ORG parliamentary and policy update/2013-w49

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is ORG's Parliamentary Update for the week beginning 2/12/2013

If you are reading this online, you can also subscribe to the email version.

Official Meetings

Javier Ruiz met the Cabinet Office about forthcoming Data Sharing legislation.

Most of the ORG office attended the Privacy International Christmas Party on Thursday, which resulted in a very slow Friday morning. We called on them to improve their food to alcohol ratio.

NSA and GCHQ updates

See our full list of the Guardian and Snowden’s revelations.

NSA collecting information on 5 billion cell phone locations daily

In the latest publications obtained by Edward Snowden, it has been revealed that the NSA has been collecting location information of nearly 5 billion cellphone locations a day. This is done by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally.

The information is primarily gathered from non-US citizens, but 'incidentally' also tracks information on US citizens.US officials maintain that the practise is lawful and intended to only gather information on foreign targets.

Australian intelligence agency offered to share information of private citizens

A 2008 Five Eyes document has revealed that the Australian security agency offered to share information on ordinary citizens. The documents are the exchange with their surveillance agency partners about whether they should share "medical, legal or religious information". While Australia is allowed to share bulk data without privacy restraints that are present in other countries, a note from an intelligence conference says that the agency "can share bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata as long as there is no intent to target an Australian national".

Consultations and departments

A full list of open consultations and Parliamentary events can be found on our Events

Open standards for government documents

The process has began to find open standards for government documents. The Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, said the aim of this process is to make government documents more readable and to make intergovernmental communications easier and more effective.

The Cabinet Office's Standards Hub page is an interactive page that invites readers of government publications to post their challenges (when reading the documents) and then to suggest ideas on how to solve them. Examples of those challenges are accessing the content easily and without added costs and the ability to use editable documents.

All new recommendations can be made on the cabinet's standard's hub page.

Home Office announce measures to block extremist content online

On Wednesday, Home Secretary Theresa May MP, announced the introduction of new measures to tackle "radicalisation and extremism". The measures are outlined in a report produced by the Prime Minister's Task Force on Tackling Radicalisation and Extremism.

The report uses the Prevent strategy 2011 definition of extremism, outlined very broadly as "vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas"

The proposed measures are:

  • build the capabilities of communities and civil society organisations so that they can campaign against the large volume of extremist material, including online
  • work with internet companies to restrict access to terrorist material online which is hosted overseas but illegal under UK law
  • improve the process for public reporting of extremist content online
  • work with the internet industry to help them in their continuing efforts to identify extremist content to include in family- friendly filters
  • look at using existing powers to exclude from the UK those who post extremist material online who are based overseas
  • tighten the rules on legal correspondence to ensure prisoners and their legal representatives do not take advantage of them to smuggle extremist material into prison

The report is accessible through the government's website

You can view the comments of ORG's executive director on our press release page.

Lord Younger replies to ORG open letter about parody reform

On November 22, we sent an open letter to Lord Younger about the much awaited copyright reforms specifically concerning parody. The Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills responded on Wednesday to say that all the proposed reforms will take place in the New Year.

You can view his response and our initial letter on the correspondence section of our website and our original letter.


Alan Rusbridger appears before the Home Affairs Select Committee

The Guardian's editor appeared before the home affairs select committee to defend the newspaper's right to publish the 'Edward Snowden documents'. Amongst the issues discussed he was asked about the intentions of the publications and the possible negative effects on intelligence agency employees.

When asked by the chair of the committee, Keith Vaz, if the documents were published because of the weaknesses of the oversight process, Mr Rusbridger replied that it was the only way mass surveillance would be translated to the public. He said there was a public interest in the publications, a a statement also supported by MP Julian Huppert who said that it "touched on issues which are of fundamental national importance ... and a whole range of things about the future of privacy in a digital age."

The evidence session can be viewed online on the committee website and the full transcript has also been published.

Private Members Bills

Second reading of Online Safety bill

Today saw the second reading of the Online Safety Bill in the House of Lords where the members of the house debated the bill for the first time. The bill includes provisions for ISPs and mobile service providers to offer filters that will block adult content.

