ORG parliamentary and policy update/2013-w29

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is ORG's Parliamentary Update for the week beginning 15/07/2013

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Official Meetings

Peter Bradwell attended consultations on private copying, parody and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in the last two weeks.

Javier Ruiz and Jim Killock attended a meeting with the Law Commission to discuss their upcoming data sharing consultation.

Consultations and departments

Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and access of electronic data at ports

David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, in his report on The Terrorism Acts in 2012 has raised concerns about a lack of safeguards with authorities downloading and retaining data from phones and laptops. Of the 61,145 persons examined under Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 in 2012/2013 (down 12% from the previous period) only 0.03% resulted in arrests.

"Downloads are not conducted routinely, but at the examining officer’s discretion on a case-by-case basis."

- report section 10.71.

An amendment has been proposed (through the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill - briefing from StopWatch) to Schedule 7 to allow retention of copies of "anything" for "so long as it is necessary". The report suggests that further rules should be created to define the powers (section 10.78).

Several cases are currently underway in both the UK and Strasbourg regarding the use of Schedule 7 (report section 10.81).

Information Economy Strategy report

A report on the information economy strategy:

  • Committed to consult over the summer on options for data release or sharing of some VAT registration information
  • The Charity Commission has announced plans to make available data from the public register of charities by March 2014
  • Royal Mail have agreed to provide the postcode address file free to independent micro businesses for one year and free to independent small charitiable organisations
  • The Government is working with industry and other players to develop a new computing curriculum in England which is due to start in September 2014

Intelligence Services Commissioner annual report

In his annual report, the Intelligence Services Commissioner stated that he is satisfied GCHQ is acting within the legal framework as far as the areas he is permitted to oversee are concerned (warrants).

The total number of warrants and authorisations that were approved across the intelligence services and MOD in 2012 was 2,838.

Office of the Surveillence Commissioner annual report

The annual report of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner noted several areas of interest, including the changing landscape of what is defined as a public authority:

"I continue to limit my inspections to those public authorities identified in the relevant Schedules to the Acts but, as I reported last year, the Schedules no longer adequately reflect reality. Many ‘public’ services are now conducted by quasi - public or even private entities most of whom do not fall under my remit."

The number of intrusive authorisations decreased this year from 408 to 362 but the urgency provisions increased from around 350 to almost 1000 instances. No misuse was detected but no particular reasons could be found for the increase.

In relation to RIPA, the Commissioner stated:

"Whilst RIPA in general and Part II in particular have critics, I believe that the legislation is flexible enough to cope with most circumstances and that almost all public authorities use it appropriately."


All-Party Intellectual Property Group meeting on copyright exceptions

The group held a meeting on 8 July to discuss the draft IPO legislation around copyright exceptions (private copying, parody, quotation and others). The meeting heard from Ian Moss, BPI, Richard Mollet, Publishers Association, Lavinia Carey, British Video Association and Tania Spriggens, DACS.

Concerns raised included language ambiguity, lack of explanation for some exceptions and the potential for reliance on judicial interpretation as a result. An audio recording of the meeting is available.

Inquiry into nuisance telephone calls and text messages

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is planning to hold an inquiry into nuisance telephone calls and text messages which will include a review of the current regulation, the Telephone Preference Service which allows for opt-out of marketing calls and what preventative measures communications companies can take. Written evidence can be submitted up until 15 August 2013.

Inquiry into statistics and open data in Government

The Public Administration Select Committee is conducting an inquiry into statistics and open data in Government, with a focus on the progress of the Government in implementing its Open Data strategy. Closes 3 September 2013.

Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into legal aid

The committee has announced several calls for evidence:

  • An inquiry into the implications for access to justice of certain of the Government’s proposals to reform legal aid, including the proposal for a UK residency test. Closes 27 September 2013.
  • To look into to increasing parliamentary involvement in deciding the appropriate response to court judgments about human rights. Closes 27 September 2013.

Government Bills

Private Members Bills

High Cost Credit Bill real time database

A second reading of the High Cost Credit Bill involved brief mention of the potential privacy issues around having a centralised, real time database of all high cost loans, owned by the FCA:

"There are massive worries in that, relating to privacy, civil liberties, the concentration of data and, of course, what happens when, inevitably at some point, it goes wrong." (source)

- Damian Hinds MP.

