Toddlers, centenarians and a man who pulls faces have been placed on secret council databases deeming them a ‘threat’ to officials, it was revealed yesterday.
Thousands of people have been unknowingly named in the warning files, including a man who answers his front door naked and a seven-year-old girl considered ‘potentially violent’.
The secret databases came to light after a barber who used a megaphone to warn motorists about traffic wardens revealed he was put on a council warning list.
Of 150 local authorities contacted in a Freedom of Information investigation by the Press Association, more than half said they kept a warning list. The information they contain can be viewed by staff only and cannot be accessed by the public. Read more
Vanessa Allen | The Daily Mail | 13th August 2013
The U.S. Secret Service played a key role in the investigation of free-information activist and Reddit founder Aaron Swartz and watched his case closely until he committed suicide, according to newly-released government documents.
Swartz, 26, hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment in January as he faced trial on charges he hacked into a Massachusetts Institute of Technology archive of scholarly articles with the aim of making the information freely available.
The documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show the Secret Service field office in Boston secured documents and electronic devices seized during searches of Swartz’s home and research office at Harvard University. Read more
The Daily Mail | 13th August 2013
The CIA has long maintained that it did not keep a file on Noam Chomsky, the linguist and prominent left-wing advocate. But now, new evidence has emerged apparently contradicting the agency, showing that officials did in fact collect information on the anti-war academic in the 1970s.
Previously, in response to a freedom of information request, the CIA had said that thorough searches of its records had not turned up any files on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor. But a new request by a lawyer to the FBI has led to the discovery of a June 1970 memo in which a CIA official asked the FBI for information about a trip to Vietnam planned by a group of American anti-war activists. The official says the trip has been endorsed by Mr Chomsky. Read more
Nikhil Kumar | The Independent | 13th August 2013
Freedom of Information requests by Big Brother Watch revealed some £3.9million of taxpayers’ money was spent on private eyes over two years. That included 37 councils, several quangos and the Department for Transport. Read more
Hayley Dixon & Alice Philipson | The Daily Mail | 6th August 2013
Startling documents reveal that the FBI permitted its informants to commit at least 5,658 crimes in just one year, or an average of over 15 incidents a day.
These new records, obtained by USA Today yesterday, provide a first public view of just how frequently the agency employs criminals to help with their inquiries. Yet this figure is just the tip of the iceberg.
This 2011 report, acquired by USA Today under the Freedom of Information Act, has been heavily redacted by the authorities. Read more
The Daily Mail | 5th August 2013
Nick Clegg was accused last night of mounting a Whitehall cover-up over claims that he helped fast-track Government funds for a charity linked to his wife.
Senior Tory MP David Davis condemned Mr Clegg’s officials for citing ‘personal reasons’ to prevent the release of emails relating to a £12 million Government grant allocated to Booktrust last year.
A freedom of information request for emails sent by officials about the deal was blocked by the Cabinet Office, which claimed that publication would ‘prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs’. Read more
Simon Walters & Glen Owen | The Daily Mail | 7th July 2013
MORE than 15,000 calls to new police non-emergency number 101 have gone unanswered since its launch four months ago.
Thousands of people hung up or were cut off before their 101 call was answered, according to figures released under freedom of information laws to the Scottish Conservatives.
Yesterday, politicians condemned the figure. Read more
Chris Clements | Scottish Daily Record | 6th July 2013
A FBI investigation into claims that Michael Jackson had been abusing two young boys was dropped so he could meet the President.
The disclosure is in a 333-page document that shows allegations of abuse made against the singer dated back to 1978, when Jackson was 20, according to the Sunday People.
In the documents, released after a Freedom of Information Act request, FBI agents confirmed that they did not follow up claims that two Mexican children were being abused ‘because Jackson was to receive an honor at the White House from the President’. Read More
The Daily Mail | 7th July 2013
Senior Post Office bosses were awarded more than £2m in bonuses last year at the same time as ending a £2.2m incentive scheme for sub-postmasters which led to the latter taking industrial action for the first time.
Sub-postmasters had been receiving a 1p-a-letter payment for separating first and second class post since November. The Post Office decided to scrap the scheme after just five months, but the sub-postmasters were still expected to separate the post.
