ORG parliamentary and policy update/2013-w24

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is ORG's Parliamentary Update for the week beginning 10/06/2013

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Official Meetings

Consultations and departments

Growing concerns over PRISM and EU data protection

Following on from recent reports that the US National Security Agency's (NSA) PRISM programme has been routinely accessing sensitive data stored by companies including Facebook, Google, Skype, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube and Apple growing concerns are being expressed regarding how EU citizen's data is being protected. In response to the PRISM revelations European justice commissioner Viviane Reding has written to US attorney general Eric Holder "demanding more information on the PRISM data sharing scheme". Expecting a response to the quires set out in the letter ahead of their meeting in Dublin on Friday it is hoped that light will be shed on "how EU citizen's data is being accessed by the US government and whether there is any way members of the public can find out if their information was accessed by the US." The Council of Europe is also taking steps to ensure user privacy in the wake of the scandal having issued a declaration to all member states:

"warning them of the potential abuse of human rights with certain digital tracking and surveillance technologies, and recalling the need to ensure their legitimate use."

Fears have also been expressed over British MEP's trying to water down EU rules "which would protect citizens' data". Sarah Ludford MEP "has called for citizens to lose the right to know whether their data was being transferred to a third country or international organisation" marking a severe blow to the Data Protection Regulation. Ludford has proposed 113 amendments to the draft Regulation including proposals that ORG believes would severely undermine people's privacy rights leaving them with less control of their data.

See ORG's blog for further details and a discussion of the amendments made by Baroness Ludford.

Biometrics Commissioner: consultation under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012

On 31 May, Alastair R MacGregor QC, Biometrics Commissioner, announced an open consultation under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. The consultation "considers applications relating to the retention of biometric material, obtained from individuals who have been arrested but not charged." According to the Commissioner, once the relevant provisions of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 come into force later this year "one of my principle responsibilities as Biometrics Commissioner will be to determine applications which are made under (new) section 63G of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 ('PACE')." These applications will specifically relate to the retention of biometric material obtained from individuals who have been arrested but not charged. In summary:

  • by (new) section 63E of PACE, fingerprints and DNA profiles ("section 63D material") taken from an arrested person may be retained until the conclusion of the investigation of the offence in which the arrestee is suspected of being involved;
  • If that person is not charged with that offence and that offence is a "qualifying offence", the "responsible chief officer of police" may, pursuant to (new) section 63G, make an application to the Biometrics Commissioner to extend the retention period in respect of that material; and
  • If that application is successful, that retention period will, by (new) section 63F(5) and (6), be extended until 3 years after the taking of the relevant fingerprints or sample.

According to the Commissioner "views and suggestions of others as regards the proposals which are set out above" are welcome, with the consultation closing on the 21 June 2013.

Full consultation, including all preliminary proposals, available on


Culture, Media and Sport Committee

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is conducting evidence gathering sessions concerning the regulation of the press. Witnesses include Lionel Barber, Editor, Financial Times and Mr Chris Blackhurst, Editor, The Independent.

Government Bills

Debates and questions

GCHQ Debate

On 10 June the House of Commons held a Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) debate in response to the PRISM revelations. In an initial statement by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague MP, it was stated that the US Administration "have begun a review into the circumstances of these leaks in conjunction with the Justice Department and the US intelligence community." The ability to intercept the content of an individual's communications in the UK, according to Hague:

"requires a warrant signed personally by me, the Home Secretary, or by another Secretary of State. This is no casual process. Every decision is based on extensive legal and policy advice. Warrants are legally required to be necessary, proportionate and carefully targeted, and we judge them on that basis."

In response to claims that GCHQ has been using the US to avoid UK law and obtain information it was argued that "any data obtained by is from the United States involving UK nationals "are subject to proper UK statutory controls and safeguards, including the relevant sections of the Intelligence Services Act, the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act."

When asked if the concerns raised highlights "the limitations of the current RIPA system" and whether "there is a need for new measures, such as the draft Communications Data Bill", it was stated that "The case for the draft Communications Data Bill rests on its own merits. My hon. Friend refers to some of those merits and the Government will bring forward proposals in the near future on that subject."

Offences Against Children: Internet Question

Helen Goodman MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what plans she has to assess the potential lessons to be learned for Government policy on internet safety from recent court cases of child murders.

Ed Vaizey MP, in response, stated that:

"We keep our policies and practice on tackling child sexual abuse and for child internet safety under continual review. As a result, I have called the major internet service providers, mobile operators, search engines and social media companies in for a summit to discuss what more could be done to minimise internet harm.

Working in partnership with law enforcement, industry and charities, we have taken significant steps to remove illegal child sexual abuse content from the internet, block access to such material, and to take action against those responsible for it.

Through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety we also work with the internet industries, parents' and children's charities, academics, law enforcement agencies and other experts to help keep children safe online, for example by encouraging the adoption of parental controls in the home and other appropriate measures to limit children's access to harmful material wherever and however they access the internet."

International Developments

European Union

French Ministry of Culture hesitates to transfer three-strike regime

According to recent press reports, the proposed transfer of the three-strike graduated response from HADOPI to CSA (Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel) along with the substitution of the third-strike (internet suspension) with an administrative fine levied by the CSA has hit a speed bump. As the 1709blog notes, the recent Lescure report advocated the transfer while recommending "the final strike be a relatively low administrative fine." However the Ministry of Culture predicts "legal obstacles to implementing a purely administrative fine as opposed to bringing the matter before the ordinary courts."

Referring back to the original 2009 version of HAIDOPI where it was "opined that such a measure could only be applied by the judiciary, which gave rise to the system that is currently in force" concerns have been raised as to whether "the system advocated by the Lescure report would be constitutional."

Free Trade Agreements

Devolved Matters

Law and Legal Cases

BBC and EOS "widely divergent" on Welsh licence fee

In Broadcasting Corporation v EOS- Yr Asiantaeth Hawliau Darlledu Cyfyngedig CT121/1 the Copyright Tribunal, as the 1709blog notes, "issued a provisional ruling last month that BBCCymru (BBC Wales) should pay a licence fee to EOC, the licensing body for Welsh language music." This ruling, part of an ongoing dispute between parties about the terms of the BBC's licence for the EOS repertoire:

"marks the first time that rule 35 of the Copyright Tribunal Rules has been invoked by a party seeking an interim order to permit it to use the repertoire according to terms set by the Tribunal pending a substantive hearing."

Before the interim hearing a £10,000 per month licence had been agreed with the Copyright Tribunal stating that the fee "should remain unchanged until it makes its final ruling". According to the BBC:

"The parties have widely divergent views on what a reasonable licence fee should be -- the BBC says it should be £100,000 per annum and EOS says it should be £1.5m per annum. We are not in a position to pre-judge the final outcome of this matter and cannot now conclude with any certainty what the final fee may be".

ORG Media coverage

British MEP tries to weaken EU data protection

Jim Killock was quoted in an article discussing amendments to the Data Protection Regulation. In a response to Sarah Ludford MEP calling for citizens "to lose the right to know whether their data was being transferred to a third country or international organisation" Jim was quoted saying "Baroness Ludford needs to protect EU citizens from having their data shovelled into Prism-ready servers without even being notified".

Jim also appeared on Sky, Russia Today and BBC News Channel talking about PRISM.

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

ORG contact details

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