ORG policy update/2015-w50

This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 07/12/2015

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

ORG's work

  • Jim Killock gave evidence to the Joint Select Committee set up to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, alongside representatives from Privacy International, Liberty and Big Brother Watch. The evidence session can be viewed online.
  • ORG attended a meeting with technology companies to discuss the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, which was organised by CDT and Privacy International.
  • ORG started crowdfunding for our campaign against mass surveillance in the UK.
  • ORG's quarterly meeting with the Advisory Council took place on Monday.

National developments

Draft IPB Joint Committee hears further evidence

The Joint Select Committee on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill held two witness sessions this week.

In the first session, the Committee took evidence from academics, Lord Blunkett and Owen Paterson MP, which is also viewable online.

In the second session, representatives from civil society organisations, including ORG, and representatives from ISPs gave evidence to the Committee. The input from civil society organisations covered topics including the scope of access to bulk datasets, internet connection records, the need for operational arguments to be made for surveillance powers, the inadequacy of safeguards and the "double lock" mechanism, security concerns related to equipment interference and data retention.

Parliamentary debates and questions

Question on safeguards for parliamentarians in draft IPB

Tania Mathias MP (Conservative) asked whether the definition of a "Designated Individual" in the Guide to Powers and Safeguards in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill included parliamentarians.

John Hayes, Minister of State for the Home Office, responded that a "Designated Individual" authorises requests for communications data and is independent of the investigation itself. He stated that sensitive professions, including parliamentarians, are covered by additional considerations when access to their communications is sought, and this is covered in paragraph 51 of the Guide to Powers and Safeguards.

Backbench debate on TTIP

Labour MP, Geraint Davies motioned that "the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Comprehensive European Trade Agreement, the Trade in Services Agreement and any associated investor-state dispute settlement provisions should be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny in the UK and European parliaments". The House approved the motion.

The debate particularly focused on the implications of the trade deal on environmental and labour regulations, as well as the effects of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions on democratic principles and sovereignty. TTIP negotiations have been widely criticised for the lack of transparency and democratic scrutiny, and for the ISDS provisions which create mechanisms for corporations to bring actions against states they have invested in.


LIBE endorse EU PNR scheme

The LIBE Committee have approved the agreement reached between negotiators from the European Parliament and Council last week on the proposed EU Passenger Name Records (PNR) scheme.

The scheme plans to collect PNR data for all passengers travelling by air through EU member states, including intra-EU flights. PNRs are used for operational purposes by the travel industry to manage reservations and therefore hold sensitive personal data. PNR schemes operate by profiling and categorising passengers before travel in order to assess risk.

The EU PNR scheme has come under criticism from civil liberties groups, including EDRi, for failing to demonstrate that its provisions are necessary and proportionate. Particular concerns relate to the data retention period. which the agreed proposal sets at five years, with the data "masked out" after six months. Following the CJEU's ruling in the Digital Rights Ireland case declaring the Data Retention Directive invalid, it is questionable whether the data retention provisions in the proposed Directive would be lawful.

European copyright framework plans published

Following leaks last month, the European Commission has formally released its plans for European copyright reform. These include a proposed regulation on "cross-border portability" which permits EU citizens to access content from their own Member State when temporarily in another. This replaces the idea of preventing geo-blocking, which would have permitted users to access content from another Member State.

The European Commission will consider implementing an EU-wide "Google Tax", which would introduce licensing fees for short sections of publications used by news aggregators. This has previously been attempted at a national level in Spain and Germany, and resulted in Google News withdrawing from Spain altogether.

The Commission will also explore harmonisation of copyright exceptions, particularly regarding exceptions for special formats for disabilities, "public interest research organisations", teaching materials, and the freedom of panorama.

The plans also aim to look at enforcement mechanisms and the Commission has opened a public consultation on this, with a deadline for submissions of 1 April 2016.


Russian surveillance legislation found to breach ECHR

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the system of secret interception of mobile telephone communications in Russia is a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case was brought against Russia by Roman Zakharov, a Russian citizen, who argued that the legal requirement for mobile network operators to install equipment to facilitate the search activities of law enforcement agencies and the lack of adequate safeguards enabled blanket interception of communications. The Court considered his claim in the abstract due to the lack of remedies available to Russian citizens and the secrecy of the surveillance that meant Zakharov could not provide evidence of a specific incident of surveillance against him. The ruling states that "the very existence of the contested legislation amounted in itself to an interference with his rights under Article 8".

The Court decided that, although the surveillance pursued legitimate aims, Russia failed to provide "adequate and effective" safeguards against abuse of the surveillance powers. They cited particular issues with the circumstances where secret surveillance was available, the duration of the surveillance, authorisation, data storage and data destruction procedures, the supervision of interception, and the bulk collection of data, stating that "the domestic law permits automatic storage of clearly irrelevant data".

Russia is likely to ignore the ruling and the order for damages and costs, despite being an ECHR signatory. The ruling applies automatically to all countries that have ratified the ECHR and could therefore have implications for the draft Investigatory Powers Bill which is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny.

ORG Media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2015-12-11 – IT Pro - Investigatory Powers Bill could snoop on your shopping
Author: Clare Hopping
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the implications of provisions granting government access to bulk datasets under the draft IPB.
2015-12-10 – BBC News - GCHQ could 'grab' UK shopping data, committee told
Author: Brian Wheeler
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the implications of provisions granting government access to bulk datasets under the draft IPB.
2015-12-09 – Neowin - Open Rights Group launch campaign to raise awareness of Britain's state surveillance
Author: Paul Hill
Summary: Article about ORG crowdfunding £20k for campaign against mass surveillance in draft IPB.
2015-12-09 – Boing Boing - Crowdfunding ORG's campaign to fight the UK government's mass surveillance
Author: Cory Doctorow
Summary: Article about ORG crowdfunding £20k for campaign against mass surveillance in draft IPB.
2015-12-08 – Computer Weekly - Experts give evidence on draft Investigatory Powers Bill
Author: Warwick Ashford
Summary: Jim Killock mentioned in an article about evidence sessions for draft Investigatory Powers Bill Joint Select Committee.
2015-12-06 – Gizmodo - 10 Years of David Cameron: The Prime Minister on Tech, Science, Privacy and War
Author: James O Malley
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on David Cameron's position on privacy over the ten years of his Conservative party leadership.

ORG Contact Details

Staff page