Category Archives: Web Science Trust News

US House passes Bill to end domestic NSA bulk data collection

The US House of Representatives has voted 338 for and 88 against ending the NSA’s dragnet collection of telephone, email, and other online data from millions of Americans, a controversial program that was revealed in 2013 by former security contractor Edward Snowden.

The USA Freedom Act is seen as a big win for privacy and civil rights advocates. The White House backs the reforms, saying the Bill protects privacy while preserving essential national security authorities.

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Government has failed to provide guidelines on use of biometric data, warn MPs

The government has failed to properly legislate for the increasing use of biometric data, leading to oversights and gaps in how it is managed, MPs have warned.

The Science and Technology Committee has voiced concerns about how information is collected, stored and used in its ‘Current and future uses of biometric data and technologies’ report.

Warnings cover a range of areas, including how the police are able to collect and retain biometric data about those who aren’t guilty of any crime and how banks are increasingly turning to biometric information in order to identify clients.

Technologies including Barclays’ blood-reading finger vein authentication and fingerprint reading by Apple’s iPhone 6 – recently deployed as a security measure for mobile banking by RBS – are both mentioned by the Committee’s report.

While MPs recognise the useful potential of biometrics, the Committee warns that a ‘governance gap’ has developed and must be fixed in order to properly regulate it in future.

“As we struggle to remember ever more passwords and pin numbers in everyday life, the potential benefits of using biometric technologies to verify identity are obvious,” said Andrew Miller MP, chair of the Committee.

However, he cautioned that biometrics “also introduce risks and raise important ethical and legal questions relating to privacy and autonomy” and particularly warned that the technology is already being used in an unregulated manner by the police.

Evidence provided following an inquiry by the Biometrics Commissioner Alastair MacGregor QC stated that police were uploading photographs taken in custody – even of those not charged with a crime – to the Police National Database and applying facial recognition software.

Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) told MPs that the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 “did not extend to photographs and that there was no specific legislation covering their retention or use by the police.”

Ex-GCHQ chief Sir John Adye also provided evidence to MPs, arguing that the use of biometric data in mobile phone devices needs to be better controlled.

While Miller said the Committee is “not against the police using biometric technologies like facial recognition software to combat crime and terrorism,” he expressed alarm over how “the police have begun uploading custody photographs of people to the Police National Database and using facial recognition software without any regulatory oversight.”

Miller went on to state that MPs are “concerned that this gap in the legislation has persisted, despite being known to both the police and the Government.”

The Science and Technology Committee has urged that an “effective regulation and a clear strategy” needs to be in place if biometric technologies are to be successfully exploited and their risks minimised. MPs also stated that the government’s failure to publish a proper biometrics strategy is having detrimental effects which are leaving a clear gap in legislation.”

“Management of both the risks and benefits of biometrics should have been at the core of the Government’s joint forensics and biometrics strategy,” said Miller.

He continued: “In 2013, my committee was told by the government to expect the publication of a strategy by the end of the year.”

The report still hasn’t materialised, something the Science and Technology Committee has strongly voiced concern about.

“We were therefore dismayed to find that, in 2015, there is still no government strategy, no consensus on what it should include, and no expectation that it will be published in this Parliament,” Miller concluded.

Changes to the WST Board

The Trust are delighted to announce the appointment of two new trustees and a special advisor to the board.

We would like to offer our gratitude and deepest appreciation to Sir John Taylor who is stepping down as Chairman and who becomes a senior fellow and special advisor to the board.

Professor Jim Hendler has kindly accepted the role of new chairman.

Professor George Metakides

George Metakides received as a Fulbright scholar a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1968 and Doctor of Philosophy degree in Mathematical Logic from Cornell University in 1971. He pursued an academic career in the U.S.A. at MIT, Cornell University and Rochester University until 1978, when he returned to Greece after being elected as a Full Professor to the Chair of Logic at the University of Patras.

