ORG parliamentary and policy update/2014-w04

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is ORG's Parliamentary Update for the week beginning 20/01/2014

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Official Meetings

Jim Killock attended a Parliamentary round table with Helen Goodman MP and also met with Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in relation to ORG's future strategy. He also spoke on Radio5 DriveTime at 18:30pm to talk about Stan Collymore and Twitter. Last week he met with Amnesty International, Consumer Futures, Human Rights Watch and London Internet Exchange(LINX).

Javier Ruiz participated in a panel at the Computers, Privacy & Data Protection conference in Brussels titled "(Distributive) Justice vs Privacy - The Uneasy Tradeoff in Copyright Debates"

Consultations and departments

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

Report on cyber security of small businesses finds large digital divides

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published a report titled "Cyber Streetwise: open for business" aimed at giving advice to small and medium sized businesses on maintaining a strong online presence and security. This includes information on how to protect important customer information. The report found that 87% of the 1,000 small businesses surveyed, had suffered an online security breach in the previous year. Some other interesting statistics were:

  • 48% of the companies surveyed control the access to their IT networks
  • 26% of the companies surveyed regularly encrypt confidential customer information
  • 59% of the (2,000) consumers surveyed said they avoid shopping online with small companies because of cyber security fears

The report has been published online along with the launch of a new interactive website to teach cyber-street safety. The website has been criticised by various people for having a poor usability and compatibility.

Government Bills

Proposed Consumer Rights bill to include rights and remedies, for digital content for the first time

A proposed bill to bring amendments to existing legislation, will introduce provisions of rights and remedies for digital content. The amendments include:

  • Setting out clear guidelines for products and digital content. Namely that they must meet the description given before they are sold; they must be fit for purpose; must be provided with reasonable care and skill.
  • Modernise the existing legislation by introducing a new regime covering digital content; ensure that a trader does not harm existing digital content on the consumer's device.
  • Address the existing confusion over the creation of digital content remedies and rights.

The second reading of the bill is scheduled for Tuesday the 28th January in the House of Commons. This is the first time the bill will be debated. You can view the latest developments of the bill on the parliament's website and a draft version in PDF online.

Debates and questions

MP introduces motion to halt transfer of medical records to NHS central database

Roger Godsiff has introduced an early day motion to indefinitely delay the transfer of patient's data to a centralised national data base called the NHS care records service (also referred to as the programme). The transfer is due to start in March, with all records to be uploaded, unless patients actively notify their GPs that they want to opt-out. This is one of Mr Godsiff's objections, he insists the system be reversed to become opt-in rather than opt-out. He says that otherwise, automatically uploading all patient information violates the confidentiality between patients and doctors.

The primary purpose of the data is to share it with Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), clinical care groups (CCGs) and an anonymised version of the information with researchers. However, there has been widespread speculation that it will also be sold to insurance and pharmaceutical companies. The NHS's chief data officer Geraint Lewis said the information will not be used for commercial purposes.

Mr Godsiff said "‘I have absolutely no faith in assertions by Government that patient data will be coded in such a way as to guarantee anonymity…There is also the Government’s record as a whole on data management or rather, chronic mismanagement and leakages."

Most of these reactions come after the launch of an awareness campaign and the delivery of "Better information means better care" information leaflets to households across the UK.

We have written about this issue on our blog, including information on how your data is being stored and how to opt-out.

Question to Minister of Defence on number of cyber attacks and other malicious information technology incidents in 2012-2013

The former defence shadow secretary, Νick Harvey, asked the minister of defence how many cyber and other incidents relating to information technology, the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) received in 2012 and 2013 and how those attacks are categorised.

An interesting response was that as the AWE operates under the same standards of the Ministry of Defence, they are not allowed to publish any information on how many IT related attacks they have come under or how many were deterred or successful. This is to prevent an assessment of British capabilities.

Question on filtering electronic devices in academies

Austin Mitchell asked whether academies supply tablets to their students and if they are required to provide any filtering systems. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, Edward Timpson answered that the Department for Education does not hold any information on school equipment. He added, all information is held by the schools and academies, they are permitted to purchase any tablets for their students, but must ensure the ICT systems are secure. In order to ensure adequate protection, they must cover the following criteria: protection from external threats (that may arise from access to the internet); protection from internal threats (through circulation of emails); filtering and user monitoring of email, messaging services, social networking and browsing.

