Tuesday, January 30, 2007

NTR Deal introduces number plate surveillance

'Invisible' toll part of €600m deal to buy out West-Link bridge - Irish Independent:
It is understood that NTR will be operating the toll on behalf of the State, which will effectively become the new landlord. This will involve photographing the registration of every vehicle and billing them unless they have a prepaid arrangement... Drivers are only tolled now if they cross the West-Link bridge. Under the new deal, everyone using the M50 will be charged.
Expect this to be used to justify the roll out of number plate recognition and the monitoring of all car journeys.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Garda leaks and the right to privacy

RTÉ News reports:
A family who were forced to leave their new home in Kerry because of the leaking of confidential information by gardaí to journalists have been awarded €70,000 in the High Court.

Alan and Phyllis Gray and their son Francis are originally from Blanchardstown in Co Dublin but moved to Ballybunion under the Rural Resettlement Programme.

They sued the Minister for Justice for breach of privacy.

They say they had to leave their home after gardaí leaked to the media that Mr Gray's nephew, who had served a sentence for rape, was staying with them.
This case follows the 1997 decision in Hanahoe v. Hussey where gardaí tipped off the media to the fact that a solictor's office would be searched under a search warrant, leading to a "media circus" when gardaí arrived with damage to the reputation of the firm, and ultimately resulting in an award of £100,000 in damages. In that case, the basis for the decision was that the wrongful and negligent disclosure of this information amounted to negligence under the principles in Ward v. McMaster. It's not clear from the media coverage whether the decision in this case goes further, or whether data protection principles were also considered. (Compare section 7 of the Data Protection Acts, 1988-2003, creating a duty of care in respect of the handling of personal data.)

It does, however, represent an interesting application of the Hanahoe v. Hussey principle that public bodies may owe you a duty of care to keep certain information confidential. It also reflects Hanahoe v. Hussey in that it shows a judicial willingness to impose vicarious liability in respect of unauthorised garda disclosures.

Update: Eoin O'Dell links to the full decision here with an interesting discussion of the issues involved.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bar Camp talk - Who owns software?

Does your employer own software that you write on your own time at home? Can a client who commissions you to write software prevent you from reusing portions of that code for a different project? Are you entitled to modify software developed for you by an outside programmer? If you don't own copyright, will you have an implied licence to use software? Will an implied licence limit you to using software in a particular market sector or a particular jurisdiction? Does it matter how much you've paid for the software? Does it matter whether you've given / been given the source code? What about databases you commission from a third party?

Come to Bar Camp South East and find out. I'll be talking on the topic of "Who owns software?" - taking a practical look at the problems of determining who owns copyright and other rights in software and giving tips as to how you can protect your position.

[edited to add] I've since published an article dealing with these topics in more detail.