ORG policy update/2015-w46

This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 09/11/2015

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National Developments

Further responses to the draft Investigatory Powers Bill

There has been much analysis and commentary following the publication of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill last week. Issues raised about the provisions in the draft Bill have tended to relate to the cost of implementing the measures to business and consumers, the extent to which the proposed safeguards - particularly judicial authorisation - are sufficient, and the extension of surveillance powers.

Some key reading:

Labour call for stronger safeguards in draft Investigatory Powers Bill

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham MP has written to the Home Secretary, Theresa May MP, to outline his concerns over the safeguards proposed in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill. Burnham argues that these are not as strong as was suggested by the initial Commons statement from the Home Secretary. The judicial authorisation proposal does not provide for judges to review evidence, but instead focuses on procedural review. Burnham explains that this is a key issue for Labour and they will seek to amend this. He requests more clearly defined thresholds for use of powers based on the seriousness of the crime and also to limit access to certain powers to police officers of a specific seniority.

Parliamentary Debates and Questions

Joint Committee on Human Rights accepting written submissions on draft Investigatory Powers Bill

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has identified the draft Investigatory Powers Bill as a focus for legislative scrutiny in 2015-16. It is accepting short written submissions on human rights issues relating to the draft Bill.

Science and Technology Committee open inquiry into technology aspects of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill

The Science and Technology Committee heard oral evidence on the technology aspects of the draft Bill on 10 November. Witnesses from the technology industry and academia gave evidence on the proposals in the draft Bill. The issues raised in the session included the capacity and cost of collecting and retaining internet connection records, whether the measures in the draft Bill would be effective in preventing terrorism or crime, the potential negative effect on the UK software and information industries and the lack of clear definitions of key terminology such as 'communications service provider'.

The Committee are now accepting written submissions on the technological feasibility and cost of the measures in the draft Bill, the impact on communications service providers and businesses, and the consequences for citizens and consumers. Submissions can be made online and the deadline is Friday 27 November.

Questions to Scottish Parliament on the monitoring of political activists, trade unionists and environmental campaigners

Hugh Henry, MSP for Labour, asked whether the Scottish Government had taken any steps to determine whether Police Scotland has monitored political activists, trade unionists and environmental campaigners. SNP MSP Michael Matheson responded that Scottish Ministers do not play a role in the authorisation process; oversight is conducted by the independent Office of Surveillance Commissioners and complaints can be submitted to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

Hugh Henry highlighted that the response to this issue contrasts with Scottish Ministers response to the allegations of surveillance of MSPs' communications. Michael Matheson argued that there was a difference between these issues: interception of communications and surveillance have different processes. He advised people to rely on the regulatory framework in place to deal with concerns. Green MSP Patrick Harvie raised that it is difficult to submit a complaint if you are not aware of the activity.

Labour MSP, Neil Findlay asked whether there would be an opportunity for Scottish submissions to the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing in England and Wales, or whether there would be a similar inquiry in Scotland. Matheson responded that he believed Scottish input to the inquiry would be accepted.


Belgium bans Facebook tracking users without accounts

A Belgian court has ruled that Facebook must stop tracking Internet users who do not have Facebook accounts and that tracking cookies are personal data. The court gave Facebook 48 hours to comply, and will impose a fine of €250,000 per day if they fail to comply. Ars Technica report that, although the ruling does not apply outside Belgium, it may have an influence on courts in other member states as the Belgian Privacy Commission who brought the case against Facebook is part of a European task force that includes Data Protection Authorities from the Netherlands and Germany.


Facebook releases transparency report

Facebook has released data on the number of requests it received from governments for information on its users between January and June 2015. The report shows a 18% increase in requests globally. The UK had the third highest number of requests after the US and India, with 3384 requests in the sixth month period. Facebook provided some or all of the data in 78.04% of cases. The UK figure is 43% higher than in the preceding six-month period and 60% higher than January-June 2014.

ORG Media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2015-11-12 – The Register - Shadow state? Scotland's IT independence creeps forth
Author: SA Mathieson
Summary: Pol Clementsmith quoted on Police Scotland powers and Scottish national databases in article on surveillance issues in Scotland.
2015-11-10 – Forbes - Apple Warns UK Government Over New Law's 'Dire Consequences'
Author: Ewan Spence
Summary: ORG blog post linked to in article on Apple's response to the draft Investigatory Powers Bill.
2015-11-07– The Scotsman- Sleepwalking to a world of surveillance
Author: Dani Garavelli
Summary: ORG mentioned in article on draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

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