ORG parliamentary and policy update/2013-w06

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is the update for the week starting 2013-02-04.

Official Meetings

In relation to the Communications Data Bill Killock met Andrew Turner MP (Con), Pete Wishart MP (SNP), Bob Blackman MP (Con) and Emily Thornberry MP, Labour's Shadow Attorney General. Jim also met James Brokenshire MP and Jeremy Browne MP from the Home Office. ORG and other groups have been invited to meet Theresa May MP next week.

On Friday 8 February, Peter Bradwell met with Privacy International; representatives from Liberty were also at the meeting.

Consultations and Departments

Information Economy Strategy

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has launched an open consultation on the information economy for small and medium sized businesses. The working definition for an information economy is "the part of the economy where digital technologies and information combine to drive productivity and create new growth opportunities across the whole economy." The consultation and call for evidence ends on 15 March 2013.

CCTV code of practice

The Home Office have launched a consultation into a "code of practice" for CCTV and ANPR cameras.

The consultation closes on 21 March 2013.

Claire Perry Interview

Claire Perry (Conservative, Devizes), who currently occupies the position of 'advisor to the Prime Minister on the prevention of commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood', has given an interview to The Spectator where she addresses issues such as filtering online pornography and accessing the email history of children.

Ms. Perry, who stated that 14 year old boys accessing pornography was "damaging", said that parents should know the password to a child's mobile phone, be able to read their emails under "certain circumstances" and continues to support a filter to block pornography if parents wish to.

The Spectator article reads;

"The plan is for a filter that checks the age of the child browsing, rather than her original call for all users to opt-in to accessing adult content on their computer, which a government consultation rejected. All public wifi will have an automatic block on adult material. She is also trying to persuade mobile phone companies and internet service providers to pool all the money they currently spend on education about online safety and parental controls into one pot to create a hub for all parents on online safety, and where they can report abuse."

On the same topic, following the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre stating that an increasing number of children are being pressured by paedophiles to record sexually explicit images on their mobile phones, debate has risen up again on child protection issues to do with the internet (as can be seen in debates surrounding the Online Safety Bill). Regarding additional safeguards for children online and following meetings with Government officials on 'active choice' parenting, a spokesman for the Internet Service Provider Association stated;

"ISPA is aware that there are discussions around age verification but are not sure exactly what is being asked and how this would work in practice" and the industry is currently seeking clarification from the Government on the issue.


Culture, Media and Sport Evidence Session

It has been announced that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee is holding an evidence session on 12 February, as part of the Offshore Gambling Bill. The witnesses are Jonathan Stephens, Permanent Secretary, Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Jenny Williams, Chief Executive, Gambling Commission.

Intelligence and Security Committee Report

The Intelligence and Security Committee released their report on the Communications Data Bill on Wednesday. The committee, chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, was looking into impact of the Bill on the intelligence services of the United Kingdom. Note: some statistical information has been removed from the report prior to its online publication.

The report notes the changes that have taken place in the realm of communications since relevant legislation was last passed;

1) there is no business need to retain data of what customers do, given the rise of unlimited tariffs

2) infrastructure is operated by different companies than those who offer services

3) many service providers outside of the UK may be unwilling to provide user data to UK authorities and interaction between users may take place using many different geographical areas

4) public authorities are therefore finding it more difficult to obtain communications data at the very time that communications have been drastically increasing

Some of the findings are listed below;

1) there exists a 'capability gap' in police and intelligence circles between need and present capabilities

2) "significant problems" are now developing for security authorities due to the changes in communications data

3) greater use of other techniques, such as informants, should be used to compensate for the growing problem of intercepting communications data (the Home Office has rejected this approach) 4) a positive relationship between security agencies and service providers could lead to more successes in terms of protecting the public

5) new legislation should be passed to attempt to fix this 'capability gap' and to provide security agencies with more tools

6) there is a lack of clarity in some of the proposals in the Bill as it currently stands

7) "considerable concern" exists within both the general public and service providers due to how broad the Bill is

8) filtering systems offer a way for security agencies to do their job with minimum interception of unrelated private data

To conclude, the report forcefully states that "more thought is given to the level of detail that is included in the Bill, in particular in relation to the Order-making power. Whilst the Bill does need to be future-proofed to a certain extent, and we accept that it must not reveal operational capability, serious consideration must be given as to whether there is any room for manoeuvre on this point: Parliament and the public will require more information if they are to be convinced."

Government Bills

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

Amendments have been moved for the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, as of February 4th. None of the amendments substantively impact upon data protection, privacy or internet rights issues. Furthermore, it has been announced that the next stage of the Bill, the Report stage in the House of Lords will take place on the 26 February 2013 and a further provisional date to continue is set for the 06 March 2013.

Private Member's Bills

Suicide (Prevention) Bill

The Bill was not debated on February 1 and thus the Second Reading lapsed. It is currently unclear when the Bill will progress further.

Defamation Bill

Amendments to the Defamation Bill were moved on February 4. They include an amendment which proposes the creation of a Defamation Recognition Commission, that an Independent Regulatory Board would would provide an arbitration service and that the Courts would take into account whether parties agreed to use this arbitration service. The amendment also puts emphasis on the desirability of using the arbitration service, making successful claimants liable for all costs if they did not agree to use the service.

