ORG policy update/2015-w20

This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 05/06/2015

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

Consultations and Departments

Prime Minster David Cameron has announced the Ministers in his new Government.

These include:

  • Theresa May is Home Secretary
  • John Hayes is Security Minister
  • Mike Penning is Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice
  • Michael Gove is Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice
  • Dominic Raab is Minister for Civil Liberties with responsibilities for human rights and civil liberties, freedom of information, data protection and data sharing
  • John Whittingdale is Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
  • Ed Vaizey is Minister of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, with responsibility for digital industries
  • Sajid Javid is Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • Baroness Neville-Rolfe is Minister for Intellectual Property

Government Bills

Snoopers' Charter to come back under Conservative majority

Theresa May MP , who will retain her position as Home Secretary in the new Cabinet, is “determined to bring through” the Communications Data Bill which failed to gain the support of the Liberal Democrat MPs two years ago. This “Snoopers' Charter” renders mandatory the blanket retention of communication metadata for up to year by ISPs for law enforcement purposes.

The Scottish National Party has already announced its opposition to this return as a SNP MP was quoted as saying that “there is a line beyond which it is unacceptable for civil liberties to be impinged”. Another difficulty the bill could face is complying with the European Court of Justice judgment last year criticizing blanket communications data retention as an infringement on privacy as well as endangering other fundamental rights

Counter-extremism bill to be announced in Queen's speech

Prime Minister David Cameron MP is to announce on Wednesday 20th that the Counter-Extremism Bill will be part of his Queen's speech. Home Secretary Theresa May MP stated that “this government will challenge those who seek to spread hatred and intolerance”. Concretely, and although the precise details are yet to be announced, it would include control orders for individuals or organisations to "submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print."

Scrapping the Human Rights Act

Michael Gove MP , newly appointed Justice Secretary, is expected to follow the Conservative Party's manifesto and repeal the Human Rights Act 1998, which puts in British law in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). A British Bill of Rights is already announced to take its place, although while the content of this new bill has yet to be announced, it is bound to be similar to the ECHR, both because the Convention only upholds rights that the new bill couldn't do without and for because of European Union related obligations.

The main effect of the bill would then be a diminishing of the power of the European Court of Human Rights, a Court which has been of paramount importance for privacy and digital rights in the UK. For instance, in 2008, it ruled that the UK wide and secretive surveillance laws violated the right to privacy. Open Rights Group , alongside other civil rights groups, is challenging government's mass surveillance and complicity with the National Security Agency spying in this Court.

International Developments

Snowden denounces new Australia's data retention law

Last week, Edward Snowden addressed Australians during the Progress 2015 conference in Melbourne and warned them that their government is “watching everybody all the time.” He commented on the new data retention law that was passed in March, and which gives yet more power to authorities to track citizens online, by forcing ISPs to keep record of traffic for each IP adress.

According to the whistleblower, data retention has proved to be inefficient, and didn't help in the prevention of terrorist attacks such as the ones in Paris in January. "The reason these attacks happened is not because we didn't have enough surveillance, it's because we had too much", he argued.

Wikileaks publish minutes of hearing on German spying for the NSA scandal

On Wednesday 13th, WikiLeaks published 1,380 pages of transcripts covering ten months of the Bundestag's inquiry on the Bundesnachrichtendiesnt (BND), the German foreign security agency, cooperation with the National Security Agency . This follows last month's revelations that this cooperation, presented as a response to counter-terrorism needs, has had the BND spying on French and European Union officials and industries. The resulting outcry prompted the BND to announce the end of its cooperation with the NSA .

Even though most of the hearings are public, those leaked documents needed to be made public, argues WikiLeaks, for transcripts have been withheld and recording devices banned. They reveal that there are instances in which certain witnesses' statements in private sessions contradicts their statements in public sessions. Still, the minutes shouldn't bring any major surprises, according to a member of the digital rights group Netzpolitik.

European Union

Google transparency report on the first year of the right to be forgotten

The European Court of Justice 's judgment launching the so-called “right to be forgotten” is now one year old, and Google just published a transparency report on its enforcement. It shows that Google complies with 40% of requests for de-indexing content that is outdated or irrelevant. The company received more than 250,000 requests.

Nevertheless, in an open letter addressed to the search engine by more than eighty scholars and experts, Google is criticized for limiting its sharing of information to “anecdotes”, and for the absence of guidelines it follows to “strike the balance between individual privacy and freedom of expression interests”.

Digital Single Market Strategy's launching and Copyright for Creativity meeting

On Wednesday 6th, the European Commission introduced its Digital Single Market Strategy, which Jean-Claude Juncker presented as a keystone of his mandate. Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the Commission for the Digital Single Market, wants to “move from 28 national markets to a single one” . The modernising of copyright law and the new Data Protection regulation are part of this global strategy. The whole process is expected to take several years.

On that occasion, Copyright for Creativity , a coalition that seeks to foster creativity and improve access to culture via a new system of copyright, and of which Open Rights Group is a member, held a debate on licensing in Brussels. It was argued that Swedish S&D MEP Jytte Guteland that we need to facilitate cross-border access to content and to ensure with safeguards that the creators are not the weaker parties in copyrights' bargaining.

Ms Maria Martin-Part, Head of the Copyright Unit in DG CONNECT at the European Commission , indicated that a single EU Copyright Title was not yet to be put in place.

Europeana, an online collection of digitized items from European museums, libraries and archived, made the case that licensing creates a “black hole” in post-1920 cultural history and that we need to update exceptions and limitations for it.

ORG Media coverage

2015-05-09 – The Guardian - Theresa May to revive her 'snooper's charter' now Lib Dem brakes are off
”'Author'”: Damien Gayle
”'Summary'”: Jim Killock quoted on why he thinks the return of the snooper's charter is a bad thing
2015-05-08 – ITPro - Tories suffer privacy backlash over resurrected Snoopers' Charter
”'Author'”: Joe Curtis
”'Summary'”: Jim Killock quoted on the hope that Snoopers' charter won't pass the House of Commons
2015-05-06 – The Guardian (podcast) - Tech Weekly podcast: election special
”'Author'”: Aleks Krotoski, Simon Barnard
”'Summary'”: Jim Killock joined the tech weekly podcast for the election special

ORG contact details

Staff page