Their union, the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters (NFSP), said the move led to staff refusing to separate the mail until the payment was reinstated. Read more
Simon Neville | The Guardian | 24th June 2013
Any attempt to rein in the vast US surveillance apparatus exposed by Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing will be for naught unless government and corporations alike are subject to greater oversight.
The case of journalist and activist Barrett Brown is a case in point.
Brown made a splash in February 2011 by helping to uncover ”Team Themis”, a project by intelligence contractors retained by Bank of America to demolish the hacker society known as Anonymous and silence sympathetic journalists like Glenn Greenwald (now with the Guardian, though then with Salon). Read more
Arun Gupta | The Guardian | 24th June 2013
The Walthamstow section of the road in north-east of the city had the worst traffic fumes, the study said. Oxford Street ranked in the worst 15 for its estimated levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Diesel vehicles are responsible for up to 30 times more emissions than petrol vehicles,Clean Air in London said.
The campaign group’s study called for diesels to be banned from London’s most polluted streets by 2020. Clean Air for London said the mayor’s office released the pollution data after they had turned down three freedom of information requests and Clean Air for London used EU legislation to force the mayor’s office to release it.
Of any capital city in Europe, London has the highest levels of NO2, the group said. Read more
BBC | 24th June 2013
Labour has accused Ministers of blocking publication of an internal risk assessment on probation changes which will see around 70 per cent of rehabilitation work handed to the private sector and voluntary organisations.
The Ministry of Justice has rejected a request under the Freedom of Information Act for the risk register to be published, the Opposition said.
Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said: “Because of the Government’s secrecy, we don’t know whether the public’s safety is being endangered. What have they got to hide?” Read more
The Yorkshire Post | 24th June 2013
Retail commentator Paul Turner Mitchell found the Treasury unable to answer Freedom of Information requests relating to bad debts suffered by HMRC for unpaid PAYE and VAT owed by insolvent retailers, with officials claiming they did not keep such statistics by industry sector.
Undeterred, he instead commissioned corporate health management specialists Company Watch to conduct independent research. Unearthed was the sheer scale of damage inflicted on the UK economy from some of the most high-profile retail collapses of 2012.
All in all, the research shows that the overall losses suffered by trade suppliers, landlords, employees and HMRC on the 20 largest retailers to file for insolvency since the beginning of 2012 totals £1 billion. Within this total lies a £134 million cost to the UK taxpayer. Read more
The Information Daily | 10th April 2013
BBC staff have lost 785 laptops, tablet computers and mobile phones in the past three years, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
Since 2010, BBC staff have misplaced or had stolen 399 laptops worth £598,500, 347 mobiles worth up to £104,100, and 39 tablets at £58,500, according to the FoI request.
And there has been a marked increase in the number of missing gadgets in the last year, with 350 laptops, mobiles or tablet devices lost or stolen in 2012, compared to 259 in 2011. Read more
Josh Halliday | The Guardian | 10th April 2013
LANDLORDS in the East of England have paid more than £100m in business rates on empty properties in the last financial year, the Taxpayers’ Alliance has revealed.
A Freedom of Information request for figures has showed that £100,978,346 was raised in business rates levied on empty properties in the region from 2011-12.
In East Herts, £1,351,284 was collected in 2009-10, £1,341,216 in 2010-11 and £1,607,146 in 2011-12. In Broxbourne, £912,662 was levied on empty properties in 2009-10, £1,018,597 in 2010-11 and £775,408 in 2011-12. Across Great Britain, more than £1.1bn was paid in empty property rates in 2011-12. Read more
Hertfordshire Mercury Business News | 10th April 2013
The company running the detention centre on Christmas Island has warned the government several times of a high threat of violence. Channel Seven reported on Wednesday that documents they obtained under freedom of information revealed services company Serco sent security intelligence summaries to the immigration department warning the threat of violence at the island’s centre.
Serco warned that tents could be used “as a source of weapons and a target for arson”. It advised the use of tents “as alternative or emergency accommodation should be reconsidered and an alternative sought”.
