ORG policy update/2015-w28

This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 03/07/2015

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Caspar Bowden, popular, respected and outspoken privacy campaigner, has sadly died of cancer. He was a strong opponent of mass surveillance and had been a director for the Tor Project, in charge of overseeing the development of the Tor browser. See our post for further details.


House of Lords' debate on the Anderson report

The House of Lords held a debate on Wednesday, July 8th, on the report of the investigatory Powers Review written by David Anderson Q.C. and in the light of the future debate on the Investigatory Powers Bill this Autumn. There was a consensus on the quality and thoroughness of the report. Lord Bates from the Home Office argued that the report show how much the intelligence and law enforcement services take into account the protection of British citizens' privacy.

The main point of debate between the Lords was on the question of the power to issue warrants. Baroness Manningham-Buller argued that this power must remain with Secretaries of State, as they have political accountability. On the opposite side, Lord Strasburger advocated for a judicial issuing of warrants, on the grounds that judges are the guarantors of individuals' liberties. Lord Scriven made a long case against mass surveillance, which he described as opposed to the values that the United Kingdom stands for.

Legal Developments

DRIPA discussed in Court this week

A hearing was held at the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday, July 9th, to determine if the challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 brought by MPs David Davis and Tom Watson should be brought to the European Court of Justice. This challenge focuses on whether DRIPA is compatible with European laws and the European Convention of Human Rights. Open Rights Group and Privacy International made submissions at the start of the proceeding, and made the point that the European Court of Justice has already set out the requirements that domestic law must follow in order to comply with European requirements on the protection of privacy.

Liberty, the NGO representing the two MPs, opposed the government's request to refer the case to the ECJ, as it would considerably delay the final judgment, while the so-called “Snoopers' Charter” is expected to be presented to Parliament this Autumn. The Court rejected the reference request, and is expected to issue its judgment next week.


Cryptography experts warn against the danger of weakening encryption

An influential group of cryptography experts has published a report strongly advocating against “backdoor” access to encrypted data to governments, or any other form of weakening of encryption. Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama have called for such measures, although in veiled terms. No concrete legislative proposals on the subject has been released yet. The experts argue that “these proposals are unworkable in practice, raise enormous legal and ethical questions, and would undo progress on security at a time when Internet vulnerabilities are causing extreme economic harm.”

Ross Anderson, one of the authors of the report, compared in a blog post the current situation with the "crypto wars" of the mid-90s, during which the Clinton administration required the implementation of a chip in electronic devices in order to access all communications, but had to back down when it was proven that this would greatly compromise communications' security.

International Developments

Company selling surveillance software hacked

Hacking Team, a Milan-based company, was hacked last weekend, and allegedly, over 400 GB of data from its computers have been leaked. The company sells spyware to governments, and has been criticised by civil rights group for selling to countries with poor human rights records. Reporters Without Borders designated it as an “enemy of the Internet” for its trade with Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Turkey. The recent leaks add even more countries, such as Sudan and Azerbaijan, to the list.

In internal e-mails, high-ranking employees bragged about “the evilest technology on earth” and explained ways that the company's softwares could circumvent protection such as the use of TOR for anonymity or HTTPS against third-party interception.

Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake called for member states to stop using Hacking Team services and demanded the opening of an investigation into its commercial practices. Selling spyware could breach European sanctions against states such as Sudan and Russia

Social media providers could have to refer any “terrorist activity” to US law enforcement

Last week, the US Senate Intelligence Committee approved legislation that appears to require “electronic communication service providers” to inform the authorities about any extremist content posted on their platforms. The exact content of the law is not known. It could affect e-mail services, social media providers and platform, such as YouTube.

Industry officials and civil liberty advocates have expressed their fear that this might undermine users' privacy. Anonymous industry official told the Washington Post that “asking Internet companies to proactively monitor people’s posts and messages would be the same thing as asking your telephone company to monitor and log all your phone calls, text messages, all your Internet browsing, all the sites you visit”.

European Union

Parliament adopts report on copyright reforms

The report on copyright enforcement in Europe, written by Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda was adopted by the European Parliament in plenary session on Thursday, July 9th. More than an evaluation report, this document states the position of the European Parliament on copyright, while the Commission is expected to issue a legislative proposal on it this Autumn. Adopted by a large majority (445 votes in favour, 65 against), the report didn't include, as its author gladly pointed out, the controversial amendment removing “freedom of panorama”. This proposal, if implemented, would have prevented citizens from posting pictures taken in public places on social networks, or Wikipedia to use pictures of recent buildings. A petition against this amendment had been signed by more than 550,000 supporters. The amendment on the so-called “Google tax”, which paved the way for ancillary copyright for press publishers on services such as “Google News”, was not adopted either.

The report calls for the end of geo-blocking, new exceptions on copyright for public libraries and scientific research (with data mining), and greater harmonisation of copyright laws and enforcement in the European Union.

Explanatory notes of the regulation on Net Neutrality abates fear of two-tier Internet

When the trialogue on the Telecoms Single Market Regulation reached an end last week, after two years of negotiations, it was feared that net neutrality was under threat. In particular, digital rights activist groups in Brussels pointed out the vagueness in the wording of the regulation.

The recitals (binding explanatory notes), released this week, have largely abated those concerns. Estelle Massé, from the NGO Access, stated that the recitals close possible loopholes that would allow a two-tier Internet, and effectively protects net neutrality, without using this exact phrase. Both Access and European Digital Rights (EDRi) have expressed regrets that the law doesn't address the issue of “zero-rating”. Zero-rating arrangements allow users to access a particular internet service on their mobile, without it being counted in their data plan. It has been criticised as anti-competitive and a threat to net neutrality.

Parliament votes position on TTIP negotiations

After an unsuccessful first try a month ago, the European Parliament adopted a position on the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) negotiations on Wednesday, July 8th. The most contentious point in the debate has been the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision, which allows for the creation of ad hoc international tribunals to settle disputes between states and companies. Many MEPsargued that ISDS was a blow to rule of law and sovereignty. Eventually, a compromise was found with a new system of tribunals with “publicly appointed, independent professional judges”, where “private interests cannot undermine public policy objectives”.

The position was voted in with 436 in favour, and 241 against. European Digital Rights (EDRi) welcomed the call from the Parliament to exclude data protection from the talk, and its reiteration that mass surveillance programmes should be abandoned. However, the text does not exclude copyright, trademarks and patents from the negotiations.

ORG Media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2015-07-06 – Vice - British Taxpayers Are Funding the UK's Mass Surveillance Program
Author: Lauren Razavi
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the cost of mass surveillance in the UK and how the money could be spent otherwise
2015-06-29 – Bloomberg - U.K. Politician Theresa May voted “Internet villain of the year”
Author: Amy Thomson
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the Snoopers' Charter
2015-07-10 – Inquisitr - Orwellian move? WhatsApp may be banned in UK under new “Snoopers' Charter' law]
Author: Anne Sewell
Summary: Open Rights Group quoted on the Snoopers' Charter

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