The debate is available on

Debates and questions

Short debate on copyright exceptions

Baroness Buscombe initiated a short debate on the government's plans to modernise copyright exceptions. Many of the participants believed there was a need to reform copyright because the current legislation has not kept pace with technological advancements. There were concerns about allowing private copyright (to allow consumers to make a copy for personal use) without introducing a compensatory fee. Lord Berkeley of Knighton said there "needs to be a specific provision for a compensatory scheme... the exception should be redrafted in such a way that it is narrower, applying only to the copying of a physical copy and not interfering with the licensing of the potentially valuable cloud services market."

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Lord Younger, said that all impact assessments of the proposed measures had been reviewed by an independent body and will be implemented within the following year.

The full transcript has been published on Hansard.

Questions on child protection powers

Julian Huppert MP has asked a question on the involvement of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) in Project Spade.

Some background: Project Spade was a three-year Canadian investigation into child pornography that resulted in the arrest of many involved and the release of nearly 400 child sex slaves. The UK's National Crime Agency was given a list of names of suspected abusers, but no arrests were made.

Damian Green MP replied that the CEOP had received the information through Interpol on November 22 2013 and the investigations were still ongoing.

Mr Huppert then responded that the government rather than demanding more powers to tackle child pornography online, they should "get the basics right, not to keep asking for more powers".

Mr Green responded that for a better management of information, the CEOP has been moved to the National Crime Agency.

Question on UK citizen's data protection

Lord Laird has asked a question on government measures to ensure that UK citizen's data is protected within the jurisdiction of the UK and not transferred to third parties. Lord McNally answered that all organisations wanting to share information with third parties must comply with the eight principles of the Data Protection Act 1998.

He also added that the Information Commissioner holds additional powers to ensure that the organisations meet their obligations under the DPA.

European Union

Advocate General voices opinion on ISPs blocking copyright infringing websites

The European Court of Justice's advocate general has issued an opinion on the responsibility of ISPs to block content that infringes on copyright. Pedro Cruz Villalón is of the opinion that they do carry some responsibility and that according to the wording of EU law they could be asked to block websites that have been found to infringe on copyright. He said "a specific blocking measure imposed on a provider relating to a specific website is not, in principle, disproportionate only because it entails not inconsiderable costs but can easily be circumvented without any special technical knowledge".

However, he did say that if there was an order to prohibit ISPs from allowing their users to access particular copyright infringement it would impede on fundamental rights (such as freedom of information, freedom to do business and copyright protection.

The European Court of Justice has published the full opinion in PDF formation online.

European parliament vote to adopt proposal on music streaming

The European Parliament's legal affairs committee voted unanimously to adopt a proposal for a directive on collective rights management and multi-territorial licensing. This would allow online music streaming and retail websites easier access to copyright licenses as they currently need to get copyright lisences from 28 countries.

The European Commission's press release outlines the effects of the directive in practise:

  • Multi-territorial licensing of rights for music to be used on the internet across borders.
  • The right holders will have faster compensation, more control over their rights and over selecting a collecting society.
  • The collecting parties will ave to increase their clarity on revenue streams from exploitation of rights, faster compensation, annual transparency reports and further information sent directly to rights holders and their business partners.
  • Member States will have to have a mechanism in pace for resolving disputes amongst collecting societies and right holders.

Law and Legal Cases

British journalist takes Microsoft to Lord Mayor’s and City of London County Court

A British journalist has taken Microsoft to court over allegations that they illegally accessed his email and transferred the information to the NSA. The lawsuit claims that the company has violated British law, in particular the Data Protection Act 1998 by assisting the NSA to circumvent the encryption of their email service

This information is based on the Snowden revelations that revealed that among other companies that handed over user information to the PRISM mass surveillance programme were Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Skype, YouTube and Apple.

Attorney General to tweet legal advice for users of social media

Dominic Grieve MP has said that he will publish guidelines and information on what is allowed to be posted on twitter or other social networking sites. He said the primary reason is to ensure that comments don't disrupt ongoing legal cases.

The advice posted will apply to legal cases in England and Wales. This decision comes as Peaches Geldof posted the names of two people involved in a current court case.

ORG Media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

ORG contact details

Staff page