ORG parliamentary and policy update/2014-w29

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

Top Stories:

  • Government passes emergency legislation on data retention.
  • Information Commissioner submits evidence to Privacy and Security Inquiry, expresses concern on state surveillance.

This is ORG's Parliamentary and policy update for the week beginning 14/07/2014

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

Official Meetings

Javier Ruiz attended the Open Knowledge Festival this week and held two sessions on privacy and surveillance.

NSA and GCHQ updates

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

GCHQ team has ability to alter online polls, among other hacking tools

New documents reveal that the GCHQ's Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) possess a series of tools that give them a range of abilities. Some of those allow them to hack into websites and alter the results of online polls; alter website visit counts; censor 'extremist' videos and "amplify sanctioned messages on YouTube". Documents also hint at the ability of analysts to monitor skype conversations in real-time.

A telling quote from the documents: “Don’t treat this like a catalogue. If you don’t see it here, it doesn’t mean we can’t build it.” (The Intercept).

Consultations and departments

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

Department for Culture publishes Internet governance documents

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has published their documents relating to the UK's policy on Internet governance.

The documents contain information on the roles of governments in Internet governance, the UK multi-stakeholder Advisory Group on Internet governance and the UK's contribution to Netmundial among others.

You can view all documents on

Facial recognition system to be given first trial in Leicestershire

Police in Leicestershire will be the first to trial a facial recognition software with the ability to cross-reference all digital images in the police database. The programme called NeoFace can compare images from any type of footage against a new image. (The Wire)

Information Commissioner's submission raises concerns over privacy and internet security

The Information Commissioner sent his submission to the Intelligence and Security Committee for their inquiry into privacy and security.

Some highlights of the Commissioner's report were:

  • The state surveillance of individuals' communications, regardless of it being content or metadata, engage significant privacy and data privacy concerns
  • The current legal and regulations are fragmented and in need of review

You can view the rest online in PDF format.

Non-ministerial Government Departments

National Crime Agency arrests 660 suspected paedophiles

The National Crime Agency, operational since 2013, arrested 660 suspected paedophiles, following a six-month investigation. Not all those arrested had offended, they were arrested for possessing pornographic imagery of children. The NCA's deputy director said "We want those offenders to know that the Internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images, that they leave a digital footprint, and that law enforcement will find it." (The Guardian)

Government Bills

Parliament passes emergency data retention legislation

See our blog for a detailed analysis by our Executive and Legal directors as well as an announcement for further action to be taken by ORG.

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill has now become an Act, after rushing through both houses of parliament during this week as 'emergency legislation' before parliamentary recess.

The Act instructs domestic communications providers and communications companies based outside the UK, but operating in the country, to retain a record of all their customers communications. This practice however, was deemed unlawful by the European Court of Justice in May, as incompatible with the treaties on human rights.

The stated purpose of the bill was to maintain the government's current capabilities by providing them access to communications data. The Bill's passage was secured by a deal between the three major party leaders, with 436 votes for and 49 MPs rebelling against the motion.

There has been widespread criticism of the apparent undemocratic process surrounding the passage of the bill from parliamentarians of all factions. Politicians and human rights groups argued the bill was unnecessarily rushed through, without being given enough time for scrutiny or proposed amendments to be discussed. Labour and the Liberal Democrats maintain they have secured adequate concessions, until the Act is going to expire in December 2016.

During the second reading in the House of Lords, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws said "The claim is made that this legislation merely maintains the status quo until a sunset clause expires in December 2016. How does the status quo comply with the ruling of the European Court of Justice that the UK’s data retention directive was contrary to law? And why is the sun setting so far in the distance?" (The Economist).

The Act's details are available on parliament's website.

Debates, questions and speeches

Karen Bradley makes speech on cyber security

Karen Bradley MP made a speech on Cyber Security. She discussed the National Cyber Security Programme, the serious and organised crime strategy and elaborated further on the government tactic to pursue and protect (

The speech in full is available online.

International Developments

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemns mass surveillance practises, calls for protection of Edward Snowden

Navi Pillay, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke at a press conference on "the right to privacy in the digital age" and largely condemned state practices of mass surveillance and circumvention of international and national laws. She said

"International human rights law provides a clear and universal framework for the promotion and protection of the right to privacy, including in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance, the interception of digital communications and the collection of personal data."

She went on to say that a combination of state practice revealing a lack of adequate national legislation, weak safeguards and ineffective oversight systems, have allowed for "a lack of accountability for arbitrary or unlawful interference in the right to privacy."

She also added "Those who disclose human rights violations should be protected: we need them,".

During the press conference, Ms Pillay announced the publication of a report that suggests a series of recommendations, scheduled to be discussed by the UN's General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council in the autumn (

UN report on mass surveillance

On Wednesday 16th July, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees announced the publication of a report that drew information from expert consultations; research; questionnaires sent to member states, international and regional organisations, human rights institutions, NGOs and private sector entities as well as the examination of international legislation and jurisprudence.

The report says the systematic collection of metadata, threatens a range of human rights protections, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. In a timely comment (see "Parliament passes emergency data retention legislation") the report called on states to examine the compliance of their national laws with international human rights legislation. the report calls for further analysis into the issues in order to produce further practical guidance.

The report is available online in PDF format.

Australia considers similar data retention laws to UK

Australia's Attorney General, following a meeting last week of the Attorney Generals from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, has said that mandatory data retention by communications providers, is "under active consideration" (

European Union

Slovenia deems data retention unconstitutional

Slovenia's Constitutional Court deemed the retention of data as unlawful and ordered electronic communications providers to delete retained data immediately (EDRi).

Law and Legal Cases

Case against the UK government over bulk communications collection, began at Investigatory Powers Tribunal on Monday

On Monday 14th July, the legal proceedings brought by Privacy International, Amnesty International, Liberty and other organisations, began at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). The public trial has been hearing evidence from Monday and will end today, on the UK government's insistence that operations involving bulk communications collection is lawful. The oversight system, including the IPT will also be in focus (The Guardian).

Attorney Generals from five countries agree on common framework to combat terrorism and cyber crime

Following the sixth annual meeting of Attorney Generals from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, hosted in London last week, have agreed on a common framework to combat terrorism and crime.

They agreed on the following points:

  • To ensure that laws and procedures are balanced in favour of the right to freedom of expression, the right to privacy, the public interest and the defendant's right to trial
  • Cooperation and sharing of experience among the four countries
  • The development of means to coordinate cybercrime capacity building across the five countries (

The full statement is available online.

Commercial Stakeholders

Microsoft's search engine Bing, publishes guidelines for 'right to be forgotten applications'

Bing, a search engine run by Microsoft has published their version of a request form to comply with the 'right to be forgotten' ruling, handed out by the European Court of Justice in May. The search engine received a considerable less number of removal requests; 12 in the first few days compared to the 12,000 received by Google (Register).

The form can be viewed on Bing's website.

ORG Media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2014-07-16 - The Guardian Anki robotics founder Boris Sofman on why it's a small leap from zippy toys to self-drive cars – podcast
Author: Aleks Krotoski
Summary: Radio show hosting Jim Killock to discuss the dangers of rushing important legislation on data retention.
2014-07-16 - Surveillance bill passes but campaigners eye legal challenge
Author: Ian Dunt
Summary: Summary of the political implications and various amendments to DRIP, direct mention of the Open Rights Group.
2014-07-13 - The Guardian Unprecedented new powers in surveillance bill, campaigners warn
Author: Alan Travis and James Ball
Summary: Assessment of the DRIP bill and its impact on society, mention of Open Rights Group among with other groups.

ORG contact details

Staff page