Ghost in the machine

By Paul Simpkins

Like any normal UK male I like to watch sport on TV. As the season all over Europe comes to a conclusion the titles and cups are being decided. Exactly the wrong time to take a holiday. Why?

Because despite Sky Go and BT allowing you to watch their products on your laptop or other device while you’re away from home things stop working when you leave the UK. It’s nothing to do with Brexit. Your device works out that you’ve left and suddenly many services that you use frequently start to deny you access for the simple reason that you’re away from home. If you want to watch the destination of the titles and cups you have to hope that you can find a friendly bar with a TV and hope the locals aren’t supporting the team that is playing your team.  You may have to consume alcohol and even sing sporting anthems badly but that’s part of the fun.

If you prefer to sit in the safety of your hotel room or rural gite or caravan there is another solution. Buy a wifi session. Your venue will probably sell you one for a few euros and you can watch in peace with a steaming cappuccino. Trouble is your device may still not allow you to connect to UK channels as it will still think you’re away from home as your IP address identifies your location.

But there’s a solution for that as well. Buy an app that masks your IP address. I’ve used this one.

blg paul 1

And it’s worked well. For free it will tell your computer sitting in Bordeaux that it’s really in Manchester so it will be able to watch iPlayer, Sky & BT without a problem. Yabba dabba doo!

Until recently when I purchased a month’s wifi from the site where I am currently staying. The company concerned is called Ozmosis.

blg paul 2

It’s full of lovely pictures of people enjoying themselves on holiday (the sunglasses give it away) using their wifi on holiday parks throughout Europe. 8 million users no less. So I bought a month’s wifi from them.

When it came to Champions league semi finals I thought I’d watch. It took a while. You have to run Cyberghost and find out that only 2000 free places exist and they count down at about ten a second until wow you’re sorted and watch the IP address emigrating from south west France to Manchester via a slow moving graphic then eventually log on to BT sport. Even then it often doesn’t work.

No problem. It was worth the effort. Until the following morning when you try to log on to the internet as usual. It doesn’t work. Suddenly it dawns on you via series of messages from Ozmosis they’ve identified a streaming service on your computer which violates their terms and conditions and they have terminated your wifi (after 6 of 31 days).

You ring the help line and you have to admit that you’ve been a naughty boy using an IP masking routine; apologise, delete it from your machine and they restore your wifi.

But then you think…

Who are they to say what I can do with their product? I buy it. It connects me to the internet. Can I watch porn channels with it? Can I hack health services all over Europe with it?  If I buy product A that enables me to do many things can the provider of Product A stop  me from doing B, C and D, E and F with their enabling product? 

If I bought a Kindle and loaded it with racist literature could Amazon stop me reading it?

If I bought a car and was told by the salesman that I couldn’t drive to Chipping Sodbury because they didn’t like the name.

If I bought a mobile phone but was limited in the numbers I could call?

(other off the wall examples sought by the author)

So there you are. I can buy wifi and perform normal functions like check my email or look at my bank account or whatsapp my auntie but not watch Atletico Madrid fail to beat Real Madrid without being penalised by a faceless sysadmin near Montpellier who cuts off a service I’ve paid for because I’m doing something they don’t like.  I have no other option on my campsite. Ozmosis have a monopoly.

OK millions of people streaming a major football match might use a lot of bandwidth but that’s what most European males on a campsite want to do. Saying in the T & C that you can’t do it makes buying the wifi worthless. Increase your capability Ozmosis or get out of the sector (

but they’re making zillions of euros so they won’t do that).

I expect a torrent of abuse from normal people who live without watching big sporting events but living in France for several weeks eating quality food and drinking cheap quality wine and beer while enjoying temperatures 10 degrees higher than the UK needs some mitigation otherwise it would be Paradise Lost – buts that’s another story.

Posted in Data Protection, Security | Leave a comment

GDPR: One Year to Go! Special Offer Today Only!


Exactly one year today (on 25th May 2018), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force. (***see below for a special offer)

Data Controllers and Data Processors now have just 12 months to prepare for the biggest change to the EU data protection regime in 20 years.  With some breaches carrying fines of up to 4% of global annual turnover or 20 million Euros, everyone has to take GDPR seriously.

