Track your every move: using the Data Protection Act on supermarkets, ISPs, banks and telcos

In 2012, the government is considering telling companies to provide personal data in a machine readable format. But as long as you don’t mind getting wodges of paper you have been able to get this data for many years, under the Data Protection Act (something I also used to find the base stations used by my mobile phone).

This is what I found out for the Guardian about my own shopping and web-surfing habits in 2002: the costs and time limits still apply, and I have updated links and contact details. Freeserve no longer exists, but in general the following would remain my advice for anyone wishing to access their data, unless there’s very obvious information about subject access request processes on the organisation’s web site.
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Full tilt: Virgin’s 140mph Pendolino trains

First published in T3, March 2002

‘Fast’ and ‘trains’: two words that tend to be strangers in Britain at the moment, what with strikes, complaints about service levels and fare-rises and the demise of Railtrack, the company meant to look after the tracks. Despite all that, 2002 will see Britain’s biggest rail operator begin replacing its entire fleet of vehicles – with ones that go faster.

Virgin Trains operates two of the four long-distance UK networks. West Coast runs from London Euston to Birmingham, then on to the north-west, north Wales and Scotland. CrossCountry runs the long-distance trains that go everywhere from Penzance to Aberdeen, through a hub at Birmingham New Street. The company is probably the least popular rail operator at the moment, with a poor record for punctuality and reliability. Continue reading “Full tilt: Virgin’s 140mph Pendolino trains”

You can ring, but you can’t hide: mobile phone tracking of user locations

This was the first of several articles I wrote on mobile phone tracking of users for Guardian Online, with later articles on services using the same technology to track children, and to let the emergency services locate callers.

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Partially sighted: how private healthcare works with the NHS

First published in Health Service Journal, 8 November 2001

The private sector is sometimes seen as a zombie, mortally wounded in the NHS’s founding – yet reanimated by the unholy forces of Tory and New Labour governments.

But according to a book published by the King’s Fund*, past political efforts to kill off the private sector have only fuelled its strength. Now, authors Justin Keen, Donald Light and Nicholas Mays say the government needs to put aside the ideological debate about healthcare funding and face up to the reality of private healthcare, by making it subject to the same standards that rule the NHS.
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Smallest post office gets net

A new network could transform the fortunes of rural post offices. SA Mathieson visits Britain’s tiniest post office to find out more

Visiting the smallest post office in Britain, in a beautiful part of the Highlands, was great fun. This was in the days when Royal Mail was calling itself Consignia, a thankfully brief period in its history.
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