Since 1984 he has held senior positions with responsibility for R&D policy, funding and international co-operation in European institutions, including president of the Research Group of the European Council and member of the ESPRIT (European Strategic Program of Research in Information Technology) Management Committee and of the NATO Science Committee at different times between 1984 and 1987. He established and headed the department for Basic Research and International Scientific Relations in Information Technologies at the European Commission from 1988 to 1993. He was the director of the ESPRIT Program in the European Commission’s Industry Directorate General from 1993 until its completion in 1998.

He is an active contributor to the promotion of co-operation between the European Union and other regions. He has instigated and /or contributed to the establishment of major research agreements between the EU and the USA (including the launch of the World Wide Web Consortium, W3C in1993).

He is President of the Digital enlightenment Forum ( In addition to DEF’s Trust in the Digital world issues, his current interests and activities include Web Science (he helped establish the U.of Thessaloniki Web Science M.Sc. program in 2010) , European R&D policy and programs and international cooperation.

He is currently Professor at the University of Patras , President of the Scientific Board of the Computer Technologies Institute , Senior Advisor to the Foundation of the Hellenic World and Advisor to several international organizations.

Prof. Metakides joins WST as a trustee and full board member

Mr John Taysom

John Taysom started the Reuters Venture Capital Fund in Palo Alto in 1995 making 82 investments in internet and Web infrastructure and services. He acquired the Fund in an MBO in 2002 leading many of the investments to achieve an IPO.

He is now London-based with a seed portfolio of 30 US and UK start-ups; several of which have been acquired by such groups as Experian, Linkedin, Tesco, and BMC. Between 2011-2012 John took a Fellowship at Harvard to work on privacy issues and holds EU and US patents on a method of improving privacy online.

He chairs Performance Horizon, a fast growing UK startup; is a Governor at Hurstpierpoint College; and runs a small farm in Devon.

John joins WST as a trustee and full board member. He will advise on issues of privacy and is helping devise a curriculum in Digital Civics.

Ms. Anni Rowland-Campbell

Anni Rowland-Campbell works with the Web Science Trust and Web Science Institute to promote and develop Web Science as an inter-disciplinary way of understanding technology, culture, and society. She has had various roles in the Arts (working with the Sydney Opera House, Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Australian Opera), Government (as a Ministerial Advisor and Member of numerous Government Boards), and the corporate sector (leading research into emerging Web technologies for Fuji Xerox Australia).


Over the past six years Anni has taught senior public sector managers through ANZSOG (the Australian and New Zealand School of Government) to integrate Web Science concepts into public administration and management. In 2013 Anni led an ANZSOG Research Project investigating the concept of “Government as a Social Machine” which linked with the SOCIAM research project, and she is currently leading a second ANSOG Research Project bringing the Web Science Institute together with the University of South Australia to create a Web Observatory for Government. In 2011 Anni helped to form “Web Science Australia, a non-profit organisation which combines research and practice in order to more effectively understand, manage, govern and develop the evolving Web.

Anni joins WST as a board member and special advisor to the board and will advise and facilitate around issues around concerning Digital Literacy.

Call for new WSTnet Laboratories

Five years ago, the Web Science Trust (WST) was established as a UK charitable trust. Since then we have launched the WST Network of Laboratories (WSTNet) – a prestigious academic group comprising leading Web Science groups globally. We have coordinated, promoted and developed Web Science internationally through a number of high-profile activities, workshops and events, including the Web Science Conference, projects such as the Web Observatory, and the new Web Science Journal. The pace of development is accelerating as the WSTNet labs bring their leadership, expertise and enthusiasm to supplement the efforts of the WST secretariat.

Whilst this is not an organisation open to any applicant we are now considering the next phase of expansion to the WSTnet network of Labs and your institution may wish to apply for the next round of membership. In order to do so we ask that you seek a nomination from one of the existing labs.

We currently support two types of membership: academic lab and industry lab and in both cases we are looking for your institutions commitment to Web Science research principles and engagement with the Web Science community through appropriate journals and conferences.

For more information regarding fees and benefits you are encouraged to contact the admin team.

We wish to emphasize that unlike some fee-based organizations, we are not intending to make membership open to anyone willing to pay this fee. We believe having the WSTnet laboratory network only include the very top university labs in the field is crucial to the success of both WST and the WSTnet, and we are committed to maintaining that quality.

On behalf of the WST Board