For those who are still yet to start their GDPR implementation programme, the ICO’s 12 steps to take towards compliance is a good place to start. We would emphasise:

  1. Keeping up to date with all the guidance coming out of the ICO and the Article 29 Working Party.
  2. Raising awareness about GDPR at all levels. We are running a series of GDPR webinars and workshops and our team of experts is available to come to your organisation to deliver customised data protection/GDPR workshops.
  3. Reviewing how you address records management and information risk in your organisation.
  4. Reviewing compliance with the existing law as well as the six new DP Principles.
  5. Revising privacy polices in the light of the GDPR’s more prescriptive transparency requirements. The ICO’s new privacy notices code is a very useful document for this.
  6. Reviewing information security polices and procedures in the light of the GDPR’s more stringent security obligations particularly breach notification.
  7. Writing polices and procedures to deal with new and revised data subject rights such as Data Portability and Subject Access.
  8. Considering who is going to fulfill the mandatory role of Data Protection Officer. What skills do they have and what training will they need?

Our GDPR Practitioner Certificate, with an emphasis on the practical skills required to implement GDPR, is an ideal qualification for those aspiring for such positions.  

The next 12 months need to be spent wisely. As well as training, Act Now can deliver GDPR health checks to assess where you are and guide you to where you need to be.

And as if there isn’t enough to do, the EU Policing and Criminal Justice Data Protection Directive which contains new rules for Data Protection for law enforcement agencies (as well as others) when processing personal data relating to crime and justice has to be implemented by 6th May 2018. Oh and a new Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications covering, amongst other things, direct electronic marketing will come into force on 25th May 2018.

An exciting time to be involved in privacy and data protection!

*** To mark the occasion and help you prepare for GDPR coming into force, Act Now will apply a 25%  (see what we did there?) discount to all bookings for our GDPR one day workshops received today (25th May 2017).

* Please note the full  booking details have to be received by us. Offer applies to new bookings only which are received today only.

Posted in Data Protection, EU DP Regulation, GDPR | Leave a comment

GDPR Practitioner Certificate: First set of Results

accomplishment, certificate, degree, successful, diploma, graduates, achievement, celebration

Act Now Training Limited is pleased to announce the successful completion of its first two courses leading to the GDPR Practitioner Certificate.

Congratulations to all 19 delegates who successfully completed the course in London and Manchester in May 2017 (with 5 achieving a distinction).  They represented a diverse range of organisations including British Airways, insurance companies, councils, universities and housing associations. All successful delegates will now be able to put the letters “GDPR.Cert” after their name.

Steve Wood, Head of International Strategy and Intelligence, at the Information Commissioner’s Office said:

“Congratulations to all the successful candidates on the Act Now GDPR Certificate.  As we near 25th May 2018, it is good to know that organisations are taking steps to ensure they have staff with the knowledge and skills to take up the GDPR implementation challenge”

The GDPR Practitioner Certificate is aimed at those undertaking the role of Data Protection Officer under GDPR whether in the public or the private sector.

This course will teach delegates essential GDPR skills and knowledge. It builds on the success of the Act Now Data Protection Practitioner Certificate, which it replaces, by focussing on GDPR. The course takes place over four days (one day per week) and involves lectures, assessments and exercises. This is followed by a written assessment. Candidates are then required to complete a practical project (in their own time) to achieve the certificate.

Feedback from delegates has been very positive:

An excellent course presented with flair that explained the transition from DP Act to EU-GDPR with emphasis on both the law and real world examples. PG, Somerset County Council

Excellent course. Tim was extremely knowledgeable and helped set out clearly what needs to be done to prepare for the GDPR. ES, Together Trust

I enjoyed every minute of this course. CA, Nursing and Midwifery Council

A really enjoyable and practical course. Informative in terms of learning and it also helped to put into context my own reading and work around GDPR. Tim is a great presenter and the course was delivered at a good pace. Questions and discussions raised by other delegates were interesting and informative too. SB, The Riverside Group Limited

Data Protection is made enjoyable and is brought to life by the quality of the trainer who has obviously experienced it in the live environment and who absolutely loves the subject. AH, SCLL

The course tutor was Tim Tuner who shared his vast experience gained through years of helping organisations comply with their DP obligations. This, together with a comprehensive set of course materials and guidance notes, meant that delegates were not only in a position to pass the course assessment but to learn valuable DPO skills which they will be able to apply in their workplaces for years to come.

