Facebook sued over Cambridge Analytica data scandal

Facebook is being sued for failing to protect users’ personal data in the Cambridge Analytica breach.

The scandal involved harvested Facebook data of 87 million people being used for advertising during elections.

Mass legal action is being launched against Facebook for misuse of information from almost one million users in England and Wales.

Facebook said it has not received any documents regarding this claim.

The group taking action – Facebook You Owe Us – follows a similar mass action law suit against Google.

Google You Owe Us, led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd, is also active for another alleged mass data breach.

Both represented by law firm Millberg London, the Google case is being heard in the Supreme Court in April next year.

The Facebook case will argue that by taking data without consent, the firm failed to meet their legal obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.

“We have not received any documents regarding this claim. The Information Commissioner’s Office investigation into these issues, which included seizing and interrogating Cambridge Analytica’s servers, found no evidence that any UK or EU users’ data was transferred by Dr Kogan to Cambridge Analytica,” a Facebook company spokesperson said.

In October 2018, the UK’s data protection watchdog fined Facebook £500,000 for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said Facebook had allowed a “serious breach” of the law.

Facebook apologised and allowed users to check which “banned apps” had accessed their data.

Although there is no precedent for such a mass legal action in the UK, there is in the US.

Google agreed to pay a record $22.5m (£16.8m) in a case brought by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on the same issue in 2012.

The company also settled out of court with a small number of British consumers.

Facebook has not responded immediately to a BBC News request for comment.

Representative claimant in the case Alvin Carpio said: “When we use Facebook, we expect that our personal data is being used responsibly, transparently, and legally.

“By failing to protect our personal information from abuse, we believe that Facebook broke the law.

“Paying less than 0.01% of your annual revenue in fines – pocket change to Facebook – is clearly a punishment that does not fit the crime.

“Apologising for breaking the law is simply not enough.

“Facebook, you owe us honesty, responsibility and redress.

“We will fight to hold Facebook to account.”

Mother and son found dead sitting on sofas in Bracknell

A reclusive mother and son were found dead sitting on sofas in their home, an inquest has heard.

The bodies of June Corfield, 84, and Stephen Corfield, 60, were discovered in Bracknell, Berkshire, in January.

Reading Coroner’s Court heard the pair were discovered “in a state of decomposition” during a welfare check.

Assistant coroner Alan Blake found Mrs Corfield died from hypothermia, but recorded an open conclusion on the death of her son.

The inquest heard no-one at the flat at Iveagh Court in Nightingale Crescent would open the door to contractors who were renovating the block, owned by a housing association.

On 15 January a housing officer called out a locksmith and the bodies were discovered.

Det Sgt Liam Butler of Thames Valley Police told the inquest the two-bedroom flat appeared to have no central heating, its electricity was turned off at the fuse box and had very few items of furniture.

The inquest heard the pair, who had not spoken to family for years, were both found in a state of undress. Mr Corfield, who was visually impaired, had in excess of £1,000 in his pocket.

A newspaper with the date 2 December 2019 was found in the bin, the court heard.

Det Sgt Butler said detectives looked at a variety of scenarios, but there was no evidence of forced entry or violence.

Pathologist Robert Chapman told inquest: “It has not been possible to establish when each individual died, whether they died at the same time or if one died significantly before the other.”

Facebook, Twitter and Google face questions from US senators

The chief executives of Facebook, Twitter, and Google faced more than three and a half hours of questions from US Senators on Wednesday.

At present, the firms cannot be sued over what their users post online, or the decisions they make over what to leave up and take down.

But some politicians have raised concerns that this “sweeping immunity” encourages bad behaviour.

The three CEOs say they need the law to be able to moderate content.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Google’s Sundar Pichai were summoned before the Senate after both Democrats and Republicans agreed to call them in for questioning.

But some Democrats used their time to question that decision, so close to election day, and decried it as a political ploy.

Senators are worried about both censorship and the spread of misinformation. And some industry watchers agree that the legislation – known as Section 230 – needs to be revisited.

“[It] allows digital businesses to let users post things but then not be responsible for the consequences, even when they’re amplifying or dampening that speech,” Prof Fiona Scott Morton, of Yale University, explained to BBC’s Tech Tent podcast.

“That’s very much a publishing kind of function, and newspapers have very different responsibilities. So we have a bit of a loophole that I think is not working well for our society.”

As the hearing began, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg vanished, unable to connect to the committee meeting – something that Republican Senator Roger Wicker labelled a “most interesting development”.

But after a brief recess, Mr Zuckerberg told politicians that he supports changes to the rule “to make sure it’s working”.

Section 230 is the main legal protection for social networks so they don’t get sued.

