ORG parliamentary and policy update/2014-w25

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

Top Stories:

  • Government confirms surveillance of social media users
  • Data Retention regulation still considered valid in UK

This is ORG's Parliamentary and policy update for the week beginning 16/04

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Official Meetings

Jim Killock attended a meeting in Aberdeen to discuss ORG Scotland on Wednesday and spoke at a Westminster Media Forum on copyright reform in the UK and Europe. On Monday he met with Frank La Rue the outgoing Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Elizabeth Knight attended a meeting with Jim Killock and Dominic Young from the Copyright Hub and also met with the Open Society Foundation, Liberty, Privacy International and Digital Rights Ireland to discuss the next steps to challenging the Data Retention Directive.

Javier Ruiz, is attending a meeting with ICANN the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, to talk about ways civil society can become involved in internet governance.

Consultations and departments

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

Independent investigation into data records safety finds multiple lapses in confidentiality

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), as part of their rolling programme of spot checks on companies, universities, charities and government bodies that receive medical data, has found significant violations of safety rules.

They found that a research programme with no legal authority to access data that could identify patients, were still using the information in 2014. They also found that a further eight companies were receiving mortality data without approval, which can be used to pinpoint individual patients (The Guardian).

Government Bills

Bill to introduce life sentence for serious cyber crimes, progressing through House of Lords

The Serious Crime Bill saw its second reading in the House of Lords on Monday 16 June. The bill brings a series of amendments to a number of Acts, including the Computer Misuse Act 1990. It includes provisions to impose a "maximum sentence of life imprisonment for cyber attacks which result in loss of life, serious illness or injury or serious damage to national security".

The Committee stage, where the bill will be examined in details with begin on 2 July.

You can follow the bill on the parliament's website.

Private Members Bills

Early day motion against mass surveillance

Tom Watson MP introduced an Early day motion on Thursday to recognise the harmful practise of mass surveillance and its multiple violations of laws and to introduce legislation that would bring an end to the practice.

You can see more information on the parliament website.

Debates, questions and speeches

Minister of Organised Crime gives speech on UK Cyber Security

Karen Bradley MP, the Minister for Organised Crime in the Home Office made a speech about cyber security in the UK at IA14's cyber security conference. In her speech she reiterated the reforms to the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy, initially launched in October. The changes were principally reforming the approach into four areas of focus 'Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare'. (

Question on validity of Data Retention directive in UK

Tom Watson MP, asked whether the Home Department had provided the public communications providers with information regarding the Data Retention directive incompatibility ruling or if the communications providers had sought advice from the government.

James Brokenshire MP responded that while the judgement of the European Court is still being considered, the UK Data Retention Regulations 2009, remain in force. He also added that "Those in receipt of a notice under the regulations have been informed that they should continue to observe their obligations as outlined in any notice". (Hansard)

Debate on digital bill of rights

Lord Mitchell asked a question on the possibility of introducing a digital bill of rights in conjunction with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. An interesting discussion followed on the necessity of introducing measures to protect consumer privacy (Hansard).

Further Developments

Theresa May refuses to allow the internet to become "an ungoverned, ungovernable space". After speaking at the Mansion House in June 2014 there was no mention of the European Union's ruling to throw out the data retention directive. The measure reached by the EU's Court of Justice deemed that it not only interfered with data protection rules but also fundamental human rights to privacy.[1]

In defence of the scheme May had to say "Signals intelligence relies on automated and remote access to data on the internet and other communications systems. Computers search for only the communications relating to a small number of suspects under investigation. Once the content of these communications has been identified, and only then, is it is examined by a trained analysts. And every step of the way it is governed by strict rules, checked against Human Rights Act requirements. That is not mass surveillance." [2]

International Developments

American House of Representatives votes to cut funding on mass surveillance of Americans

On Thursday night, the House of Representatives voted to pass an amendment to a defence bill in order to cut funding to NSA operations that involved the mass surveillance of Americans. (Ars Technica)

European Union

Germany launches inquiry into surveillance of German Chancellor's phone

Last week, the federal prosecutor announced an investigation into allegations that the NSA was monitoring Angela Merkel's mobile phone (The Guardian).

SPIEGEL launches investigation into German-linked Snowden files

German newspaper, Der Spiegel, has began a reassessment of the 'Snowden files' linked to Germany. They've found that the NSA was more involved in Germany than anywhere else in Europe. According to their analysis, the agency's most important listening station in Europe has been established in US Army property in Griesheim, Germany called the European Society Centre (ESC) (Spiegel).

Law and Legal Cases

Surveillance of UK citizens permitted because they are treated as 'external communications'

As part of an ongoing legal challenge over the UK's involvement in mass surveillance, the country's top counter-terrorism official has revealed how a legal loophole has been used to justify the surveillance of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Google user in the UK.

Charles Farr the Director General of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism said the surveillance was legal, because all such communications were treated as 'external communications' and were thus not subject to domestic legal restrictions (Privacy International).

You can view his witness statement in full online(PDF).

ORG Media coverage

2014-06-19 - The Inquirer - Bskyb: Copyright reform for digital services would 'do more harm than good'
Author:Carly Page
Summary: Mention of Open Rights Group action to reform copyright regulations.

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

ORG contact details

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