The second reading is due to resume on 6 September 2013.

Debates and questions

Age verification and pornography on non-UK sites

A question was asked about steps being taken to tackle breaches of the Obscene Publications Acts by non-UK websites and age verification measures. This is being investigated through the mechanism of using UK financial institutions and card companies to decline payments to such services.

Europol's role in internet monitoring

In a debate regarding opting into a new Europol regulation, specific mention was made of Europol's role in internet monitoring. Particular mention was given to the success of Operation Rescue which resulted in the arrest of 121 suspects in the UK.

Questions about internet filtering

Internet Service Providers have agreed to roll out network level filtering to protect children online, following significant political pressure. ORG have sent them 20 questions on how their Internet filtering systems will work - questions policy makers have failed to ask.

New media and personal data - cookies, mobile phone data and tracking

Helen Goodman MP arranged a short debate involving discussion of personal data in various contexts - online tracking via cookies, sale of data by mobile providers, and the suitability of privacy policies from companies such as Google. Questions were asked about whether the Data Protection Act 1998 offers sufficient protection and whether there is proper legal basis for the kind of processing that is occurring.

Edward Vaizey MP, Minister for Communications, went into some detail about the responses from the various mobile providers and further stated that consent is an issue the government should be addressing:

"The Data Protection Act does not prohibit the sale of personal data—it is not clear that there is a legal loophole as such in terms of companies trading in personal data, but it is something about which individuals should be informed."

Further comments were made in response to a question about how the law can be tightened with regards to handling of various data sets, which when combined can be used to further identify individuals. This included mentioning the new power for the ICO to issue fines, and the e-privacy directive which requires users to consent to the use of cookies when browsing websites.

The government supports the European data protection regulations but has concerns of their scope, particularly in relation to the right to be forgotten because of the expectation that would create.

"We therefore want absolute clarity on what can be achieved by talking directly to the website—for example, Facebook—whose data we want to erase, and by asking how far that can go and how many other people one has to speak to."

Further comment on the ORG blog.

Source of communications data

It was confirmed that communications data would be stored by the providers themselves, rather than the government although it was suggested that this would be "strengthened to reflect changes in technology."

Tackling cyber crime

In response to a question about tackling cyber crime by James Morris MP:

"The Government is taking a number of steps to tackle online crime as part of the national cyber security strategy. This includes strengthening law enforcement capabilities by establishing the national cyber crime unit, which will lead the national and international response to tackling this issue. We will also be launching an awareness campaign in the autumn to highlight practical steps to improve online safety."

International Developments

European Union

Copyright in Europe - Call for views

Various issues related to the European Copyright framework are being discussed in Brussels which may lead to formal proposals. These include cross border access, user generated content and licensing, historical film access and text/data mining. The UK Intellectual Property Office has opened a call for views on these areas to help form the UK position. This is open until 11 October 2013.

Inquiry into mass surveillence of electronic communication

Claude Moraes MEP has been appointed lead for the European Parliament's JHA Inquiry on mass surveillance of electronic communication of EU citizens. The fist inquiry meeting will be held on the 5th September and will be streamed online.

Free Trade Agreements

Devolved Matters

Law and Legal Cases

Beghal v Crown Prosecution Service


Highlighted in the annual report of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, the passenger was stopped at East Midlands Airport in January 2011 on her return from a visit to her husband, and refused to answer questions until a solicitor was present. She was charged and with and pleaded guilty to an offence of wilfully failing to answer questions under Schedule 7.

The question is of course whether this breaches her rights under ECHR. The case was heard in March 2013 and is pending judgement.

ORG asks court for web blocking documents

ORG have applied to have a procedural judge (a 'Master') in the High Court to look at our requests to gain access to the documents relating to the blocks of Fenopy, H33t and Kickass Torrents. The aim is to create transparency over what methods of blocking are being authorised, what blocking is being done and by whom.

This is in support of the campaign. Further details on the ORG blog.

ORG Media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

ORG contact details

Staff page