Tim said:

“I have really enjoyed teaching these delegates. Their enthusiasm and ability to challenge themselves bodes well for the future of GDPR compliance in the UK. I am on a mission to continuously improve this course so that it becomes the premier GDPR qualification.”

This course is filling up fast. Five out of the next seven courses are fully booked. We are adding more dates. Please check our website for a course near you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Councillors, council tax arrears and FOI


Some council chiefs, as well as some councillors, do not like the Freedom of Information Act 2000(FOI) claiming, amongst other things, that it costs too much and is used to request trivial information. Against this backdrop, how do council FOI officers deal with requests (often from journalists) for the names of councillors who are in arrears or have defaulted on their council tax bills?

Some councils have refused such requests citing the section 40(2) exemption for third party personal data. For this exemption to be engaged a public authority must show that disclosure of the name(s) would breach one of the Data Protection Principles. Most cases in this area focus on First Principle and so public authorities have to ask, would disclosure be fair and lawful? They also have to justify the disclosure by reference to one of the conditions in Schedule 2 of the DPA (as well as Schedule 3  in the case of sensitive personal data). In the absence of consent, most authorities end up considering whether disclosure is necessary for the applicant to pursue a legitimate interest and, even if it is, whether the disclosure is unwarranted due to the harm caused to the subject(s) (condition 6 of Schedule 2)? Of course when the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25th May 2018 the disclosure of the data will have to be justified by reference to Article 6 of GDPR.

A 2016 Upper Tribunal decision sheds light on this difficult issue. Haslam v Information Commissioner and Bolton Council [2016] UKUT 0139 (AAC) (10 March 2016) concerned a request by a journalist (Mr Haslam) for disclosure of information about councillors who had received reminders for non-payment of council tax since May 2011.  The Council told the appellant that there were six such councillors and informed him which political party they were members of, how much had been owed, how much was outstanding, and that two had been summoned to court.  The Appellant asked for the names of the individual councillors.  The Council refused stating that the names were exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) FOI.  The Appellant appealed to the First-tier Tribunal, against the decision of the Information Commissioner to uphold the Refusal Notice, in relation to the two councillors who had been summoned to court. The First-tier Tribunal dismissed the appeal.  Subsequently one councillor voluntarily identified himself, so that there was only an issue regarding one councillor before the Upper Tribunal.

The Upper Tribunal allowed the appeal concluding that releasing the name would not contravene the data protection principles, because processing was necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the Appellant, and was not unwarranted because of prejudice to the councillor’s rights/legitimate interests.  This was a public matter in which the councilor could not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Judge Markus in her judgment said:

“40. But, in the case of a councillor, it is not only a private matter. A councillor is a public official with public responsibilities to which non-payment of council tax is directly and significantly relevant.  A number of specific features of this were advanced in submissions to the First-tier Tribunal.  In particular, section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 bars a councillor from voting on the Council’s budget if he or she has an outstanding council tax debt of over two months.  If a councillor is present at any meeting at which relevant matters are discussed, he or she must disclose that section 106 applies and may not vote.  Failure to comply is a criminal offence. Thus council tax default strikes at the heart of the performance of a councillor’s functions. It is evident that setting the council’s budget is one of the most important roles undertaken by councillors.  The loss of one vote could make a fundamental difference to the outcome. This adds a significant public dimension to the non-payment of council tax.  The very fact that Parliament has legislated in this way reflects the connection between non-payment and the councillor’s public functions.  Moreover, as the Commissioner observed in his decision notice, recent failure to pay council tax is likely to impact on public perceptions and confidence in a councillor as a public figure.

  1. These factors are of critical relevance to expectation.  As the Commissioner  had observed, those who have taken public office should expect to be subject to a higher degree of scrutiny and that information which impinges on their public office might be disclosed.  More specifically, unless the local electorate know the identity of a councillor to whom section 106 applies, they cannot discover that that councillor is failing to fulfil his functions.  Nor can they know that the process of declarations under section 106 is being adhered to. In addition the electorate may wish to know whether they can trust a councillor properly to discharge his functions if he stands for office again.” 

