January 2009 Archives

We are still waiting for the Information Tribunal to rule in our favour again, to order the disclosure of the early OGC Gateway Reviews of the Home Office's Identity Cards Programme, over 4 years since we requested them.

The legal cost so far, of over £120,000 is an utter waste of public money.

28 Jan 2009 : Column 505W

Identity Cards: Civil Proceedings

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department with reference to the answer of 14 July 2008, Official Report, column 145W, on identity cards, what stage the legal case relating to disclosure of Gateway information has reached; how much the Government have spent to date on legal costs for the case; and if she will place in the Library a copy of the Identity Card Gateway Review, redacting commercially sensitive information. [250192]

N.B. it is very unlikely that there is any "commercially sensitive information" in the pre-Stage Zero and Stage Zero Gateway Reviews, which happen well before any actual commercial procurement starts i.e. well before any invitations to tender or any quotations from potential suppliers has even been asked for, and which are reviewed at Gateway Review Stage 2 and later.

What is missing from these Gateway Reviews is at least as interesting (probably an utter lack of appreciation of the technical security and privacy risks, or any idea about the costs of integration with other Government Departmental and Private Sector computer systems) as what they actually might contain.

Angela Eagle: I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 12 January 2009, Official Report, columns 508-09W. The tribunal has still not issued its decision.

The legal cost incurred, relating to the disclosure of Gateway information on the Identity Cards programme, is currently £121,000 excluding VAT.

Gateway reports, including the findings and status, are conducted on a confidential basis for senior responsible owners (SRO). We do not, therefore, make this information routinely public.

This cost does not include the time of all of the Information Commissioner,'s Office, Home Office, Department for Constitutional Affairs (now the Ministry of Justice) Office for Government Commerce, HM Treasury, Information Tribunal etc. officials who have been involved in this case.

Note the weasel words at the end of the reply, since it would be illegal for the Government to rule out all such disclosures, even though, that is what in fact has happened in every case so far.

The previous Written Answer details the long drawn out current Information Tribunal process:

Annoyingly, the Metropolitan Police appear to have taken up the new Guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office, (See ICO Guidance on FOIA requests name and address for correspondence - another attack on Anonymity) with bureaucratic glee, and have rejected our FOIA request for the breakdown of some statistics , simply because of our use of a pseudonym, on the WhatDoTheyKnow.com FOIA request submission portal website.

Operation Maxim - breakdown of statistics of United Kingdom versus Foreign passports seized

This, in our view misinterprets the Freedom of Information Act requirement for a "name and address for correspondence".

Since they accept, an email address as the correspondence address, then so should they accept a pseudonym, rather than your "real" name.

The only reason for this name is to help deliver the FOIA disclosure to the requestor. Using a pseudonym obviously does not involve the "asking for personal information about yourself" exemption, and it makes to difference to determining whether a request is repeated or vexatious.

Public Bodies are not allowed to demand to know why any particular bit of information is being requested under the FOIA, so the identity of whoever is making the request is irrelevant.

Remember that WhatDoTheyKnow.com publishes the full text of the correspondence (with a few exceptions which are starting to creep in now), so if anybody did sign their real name and address, it is available to search engines, identity thieves, private investigators, future employers, and secret policemen etc.

By insisting on a "real name", for no good reason involved in the actual delivery of the information to be disclosed, this probably infringes on our ECHR Article 8 right to privacy of our communications and family life, but that will probably take over 5 years to establish through the Court system.

The Met Police rejection:


The following is a simple FOIA request, asking for a slightly more detailed breakdown of some published statistical totals, which are of significance in the debate about Identity Cards, the National Identity Register and Biometric Passports etc.

It will be interesting to see how this pseudonymous request is treated, following the new Guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office.

See ICO Guidance on FOIA requests name and address for correspondence - another attack on Anonymity

Text of the FOIA request:

Metropolitan Police Service - Operation Maxim - breakdown of statistics of United Kingdom versus Foreign passports seized

About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog has been spawned from Spy Blog, and is meant to provide a place to track our Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to United Kingdom Government and other Public Authorities.

If you have suggestions for other FOIA requests,  bearing in mind the large list of exemptions, then email them to us, or use the comments facility on this blog, and we will see  what we can do, without you yourself having to come under the direct scrutiny of  "Sir Humphrey Appleby" or his minions.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your views about this website or news about the issues it tries to comment on:

email: blog @spy[dot]org[dot]uk

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WhatDoTheyKnow.com

WhatDoTheyKnow.com - FOIA request submission and publication website from MySociety.org

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team." - does this apply to the Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition government as well ?

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

Yes, Minister

Yes, Minister Series 1, Episode 1, "Open Government" First airtime BBC: 25 February 1980

"Bernard Woolley: "Well, yes, Sir...I mean, it [open government] is the Minister's policy after all."
Sir Arnold: "My dear boy, it is a contradiction in terms: you can be open or you can have government."

FOIA Links

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Office of the Information Commissioner,
who is meant to regulate the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scottish Information Commissioner,
who similarly regulates the Freedom of Information Act (Scotland) 2002

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals against decisions by the Information Commissioners.

Freedom of Information pages - Department for Constitutional Affairs

Friends of the Earth FOIA Request Generator and links to contact details for Central Government Departments and their Publication Schemes

UK Government Information Asset Register - in theory, this should point you to the correct Government documents, but in practice...well see for yourself.

Access all Information is also logging some FOIA requests

foi.mysociety.org - prototype FOIA request submission, tracking and publication website

Blog Links

Spy Blog

UK Freedom of Information Act Blog - started by Steve Wood, now handed over to Katherine Gundersen

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke

Informaticopia - Rod Ward

Open Secrets - a blog about freedom of information by BBC journalist Martin Rosenbaum

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

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