International Developments

Snowden answers questions in live twitter Q&A

With the hashtag #AskSnowden, Edward Snowden answered questions in a live Q&A on a range of topics. He commented on President Obama's surveillance speech and the lack of protections for whistle blowers. Al Jazeera has compiled a list of the main highlights of the conversation on their European website.

Creation of independent commission on internet governance

The creation of a 25-member independent commission on internet governance was announced at the World Economic Forum conference on Wednesday. Set up by two think tanks, UK based Chatham House and the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the commission will run a two-year investigation into Internet governance, after a breakdown of trust following the recent revelations of mass surveillance. The commission is panelled by a mix of policy-makers, politicians and academics.

The key themes that will be investigated are:

  • Enhancing governance legitimacy
  • Preserving innovation
  • Ensuring rights online
  • Avoiding systemic risk

They will conduct consultations on various topics which will also include feedback requests from the general public.

Mass text sent to protesting participants in Ukraine saying they have been registered

In Kiev on Tuesday, those who were within close proximity to the demonstrations, received a text message that said

"Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass riot."

The text messages follow laws that also came in effect on Tuesday, that forbid any form of protest.

Two telephone providers have issued statements denying any responsibility, but suggest they may have been sent through 'pirate base stations' that can send messages to any phones covered by their signal. The interior ministry has also denied involvement.

It still remains to be seen what will come of the 'registered participants', if it was simply a warning text or if their information has indeed been registered.

European Union

European Parliament Rapporteur into mass surveillance reacts to Obama's NSA speech

Claude Moraes is the European Parliament's rapporteur in the civil liberty committee's inquiry on mass surveillance. He released a press statement commenting on President Obama's NSA reforms announcement. He welcomed the speech as a step toward necessary changes in the surveillance programme. However he also said "we are seeking firm, concrete assurance from the US that they will make the necessary reforms to guarantee European citizens an end to the blanket collection of personal data of innocent people".

You can view the full press release on the European Parliament's website.

European Parliament committee vote on proposals for net neutrality (Telecommunications Single Market proposed bill)

The Internal Market and Consumer Rights (IMCO) committee voted on the proposals by digital agenda commissioner, Neelie Kroes for the Telecommunications Single Market proposed bill. This bill aims to reduce the fragmentation of telecommunications policies across the continent and harmonize the laws and rights enjoyed by consumers.

The voted proposals take a step closer to Net Neutrality as they now provide more restrictions for ISPs and content providers to strike deals with each other for specialised services. They also make it harder to limit internet traffic.

Ms Kroes said in reaction to the vote that they needed to "assess in more detail whether the actual amendments provide in all cases enough legal certainty to meet our shared objectives."

Law and Legal Cases

Two people given prison sentences for sending abusive tweets in Carolina Criado-Perez case

Judge Howard Riddle handed out a sentence of 12 weeks and 8 weeks to two guilty of harassing campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez on twitter. They were charged under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 for sending a series of highly abusing tweets that continued after being blocked or warned to stop. You can view the judge's full announcement in PDF online

European Court of Human Rights fast-tracks mass surveillance case, asks British government to provide them with legal justification

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), has decided to fast-track the case brought against the British government for their involvement in mass surveillance. After completing their preliminary examination they have asked the British government to justify how their surveillance programme and their current oversight system complies with the European Convention on Human Rights. The government has until May 2 to provide the justification. After that date,the case will move into the final stages before a judgement is issued.

In September, the Open Rights Group along with English PEN, Big Brother Watch and internet activist Constanze Kurz launched the Privacy not Prism legal challenge, taking the issue of mass surveillance to the ECHR over Tempora and Prism.

Commercial Stakeholders

Plusnet working to introduce network level filter

Plusnet, is looking to develop their own network level filter that will block potentially 'harmful' content. According to a company spokesperson, they are also looking into developing a separate filter that will block access to websites with copyrighted material. The spokesman added "we are aiming to have a solution in place in 2014 which will provide our customers with the flexibility and control they need."

All major five ISPs have been under pressure from the government to block a range of sites and are currently in the process of unveiling new parental control filters, as a result of the government policies. While Plusnet is owned by BT, one of the 'major five', they have not been presented with these requests. They currently offer McAfee's filtering system .

ORG Media coverage

2014-01-24 - PCWorld - EU human rights court gives priority to UK mass surveillance case
Author: Loek Essers
Summary:Open Rights Group mentioned
2014-01-24 - Guardian - Justify GCHQ mass surveillance, European court tells ministers
Author: Nick Hopkins
Summary: Coverage of "Privacy Not Prism", Jim Killock quoted

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

ORG contact details

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