ORG policy update/2016-w20

This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 16/05/2016.

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ORG's work

  • We have been dealing with the aftermath of the successful Don't Spy On Us ad campaign this week and we have started planning a follow-up campaign.
  • ORG has been doing some filming in London and the video will be published in the coming weeks. Watch this space.
  • We are working on responses to EU consultations on copyright and E-privacy.

Official Meetings

  • Jim Killock attended a round-table on Ad-blocking with industry members, government and civil society representatives in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to discuss most appropriate ways to deal with online advertisement.


Queen's Speech

The Queen delivered her speech outlining the government's plans to legislate on several bills that will have impact on digital rights. The speech was published together with a detailed list of all the bills covered by the speech.

  • Investigatory Powers Bill

(read more below)

“My government will continue with legislation to modernise the law governing the use and oversight of investigatory powers by law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies.”

Data sharing across government

The Bill aims to use data by Government to deliver better public services and produce world-leading research and statistics and to consult on better sharing of publically-held data sets to improve service delivery whilst maintaining safeguards on privacy. Nonetheless, a concern for the proposals to involve widespread sharing of basic personal information without clear demonstration of benefits is still present.

Age verification for porn sites

The Bill will also focus on protection of children from online pornography by requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material. The issue of age verification comes with many difficulties and it will be necessary deal with it with caution to avoid unrelated website blocking.

Fast broadband

“Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband.”

Copyright infringement sentences

The Bill is being put in place to support for digital industries by addressing difference in online/offline copyright laws. Proposals have been submitted to make online copyright infringement punishable by ten years in jail. These remain worrisome and it is inevitable to make sure the government makes clear distinction between civil and criminal infringement to avoid abuse of sanctions.

  • Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill

The Bill will reform the law of unjustified threats of infringement proceedings for patents, trade marks and design rights and help deliver the manifesto commitment to make the UK the best place in Europe to innovate, patent new ideas and set up and expand a business.

IPBill – Tory Anxiety

Some of the Conservative MPs are voicing concerns over the IPBill. Tory backbenchers are getting concerned over the scope of access to intrusive powers as outlined in the Bill. The part they find worrisome is about giving powers to organisations, such as Food Standard Agency, Gambling Commission or Revenues and Customs, that would match the powers of gaining access to communications data given to GCHQ.

Stephen McPartland MP said:

“The bill is effectively a snoopers’ charter mark II and provides too many organisations with too many intrusive powers. For example, we are giving the Food Standards Agency and Gambling Commission the same powers as the police and security services to monitor what websites have been visited.”

Labour voiced their concerns about this issues in previous readings of the Bill in the House of Commons but the Tory division comes as a new development regarding the IPBill.

The IPBill is passing through the Report Stage in the House of Commons and is due to have its Third Reading most likely in June. The final dates have not been announced yet. A new revised version of the IPBill has been published together with explanatory notes.

New Electronic Communications Code

Government has published proposal for a reform of outdated Electronic Communications Code from 1984. The package of legislative reforms is supposed to deliver improvement of private investment in digital infrastructure and subsequently to connectivity in any area.

Ed Vaizey MP, the minister of state for Culture and the Digital Economy, said:

“The government wants to reform the code to put in place modern regulation which fully supports the roll-out of digital communications infrastructure.”

One of the major changes concerns new rights granted to telcos when dealing with network infrastructure on private land. These transactions will fall under compulsory land purchase principles. The principles are in use to secure land marked essential for improving the lives of people.

The reform will facilitate easier maintenance for communications providers of their infrastructure. The reform lacks specified timetable for now but eventually, consumers will be able to benefit from better services and lower prices. So will network providers who should see improvements in costs of rents paid to landowners.

Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill

A new Intellectual Property Bill was introduced this week by Baroness Neville -Rolfe. The Bill aims to clarify positions for right holders and third parties involved in IP disputes and essentially to create conditions for negotiations rather than litigation. Provisions in the Bill predominantly concern patents, trade marks and designs.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe said:

“Together with the measures in the Digital Economy Bill on online penalties and web marking we will take a step forward in making the UK the best place to do business from an intellectual property perspective.”

It would appear the Intellectual Property Office is sending a mixed message, putting new laws in place to create better ground for negotiations in IP disputes regarding trademarks, patents and designs and on the other hand increasing online infringement jail sentence to ten years.

Data Science Ethical Framework

The Cabinet Office published Data Science Ethical Framework. The framework will serve as a support guideline for people working in government to make them more confident using data science techniques to innovate.

The government is currently taking evidence from public on data science ethics. More about Data Science Ethics Dialogue can be found here.

Other National Developments

IPT won't hear all the illegal surveillance complaints

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) refused to investigate all of the complaints against illegal GCHQ surveillance submitted by Privacy International on behalf of 663 claimants. Privacy International filed a Judicial Review challenging the IPT's decision from February 2016 on issuing general hacking warrants last week.