So there we have it. Councillors can normally expect to have their names disclosed if they default on council tax. However this is not an absolute rule. In the words of Judge Markus (at paragraph 56):

“There may be exceptional cases in which the personal circumstances of a councillor are so compelling that a councillor should be protected from such exposure.”

The Bolton News, where the Appellant works, finally named the councillor who is the subject of this case (Click here if interested). By the way, I may share a name with him but I can assure you that I am up to date with my council tax bill payments!

We will be discussing this and other recent FOI decisions in our forthcoming FOI workshops and webinars.

How would you do on the BCS Certificate in Freedom of Information exam? Have a go at our test.

Posted in Councillors, Freedom of Information, Local Authorities, Personal Data, Section 40 | 1 Comment

New GDPR Health Check Service Launched!

stethoscope, computer, keyboard, data, chart.jpg


Act Now is pleased to announce the launch of its GDPR health check service.

GDPR represents the biggest change to the European data protection regime in 20 years. It will take effect on 25th May 2018 and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has already confirmed that there will be no grace period after that date.

Now is the time to get your GDPR house in order.  There are many practical steps that can be taken quite easily. Some sectors are getting there; recent report by the ICO shows that local government is trying its best but there is more to do.

For those who have started (and may be stalled) or need a customised GDPR action plan, our experts are at hand. Our GDPR health check service will provide your organisation with:

  • A preliminary assessment of your current level of preparedness for GDPR;
  • A prioritised and specific compliance action plan;
  • Pointers to guidance, models and good practice resources relevant to your needs.

If required, we can also discuss how Act Now can assist you with implementation, through our acclaimed training offers or expert consultancy support.

Act Now has a proven track record in this area. We have undertaken many data protection consultancy projects in the last few years. In 2016 we won a contract to deliver consultancy services to a major organisation in the regulatory sector.

Our reputation is international. In 2015 Ibrahim Hasan and Paul Gibbons delivered data protection audit training to the Government of Brunei and our forthcoming GDPR Practitioner Certificate course in London has delegates from Spain and the USA!

Feel free to get in touch to discuss your requirements.

Posted in Audits, Consultancy, Data Protection, GDPR | Leave a comment

GDPR Guidance finalised and more published

Stack of Files and Papers

Unless you live on the planet Zog, you will be aware that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force on 25th May 2018. Neither Brexit nor the recently announced General Election will have an impact on this date; GDPR is here to stay. There has been a flurry of activity from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Article 29 Working Party (A29WP) on the GDPR front of late.


Consent under GDPR is a thorny issue. Compare the old and the new definitions below:

Using opt out boxes and inaction as proof of individuals’ consent to processing will no longer be allowed (if indeed they ever were!). Last month the ICO launched its GDPR consent consultation. The deadline for responses has now passed but the document is still worth reading to understand how the landscape is changing.


GDPR introduces stricter provisions to protect individuals from a type of data processing known as “profiling”. This is defined in Article 4:

“Any form of automated processing of personal data consisting of the use of personal data to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to a natural person, in particular to analyse or predict aspects concerning that natural person’s performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behaviour, location or movements.”

The GDPR gives individuals a right to know profiling is taking place and in some cases allows them to object to it or require human intervention.

The ICO’s discussion paper on this topic highlights the key areas it feels need further consideration. This includes subjects like marketing, the right to object and data minimisation. The deadline for feedback is 28th April 2017. The A29WP guidelines on profiling are due to be published later this year and any feedback the ICO receives will inform that work.

Data Portability

Article 20 of GDPR gives individuals the right to receive their personal data, which they have provided to a Data Controller, in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format, and to transmit it to another Data Controller. This is known as the right to data portability.

In December 2016, the A29WP published draft guidance on this right and a useful FAQ. The final version was published on 5th April 2017. The key themes are the same but the latest version does clarify a few points and gives better examples. Here are the two documents compared.

Data Protection Officer

Section 4 of GDPR introduces a statutory position of Data Protection Officer (DPO) who will have a key role in ensuring compliance with GDPR. But who exactly will need a DPO and what is his/her role? The A29WP has now produced the final version of its DPO guidance, which was published for comments in December. Here are the two documents compared. Again the main themes of the documents are the same with some welcome clarifications in the final version.

