ORG parliamentary and policy update/2013-w20

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is ORG's Parliamentary Update for the week beginning 13/05/2013

Official Meetings

Jim Killock met Julian Huppert MP to talk about the Communications Data Bill, or what will succeed it. Peter Bradwell met with MEPs in Brussels to discuss the Data Protection Regulation (see our blog).

Consultations and departments

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

In October 2012, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Cabinet Office ministers announced that Stephen Shakespeare, the Chair of the Data Strategy Board, as GOV.UK states "would lead an independent review of Public Sector Information (PSI)." The review represented a commitment contained in the policy paper Open Data White Paper: Unleashing the Potential.

The review "explores the growth opportunities of, and how to widen access to, the wealth of information held by the public sector." The review highlights the obstacles that must be cleared, structures defined and progress audited in order to achieve a progressive strategy stating that:

"Once we have taken steps to address the barriers identified in my report we need to see the data strategy as a major opportunity for government to transform the way it works; my vision is for a government and wider public sector that is pioneering in its use of its own data to create growth and improve public services."

The review has been well received with the Open Data Institute calling "for the Government to forge ahead, turning recommendations into real progress" and the Open Knowledge Foundation stating "The UK has lead the way with government taking a pioneering stance on open data policy in recent years, and this report sets out key recommendations for how to best take forward this work."

Full review available on

U.K. data watchdog joins global privacy policy compliance audit

As I4U NEWS notes "The U.K.'s data protection authority is joining a global audit of website privacy policies in order to build a better picture of how U.K.-based websites are complying with the law." The Information Commissioner's Office will from Monday, according to ZDNET "examine 250 U.K - based websites in order to determine the level of compliance with local and EU law on data protection and privacy." Specifically the ICO will look into:

"website privacy policies for the week-long period to see the level of ease with which the average web user can read them, and whether they adequately explain how user data will be handled and processed."

The ICO will, alongside other privacy authorities, combine its results with the Office of the Privacy commissioner of Canada with a report published by the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) "in the second half of the year."

Alongside this the watchdog has also warned that "some websites will be identified if they require further action to comply with various national and international laws."


Culture, Media and Sport Committee

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has announced an inquiry into Ofcom. According to the Commitee:

"In preparation for a session with Ofcom's chair and chief executive on the regulator's performance in the last year and its annual plan for 2012/14, interested parties are invited to submit suggestions for issues which might be covered during the Committee's questioning."

The Commiittee is interested in hearing from industry representatives, individual consumers and consumer bodies. The areas likely to be covered relate to Ofcom's regulatory work in respect of the following:

  • Mobile policy and access to next generation devices
  • Broadband services
  • Call costs, pricing information and switching providers
  • Market conditions
  • Spectrum management and awards
  • Broadcasting codes: guidance and complaints handling
  • Licensing of TV and radio
  • Public service broadcasting
  • Online infringement of copyright and the Digital Economy Act 2010

Matters relating to postal services will not be covered during the forthcoming session as they "fall outside the Committee's remit."

Government Bills

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 has faced criticisms with specific respect to the provisions relating to orphan works. Most notably fears have been expressed concerning "diligent search" and how "diligent" this will be. Techdirt explained previously why these fears, in their own words, are wrong. However the continuing "furore from photographers in particular has been such that the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) felt compelled to issue a document entitled" "The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013".

Out-Law has provided some further information about what "diligent search" will entail:

"The 'diligent search' requirement will be defined through a working group so that it can reflect current best practice across all sectors," a spokesperson for the IPO told "This will make sure that any requirements are practical and manageable. The working group will include representation from creators, including the photography sectors, and users such as museums and archives."

Private Members Bills

Online Safety Bill

According to the progress of the bill first reading of the Online Safety Bill took place on the 14 May. This stage "is the formality that signals the start of the Bill through the Lords." The bill has previously been introduced in the two previous parliamentary sessions.

The Bill aims to:

"make provision about the promotion of online safety, to require internet service providers and mobile phone operators to provide a service that excludes adult content, to require electronic device manufacturers to provide a means of filtering content, and for parents to be educated about online safety."

The Bill was introduced by Baroness Howe of Idlicote, read a first time and ordered to be printed. Second reading, "the general debate on all aspects of the Bill - is yet to be scheduled."

Unsolicited Telephone Communications Bill

First reading of the Unsolicited Telephone Communications Bill took place on the 14 May. Introduced by Lord Selsdon the Bill aims to "amend the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003." According to the progress of the bill "Second reading - the general debate on all aspects of the Bill - is yet to be scheduled."

The Bill as introduced available on

Debates and questions

Revenues and Customs Question

Michael Meacher MP: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many times the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 has been used by HM Revenue and Customs to (a) look at websites used by individual taxpayers, (b) identify where a mobile telephone call was made or received and (c) establish the date and time of emails, texts or telephone calls in each year since 2000; and on how many occasions such action led to prosecution.