It means that generally, websites themselves aren’t responsible for illegal or offensive things that users post on them. They’re treated as neutral middlemen – like newspaper sellers, rather than the editors that decide what goes in the paper.

Originally seen as a way to protect internet providers (like BT or Comcast), it’s become the main shield for huge sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, which can’t possibly review every post from their users before they go up.

But politicians say Section 230 is outdated.

Democrats take issue with the spread of lies online with no consequences for the sites. Republicans argue that big tech is using its moderation powers to censor people it doesn’t agree with – making editorial calls rather than staying neutral.

And both sides agree they want to see the social networks held accountable.

Twitter boss Mr Dorsey told the committee that section 230 “is the most important law protecting internet speech” and its abolition “will remove speech from the internet”.

But he found himself faced with pointed questions over the implementation of Twitter’s policies about what it removes or labels as misinformation.

Asked why Twitter would label a post from President Trump about the security of mail-in ballots but leave posts by Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that threatened violence against Israel unlabelled, Mr Dorsey was forced to explain that the Iranian leader’s tweets were considered “sabre rattling”, which did not violate its terms of service.

Mr Dorsey also found himself facing questions from Republican senators over Twitter’s limiting of a New York Post article about Joe Biden’s son.

“The New York Post isn’t just some random guy tweeting,” Republican Ted Cruz said.

“Who the hell elected you and who put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?”

Mr Zuckerberg, meanwhile, told the committee that section 230 encourages free expression, and “helped create the internet as we know it”.

But he added: “The internet has also evolved, and I think that Congress should update the law, to make sure that it’s working as intended.”

Sundar Pichai, speaking for Google, fiercely defended the law. “Our ability to provide access to a wide range of information is only possible because of existing legal frameworks like section 230,” he said.

“The United States adopted section 230 early in the internet’s history, and it has been foundational to our leadership in the tech sector.”

Both President Donald Trump and his election rival Joe Biden have called for the removal of Section 230, though for different reasons.

But some Democrats used their time to criticise the entire hearing, positioned so close to the election, as a political ploy.

“I’ve been an advocate of reform of Section 230 for literally 15 years,” Senator Richard Blumenthal told the committee, referring to his time as a state attorney general.

“But frankly I am appalled that my Republican colleagues are holding this hearing literally days before an election, when they seem to want to bully and browbeat the platforms here to try and tilt them towards President Trump’s behaviour. The timing seems inexplicable,” he said.

His colleague Brian Schatz said: “What’s happening here is a scar on this committee and the United States Senate.”

“We have to call this hearing what it is. It’s a sham,” he said – not asking any questions of the three chief executives, “because this is nonsense”.

Essex lorry deaths: PC saw trailer full of half-naked bodies

A police officer has described seeing a trailer full of the half-naked dead bodies of 39 Vietnamese migrants in a lorry container.

The men, women and children were found dead in a container on an industrial estate in Essex in October 2019.

A court was told one of the first on scene, PC Jack Emerson, checked for signs of life and recalled the bodies were “closely packed” together.

Four men are on trial at the Old Bailey in connection with the find.

The court has previously been shown CCTV of lorry driver Maurice Robinson collecting the trailer, which had been transported from Zeebrugge in Belgium, and driving out of Purfleet port.

Robinson, 26, of Craigavon, County Armagh, called 999 and described finding “loads” of migrants and has already pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

In a statement read to court, PC Emerson said that when police arrived at 01:50 Robinson was “just standing there” and appeared calm.

PC Emerson said: “I could see one of the trailer doors was already open and I could visibly see numerous half-naked bodies in the back of the trailer, lying on the trailer floor motionless.

“I approached the door of the trailer to further inspect the bodies and it became apparent as I got closer that the entire trailer was full of bodies, and the individuals appeared to be half-naked.

“Most of them were wearing clothes on their lower half but they all appeared to not be wearing any clothing on their upper half.”

He said there was “a strange smell coming from the trailer that smelt like chemicals” and “smoke condensation… which suggested to me that the trailer was refrigerated”.

PC Emerson said he got inside the trailer to search for any signs of life “but there was not”.

He said the bodies were “closely packed” together, mainly lying on their backs.

“All bodies appeared completely motionless.

“Due to how packed together the bodies were in the trailer it was not possible to check every body so I made an attempt to check the bodies I could reach.”

Gheorghe Nica, 43, of Basildon, Essex, and lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, 23, deny the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese people, aged between 15 and 44.

Mr Harrison, of Mayobridge, County Down, Christopher Kennedy, 24, of County Armagh, and Valentin Calota, 37, of Birmingham, deny being part of a people-smuggling conspiracy, which Mr Nica has admitted.

