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
NHS reform risk report veto is sign of freedom of information downgrade, says watchdog
Blocking the publication of a report into the risks of NHS reforms is a sign that ministers want to downgrade freedom of information laws, a watchdog has warned.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham launched a scathing criticism of the decision to exercise the Government’s veto in a report on the case to Parliament.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley deployed it to block an Information Tribunal ruling that he should meet Labour demands to disclose the document.
Joe Churcher | The Independent | 15th May 2012
Private firms face FoI for government contracts
The Commons public accounts committee says companies doing business with central government should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act and should have their performance and contracts examined by the government’s spending watchdogs.
In its report on the Work Programme on Tuesday, the committee recommended that the Cabinet Office Efficiency Reform Group (ERG) should extend its work to ensure that taxpayers get better value from companies that depend on central government deals for most of their income.
Jane Duhman | The Guardian | 15th MAy 2012
Anonymous takes down ICO web site
Hacktivist collective Anonymous has taken down the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) web site.
The distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is thought to be directed by a group on Twitter calling itself the “Anon Ateam” in protest against what it believes is corruption within the Leveson inquiry.
A spokesperson for the ICO, a pubic body that deals with independent advice and guidance about data protection and freedom of information, confirmed that access to the web site had been “disrupted over the past few days”.
Lee Bell | The Inquirer | 15th May 2012
Civil servants caught looking at private files in personal data breaches
Almost 1,000 DWP staff were disciplined in a 10-month period for unlawfully or inappropriately accessing social security records, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information laws.
Meanwhile, over the past year there were at least 13 cases per month of unlawful access to medical records reported to the Department of Health (DoH).
Andrew Hough | The Telegraph | 14th May 2012
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) faces embarrassment today as emails released under FoIA show that it tried to “bury” an unpopular decision among others.
The watchdog Privacy International had raised concerns that Internet Eyes, a website that streamed live CCTV of shops in Stratford upon Avon for the public to monitor, was in breach of the Data Protection Act and asked the ICO to investigate.
The Telegraph reports: “The office concluded it was not and only asked Internet Eyes to sign an undertaking of good behaviour.”
Privacy International, unhappy with the decision, then used the FoIA to obtain emails and memos from the ICO in relation to the decision.
Ironically it transpired that the ICO, which promotes good information governance and transparency, sought to bury the news with the release of other decisions and amongst other news.
An enforcement official wrote: “It has occurred to us that the ICO may not wish this release to stand out from the crowd – maybe it world [sic] be better to send the letter today and publish Wednesday or Thursday this week to ‘bury’ it amongst others?”
An ICO press officer added: “Yes, we would ideally not want this to attract much publicity but as Privacy International is the complainant this is no easy task.”
The news was eventually released on the 14th June, the same day that teachers threatened to strike, the coalition was accused of an NHS U-turn and government confirmed that sex offenders could apply to be removed from the register.
Simon Davies, director of Privacy International told the Telegraph: “We have criticised the Information Commissioner’s Office for many years over its failure to uphold privacy rights in the UK but this episode has cast a more sinister and disturbing light on the activities of the regulator.”
He added: “There is need for urgent reform to the way the ICO operates. It is clear that the Office is now incapable of fulfilling its statutory responsibilities and that it has become a danger both to openness and to privacy.”
The news comes on International Right to Know Day 2011, a day marked to champion transparency, privacy and government accountability.