Police Seek Powers to Close Websites

Police seek powers to shut websites
The police are seeking powers to shut down websites deemed to be engaged in “criminal” activity. The Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has tabled a plan for Nominet, which oversees .uk web addresses, to be given the domain closing power.

Nominet said the idea was only a proposal and invited people to join the debate on the form of the final policy. IT lawyers said the proposal would be “worrying” if it led to websites going offline without judicial oversight.

“It’s not policy at this stage,” said Eleanor Bradley, director of operations at Nominet. She said SOCA’s proposal emerged from changes made to Nominet’s policy development process earlier in 2010, as well as experiences with closing down a series of criminal sites in the last 12 months.

In the proposal, SOCA pointed out that Nominet currently has no obligation to close down criminal websites. SOCA wants this changed so domains can be cancelled if law enforcement agencies deem them to be engaged in criminal activities, and inform Nominet of their conclusion.

She said SOCA’s proposal was the “very beginning of the process” to update Nominet’s policies. “We now need to get a balanced group of stakeholders together to talk about the policy and its implications,” she said. Since SOCA’s proposal was posted on the Nominet site, feedback had started to come in that was helping to define who should be invited to join a formal discussion of the plan, said Ms Bradley. She invited those to whom the proposal was relevant to get in touch. “We want to make sure the stakeholder group is balanced,” she said.

No timetable has been drawn up for when the proposal would be discussed or when any resulting policy would be adopted.

“If you are going to do this, then fine, but it needs judicial oversight,” said barrister and IT lawyer David Harris, adding that that conferring these powers might be better done by updating the Computer Misuse Act.

Nick Lockett, a lawyer at DLL specialising in computer law, said he was “deeply concerned” about SOCA’s proposal if it meant it could act before a conviction had been secured. “In a world of online retailing, the ability for a police officer to seize any business, whether that is blocking a domain or seizing the servers – pre-conviction or certainly pre-warrant – would be a dramatic change in the relationship between the police and the internet community,” he told BBC News.

He also said the police would have to be very careful about the sites they judged to be engaged in criminal activity. Mistakes that resulted in shutting down a legitimate site would leave them open to claims for “massive damages” he warned.

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Google’s Wi-Fi Data to be Deleted.

Google’s wi-fi data to be deleted.
The UK’s information commissioner has said that wi-fi data accidentally collected by Google’s Street View cars will be deleted “as soon as possible”. Deputy information commissioner David Smith told the BBC that there would be no further enquiries into the matter. He said there was no indication that any information collected “had fallen into the wrong hands”.

It will not appease critics who called for the search giant to be fined.

There were no grounds for fining Google, Mr Smith told the BBC. “We’d have had to find that there was substantial damage or distress to individuals from the collection of snippets of e-mails, URLs and passwords. We’d have to meet that criteria for a penalty to be imposed,” he said.

Google admitted earlier this year that it had accidentally collected information from unsecured wireless networks around the world. The incident came to light during a routine audit by the Hamburg data authority.

It led to dozens of enquiries with some – notably the Canadian data commissioner – offering detailed findings about the nature of the breaches.

The Canadian investigation found that Google captured personal information, including a list of names of people suffering from certain medical conditions.

Canadian privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said thousands of Canadians had been affected. The findings led her to conclude that the search giant “seriously violated” its privacy laws.

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Public Contracts Site to Close

Public Contracts Site to Close
The supply2.gov.uk website, which provides firms with free access to details of public sector contracts up to £100,000 will close in March. According to the Mail on Sunday (UK) the website, run by Government funded ‘Business Link’ Will be replaced with a site run by a private company.

A spokesman for the Department for Business is reported to have said the new site will not charge for searches, but could not confirm that there wouldn’t be subscription charges or other detailed information.

At the moment there is an annual charge of £70 to £145 to receive alerts about regional contracts.

The Mail on Sundays ‘Financial Mail’, last week, reported how small firms had to pay £795 per year to access information on the E Government register, which provides details of technology contracts to local government. This was previously available free of charge.

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