Three warnings were sent to the department in the latter part of 2012. An immigration spokesman told Seven on Wednesday the tents were still being used. Read more
The Sydney Morning Herald | 10th April 2013
A privacy watchdog has filed a lawsuit contending the Federal Bureau of Investigation has failed to provide requested technical information about a biometric identification database expected to be the largest in the world.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, alleges the FBI failed to disclose documents after it filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in September 2012.
EPIC sought information on the FBI’s “Next Generation Identification” program, which will amass biometric information on mostly U.S. citizens from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including palm prints and iris scans. New York City’s police department began collecting iris scans in 2010 of people who were arrested. Read more
Jeremy Kirk | IDG News Service | 8th April 2013
Senate Republicans proved there is something to hide by slamming the EPA last week for releasing information on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to environmental groups.
Senator David Vitter (R-LA) along with other Senate Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee believe that the EPA released too much information about CAFOs, non-sustainable, inhumane big businesses, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request last year.
The Republican Senators sent a letter to the Acting Administrator of the EPA, Bob Perciasepe, on Thursday, demanding that the EPA brief the Environment and Public Works Committee on the information given to environmental groups. Read more
Alisha Mims | Ring of Fire | 8th April 2013
A global trend of citizens seeking more information than they did in the past from their governments is contributing to growing delays and complaints surrounding freedom of information requests in Canada, federal Treasury Board President Tony Clement said Monday.
In an interview with Postmedia News, Clement said he is introducing some user-friendly changes such as a new Internet application tool, making it easier and faster for Canadians to get information.
“I believe that it will quicken the process for most people and therefore, reduce the number of complaints and reduce the frustration with the system,” said Clement, whose job includes the promotion of an open government. Read more
Mike de Souza | Post Media News | 9th April 2013
Family refused information from French authorities on son’s death
THE family of a North-East man found dead in a foreign country lane have been refused information on the case because it could damage Britain’s relationship with France.
A freedom of information request submitted to the Foreign Office by Julie Sheppard revealed new details regarding the death of her son, 31-year-old Andrew Watt.
However, Foreign Office officials say other information cannot be disclosed because it could prejudice the relationship between the two countries. Read more.
Joe Willis | The Northern Echo | 4th April 2013
USA: Feds’ use of spy tools under scrutiny due to privacy concerns
If the FBI is trying to pinpoint the location of a suspect in your neighborhood, investigators could sweep up information from your mobile device just because you happen to be in proximity to their target. Civil liberties advocates are concerned that the practice is a major invasion of privacy.
The results of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the San Francisco Bay Guardian last year sheds new light on the federal government’s use of Stingrays, a surveillance technology that mimics a cellphone tower by automatically connecting with mobile devices in the area where a search is being conducted.
Stingray is a brand name, but the devices are sometimes called Triggerfish, digital analyzers, or cell site emulators. They’re known to technologists as IMSI catchers, meaning they can intercept a user’s International Mobile Subscriber Identity. Read more.
Rebecca Bowe | San Francisco Bay Guardian | 3rd April 2013
Collaborative investigation site Help Me Investigate has compiled data which shows how council spending on the Olympic torch relay breaks down.
Based on FOI requests by Juliet Ferguson and Carol Miers to 100 local councils and police authorities, the responses contain some interesting budget decisions. These include:
• One authority used their torch relay budget to appoint a new member of staff for 18 months
• Two authorities – Aberdeenshire and Lewisham – spent £7,398 of their torch relay budgets on new CCTV cameras
• The biggest spenders were Dover District Council and Bournemouth: both spent over £220,000. But Somerset paid nothing after organisers LOCOG agreed to pay all their costs, previously estimated in the hundreds of thousands
Paul Bradshaw | The Guardian | 6th March 2013
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is briefing smaller app developers on data protection obligations as it and other data protection authorities draft an official “opinion” on how developers should treat consumers’ data.
The ICO’s efforts will concentrate on smaller app development workshops, or even individuals, making sure their products comply with the Data Protection Act and secure full consent of users over how their personal information will be accessed.
This includes potential workshops for start-up firms held at development hubs, such as TechHub in London’s Silicon Roundabout, according to Dr Simon Rice, group manager, technology, at the ICO.