David Gauke MP, in response, stated that:

"HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) acquires communications data to support investigations into a broad range of financial frauds perpetrated by serious, organised criminal groups, including the smuggling and diversion of excise goods, indirect tax fraud (including multi trader intra-community VAT fraud), money laundering and the illegal import and export of strategic goods.
HMRC does not keep statistics in the format requested. Part 1 chapter 2 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (which deals with Communications Data) did not become law until 2004. HMRC was formed in 2005 and so cannot provide figures prior to 2005.
The Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data Codes of Practice (section 71 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) require the Department—as a relevant public authority—to keep a record of the following items for inspection by the Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office (paragraph 6.5):
number of applications submitted to a designated person for a decision to obtain communications data which were rejected after due consideration;
number of notices requiring disclosure of communications data within the meaning of each subsection of section 21(4) of the Act or any combinations of data;
number of authorisations for conduct to acquire communications data within the meaning of each subsection of section 21(4) of the Act or any combinations of data;
number of times an urgent notice is given orally, or an urgent authorisation granted orally, requiring disclosure of communications data within the meaning of each subsection of section 21(4) of the Act or any combination of data.
Since 2005 HMRC has requested the following items of Communications Data under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000:
HMRC Communications data requests, under RIPA
Period Traffic data Service use data Subscriber data
2005 296 1235 8275
2006 263 743 6287
2007 518 940 8222
2008 1328 1167 8506
2009 1778 669 8722
2010 1789 376 9471
2011 2784 92 11952
2012 3013 89 11812
2013 (to 10 May) 1345 12 5577

Source: Hansard

It is not possible to reconcile communications data requests to individual prosecutions. These figures relate to individuals investigated by the Department (either in the UK or abroad) and for all designated purposes (for example, strategic exports, excise smuggling and diversion and indirect tax fraud) not solely investigations into individual tax payers. The figures will also include intelligence operations which may not have led to prosecutions. The figures up to 2009 also include communications data requests relating to drugs operations which HMRC undertook on behalf of the UKBA."

Armed forces: Internet Question

Steve Rotheram MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he plans to take against any individual serving in the armed forces found to have been engaged in internet trolling.

Mr Francois, in response, stated that:

"Internet trolling could involve online humiliation, intimidation, bullying or abuse if individuals or groups of people. Such behaviour is not tolerated in the armed forces and all reported incidents are thoroughly investigated. Where evidence is found, appropriate administrative or disciplinary action is taken."

Data Protection: Crime Question

Dan Jarvis MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what consideration he has given to making breach of section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 a recordable offence.

Helen Grant MP, in response, stated that:

"Following Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, it is the Government's intention to conduct a public consultation on the full range of Lord Justice Leveson's data protection recommendations, including on whether to make an Order introducing custodial sentences under section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (CJIA)."

International Developments

ASIC ordering unilateral website blocks

The blocking of 1200 websites by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), as Computerworld notes "has set off calls for tighter controls on the federal government." According to Delimiter:

"The federal government has confirmed its financial regulator has started requiring Australian Internet service providers to block websites suspected of providing fraudulent financial opportunities, in a move which appears to also open the door for other government agencies to unilaterally block sites they deem questionable in their own portfolios."

The Melbourne Times Weekly reported that more than 12,00 websites "including one belonging to independent learning organisation Melbourne Free University, might have been blocked." The current "voluntary" filter used "only blocks a set of sites which international policing agency Interpol has verified contain "worst of the worst' child pornography." Australian ISP's block the content on the Interpol list through Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act whereby Australian Federal Police "issue notices to telcos asking for reasonable assistance in upholding the law." As a result ASIC's blocking process blocked "websites suspecting of hosted fraudulent material, leaving users such as Melbourne Free University's users in the dark as to what had happened." based on the fact that the ASIC process uses IP addresses.

As Delimiter notes "there is currently no known civilian oversight of the Section 313 notifications scheme, no method of appeal and no way of ascertaining whether and why sites have been blocked under the legislation."

Other sites "on the borderlines of legality" were thought to be on the blacklist including sites "espousing a change of legislation regarding euthanasia."

U.S. Government seizure of Associated Press phone records

The U.S. Justice Department, as the Guardian reports "obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for the Associated Press". The records obtained included:

"incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Connecticut, and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP." In a letter of protest the president of AP Gary Pruitt "demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies." A subpoena to the media must be "as narrowly drawn as possible" and be "directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter". In a statement made on the 14 May Associated Press stated:

"The scope of the subpoena was overboard under the law, given that it involved seizing records from a broad range of telephones across AP's news gathering operation. More than 100 journalists work in the locations served by those telephones. how can we consider this enquiry to be narrowly drawn?".

In a letter to the to Attorney General Eric Holder President and CEO Gary Pruitt stated:

"I am writing to object in the strongest possible terms to a massive and unprecedented intrusion by the Department of Justice into the news gathering activities of The Associated Press.... We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP's constitutional rights to gather and report the news."

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