This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 05/06/2015
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Report on terrorism legislation in the United Kingdom published
David Anderson QC was tasked with reviewing the operation and regulation of law enforcement and agency investigatory powers as a requirement of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014. After nine months of investigation in several different countries, the report was published on Thursday, June 12th. The 362 page report, entitled “A Question of Trust', does not condemn mass surveillance but makes recommendations to the government, which is currently drafting a new Bill believed to increase surveillance powers.
The report provides a few stories in which surveillance capabilities have allowed intelligence services to prevent possible terrorist attacks, but it also severely criticises the current legal framework, and especially the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 as “undemocratic, unnecessary and – in the long run – intolerable”.
Anderson recommends the variety of surveillance laws to be replaced with a new one, “both comprehensive in its scope and comprehensible to people across the world”. The report also states that interception warrants should be authorised by judicial Commissioners, not Ministers, as is the case now. It argues as well that, as the government must fight no-go zones on the territory, likewise it must prohibit digital spaces that law enforcement authorities can't access; this can be linked with a possible undermining of encryption that is believed to be soon passed into law.
Home Secretary comments on the report on terrorism legislation and gives a time frame for the “Snoopers' Charter”
In the House of Commons, Theresa May MP welcomed the publication of the report on the day it was issued. She declared that the government will look closely into all recommendations, without announcing yet any changes to what is believed to be in the Investigatory Powers Bill. The Home Secretary stated that the government "will publish a draft Bill in the autumn for pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of Parliament, with the intention of introducing a Bill early in the new year". She said that the new law should come into effect before the end of December 2016, which is the date of the sunset clause of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014. She denied the Bill is a “Snoopers' Charter” , and said it is only concerned with giving the state “the capabilities that they need to keep us safe”.
Members of the Labour Party and of the Scottish National Party also welcomed the publication of the report, and insisted on the recommendation that warrants for communication interception should come from a judicial authority.
Surveillance law adopted in France
The French Senate voted this week in favour of the Projet de Loi relatif au Renseignement (Intelligence Services Bill). The law, whose opponents have nicknamed the “French Patriot Act” , was passed through a fast-track procedure after the January terrorist attacks in Paris. The most debated provisions of the bill legalises the use of IMSI-catchers, devices that allow the interception of any communications made by mobiles in a specific range, and makes mandatory for the major Internet Service Provider to allow the government to set up “black boxes” intercepting all incoming and outgoing traffic. The Bill fails to provide protection for whistleblowers or legal recourse for people whose privacy has been infringed on.
Opponents of the bill argue that it gives legitimacy for similar devices to be used in countries with few concerns for human rights, such as Russia. French digital rights organisation La Quadrature du Net denounces “massive spying” and calls for an examination of the law by the Constitutional Court, which is now the only way to prevent the law from taking effect.
Belgium Constitutional Court declares data retention illegal
With the Belgian Constitutional Court ruling of June 11th, yet another European country declares data retention illegal. The law, transposing the 2006 European Directive on Data Retention, was challenged by civil rights groups since 2013. This judgement explicitlyfollows the reasoning made by the Court of Justice of the European Union in May 2014 annulling the European directive.
Belgium thus falls into one of the two very different trends on data retention in Europe: on the one hand, some countries annul or greatly reform their data retention laws, for example in Belgium or Luxembourg; on the other hand, a few countries, like the United Kingdom or France are making data retention even more prevalent (see Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014).
European Parliament postpones vote on TTIP
The vote on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in plenary session which was planned for Wednesday, June 10th, didn't occur, as Martin Schultz, the European Parliament's President, decided to send the text back to the relevant committees on the grounds that it has received more than two thousand amendments. The version of the text adopted by the International Trade committee is very controversial, as it includes a deal on the Investor-State Dispute Settlement which allows for international ad hoc tribunal to rule on cases where companies feel that a state's legislation has unjustly undermined its profit.
The Social Democrat (S&D) group backed down from the deal reached in the international trade committee only a few days after it was voted, making it unlikely that the text could get a majority vote in plenary session. Right-of-center members of European Parliament accuse the S&D of having no clear position and following the public opinion , increasingly against TTIP and in particular the provision on ISDS.
While the text is only recommendation for the European Commission on the negotiation of TTIP, the European Parliament needs a large majority supporting its stance in order for it to have an impact. The European Parliament will vote the final text of TTIP once the negotiations are over.
European Commissioner for the Digital Single Market says European copyright legislation is "pushing people to steal”
At a conference on June 8th, Andrus Ansip, European Commissioner for the Digital Single Market reasserted the need for a swift and massive revision of copyright laws in the European Union. According to the Commissioner, copyright restrictions and geo-blocking are preventing the “four freedoms” of the European Union, free movement of people, goods, services, capital, to become a reality in the online world. Andrus Ansip went on to say that “our legislation is pushing people to steal”, and that providing people with access to digital content has to be the first step in the fight against piracy.
Despite this declaration, in an interview for Euractiv on the next day, Julia Reda, rapporteur of the implementation of the 2001 directive on copyright reform, criticised the Commission's plan on geo-blocking as “too cautious”, and called for a 'much more far-reaching harmonisation of copyright rules”.
Parliament and Council cannot find an agreement on net neutrality and data roaming charges
The updating of European's telecom rules has been discussed for the last three years and no agreement between the European Council and the European Parliament have yet come out of it. Last year, the European Parliament adopted a version of the text which put forward a strong definition of net neutrality and called for the swift end of data roaming charges. However, the Council proposal that was leaked last week undermines the definition and puts the end of roaming charges in 2018.
Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Digital Economy & Society, is expected to meet ministers from the member states on Friday, June 12th to try and further a compromise. However, digital rights activists are worried about the outcome of this meeting, given Commissioner Oettinger's position on net neutrality. This week, he has been comparing net neutrality to “socialism by the back door”, and he described the implementation of a “uniform” net neutrality as “Taliban-like” three months ago.
Thus, when the Commissioner tweeted on the day of the meeting “Council willing to move on end of roaming if EP engages on all open issues”, digital rights organisation EDRi warned this could mean that the Parliament should give up on net neutrality in order to save the end of roaming charges.
ORG Media coverage
See ORG Press Coverage for full details.
- 2015-06-11 – Huffington Post - Anderson Review: It is time for a clean slate
- Author: Pam Cowburn
- Summary: Pam Cowburn's column on the Anderson Review
- 2015-06- 11 – The Register - Indie review of UK surveillance laws : As you were, GCHQ
- Author: Alexander J. Martin
- Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the Anderson report
- 2015-06-02 – Huffington Post UK - 'Snoopers' Charter' Campaigners Claim Victory After Surveillance Report Says Existing Powers Are Enough
- Author: Jack Sommers
- Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the Anderson report
- 2015-06-05 – The Guardian - 'Baby Yoga' video on Facebook sparks debate on Internet censorship
- Author: Robert Booth & Matthew Weaver
- Summary: Jim Killock quoted on internet censorship