Friday, March 26, 2010

Bank of Scotland and its rapacious charges

I am gnashing my teeth after being charged a scandalous £30 penalty on my current account by Bank of Scotland. I just sent them the following complaint, and will update this post with their responses:
Me: Since you showed a cheque for £x appearing in my account on 18 March, it seemed safe to schedule a payment three working days later on 23 March. I am EXTREMELY unhappy that you decided that the funds were not available on 23 March and are charging me £30 for a decision that must have cost you pennies in computer time.

This kind of behaviour makes me seriously think about closing my current account with you. I will be blogging this complaint, and your response.

Bank of Scotland: It will take up to 4 banking days (after we receive it) for a cheque to clear in a current account. The cheque will show in the 'balance' of your account on the day we receive it, but not in your 'available funds' until the cheque has fully cleared and the funds are available for withdrawal.

Me: That is less than clear in your user interface. It would also be trivial for you to automate the process of notifying customers that insufficient funds are available and asking whether they wish to postpone or cancel an online payment.

A £30 penalty is entirely disproportionate to your costs. If you apply this penalty in this case I am planning to make a complaint to the Office of Fair Trading, and close my account.

Bank of Scotland: I can advise this charge is for a failed payment.

At the time the payment were called for, the balance in your jar was not sufficient to cover these payment

Intelligent Finance does not offer the facility to monitor accounts on an individual basis.

It is our customer's responsibility to ensure there are sufficient available funds within the account to cover any payment instructions which are set up.
As a gesture of goodwill, I will arrange to credit your account today to cover the charge. Any future charges will stand.

A happy ending, and reminder that it is always worth complaining over unfair treatment. If that doesn't work, as Ross Anderson says: a lawsuit never hurts.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Oxford hosts final PrivacyOS conference

Privacy Open Space
Next month (12-13 April) we will be hosting the final Privacy Open Space conference at Worcester College in Oxford. Come along to hear from our Europe-wide community of researchers, industry, civil society and regulators concerned with privacy in the information age.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Is technology the saviour of free speech?

Front cover of this month's Index on Censorship
The new edition of Index on Censorship is out this week. It contains a whole range of interesting articles on privatised censorship, including one from yours truly on self-regulation. Pick up your copy today!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

e-elections will be won in the real world

"This is the big paradox of the so-called e-election. It will not be won by the party with the most hollow-eyed obsessives hunched over keyboards blogging and tweeting at all hours of day and night. Success will belong to those who can use the internet to so organise and enthuse supporters that they log off from their virtual worlds, pound the pavements, knock on doors and get out among voters in the real one." —Andrew Rawnsley

Thursday, March 18, 2010

MPs: don't rush through extreme Web laws!

Six thousand people have now written to their MPs to politely request that they do their job, and properly scrutinise the Analogue Economy Bill. If you think democracy is, actually, quite important, then you should do so too today!

The Financial Times certainly isn't impressed:
In the commercial world, major legislation concerning copyright, such as Britain’s Digital Economy Bill, is unlikely to withstand the second great variable – the coming of age of the net generation. Laws banning file-sharing are likely to prove as unpopular as the poll tax that helped bring down the Thatcher government. They also look utterly unenforceable.

As a harbinger of change, we are seeing political parties springing up throughout Europe with names such as the Internet party or the Pirate party, which understand the web as simply part of human DNA. “In the collision between the old and the new on the web,” argues Rex Hughes, a Chatham House fellow who is leading a cybersecurity project, “the old always wins the first few rounds but eventually they die off.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The wanton theft of our liberties

"Individualism and autonomy used to be prized rights of our people. Now they are held in contempt by our governors. If we seek reasons not to give Labour another term in office, this wanton theft of our liberties should be high among them." —Simon Heffer

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spooks v. recording industry

If only both could lose… In this extraordinary leaked memo, the British Phonographic Industry's public affairs director sets out his concerns that the Security Service, MI5, is secretly funding opposition to the government's Digital Economy Bill:
The debate has been given an extra twist with a Talk Talk sponsored survey today, which says that 71% of 18–34 year olds would continue to infringe copyright, in spite of the Bill provisions, and would use "undetectable methods" to do so. Whether MI5 helped pay for the survey is not clear, but the results helpfully play into their court.

He also tells his colleagues that MPs have given up on having any chance to properly scrutinise the Bill:
MPs with whom we spoke back in Autumn are already resigned to the fact that they will have minimum input into the provisions from this point on, given the lack of time for detailed scrutiny… John Whittingdale [MP, chair of select committee on culture, media and sport] has said this week that he still thinks it could be lost if enough MPs protest at not having the opportunity to scrutinise it.

Watching legislation being made is truly never a pretty sight.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The evidence on DNA retention

Who to believe? The Home Secretary, who claimed today that Conservative plans to stop the retention of DNA profiles taken from arrested but unconvicted individuals would lead to "23 murderers or rapists going free in the last year alone"? Or the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, whose detailed report this week stated:
It is currently impossible to say with certainty how many crimes are detected, let alone how many result in convictions, due at least in part to the matching of crime scene DNA to a personal profile already on the database, but it appears that it may be as little as 0.3%—and we note that the reason for retaining personal profiles on a database is so that the person can be linked to crimes he/she commits later… It is not known how many crimes are solved with the help of the stored personal profiles of those not previously convicted of a crime… We are not convinced that retaining for six years the DNA profiles of people not convicted of any crime would result in more cases being cleared up—let alone more convictions obtained—than retaining them for three years. We therefore recommend a three year limit.

How can we have a sensible debate on criminal justice policy if the Home Secretary ignores careful reports from select committees (where his own party holds a majority), and so carelessly throws around such serious accusations?

UPDATE: Chris Pounder points to the even more damning conclusion of Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights:
“When asked for further information on statistics relating to individual cases, the Government has been unable to provide it. For example, we asked the Government for more information about the ACPO research which it states illustrates that 36 rape, murder or manslaughter cases during 2008-09 involved matches to innocent persons’ DNA retained on the NDNAD which were of 'direct and specific' value to the investigation. Unfortunately, the Government was unable to conduct this analysis within the time that we asked for a response… We recommend that the Government publish the details of these cases, if necessary in a suitably redacted format, or it should stop referring to them as support for its proposals."

Monday, March 08, 2010

NHS continues attempt to destroy patient trust

The NHS is continuing with its very badly thought-through plans to upload patients' basic medical records to the central "Spine" database without their explicit consent:
GPs say they fear patients' rights are being overlooked, that "scaremongering" is being used to get people's agreement for the database, and that hackers could illegally access the central computer.

The damage this will do to doctor-patient relationships once the inevitable breaches occur hardly bears thinking about.