ORG policy update/2015-w42

This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 12/10/2015

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Parliamentary Debates and Questions

Questions on Police and Security Services: Investigatory Powers Bill

Mark Spencer MP and Alex Chalk MP asked questions about changes to the powers of the police and security services and the Government's planned approach to services which use encryption, such as Whatsapp, which may be used by terrorists. Theresa May MP responded that the draft Investigatory Powers Bill will be published this autumn and that "the Government believe[s], that there should be no safe space for terrorists, criminals or paedophiles on the internet."

Greg Mulholland MP asked whether the Home Secretary would be bringing in measures to require judicial or independent authorisation for interception of communications. She responded that this was still under consideration and the draft bill would be published shortly.

Question on the Wilson Doctrine and interception of MPs' communications

Peter Bone MP asked whether the Home Secretary had personally authorised any warrants to intercept MPs' communications. Theresa May MP responded that she was legally unable to disclose this information, and confirmed that "the Wilson doctrine applies, but of course it is subject to proceedings that are taking place at the moment". The Investigatory Powers Tribunal have since ruled on this matter (see below).

Question on interception warrants issued under RIPA in 2014

Mark Hendrick MP asked how many interception warrants had been issued under s.8(1) and s.8(4) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 on each day of 2014. John Hayes MP responded with figures for the year as a whole: 2795 under both sections in 2014, with 1605 extant at the end of the year, of which 20 were issued under s.8(4). He stated that a further breakdown of figures was not available.

National Developments

Labour peer appointed as chair of Joint Committee on Investigatory Powers Bill

The Guardian reports that Theresa May has appointed Ann Taylor to scrutinise the upcoming draft Investigatory Powers Bill. Taylor, a former Defence Minister under Gordon Brown and chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee during the Iraq war, is a current board member of Thales, a defence company that manufactures surveillance and security products. The appointment has been criticised by several MPs; Nick Clegg stressed the importance of having a neutral chair and David Davis raised concerns about her closeness to the security and intelligence agencies.

IPT rules that MP communications are not protected from surveillance

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal has ruled that the Wilson Doctrine, a convention providing enhanced protection for MPs' communications from interception by intelligence agencies, is not enforceable in law and does not apply to non-targeted communications surveillance covered by s.8(4) of RIPA. The ruling comes after Green politicians Caroline Lucas MP and Baroness Jenny Jones claimed that the mass collection of data by the UK intelligence and security services was in breach of the Doctrine.

MPs have timetabled an emergency debate on the ruling for Monday.

ORG has written to MPs offering free training on how to use encryption to keep their communications private.


MEPs debate Safe Harbor ruling

Following the Court of Justice of the European Union judgment that the EU-US Safe Harbor data transfer agreement is invalid, MEPs have called for the European Commission to clarify the legal position and ensure the protection of data of EU citizens. This came a day after the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) passed a resolution urging the Commission to find an immediate alternative to Safe Harbor.

LIBE Committee raises concerns over surveillance laws in member states

Alongside its comments on the Safe Harbor ruling, the LIBE Committee has identified the legislative expansion of surveillance powers in some EU member states as a cause of concern, citing the UK as an example.

International Developments

JPEG Committee consider adding DRM to image format

The JPEG Committee have met in Brussels to discuss the possibility of adding digital rights management (DRM) technologies to JPEGs as a means of protecting copyrighted images from illegal use and of safeguarding the privacy of those taking and featured in images. The proposal is still under consideration and the Committee have stated that any changes would be optional rather than mandatory features. Concerns have been raised, however, that if the proposal were accepted, it could have consequences for image sharing on social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest and could stifle creativity.

The EFF attended the meeting and set out their objections to the plan, highlighting in particular the ineffectiveness of DRM and its inability to recognise legitimate user rights, such as fair use.

ORG Media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2015-10-15 – BBC News - JPeg lockdown: Restriction options sought by committee
Author: Chris Baraniuk
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the difficulties of implementing DRM systems for JPEG files.
2015-10-15 – IT Pro - GCHQ is allowed to track MP communications
Author: Clare Hopping
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the Wilson Doctrine ruling.
2015-10-15 – Business Insider UK - Eric Schmidt thinks a ruling by Europe's top court threatens 'one of the greatest achievements of humanity'
Author: Rob Price
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the Safe Harbor ruling, arguing that the judgment is the result of the actions of the US government.
2015-10-14 – The Independent - British Government given all-clear to spy on its own MPs - and what we say to them
Author: Lee Williams
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the IPT ruling on the Wilson Doctrine, and calling for MPs and Peers to now fight indiscriminate surveillance.
2015-10-12 – The Conversation - End of Safe Harbour isn’t the end of the world – let’s hope its successor is better
Author: David Haynes
Summary: ORG mentioned in article on the Safe Harbor decision.

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