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UK DNA Database under scrutiny

8 November, 2006

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

United Kingdom has today the largest DNA database in the world, with over 3,5 million DNA samples. These days the Nuffield Council on Bioethics announced starting a public consultation about the new legislation regarding the storage of the DNA samples.

The DNA database was initiated in 1996 with little public consultation and since 2003 anyone arrested by the police had their DNA taken, for crimes going from murder to drink driving. Their DNA samples have been kept even though they have never been officially charged. A Home office report has shown that over 139 000 people, including 24 000 children, are in this situation.

The report also shows that 5,24 % of the UK population has a profile in the

EFF research into hidden codes colour prints

20 October, 2005

The US based digital rights organisation EFF has started extensive research into the hidden codes some laser colour printers and photo copiers add to every page they print or copy. In 2004 printer-manufacturer Canon was awarded a Big Brother Award in Germany for secretly adding a unique code to every print-out. Soon after, it turned out the practice is very wide-spread.

The unique number on every print-out is invisible to the bare eye, measuring only 0,1 millimetre. After the Big Brother Award for Canon, the Dutch police immediately admitted they use the codes to detect the sources of print-outs, tracing individual printers through the vendor chain. Questioned by the Lower House, the Dutch minister of Economical Affairs said he agreed manufacturers should inform their customers, but did not

New EDRI initiative on e-voting

27 July, 2005

European Digital Rights has opened a new open mailinglist on e-voting. Anybody interested in contributing knowledge on this matter is kindly invited to subscribe and share information with experts from all over Europe. The discussion is focussed on developments in Europe, and can be both political as well as technical.

Subscribe to the EDRI-voting mailinglist

US delay for biometric passports

15 June, 2005

The US has signalled that it will modify its biometric passport requirements for travellers from Visa Waiver countries. EU countries have been struggling to meet an October 2005 deadline set by the US to introduce new passports with biometric identifiers.

The 2002 US Border Security Act demands from 27 countries the inclusion of chips with facial images in their passports, in order to continue participation in the US Visa Waiver programme. A deadline was set for 26 October 2004 after which citizens from most EU countries would either have to present a biometric passport or a visa to enter the US. In June 2004 the US House of Representatives agreed to a one-year extension until 26 October 2005.

But most EU countries will not be able to introduce passports with contactless chips by that time. Travellers from those countries would have to apply for visa if the US maintains its demands. This would result in a chilling effect on US tourism and commerce while overstressing the US consular system with visa applications. Governments on both sides of the ocean have been looking for an acceptable solution.

NGOs against international surveillance and policy laundering

4 May, 2005

On 20 April 2005 the civil liberties group Statewatch, together with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and two other NGOs launched the Campaign Against Mass Surveillance (ICAMS), calling on all national governments and intergovernmental organisations to turn away from antiterrorism efforts that are oriented around mass surveillance.

The campaign started with an in-depth report on 'The emergence of a global infrastructure for registration and surveillance'. "Driven largely by the United States, a growing web of anti-terrorism and security measures are being adopted by nations around the world. This new 'security' paradigm is being used to roll back freedom and increase police powers in order to exercise increasing control over individuals and populations." The report describes 10 signposts that clearly mark the general erosion of human rights. To some extent, all of the signposts have already been realised. To another extent, the report reads like a manual for an awesome uncle of Big Brother.

No extra regulation for Voice over IP

24 February, 2005

On 11 February the European Regulators Group (ERG) released a common statement against regulation of Voice over IP services. The statement from the 25 national regulatory authorities was welcomed by EU Commissioner Viviane Reding, responsible for Information Society and Media.

In a press release from the Commission she says: “I expect Voice over IP to lead to more diverse and innovative services in the market which may well have an even bigger impact on consumers and businesses than email. (...) I am convinced that, as the market develops, the European Commission and national regulators will jointly ensure that throughout the EU, the roll-out of new IP-based services will not be hindered by regulatory hurdles."

In June 2004 the Commission organised a consultation on VOIP. The main concern from the industry centres around the obligations of PATS, publicly available telephone services. Among the 86 public responses is a paper from ETNO (European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association), the powerful European lobbying group from the incumbent telephony operators. They hesitantly reject general telephony demands on Voice over IP services such as guaranteed access to emergency services, number portability and provision of location information, but on the other hand see a market advantage if a national regulatory authority would provide, "on request, a standardised declaration to those suppliers that undertake to provide publicly available telephone services in accordance with the applicable conditions in the general authorisation." ETNO also sees an advantage in a separate number plan: "when VoIP services are offered as a nation-wide nomadic service, a dedicated number range may be appropriate." The many footnotes in the document show how divided the operators are amongst themselves. Some companies such as the Dutch KPN clearly try to preserve their market position in the telephony world by claiming for extra regulation, while other companies such as Telekom Austria and British Telecom seem to favour a more practical approach towards internet telephony.

EU consultation calls for social impact studies on nanotech

26 January, 2005

The European Commission puts nanotechnology high on the political agenda with its Communication 'Towards a European strategy for nanotechnology'. The communication has been discussed at the political level in the European Council under the Irish and Dutch presidencies during the year 2004, and an on-line open consultation on the communication was held between August and October 2004 by Nanoforum, the EU sponsored thematic network on nanotechnology. The Nanoforum received some 750 responses to the consultation. Half of the respondents came from the research community.

The consultation concludes that nanotechnology will have a strong impact on European industry and its citizens within only ten years from now. Nanotechnology will have its strongest impact on chemistry and materials,

Recommended participation

15 December, 2004

Public consultation on new action plan eEurope 2005-2010. Participants are invited to consider how European Information Society policy should evolve over the next five years if the EU is to reach its 'Lisbon Goals' by 2010.

Contributions are invited by e-mail and should be submitted by 16 January 2005.

Lisbon goals portal site

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