr Rob Evans of the Guardian newspaper.

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Public protest, private rights

6 March 2015 by

imgres

John Catt. Photo credit: The Guardian

R (Catt) and R (T) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2015] UKSC 9

A majority of the Supreme Court has held that the retention by police of information on the Domestic Extremism Database about a 91 year-old activist’s presence at political protests was (1) in accordance with the law and (2) a proportionate interference with his right to a private life under Article 8(1) of the ECHR.

However, Lord Toulson’s dissent noted that the information was retained for many years after Mr Catt had attended these mainstream political events, and the police had concluded that he was not known to have acted violently. Accordingly, he thought its retention was unnecessary and disproportionate.

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“Keep our kids safe from predators” FB page on the rampage again

25 February 2015 by

Facebook-from-the-GuardianCG v Facebook Ireland & Another [2015] NIQB 11 (20 February 2015) – read judgment

The plaintiff was a former sex offender who had been identified on a Facebook page run by the second defendant called “Keep Our Kids Safe From Predators 2”. He had been released on licence and he was apprehensive about his safety upon his return to the community.

He resides with his father, who is disabled, and with his adult children one of whom is also disabled. He was particularly fearful of the reactions of others to his conduct in the light of the fact that his name had been published on the internet. I have posted on an earlier case where another former sex offender won an injunction against Facebook Ireland Limited in respect of the original KOKSFP, which was subsequently taken down  (XY v Facebook Ireland Ltd [2012] NIQB 96). 
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