ORG policy update/2015-w51

This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 14/12/2015

The Policy Update emails will take a short break over the next few weeks but will be back in the New Year.

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

ORG's work

  • Jim Killock and Javier Ruiz from ORG, along with investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, met with the Home Office on Tuesday 15 December to discuss the draft Investigatory Powers Bill.
  • Jim Killock attended Tom Watson's speech on transparency, FOI and civil liberties, and asked about the IP Bill. Dave Levy from the ORG Supporter Council asked about open source ensuring trust in government software.

National developments

IPT rules interception of Sun journalist's call records by Met Police unlawful

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal has ruled that the Met Police acted unlawfully when it accessed the phone records of Sun reporter, Craig Woodhouse, in order to identify sources during the investigation into the "Plebgate" scandal. The IPT found that the surveillance in this instance was not necessary and proportionate.

It found that a further three instances of accessing phone records during the investigation, targeting Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn, reporter Anthony France and the Sun News Desk, were lawful. All four instances, however, were held to be a breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights because the law did not consider the journalists' right to freedom of expression nor the significance of journalistic privilege.

The surveillance was carried out under powers granted by RIPA, which is soon to be replaced by the Investigatory Powers Bill.


Deadline for submissions to Joint Committee on draft IPB approaching

The Joint Committee's call for written submissions on the draft Bill closes next Monday 21 December. The Committee is focusing on whether the powers being sought are legal, necessary, workable and carefully defined and sufficiently supervised. It also has specific questions regarding interception, communications data, data retention, equipment interference, bulk personal data and oversight. Submissions can be made online.

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 journalists and solicitors to explore journalistic and legal privilege, and also mobile phone companies on the practicalities of data storage and security.

In the second session, representatives from law enforcement agencies, parliamentarians and legal experts gave evidence to the Committee. The focus of this session was operational, political and legal issues raised by the Bill.

Another evidence session will take place on 21 December at 2.15pm and can be watched online.

Online Safety Bill in at Committee stage in House of Lords

The Online Safety Bill, a private members bill sponsored by Baroness Howe of Idlicote, reached the committee stage in the House of Lords. The Bill's aims include "to require Internet service providers and mobile phone operators to provide an Internet service that excludes adult content" and "to require electronic device manufacturers to provide a means of filtering Internet content".

Amendments relating to clauses 1, 2, 8 and 10 of the Bill were put forward by Members of the House including Baroness Howe of Idlicote, Baroness Benjamin and Lord Morrow. The focus of the debate was on future-proofing the Bill against widening categories of providers, age-verification measures, and the inclusion of smaller ISPs within the scope of the Bill. The Committee expressed widespread support for the aims of the Bill, however the Earl of Erroll raised concerns that focussing on the use of filters might be an inefficient or inadequate way of achieving these aims. He also raised the issue of privacy in relation to discussions over age-checking and age-verification schemes. He argued that the provisions in the legislation should be properly considered and not rushed through.

Baroness Shields, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Internet Safety and Security, responded to the points put forward by the Committee by stating, although Internet filtering systems needed to be put into legislation in 2016 because of the recent EU Net Neutrality Regulation, the voluntary mechanisms in place with industry already functioned well.

Question on data protection and search engines

Luciana Berger, Shadow Minister (Mental Health), asked what obligations search engine providers registered as data controllers have to ensure their data processing is compliant with the Data Protection Principles. She also asked what steps the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has taken and is planning to take to ensure such compliance.

Ed Vaizey, Minister of State (Culture, Media and Sport), responded that search engine providers are data controllers if they process information about living, identifiable people and that if they do and they have an establishment in the UK, they must comply with the Data Protection Principles. He stated that the ICO oversees and enforces these rules.

Question on age verification for pornographic websites

Conservative MP, Mark Pritchard asked when the consultation on verification mechanisms to restrict access to pornographic websites for under 18s would be published.

Ed Vaizey, Minister of State (Culture, Media and Sport), responded that it was being prepared and would be published in due course.


Data protection reform package agreed by EU negotiators

After four years, the EU has agreed on the data protection reform package, which includes the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Directive. The Data Protection Directive deals specifically with protecting personal data transfer in the context of law enforcement and justice, while the GDPR considers the use and privacy of data belonging to EU citizens and consumers more generally.

The European Council widened the scope of the Directive by adding the aim of “safeguarding against and the prevention of the threats to public security”. EDRi have identified that the Directive now creates loopholes that could be detrimental to data protection standards. They argue that it is unclear how it applies to intelligence agencies outside of the EU's legal competence, and that provisions in the Directive could allow international data transfer without ensuring that the personal data was subject to adequate and effective protections.

The GDPR introduces several provisions to tighten data protection standards, including a maximum fine of 4% of a company's global revenue for data protection breaches. This is a significant increase on previous penalties. Companies will be required to be clearer to users about the personal data they collect and how it is used. They will also be forced to report data protection breaches to national authorities and individuals within 72 hours, but only where it is likely there is a high risk to those affected. The draft Regulation includes provisions covering the "right to be forgotten" (the right to request deletion of personal data that is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive) and the right to data portability.

While the GDPR represents an overall step towards a higher level of data protection for citizens, many of its stronger provisions, such as requiring companies to get explicit consent for data processing, have been watered down in negotiations.

The laws will go to a vote in European Parliament in early 2016 and are expected to come into force in 2018.

ORG Media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2015-12-16 – The Spoked Blog - How to access the Pirate Bay if you’re on Virgin Media, Sky, BT, TalkTalk, Be, Plusnet, O2, Orange or T-Mobile
Author: Vivian Poole
Summary: Article recommending supporting ORG's campaign against website blocking.
2015-12-14 – Sputnik - UK PM Tells SNP Leader to Back Controversial Snoopers' Charter
Author: -
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on ORG's campaign against mass surveillance and the draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

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