“Getting to people like the ‘bedroom developers’ [smaller developers who often produce apps in their spare time] can be the tricky part,” he says. Read more.
Ronan Shields | Marketing Week | 4th March 2013
Released in response to a freedom of information request, the FBI’s documents cover 11 years of threats against the singer, from 1988 to 1999. But the pages are heavily redacted – in many cases, to the point of incomprehensibility.
Sometimes the redactions are tantalising. In late 1992, an unidentified Chicago lawyer wrote to Houston’s New Jersey-based production company stating that unless the singer paid $100,000 (£66,000), his client planned to “reveal certain details of [Houston's] private life … to several publications”. Later the blackmail amount was boosted even higher, to $250,000 (£165,000). Read more.
Sean Michaels | The Guardian | 5th March 2013
Eleven civil servants at Iain Duncan Smith‘s department for work and pensions have been sacked for using Twitter or Facebook.
The 11 sacked officials are among 116 DWP employees to have faced disciplinary action for blogging and social networking since January 2009, according to figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act.
Of these 116, 34 were given a final written warning, 35 received a written warning and 36 were reprimanded orally for their use of social media.
The DWP said use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites was “completely restricted” for most of its workers. The only employees allowed to use the sites are those who have a “genuine requirement for access”. The department’s official Twitter account is run by the DWP press office. Read more.
Josh Halliday | The Guardian | 9th January 2013
Gawker, a Manhattan-based gossip site, has posted a searchable list of licensed gun owners in New York City, following a move last month by a newspaper in nearby Westchester County to publish a map of pistol permit holders.
The information was obtained from the New York Police Department via a Freedom of Information Law request in 2009, Gawker writer John Cook said Tuesday in a posting on the blog, which is owned by Gawker Media. The 446-page list dates from 2 1/2 years ago and contains names but not addresses.
The move thrusts Gawker into a growing debate over gun control and the privacy rights of firearms owners, sparked by the shooting deaths of 20 children at a Connecticut elementary school on Dec. 14. Read more.
Arizona Daily Star | 10th January 2013
Almost exactly 60 years ago arch-sexist Hugh Hefner launched Playboy magazine.
When it came to choosing the cover girl and first centre-spread there was no contest. It just had to be Marilyn Monroe.
Who else appeared to match the American male dream of a shapely sex bomb who was both pliant, subservient and available?
A dizzy, bubbly blonde with no ideas or opinions of her own – for so many, that was the image they had of Marilyn Monroe.
Just imagine how middle America might have reacted on discovering that its favourite sex icon was a communist.
After much campaigning and many Freedom of Information requests FBI files on Marilyn Monroe that could not be located earlier this year have finally been unearthed and published. Read more.
Peter Frost | Morning Star | 8th January 2013
The figures, obtained following freedom of information requests, have prompted fresh demands for a long-term strategy to tackle Britain’s “hiddencrime.”
Home Office data reveals that more than a million British women a year experience domestic violence, although experts believe the vast majority of incidents remain unreported. Read more.
Mark Townsend | The Guardian | 24th November 2012
A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the FBI’s decision to redact information from records sought under the Freedom of Information Act by a Tennessee death row inmate.
Inmate Michael Dale Rimmer sued the agency over records relating to an investigation they conducted into the death of a Memphis motel clerk in 1997. Rimmer was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of the clerk, Ricci Lynn Ellsworth.
After his conviction, he claimed that the FBI investigation produced exculpatory evidence and made a FOIA request. The FBI eventually released 786 pages, but Rimmer disputes redactions made on a majority of the pages. Read more.
Wate | 23rd November 2012
An armed policeman nearly shot off a colleague’s foot during a raid on a murder suspect’s home.
The unnamed officer, who was highly trained, accidentally fired his pistol into the floor seconds before two elite squads stormed the property.
As the bullet hit the ground it splintered, leaving the man’s colleague with shrapnel wounds.
The incident, revealed in a Freedom of Information request, was one of four occasions in the past two years when officers from West Midlands Police mistakenly fired their weapon. Read more.
The Mirror | 25th November 2012