The IPT ruled that the case can be heard; however, the claimants need to demonstrate that they are “potentially at risk” of unlawful surveillance by submitting further information. The Tribunal also stated that claimants living outside the UK have no legal right to be informed of being spied on by by British intelligence agencies.

Denying the non-British residents the right to question practices of the UK intelligence agencies violates the European Convention on Human Rights. The non-UK residents will likely appeal the ruling that they do not fall within the UK jurisdiction by taking a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

For now, the Tribunal will investigate six of the cases because those were the only ones that provided sufficient details to justify their claims. The rest of the complainants needs to submit more information on why they believe they might have been affected by GCHQ's illegal spying within 28 days.

Council of Europe Memorandum on Surveillance in the UK

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has published a Memorandum on surveillance and oversight mechanisms in the UK following his visit in January earlier this year. He positively comments on the efforts of the UK government to create a framework for the investigatory powers and leading the world efforts on regulating data collection and a position of Investigatory Powers Commissioner.

However, the Commissioner voiced several concerns in the Memorandum. He finds particularly worrisome the compatibility of bulk interception and equipment interference proposed in the IPBill with the European Convention on Human Rights. Like many other opponents of the Bill in the UK, the Commissioner stressed that legal professional privilege and journalists need better safeguards, and the need for regular evaluation of oversight bodies.

The Memorandum predominantly focused on the IPBill and offered several detailed recommendations in line with those made by the Bill critics previously. Apart from the IPBill, the Memorandum also covers the 'Prevent' anti-radicalisation programme calling for more significant involvement of Muslim communities.

The UK response to Council of Europe addressed in detail every recommendation made by the Commissioner but overall, the response used terrorism as the prime justification for the IPBill.


Geo-blocking still enabled for video

The efforts of the European Commission to stop geo-blocking outlined in the Digital Single Market Strategy will exclude some audio-visual content. A leaked document revealed that the European Commission abandoned its initial proposal to ban geo-blocking all across EU and exceptions will be added for audio-visual service like Netflix.

The Commission's proposal is very likely to be met with a lot of negative feedback from consumers who were expecting the proposals for harmonised access to services to go ahead. The official reveal of the leaked proposal is expected to be within the next two weeks and if passed it would come into force in 2017.

New Cybersecurity Law

The Council of the European Union formally adopted new cybersecurity legislation this week. The Network and Information Security Directive will give a framework to essential services operators and digital service providers on how to manage risks to their frameworks.

Each country will have to provide a list of companies to determine which organisations will be subject to the law. Some businesses that already fall within regulations that deal with information and network security issues will be exempt.

The European Parliament will give its ruling on the Directive in the coming months and if agreed to, the Directive will come into force in August 2016. The national governments will have two years to implement it into a national law.

International Developments

Russian Face Recognition App

A new face recognition app FindFace has been developed in Russia allowing people to photograph individuals in a crowd and detect their identity. The service offers results with 70% accuracy.

The app compares profile pictures from the biggest social network Vkontakte in Russia and post-soviet countries. The app creators envision the world where anybody will be able to take a picture and identify people around them.

Several services and government departments in Russia showed interest in the app and are currently negotiating. Moscow city government would like to connect the technology with the city's CCTV cameras to improve crime solving rates.

The two app developers responsible for FindFace use dating as one of their prime examples for the use of the app. They see it as a tool to revolutionise dating. In a process that could easily be described as borderline socially acceptable, they suggest users could look up random people on streets they are attracted to or even feed the app a picture of their ex or a celebrity to find people with similar features.

The creators seem to be overlooking negative impact FindFace could potentially have in hands of authoritarian regimes or individuals in general. Several female porn actors were harassed after they had their social media profiles discovered through FindFace.

ORG Media Coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2016-05-12-Legal Cheek-Vladimir Putin is poster boy for satirical anti-UK Snoopers’ Charter campaign
Author: Thomas Connelly
Summary: ORG mentioned in connection to the IPBill ad campaign.
2016-05-12-Huffington Post-Warning For Councils After Fraudsters Posing As Official Brexit Group Try To Get Voter Information
Author: Owen Bennett
Summary: Pam Cowburn quoted on possibilities of misuses of the full electoral register.
2016-05-12- IT Pro -Campaigners urge UK to adopt Digital Bill of Rights
Author: Jane McCallion
Summary: ORG mentioned in taking part in overseeing creation of the Digital Bill of Rights.
2016-05-13-The Guardian-Publisher's Facebook page deleted after posting criticism of Turkish government
Author: Alex Hern
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on Facebook hopefully not facilitating attacks on free speech.
2016-05-17-The Register-Queen’s Speech: Digital Bill to tackle radicalisation, pirates
Author: Andrew Orlowski
Summary: ORG mentioned in relation to the ten-year online copyright infringement jail sentence.
2016-05-18-TechRadar-Drones, driverless cars and fast broadband: the key points of the Queen's Speech
Author: James O'Malley
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on ten-year jail sentence potentially being more harsh than physical theft.

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