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Content Issues

DCMS publishes statement of intent on Data Protection Bill

By | Content Issues, General, News

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has recently published a statement of intent regarding the new Data Protection Bill which will implement the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the EU Data Protection Law Enforcement Directive (DPLED) into UK domestic law.

GDPR will come into effect across all EU member states from 25th May 2018. The main objective of GDPR and the Data Protection Bill is to give individuals greater control over their digital footprint. This entails rights such as individuals being allowed to request social media platforms to delete material taken when they were children to be deleted from the website.

Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital, said: “The new Data Protection Bill will give us one of the most robust, yet dynamic, set of data laws in the world. The Bill will give people more control over their data, require more consent for its use, and prepare Britain for Brexit. We have some of the best data science in the world and this new law will help it to thrive.”

It is believed the incorporation of GDPR into UK domestic law will help prepare the UK for a successful Brexit.

More about the development can be found here.

Phishing scam affects Newcastle University

By | Content Issues, News, News Sources

A phishing scam has recently affected Newcastle University, potentially duping many prospective students out of their money. The scam orientates around a mysterious individual or group of people operating under the deceptive title of “Newcastle International University” with a very realistic-looking website, URL and email address.

One expert described the spoofing attack as an “effective scam” and admitted that the culprit(s) of the phishing scam have put in substantial time into creating a seemingly authentic but fake website: “It is well designed, well executed, and it highlights the very real danger of modern spoofing attacks”.

The timing of the publication of the website has also been particularly timely, given the publication of exam results in a few weeks, and anxious students wanting to secure their place as soon as possible.

Newcastle University published a tweet warning people that “Newcastle International University” are in no way associated with Newcastle University. The tweet can be read here.

The very cunning phishing scam comes at a time when a growing number of universities are finding themselves being spoofed. A Freedom of Information request by Duo Security showed that 70% of universities, nearly three-quarters, had fallen victim to phishing scams in the previous 12 months.

Report reveals that cyberbullying is not as prevalent as feared

By | Content Issues, News
A study led by Dr. Andrew Przybylski of the University of Oxford found that cyberbullying – bullying that takes place over the internet – is not as prevalent as feared. The study comprised a survey of over 110,000 people and it found that just one percent of adolescents reported being bullied online but not in person.
Furthermore, the study found that those who were bullied online reported a lower emotional impact from the bullying online as opposed to bullying that happened face to face.Dr. Przybylski said, “There is a vanishingly small percentage of people who are bullied only online”. He went on to add that: “It has crystallised in the public imagination, and it’s easy to get drawn into these fears, but just because it is new it does not mean it’s a new behaviour.
Dr. Przybylski said that cyber bullying is merely a “new avenue to victimise those already being bullied in traditional ways, rather than a way to pick new victims” and urged efforts to be directed at building resilience as opposed to managing online behaviour.“The report can be read here.

Russia and China move towards banning virtual private networks

By | Content Issues, News

Both Russia and China are in the process of banning virtual private networks (VPNs), a tool that creates a secure, encrypted connection between a computer and a server operated by a VPN service. They are used by many to access material and websites that have been blocked by a government.

China has started implementing rules regarding VPNs that were approved in January 2017 that would require all VPNs to apply for a licence from the Chinese government – this licence would require VPNs to block access to websites and other online material that the Chinese government does not approve of. Two VPN services – Green VPN and Haibei VPN – have already said they would be closing down services in mainland China after receiving “notice from regulatory departments.”

In Russia, the State Duma (the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia) unanimously adopted the first reading of new legislation that would ban the use of VPNs as well as online anonymiser web browsers such as the Tor browser if they do not block access to a list of websites prohibited by the Russian government.

The move by both countries come at a time when VPNs and encryption are under increased scrutiny from governments around the world. You can read more about the situation in Russia and China from The Register.

Baroness Howe tables Private Member’s Bill

By | Content Issues, News
Baroness Howe has tabled a private member’s bill seeking to broaden the definition of what is classified as extreme pornography.
Baroness Howe, a crossbencher and life peer in the House of Lords, has tabled a private member’s bill demanding a broadening of the definition of what constitutes “extreme pornography” in the 2017 Digital Economy Act. She advocates defining “extreme pornography” to include videos that either wholly or partly portray scenes that were “produced solely or principally for the purposes of sexual arousal” and did not receive a certificate from the video works authority because it did not believe there was a suitable classification certificate. The amendment would extend to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.As a private members’ bill, it is unlikely to become law, but the initiative does maintain the Baroness’ campaign of pressure on the government in this area.

You can read the private member’s bill here.

Internet giants protest over rollback of net neutrality

By | Content Issues, International, News
A large number of internet giants – including Facebook, Google, AirBnB and others – are preparing for a “Day of Protest” on Wednesday 12th July over a ruling by the US communications regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), that will reverse Obama-era net neutrality rules that prevent the prioritisation (or “throttling”) of data.

These were implemented by classifying ISPs as telecommunications operators regulated under Title II of the US Communications Act.Campaigners fear the decision by the communications regulator will lead to a two-tier internet in which ISPs can determine the download speeds of content. Sean Vitka, a lawyer for pro-net neutrality groups Demand Progress and Fight for the Future, said: “If a new company can’t access companies on the same terms as the incumbents they’re not going to have the chance to thrive.But the NCTA, a trade association for network operators argued that Title II regulation is “a complicated set of rules from the 1930s” and “not remotely connected to net neutrality”.

The FCC implemented net neutrality rules under Title II when the courts found that it had exceeded its authority under Title I when imposing a previous ruleset in 2010.

On Wednesday, several internet companies will be voicing their opposition to the move in a variety of ways, from changing their homepage to black, simulate what internet access is like in a world without net neutrality, displaying messages against the move, and more.

Former GCHQ head criticises Government’s approach to encryption

By | Content Issues, News, News Sources
The former head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, has expressed criticism over the Government’s stance on encryption technology. Hannigan described encryption as an “overwhelmingly good thing” and criticised plans by Home Secretary Amber Rudd to install backdoors into encrypted communications as unworkable and dangerous: “Building in back doors is a threat to everybody and it’s not a good idea to weaken security for everybody to tackle a minority.”

The comments from Robert Hannigan echo those of Max Hill QC, the independent reviewer of counterterrorism legislation, who strongly condemned the Government’s approach to encryption. The growing barrage of criticism from pillars of the security establishment give renewed strength to industry warnings that undermining encryption will weaken UK security, rather than protecting the public.

German court denies mother’s access to daughter’s Facebook account

By | Content Issues, News, Privacy and Investigation
An appeals court in Berlin has recently ruled that a mother cannot gain access to her daughter’s Facebook account. Following the girl being killed by a train in 2012, the mother attempted to gain access to her daughter’s Facebook account to determine whether the incident was deliberate or accidental.

Facebook refused to provide access to the girl’s account, citing the girl’s privacy rights.A court in Berlin had initially ruled that the mother has the right to gain access to the girl’s account, citing the fact that she was a minor when she was killed, and that Germany’s law on inheritance suggests the girl’s contract with Facebook are transferred to her mother. Furthermore, as she was a minor, the mother has a duty of care over her and this means that she should be allowed to have access to the account.

However, the appeals court later ruled against the initial decision, arguing that the girl’s right to privacy superseded the mother’s parental rights. In addition, blocking access to the girl’s account would ensure the confidentiality of those she communicated with. The decision is best understood in the context of Germany’s aversion to surveillance, and with the understanding that Germany has one of the strictest privacy laws in Europe.

It is understood that the mother is likely to appeal the decision of the appeals court.