A second amendment puts the onus on a corporation petitioning defamation to prove that substantial losses would be incurred by said 'defamation.'

A third amendment allows a court to strike out a defamation claim unless "publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant" while another amendment gives a level of protection to site operators under whose services defamatory claims are published, as long as the operator did not post the statement and had no reason to know why the statement would be so damaging. It also makes provision for courts to take into account whether an operator has an anti-defamation policy relating to its services.

Furthermore, the report stage of the Bill in the House of Lords begins on Tuesday 5 February.

Online Safety Bill

As with the Defamation Bill, amendments have been moved for the Online Safety Bill. Baroness Benjamin has put forward an amendment which would change the definition from 'pornographic images' to 'adult content', thus bring it under the terms of the Communications Act 2003. Lord Morrow has also moved an amendment which would insert 'at an age appropriate level' past the word 'content'. The new line in the Bill would now read;

"Manufacturers of electronic devices must provide customers with a means of filtering content at an age-appropriate level from an internet access service at the time the device is purchased."

Debates and Questions

Suicide Prevention Debate

On February 6, the House of Commons held a debate on suicide prevention, introduced by a DUP representative, William McCrea. During the course of the debate, suicide websites were mentioned and Madeline Moon (Labour, Bridgend) called for internet providers to block access to such sites. Mr. McCrea spoke of the difficulty in controlling online content and noted that collaborations with the Samaritans has begun to support those at risk from such online material.

Norman Lamb (Liberal Democrat, North Norfolk) noted that he had convened meetings between the Government, charities and internet service providers (ISPs) to discuss the issue of online suicide promotion and how to protect young people from accessing such content. Alongside Mr. Lamb noting the meetings that he convened, Edward Timpson (Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich), who serves in the Department for Education, that the Government was seeking to make sure that ISPs "step up to the plate and realise their responsibility", through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety; he also noted that the Government supported self-regulation by ISPs.

International Developments

United States Cyber Strategy

According to reports, President Barack Obama is shortly to issue an executive order to reinforce the United States' cyber-security, days after the European Union revealed their own. V3 writes that "the order will...urge federal agencies to incorporate the cyber security standards into existing regulations and directs the government to share more information about computer threats with the private sector."

European Union

Data Protection Regulation

John Rodgers, an Economic Officer in the State Department, stated that the proposed 'right to be forgotten' in the Data Protection Regulation currently going through the European Parliament could spark a US/EU "trade war." He went on to reject that the 'right to privacy' as encapsulated in the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, could be applied to the 'right to be forgotten.' The issue has appeared on the US agenda as companies that process data of EU citizens but are located outside it, such as in the United States, would also be subject to the requirement. Mr. Rodgers did not elaborate on what form the potential "trade war" could take.

In related news, the Republic of Ireland has officially taken over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. According to Alan Shatter TD (Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence), "one of my key priorities in the justice area is the new EU Data Protection rules are needed which both protect citizens rights and facilitate business in the digital age." The Data Protection Regulation is a measure that the Irish presidency hopes to advance. Mr. Shatter cites the importance of data protection in building consumer confidence and hopes that the Regulation and Directive will help to realise the theme of the presidency; 'Stability, Jobs and Growth.'

Furthermore, in an article for The Register, Britain's Information Commissioner has been quoted as saying that the burden for the Data Protection Regulation should be focused on those who abuse data already, rather than businesses; "it should focus more on the risks and abuses and less on the average business." The Information Commissioner's Office has also stated that the 'right to be forgotten' may simply be impossible due to the expert knowledge apparently required.

Google Settles with France

According to a BBC News report, Google has agreed to settle a dispute with France over it displaying links to French news sites. Local news sites had demanded payment and the French Government had threatened to tax Google's revenue, leading Google to threaten to stop indexing French news websites.

Under the compromise that has been reached, Google will set up a Digital Publishing Innovation Fund and reduce French costs for advertisements in return for not having to pay an annual license fee.

European Network and Information Security Directive

The Network and Information Security Directive (aka "The Cybersecurity Directive") has been proposed in the EU.

It aims to create a single "competent authority" in each member state to deal with information security issues. In the UK this would likely be some branch of the security services (e.g. OCSIA/CSOC). This would be the authority that security breaches would be reported to, which in turn would decide if the information can be publicly released.

Authorities would also have the power to "issue binding instructions to market operators and public administrations" which may enable them to make demands equivalent to those of the draft Communications Data Bill.

ORG Media Coverage

Daily Mail Article

In an article entitled "UK government plans to track ALL web use: MI5 to install 'black box' spy devices to monitor British internet traffic", the Daily Mail reported on the desire of MI5 to create a nationwide surveillance programme to track what Britons do and say online. The Director-General of Mi5 said;

"Access to communications data of one sort or another is very important indeed. It’s part of the backbone of the way in which we would approach investigations. I think I would be accurate in saying there are no significant investigations that we undertake across the service that don’t use communications data because of its ability to tell you the who and the when and the where of your target’s activities."

Jim Killock, Director of Open Rights Group, was also quoted in the article. He stated that,

"The really worrying part of this is the "filter" the government wants to build. 'This would put data from your mobile phone, email, web history and phones together, so the police can tell who your friends are, what your opinions are, where you've been and with who. It could make instant surveillance of everything you do possible at the click of a button."