The trial continues.

Manchester Arena Inquiry: Staff identify suspicious behaviour not ethnicity

Behaviour is the major factor when identifying a terror suspect, rather than ethnicity, a security expert told the Manchester Arena Inquiry.

Tony Holyland from the Security Industry Authority (SIA) said Salman Abedi’s actions on the night he bombed the venue should have raised suspicion.

Twenty-two people died in the attack on 22 May 2017.

Mr Holyland said Abedi’s “loitering”, the way he was dressed and his multiple visits would have been indicators.

He told the inquiry security staff had been taught how to identify such behaviours in their SIA training.

Abedi initially visited the arena’s foyer for 20 minutes and then returned later, hiding in an “out of the way” place for an hour in a CCTV blind spot, the court heard.

The 22-year-old, dressed all in black and carrying a large rucksack, had been reported to security by a member of the public at 22:15.

Security guard Kyle Lawler earlier told the inquiry he had a “bad feeling” about Abedi but did not approach him for fear of being branded a racist.

Mr Holyland said: “The training focuses on behaviour not features such as ethnicity.”

“There were behaviours [from Abedi] that identify as suspicious”, he said, adding: “Loitering, being incorrectly dressed for the time of year, and multiple sightings of the same person”.

Abedi detonated his bomb at 22:31 as fans left the Ariana Grande concert.

The court was told he was seen praying before the explosion but

Mr Holyland said he was not aware of praying being classed as a suspicious activity.

Earlier, Michelle Russell from the SIA said the authority did not distinguish between bag checks and bag searches but she believed a bag check would require a staff member to hold a licence.

Security staff have previously told the inquiry the instruction on the night of the bombing was a 100% bag check.

“If the activity is wholly or partly responsible for determining suitability of admission it would be potentially be caught by the legislation,” she said.

Ms Russell also said the authority licenses individuals but businesses can become approved contractors on a voluntary basis.

Man faces jail for harassing three Labour MPs

Three Labour MPs were subjected to a campaign of harassment by a 31-year-old man who is now facing a possible jail sentence, a court has heard.

Nicholas Nelson, from North Walsham, Norfolk, appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

He has pleaded guilty to three counts of sending communications of an offensive nature, after repeatedly calling the serving MPs’ offices.

Dame Margaret Hodge said she was branded a “racist Zionist” by Nelson.

In a statement from her read in court, the Labour MP said she was left “disturbed and shocked” by the “vitriol and implied threats” levelled at her because of her Jewish identity – including calling her a “disgusting scumbag”.

Nelson also made calls to the offices of Dame Louise Ellman – who stood down as an MP in 2019 – and Lord John Mann, who now sits in the House of Lords.

The court heard how Nelson left a message at Dame Louise’s office, calling her “hypocritical” and “a liar”.

He also emailed the then-MP, accusing her of trying to smear the Labour leader at the time, Jeremy Corbyn, saying she should resign or kill herself.

Nelson also told one of Lord Mann’s staff to kill themselves.

In the peer’s statement read to the court, Lord Mann said: “I call out racism and anti-Semitism, but the abuse and threats of violence have led to my staff asking me not to do so.”

Defending Nelson, Julian Young said his client had “undiagnosed psychiatric difficulties” at the time of the offences and his mental health issues were now being dealt with by medication and treatment.

He also said Nelson had instructed him to offer “a full apology to the three victims to the harm caused by his comments”.

In a statement read out in court by prosecutor Simon Maughan, Dame Margaret said she was left feeling “disturbed” after being branded a “racist Zionist”.

“I considered the emails to be threatening and was left feeling nervous and unsure about my safety. For the first time, I now feel under threat because of my Jewish identity,” her statement said.

Mr Maughan said the offence against Dame Margaret, MP for Barking, east London, had been identified as a “hate crime”.

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot adjourned sentencing to 25 November.

Nelson was handed a suspended 20-week prison sentence in December 2018 after admitting harassing then-Labour MPs Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth, who are both Jewish, earlier in the year.

Soy sauce: Will it be cheaper next year?

The Department for International Trade has been causing something of a stir on social media, after tweeting about Tuesday’s Great British Bake Off.

It was Japanese week on the programme – and the DIT account tweeted: “The bakers used a lot of soya sauce in the first challenge on #GBBO, so it’s a good thing it will be made cheaper thanks to our trade deal with Japan.”

But many users on social media pointed out the UK currently benefited from a trade deal between the EU and Japan that prevented any tariffs, or taxes, on imports of soy sauce – so it would not be made cheaper when the UK switched to its new deal with Japan, on 1 January.