Lead Supervisory Authority

Companies will be directly responsible for GDPR compliance wherever they are based (and not just their EU based offices) as long as they are processing EU citizens’ personal data. For those that have multiple processing operations in the EU or where a breach occurs in many countries there will be a need to identify a lead supervisory authority, which will be charged with investigating the breach. The A29WP has now finalised its guidance on this topic.

Data Protection Impact Assessments

Article 35 of GDPR introduces the concept of a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA). In some cases Data Controllers will be required to do a DPIA in relation to one or more data processing operations. It will help them assess necessity and proportionality and to manage the risks to the rights and freedoms of natural persons resulting from the processing of personal data (by assessing them and determining the measures to address them).

Carrying out a DPIA is not mandatory for every processing operation. A DPIA is only required when the processing is “likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons” (Article 35(1)). In certain situations a DPIA will be mandatory (see Article 35(3)).

The A29WP is requesting comments on the data protection impact assessment guidelines it recently published. The deadline is 23rd May 2017. Even if you don’t want to comment its still a useful document to read to understand what steps need to be taken to raise awareness of the DPIA processes and what training will be required for those undertaking this task.

Finally, the A29WP recently published its work programme for 2016 – 2018 accompanied by a supplementary statement explaining GDPR specific priorities.  As from 2018 it will become the European Data Protection Board.


Our full day workshops and new GDPR Practitioner Certificate courses are filling up fast. We also offer a GDPR health check service.

Posted in Article 50, Brexit, Data Protection, EU DP Regulation, GDPR | Leave a comment

Local Government GDPR Readiness: Good and will get better!


The Good Practice department at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) conducted a survey on information governance practices in local government. In particular it was designed to ascertain what progress councils had made in preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on 25th May 2018. The survey received 173 responses. The full results were published on 20th March 2016.

There have been a number of negative headlines (or at least “glass half empty’ style headlines) about the ICO’s conclusion:

Many UK local councils still unprepared for GDPR

Local councils are underprepared for GDPR rules

UK Councils Lagging on GDPR Compliance

The actual ICO conclusion was:

“The overarching conclusion from our analysis of the survey results was that, although there is good practice out there, with GDPR coming in May 2018, many councils have work to do. Adhering to good practice measures under the Data Protection Act (DPA) will stand organisations in good stead for the new regulations.”

So more like “trying but need to do more.” But who doesn’t? I wonder if the same survey was conducted in the private sector would things be any different? Not according to various stories appearing on the web:

Half of businesses still not ready for GDPR

Every fourth company not ready for GDPR

Over half of the businesses are not ready for GDPR compliance

According to a recent survey, many UK businesses mistakenly think that GDPR will not apply to them as a consequence of the UK moving towards Brexit. This is despite the fact that the Government has confirmed that GDPR is here to stay.

Let’s go back to the results of the ICO survey (and let’s be positive):

  • 75% of councils have appointed a Data Protection Officer. Okay 25% have not but there is still plenty of time. Remember this is a compulsory requirement for all public authorities and public bodies. However Data Controllers can share a DPO or buy in the service provided there is no conflict of interest.  (More on the role of the DPO here.)
  • 85% of councils have data protection training for employees processing personal data. Okay 15% don’t but this is easily put right. We have a range of DPA and GDPR courses to suit a variety of budgets. These can be delivered face to face, online or at your premises.
  • Most councils carry out privacy impact assessments (PIAs) but 34% still do not. GDPR makes it a legal requirement for all Data Controllers to conduct data protection impact assessments in certain circumstances. The ICO’s Privacy Impact Assessment Code of Practice provides more advice and will be reissued for GDPR in due course. See also our PIA webinar. 
  • 93% of councils have a data protection and information security policy in place. This is good to see with the additional importance placed on security in GDPR especially breach notification.
  • 90% of councils have created a role of  Senior Information Risk Owner (SIRO) to help manage information risk.

So local government is not in such a bad state, when it comes to GDPR preparations, as some are saying. The messages to local government colleagues should be, “Full steam ahead but don’t panic!”

Who knows the name and place of the above building? Tweet your answers to @actnowtraining

We have a range of GDPR resources to help you including our GDPR Practitioner Certificate, GDPR posters and GDPR legislation booklet. We have also just launched our GDPR health check service.

Posted in Data Protection, GDPR, Privacy | 1 Comment