The DIT later clarified: “Thanks to the UK-Japan trade deal, soya sauce will be cheaper than it otherwise would be under WTO [World Trade Organization] terms, on which we would be trading with Japan from 1 January if we had not secured the UK-Japan trade deal.”

In the UK’s list of tariffs it will charge on imports from countries with which it does not have trade deals, the figure for soy sauce is 6% – less than the 7.7% the EU charges.

So without the UK-Japan trade deal, imported Japanese soy sauce would have become more expensive from January.

But there is another problem with the original tweet – most soy sauce in the UK does not come from Japan.

Amoy, owned by Heinz, has 58% of the £29m market according to research company Euromonitor International. Its soy sauce is made in China and bottled in the UK so the UK-Japan deal will have no impact. But the tariff payable on soy sauce imported from China will come down slightly from the 7.7% it was as part of the EU to the UK’s new rate of 6%.

The second biggest brand is Kikkoman, a Japanese company, with 20% of the market. However, most of its sauces found in the UK are made in the Netherlands and only some is imported from Japan.

If the UK does not do a trade deal with the EU, then from 1 January, imports of soy sauce from the Netherlands will go from having no tariff to having a 6% tariff.

The remaining 22% of the market is made up of supermarket own brands and smaller brands, some of which are indeed made in Japan.

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Tracey Emin reveals she has had cancer operation

Artist Tracey Emin had an operation this summer after a cancerous tumour was found in her bladder, she has said.

Emin, 57, was diagnosed in the spring, had surgery two months ago and is now in remission, she told Artnet.

But she said she is too weak to return to making art. “Yesterday, I was crying because I wanted to paint and I didn’t have the energy to do it,” she said.

Emin was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1999 and is one of Britain’s best-known and most celebrated artists.

Artnet said she had been working on a semi-abstract painting early in lockdown that had been “keeping her up at night”. Only after her diagnosis did she realise it resembled her bladder.

“It’s exactly the same as my bladder with the tumour in it, before I knew I had the cancer – it’s brilliant!” she said.

In March she posted a video on Instagram in which she said she had not been in her studio because she had been unwell.

What is bladder cancer?

Emin, who is based in Margate, Kent, is known for such installations as her unmade bed and the tent Everyone I Have Ever Slept With.

An exhibition of her work is due to open in Brussels on Friday, and her recent paintings will be shown at the Royal Academy in London from 15 November alongside works she has chosen by Edvard Munch.

Artnet said Emin’s operation involved removing many of her female reproductive organs. She told the website she had “half my body chopped out, including half my vagina”.

How many migrant children cross the English Channel?

Two children, aged six and nine, were among four people who died when their boat sank off the coast of France. How many youngsters have made the perilous crossing this year?

More than 7,400 people have stepped into small boats and navigated one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world to reach the south coast of England in 2020.

At least six people are now thought to have died in that time, including the two children on Tuesday. A third child is missing.

An inspection of a holding facility at the Port of Dover last month found at least 320 children arrived between the start of June and the end of August – about 10% of all those who crossed the Channel in that time.

Another 2,500 people have since reached the UK, but the number of children among them remains unclear.

The Home Office has consistently refused to confirm the number of children among those making the crossing. It claims there are “safeguarding concerns” which prevent it from identifying children and it can be difficult to confirm the ages of adolescents.

Charity Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN), which supports child asylum seekers arriving in the county, said the government “deliberately cloak the numbers of children making the lethal journey across the Channel because they know there would be a public outcry”.

While the total number of children making the crossing remains unknown, a sharp rise in those arriving without their families caused a crisis for Kent County Council (KCC) this summer.

It had taken most of the unaccompanied child asylum-seekers arriving at Dover into its care, but it reached capacity in August amid rising numbers.

More than 400 lone child migrants had arrived in Kent in the first eight months of 2020, but this is likely to be just a fraction of the total number of children reaching the UK in small boats.

According to documents reviewed by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, unaccompanied-asylum seeking children made up just 20% of the total number of under-18s arriving in Dover between June and August.

Since KCC reached capacity, lone children have been held for longer while social services placements are found in other counties, the inspectorate found.

In one case, a 15-year-old boy was held for 66 hours.

Clare Mosely, of Care4Calais, said that at any one time about 20% of would-be asylum seekers camped in Calais were unaccompanied boys.

On a visit to makeshift camps in Dunkirk earlier this week, the charity found about 20 families with roughly 40 children waiting to attempt a crossing, she said.

Bridget Chapman, of KRAN, said the Home Office was hiding “behind a wall of secrecy” by not revealing the number of children involved.

“What we are talking about here is desperate people including many children. They deserve humanity and respect, not a terrible death in the cold waters of the English Channel.”